CHICAGO -- The Cubs' offensive approach all season has been to be patient at the plate and try to knock the starting pitcher out early. It worked Saturday night.
Chicago pounced on San Francisco starter Jeff Samardzija for four runs on six hits in the first two innings en route to a 5-2 victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. The Cubs can advance to the NL Championship Series with a win on Monday night at AT&T Park, 9:30 ET/8:30 CT on FS1.
"You always want to take care of it at home," Chicago's Dexter Fowler said. "We're going to a tough ballpark. These guys have won championships before, and we have some work to do."
When the Cubs faced Samardzija on Sept. 1 at Wrigley Field, he threw 47 pitches in the first inning. This time, Samardzija totaled 47 pitches in his two innings. Fowler led off with a double and scored on Ben Zobrist's single two outs later.
"I thought I made a good pitch up on his hands, what we were trying to do," Samardzija said of his approach with Zobrist. "He dropped it over second, and that was that. Second inning was more of the same."
"We knew we were facing a good pitcher in Samardzija," Contreras said. "We were able to hit the fastball and hit those little mistakes. We came into this game ready to go."
Fowler couldn't recall the Sept. 1 outing against Samardzija. What was the game plan Saturday?
"Make him throw strikes and make him put the ball in the zone, and that's what happened," Fowler said. "We just tried to make him throw the ball over the plate and put good swings on him."
Getting those four runs early was big. The Cubs were 72-1 this season when holding a four-run lead at any point in the game.
"It was quick, so really hard to assess," Samardzija said. "[My] fastball felt good. Runners on base, then having to battle from there. Too early. Can't put your team in a hole early in the game, especially against a good staff like they have over there. I'd like to have that one back for sure. That one's on me."
All Samardzija can do now is watch teammate Madison Bumgarner try to stop the Cubs on Monday.
"It's a great lineup," Samardzija said of his former team. "I think they're tops in most of the categories offensively in the league. You've just got to go out there and make your pitches. They're not giving away any cheapies. They make you work for it, and we saw it tonight."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.