Baez smashes Giants chances to take early lead in NLDS

Johnny Cueto allowed only three hits. That still wasn’t enough.

Cueto threw 121 pitches, and worked through the National League’s most dangerous lineup, with an eighth inning dinger smacked by second baseman Javier Baez breaking the back of his tremendous outing. The Giants couldn’t get anything going off Cubs starter Jon Lester, either, resulting in a 1-0 loss to open the division series.

For all of Cueto’s dominance, only Angel Pagan made enough contact for extra bases until the ninth inning, and the team could muster only six hits with no walks.

Buster Posey doubled in the final frame, missing a homer to left field by a few yards, and closer Aroldis Chapman was breathing heavier while providing plenty of power as he pumped 102 mile per hour heaters through the strike zone.

Hunter Pence chopped a sinker to second base in the next at bat, though, and the game was in the books.

San Francisco entered the night without a ninth inning comeback for the entire season, and that didn’t change Friday, despite the Giants’ penchant for miraculous late-game comebacks in October.

Which is what the game came down to, Cueto struck out 10 batters and allowed only three hits, while Lester gave up five baserunners and only five Giants went down on strikes.

Baez just had the better stroke for the night.

The Cubs etched their first notch into the best of five, and will send right-hander Kyle Hendricks out for Game 2, who has allowed seven runs to the Giants in 11 innings over the last two seasons, but also sports a .227 opponent batting average when battling San Francisco.

Hendricks is also enjoying the best season of his young career, with a 0.98 WHIP and nearly one strikeout per inning pitched.

Losing this one was a rough start to a series that will only get tougher, as the Giants will start Jeff Samardzija — whose outings at Wrigley haven’t been great, resulting in a 1.34 WHIP when his back faces ivy, and a 3.86 ERA over the last three seasons.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the media that it was simply a good game in his postgame remarks, an accurate statement by any measure and also one that seemed to shield the sheer heartbreak one must feel after being on the short end of a night where the Giants led in several categories.

The Giants have been down big before, though, with the 2012 team that beat the Detroit Tigers — largely the same group, save for a few pitchers and young infielders. San Francisco won six elimination games during their run through the National League that year. The 2014 squad also became the first team since the 1979 Pirates to win a World Series Game 7 on the road, en route to their third ring in five seasons.

Not all is lost for the Giants, if the team’s recent playoff history is any indicator, but the odds still aren’t favorable after dropping a great chance to get ahead early.