By Bruce Levine–
WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS) — Prior to Game 1 on Friday evening, manager Dusty Baker reminded that his Nationals can run, and that’s what they intended to do against the Cubs.
That was all well and good, except for the fact that Washington managed just seven baserunners against Kyle Hendricks and two relievers in a 3-0 loss in falling behind 1-0 in the National League Division Series.
What Baker wants in Game 3 on Saturday afternoon is lead-off man Trea Truner, he of 46 stolen bases in the regular season, to wreak havoc on Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, who has a long history of difficulty in holding runners on. Turner was neutralized in Game 1, grounding out twice and striking out twice.
The whole baseball world knows Lester can be run on because of his disdain for throwing to bases. What opposing teams don’t necessarily understand is that Lester usually clocks in at 1.2 seconds from his mid-delivery to home plate, one of the quickest times of any pitcher in the game. With the cannon arm of catcher Willson Contreras, it helps the Cubs negate opposing running games.
“I do expect a lot of aggressiveness out there from them,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Turner is exceptional. They have other guys that can run as well. The best defense is to keep them off base to begin with. We have our methods and will try to incorporate them.”
Part of the Cubs’ plan to keep Nationals baserunners honest will be for Contreras to throw behind them. The Nationals could also incorporate bunting into their game plan, though that would be a sacrifice for good power hitters. And Maddon doesn’t much expect bunting outside of Turner.
“You look at their team,” Maddon said. “Trea Turner is a really good bunter, he will do that. There are other guys who will bunt but are not as proficient as Turner. It is not as easy to tell guys to do these things. It is the same as if you run a shift out there. Why doesn’t a guy hit the ball to the open spot? Because he can’t. Because he is not good at it, and that is why you shift in the first place.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.