Series Status: Cubs Win 3-1
W: Hector Rondon (1-0, 1IP, 1H, 0ER, 5.40 ERA)
L: Will Smith (0-1, 0.1IP,1H,0ER, 0.00 ERA)
SV: Aroldis Chapman (3)
MVP: Javier Baez (Sparkling defense and game-winning RBI single)
WHAT. A. NIGHT!! The Chicago Cubs pulled off a historic comeback win in the 9th inning to eliminate the San Francisco Giants and punch their ticket to the NLCS for the second consecutive year.
It was one of those extremely frustrating games in which the Cubs provided minimal offense against Giants starter Matt Moore. He gave up only two hits and two runs (one earned) over eight innings and issued only two walks while striking out ten. That lone earned run was a 3rd-inning solo home run by David Ross. The unearned run came in the top of the 5th when Javier Baez ended up on 3rd on a throwing error by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and later scored on a sacrifice fly by David Ross.
On the flipside, the Giants kept on hitting and took advantage of every chance they were given by Cubs pitching. John Lackey struggled right off the bat, giving up a leadoff double to Denard Span in the bottom of the 1st. He eventually came around and scored on a sacrifice fly by Buster Posey.
Lackey was able to work out of the trouble he faced in the 2nd and 3rd innings, but it all went downhill in the 4th. With one out, the Giants loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. That brought their starter, Matt Moore, to the plate with a chance to help his own cause. In keeping with the “Pitchers Who Rake” theme of the series, Moore singled giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.
Span then hit a ball on the ground to Anthony Rizzo, who threw to second to try and turn two. However, Span was able to beat out the throw to first and the Giants got another run on the force. After four innings, the Giants led 3-1.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Giants started another scoring party in the bottom of the 5th off of Justin Grimm. Hunter Pence singled with one out in the inning. Next up was Brandon Crawford, who hit a ball as far and as high as you can without it being a home run. He settled for a double and there were Giants on 2nd and 3rd with one out.
Joe Maddon had seen enough and decided to bring in veteran left-hander Travis Wood. He was greeted by a single off the bat of Conor Gillaspie that gave the Giants a 4-2 lead. They got their final run in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Joe Panik and the Giants were up 5-2 at the end of five. Both bullpens put up goose eggs over the next three frames and the Giants took that same lead to the 9th inning.
The Cubs started off their final at-bat by breaking the law; Derek Law, that is. Kris Bryant singled off of him and Law was pulled in favor of Javier Lopez, who walked Anthony Rizzo after a six-pitch at-bat. Bruce Bochy had enough of Lopez and pulled him to bring in his closer, Sergio Romo.
Romo only faced one batter, Ben Zobrist, who ripped a double to right field which scored a run. 5-3 Giants. A frustrated Bochy came out to make his fourth pitching change of the night, this time bringing in lefty Will Smith to face Willson Contreras. Willy lined a single up the middle that brought home Rizzo and Zobrist to tie the ballgame at five! The “notoriously bad” Giants bullpen that we hadn’t seen this whole series finally showed up.
Jason Heyward checked in to the batter’s box and forced out Contreras at second with a bunt, though he was able to reach second on yet another throwing error by shortstop Brandon Crawford. It was time for the Giants’ fifth pitching change of the inning as Hunter Strickland was in to face the Cubs.
Strickland faced the MVP of the series, Javier Baez, and gave up an RBI single that gave the Cubs a 6-5 lead. That’s right, this Cubs team that had been frustratingly quiet on offense all game long exploited the Giants bullpen by scoring four runs. Believe it or not, that was perhaps the greatest playoff comeback in Major League history. Before last night, three runs was the most any team had scored in the 9th inning of a postseason game.
Aroldis Chapman came in to shut it down and he did so by striking out Gorkys Hernandez, Denard Span, and Brandon belt, all swinging, to secure the win and push the Cubs to the NLCS.
Despite his team losing in the end, Matt Moore threw an amazing game. He limited the Cubs to only two hits and frustrated them all night long. He seemed to hit his stride pretty early and only made one mistake, which was a solo shot to David Ross.
Not only did Javy Baez make a few sparkling defensive plays, but he also drove in the game-winning run. Baez had an amazing series and had the game-winning home run for the Cubs in game one as well.
The Giants offense was good, particularly Conor Gillaspie, who killed the Cubs in both games at AT&T Park. He had a four-hit game Tuesday night and smacked a big three-run triple in the Giants’ lone win in Monday’s marathon.
The Cubs offense didn’t do anything until the 9th, but they made it count. They strung together four hits and got a little bit of help on an error. As GM Theo Epstein said, “Hitting before the 9th inning is overrated.”
The Giants bullpen finally had the collapse we had all been hoping for. They used five pitchers, who combined to give up four runs on four hits, one walk, and one error in the final inning.
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford made two throwing errors in the game, both resulting in runs. His error in the 9th put Jason Heyward at second before he scored the winning run when Baez singled.
The Cubs head home and await Thursday, when their opponent will be determined. The Dodgers and Nationals will play game five of their NLDS in D.C. and the winner will face the Cubs and Jon Lester in game one of the NLCS Saturday at Wrigley.