CHICAGO — Baseball is the sport where it is all supposed to even out, where those blistering liners and broken-bat bloopers balance out in the ledger of the long run.
Perhaps this explains how the Chicago Cubs, on a 108-year run of hard luck and heartbreak, have beaten the San Francisco Giants in the first two games of their National League division series — through a proper accounting of things.
How else to explain the Cubs’ good fortune when Javier Baez’s fly ball fought through the teeth of a wind to land in the basket that sits atop the ivy-covered outfield walls at Wrigley Field, depriving Angel Pagan from catching the home run that won Friday night’s opener?
Or how else to elucidate the Cubs’ 5-2 victory on Saturday, the difference delivered not by the arms of their pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood, but by their bats?
Hendricks delivered a two-run single that built the lead, and Wood, who was in the game only because Hendricks was knocked out by Pagan’s line drive, delivered the crowning blow — a home run deep into the left-field bleachers.
Those hits proved to be enough as five Cubs relievers held the Giants to just two hits over the final five and one-third innings, with closer Aroldis Chapman finishing them off in the ninth inning and sending the series to San Francisco with the Cubs needing just one victory to advance.
If there is some comfort for the Giants as they return home facing elimination, it is that they have Madison Bumgarner, their indomitable playoff ace, ready to go on Monday night.They also have a history to lean on, having won nine consecutive elimination games dating to 2012.
One night after Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto had staged a scoreless duel into the eighth inning, both pitchers were knocked out early on Saturday night.
The Giants’ Jeff Samardzija gave up as many hits — six — as outs he earned and was lifted for a pinch-hitter after two innings. Hendricks was taken out after getting hit hard by one batter,Pagan, whose line drive up the middle caught Hendricks flush in the forearm.
Hendricks, who picked up the ball and threw errantly just as Pagan reached the base, attempted several warm-up tosses before Manager Joe Maddon asked for the ball and turned to Wood. X-rays later proved negative, and Hendricks was diagnosed with a bruise.
Even the misfortune of losing Hendricks, whose 2.13 E.R.A. was the best in the majors, did not mean a turn of the Cubs’ luck. Wood stepped in against Giants reliever George Kontos and ripped the first pitch he saw into the left-field bleachers. As with Baez the night before, he was rewarded with a curtain call.
Samardzija, who was drafted by the Cubs, played a role in their rebuilding when he was sent to Oakland two years ago in a deal that brought back Addison Russell, who emerged as the Cubs’ All-Star shortstop this season. Samardzija’s familiarity with pitching at Wrigley Field was a factor in Manager Bruce Bochy’s choosing him to start Saturday over the left-hander Matt Moore, who will pitch in Game 4 if there is one.
Samardzija was asked Friday if there was anything he had gleaned from pitching seven seasons at Wrigley Field.
“Look at the flags?” Samardzija said. “It’s really the only thing that matters. I think they’ve redone the surface since I was here, so it looks like the infield is playing a little truer than it was. But yeah, you look at those flags and you kind of go from there.”
Insider knowledge has not helped Samardzija, who has a 9.75 E.R.A. in three starts as a visitor at Wrigley Field. His night began innocently enough when he threw two quick strikes to Dexter Fowler. But Fowler worked the count full and blistered the ninth pitch of the at-bat to the right-center gap for a double.
He eventually scored when Ben Zobrist fisted a two-out single to right field, giving the Cubs as many runs as they had pushed across in the opener. They added to their total in the second when Jason Heyward led off with a double, Baez drew a walk and Willson Contreras lined a single to right to load the bases.
That brought up Hendricks, who was the worst hitter on his high school team, and has 14 hits in his three seasons in the major leagues. But no matter: Hendricks looped a single to center that scored two runs.
The Giants might have minimized the damage in the second had center fielder Denard Span chosen to throw to second — where he easily would have had Contreras — instead of home where he had no chance of getting Baez. Instead, one out later, right fielder Hunter Pence had Kris Bryant’s liner down the right field line pop out of his glove, and Contreras coasted home from third base, putting the Cubs ahead by 4-0.
The Giants answered with two runs off Hendricks in the third, as back-to-back doubles by Joe Panik and pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco scored one run, and Blanco scored on Brandon Belt’s sacrifice fly.