The Giants and Cubs didn’t play an entire season Monday night, it just felt like it — and not just because their 6-5 win took five hours and four minutes to complete. The Giants’ season seemed like it was over twice in Game 3, but now the Cubs have a night to think about whether their run to a championship will be as easy as it seemed for the first 25 innings of this series.
Madison Bumgarner wasn’t himself for the first time in an elimination. He was weirdly human, and that was obvious when he gave up a loud double to Kris Bryant in the first inning. The Cubs weren’t planning on swinging at the curveballs he fooled the Mets with time and time again, which tells us that their coaching staff might be on par with their outstanding roster. Bumgarner got out of the first unscathed, but something was off. The velocity was a little lower, the tempo and demeanor not quite the same as what we saw in New York when it looked like he could throw 15 innings if necessary.
The Cubs worked the count in the second inning, Addison Russell stuck his left elbow out to catch a fastball and reach first the easy/hard way. Javier Baez — yeah, that guy again — hit a full-count single to cause more trouble. But Bumgarner, who was handed the title of “Best Postseason Pitcher Ever” by a surprising number of baseball writers after Wednesday night’s shutout, was one strike away from getting out of that jam as well. Then Jake Arrieta, a walking testosterone commercial, hit a 90 mph fastball into the left field stands into the glove of a Cubs fan.
The Giants were down 3-0 and Arrieta looked unstoppable. Ballgame. Ballseason. Time to start writing postmortems about the lack of power bats, bad breaks throughout the three-game NLDS sweep, and what can possibly be done to compete with this Cubs juggernaut next season.
But the Giants chipped away. A run in the third. Another in the fifth. Then the Giants came through with the most therapeutic eighth inning possible, as Brandon Belt’s single off Travis Wood and Buster Posey’s walk against Hector Rondon convinced Joe Maddon to go for the late-game hammer: a six-out save for Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman is a player many Giants fans wanted. However, the ones who didn’t want him were more passionate in their belief that he wasn’t the answer and their misgivings had nothing to do with his velocity or command. He wasn’t convicted of domestic violence, but the reports were rough enough that MLB suspended him for the first 30 games of the season. Innocent until proven guilty is an important phrase, but anyone who wants to label him a cretin has two legs on which to comfortably stand.
Hunter Pence, who earlier in the game seemed as if he might be on the verge of breaking out of his slump, swung through three Chapman fastballs. Then it was a parade of lefties(!) who sent Chapman back to his dugout. Conor Gillaspie, who might be impossible to remove from the starting lineup even if Eduardo Nunez reports to AT&T Park tomorrow with a fully healed hamstring, drilled a triple to the same Alley where Pence’s drive earlier in the game went to die. Brandon Crawford, never one to be intimidated by a left-handed hurler or a hard fastball, knocked a single to center. Joe Panik, the inevitable hero of this game, walked against a clearly rattled Chapman.
The Giants weren’t about to let us forget who they are, however. Dexter Fowler, perhaps the most infuriating hitter the Giants have faced in this series, due to his absurdly discerning judgment of the strike zone, walked against Sergio Romo to start the ninth. Gulp. Bryant was blessed with not just a hanging slider, but a haaaaanging slider, a true meatball right in Bryant’s spaghetti bowl. Bryant bounced one off one of those silly cars on the left field wall — otherwise known as the cheesiest AT&T Park eyesore fans willfully ignore whenever they sit in the stands and take in the view — and the Giants’ season was on the brink again.
Somehow the Cubs didn’t score. Neither did the Giants, and this went on until the 13th, when Crawford jumped on a curveball from poor Mike Montgomery, who after four scoreless innings was pinned with the loss when Panik clobbered a fastball off the right field wall to walk this baby off.
— And we get to go through all of this tomorrow. And then maybe even two days after that!
— I couldn’t believe Bruce Bochy left Romo in to face Anthony Rizzo after giving up that two-run shot to Bryant seconds earlier. I’ll never forget seeing a home run Rizzo hit off of Romo in Spring Training four years ago.
Sergio Romo gave up a home run to Anthony Rizzo that continues to bounce in the streets of downtown Scottsdale. It’s 5-1, Harry Carays.
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) March 13, 2012
Romo caught wind of this tweet and didn’t speak to John Shea for several days. But Shea was right! I’ve covered a few different Spring Trainings, and that was easily the longest home run I ever saw hit in the Cactus League. But Romo would get Rizzo on a groundout and go on to pitch two scoreless innings after the home run, ending with two strikeouts.
— Sorry Derek, this is a new rule.
Derek Law must have a rally towel in his hands at all times when he isn’t pitching from now on.
— Bay Area Sports Guy (@BASportsGuy) October 11, 2016
I don’t know how to put this … other than Johnny Cueto, the Giants didn’t exactly seem to have as many fun personalities this season as they did in other championship years. Maybe I’m wrong, but there hasn’t been as much levity. A terrible second half surely didn’t help. But the guys are starting to show who they are a little bit, now that the games matter, and that’s a good thing.
— Ty Blach was teetering on the edge of earning a loss himself, but pitched a perfect 12th and got the double play grounder he needed from David Ross to keep the game tied in the 13th. It already seemed like a Black Lock (sorry) that he’d start next season as the Giants’ No. 5 starter after he out-dueled Clayton Kershaw two Saturdays ago, but now that has to be set in stone.
— With several odd check-swing calls by the corner umpires and the replay team’s refusal to overturn the out call at first in the sixth on Conor Gillaspie’s grounder to second in the sixth, it seemed like the Giants had everything stacked against them. While I don’t doubt that MLB would love to see the Cubs go all the way this year for obvious reasons, and the Giants have had a few weird calls (balls and strikes, too) go against them, that wasn’t what I was going to write had they lost this game 3-2. The Cubs are a more talented, athletic team, and the Giants need to make their own breaks to have any chance. That’s what they did in the 8th and the 13th, and now it’s up to Matt Moore to eat some innings because the bullpen got worked pretty hard.
— What’s the plan tomorrow if the Giants have one- or two-run lead going into the ninth? Romo looked like he tweaked his knee while facing Fowler (another bad sign before the Bryant homer), and threw 32 pitches. He’ll say he’s ready to go, but Bochy probably can’t trust him with a full ninth. Law also pitched two innings. I’m not sure about Jeff Samardzija in a role he hasn’t been in all year … at all. I’d probably go with a mix of Hunter Strickland, Will Smith and Javier Lopez depending on who they face. Or maybe Santiago Casilla. Sorry, I can’t write that with a straight face.
— Obviously the Giants have to score runs or their bullpen plan is meaningless (duh/#analysis). Are the bats coming to life, with three-hit games by Panik and Posey, two hits from Span and Crawford, good plate appearances from Belt and the rapidly-becoming-legendary Gillaspie?
— How about the Cubs? They didn’t overuse Chapman, but the Giants may have broken him. It would’ve been very interesting to see how things would’ve gone if Gorkys Hernandez wasn’t called out by Alan Porter in Game 1, but Chapman looked impenetrable on Saturday. Things are different now. Chapman looked like a guy who was shook. With the Cubs’ history looming over everything they do, will Chapman slip into the superstitious vortex?