Three Strikes: Resilient Giants outlast Cubs in extras to stay alive in NLDS

Don’t close the door on the Giants just yet. Already down two games to none to the Cubs in the best-of-five Division Series, they fell behind 3–0 early in Game 3 via Jake Arrieta’s shocking three-run homer off Madison Bumgarner, and Chicago chased the Giants’ ace after just five innings. But San Francisco clawed its way back, and after an eventful back-and-forth between the two teams in the eighth and ninth innings, finally won 6–5 in the 13th via back-to-back doubles by Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik off Mike Montgomery, who was beginning his fifth inning of work.

The victory was the Giants’ 10th straight victory in an elimination game dating back to the 2010 postseason. The two teams will be back at it on 8:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night at AT&T Park, with John Lackey going against Matt Moore, but before that here are three quick thoughts on this game.

Trading blows

For 33 ⅔ innings—26 during the regular season, 6 ⅓ in the first two games of this series, and 1 ⅓ on Monday night—the Giants failed to score a single run against the Cubs’ bullpen. They finally broke through in the eighth inning, after Cubs manager Joe Maddon summoned Aroldis Chapman to protect a 3–2 lead, for what he hoped would be the second six-out save of the fireballer’s career.

Chapman, who had pitched scoreless innings to save each of the series’ first two games, entered the game with nobody out and runners on first (Buster Posey, walked by Hector Rondon) and second (Brandon Belt, via a single off Travis Wood). Chapman began by striking out Hunter Pence, with five of his six pitches at either 101 or 102 mph. But wild-card game hero Conor Gillaspie, after fouling off one 100 mph heater at the upper reach of the strike zone, caught up to a similar offering and drove it into Triples Alley in deep rightcenter. Albert Almora, who had just replaced fielding whiz Jason Heyward via the double-switch that brought in Chapman, failed to make an over-the-shoulder grab, plating both runners to give the Giants a 4–3 lead:

Gillaspie came home on Crawford’s ensuing single. Crawford stole second and then Panik walked, after which Maddon pulled Chapman to save him for possible use on Tuesday.

But just when it seemed that the Giants had ensured their survival, their bullpen, which led the league with 30 blown saves during the regular season, found a new way to disappoint. Sergio Romo, who took over the closer’s job from Santiago Casilla, walked Dexter Fowler to start the ninth, and then hung a slider to Kris Bryant, who made him pay with a two-run homer that knotted the game at 5–5.Via Statcast, it was a a 342-foot wall-scraper with a launch angle of 42 degrees.

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Neither team scored again until the 13th. The Giants got a runner as far as second base in the 11th, when Panik singled and took second on a sacrifice bunt, but he advanced no further. The Cubs put two on in the top of the 13th via one-out singles by Javy Baez and Wilson Contreras, but pinch-hitter David Ross grounded into an inning-ending double play that needed a replay review to confirm.

Jake the Rake

Back in late June, when the possibility of Bumgarnerparticipating in the Home Run Derby was floating around, Jake Arrieta chimed in to say that he’d like to participate as well. Their participation didn’t come to pass, but on Monday, Arrieta’s batting skill dealt Bumgarner and the Giants a blow that looked as though it might finish them off.

Stretched to the point of throwing 37 pitches in an epic second inning—more than he threw in either the first three or the last three of his shutout in last week’s NL Wild Card game—Bumgarner broke, serving up a three-run homer to Arrieta, who hit .262/.304/.415 with a pair of homers in 70 regular season plate appearances. The reigning NL Cy Young winner caught up to Bumgarner’s third straight high 90 mph fastball and sent it an estimated 377 feet to leftfield:

The Cubs sent eight men to the plate in that second inning, and most of them made the 27-year-old lefty work in one way or another. Ben Zobrist grounded out at the end of a six-pitch at-bat. Addison Russell battled back from 0–2 and was hit by a pitch at the end of an eight-pitch at-bat, having fouled off three straight. Javier Baez, who also fell behind 0–2, reached on an infield single to Gillaspie, at third base, to end a nine-pitch at-bat. Miguel Montero lined out on the first pitch of his at-bat, and then Arrieta won a four-pitch battle, hitting Bumgarner’s 28th pitch of the frame.

After that, the Cubs kept the Giants ace working, with Dexter Fowler stroking a first-pitch single, and Kris Bryant, who had doubled and gotten as far as third base in the first inning, drawing a four-pitch walk before Anthony Rizzo lined out on the fourth pitch of his at-bat.

Arrieta’s shot was just the second three-run homer Bumgarner allowed all season, and the first time in 99 innings that he had allowed a three-run homer; only two of his other seven postseason homers allowed came with a man on base. It was just the fifth three-run homer hit by a pitcherin postseason history, the first since the Phillies’ Steve Carlton did so against the Dodgers in the 1978 NLCS.

Of course, it wasn’t the first key blow landed by a Cubs pitcher in this series. In fact, they’ve now driven in six of the team’s 11 runs in this series. In Game 2, Kyle Hendricks hit a two-run single in the second inning to expand the Cubs’ lead from 1–0 to 3–0, and after he departed with a contusion, Wood homered in the fourth inning to grow the lead from 4–2 to 5–2.

The Duel

That 37-pitch inning wasn’t the only one that ran up Bumgarner’s pitch count. He needed 17 pitches in both the third and fourth innings, and was pulled for pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez in the bottom of the fifth inning, having thrown just 93 pitches. In all, he yielded seven hits and one walk while striking out four in what was his shortest postseason start since Game 1 of the 2012 NLCS against the Cardinals, when he threw 3 ⅔ innings. Eleven days after that, he kicked off the postseason run that built his legend: in eight starts plus his epic relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, he posted a 0.79 ERA and a 59/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 68 2/3 innings.

Arrieta, meanwhile, did not exactly dominate the Giants. In fact, he didn’t have a single clean inning until the sixth, and gave up a fair bit of hard contact. Two-out baserunners went for naught in the first, second and fourth innings but the Giants got on the board in the third via Denard Span’s one-out double and Buster Posey’s two-out single. They did so again in the fifth when Span hit a one-out triple into Triples Alley and scored on a hard-hit sacrifice fly by Belt.

Arrieta’s clean sixth inning didn’t come without controversy. Leading off the inning, Gillaspie grounded to Baez, who made an incredible play while ranging to his right and threw off his back foot to Rizzo at first base. The throw appeared to pull Rizzo off the bag, but on the field he was called out, and the replay review “could not definitively determine that fielder's foot was off bag when ball contacted interior of glove,” according to a statement delivered via Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Arrieta finished his night having thrown 97 pitches over six innings, yielding six hits and one walk while striking out five. No word on whether Maddon will call upon him on Tuesday to add some extra punch to the Cubs’ lineup .201/.237/.358 through the series’ first three games.

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