This one was for MadBum!
In a ho-hum NLDS game 3 that nobody will remember in two days, the indomitable Giants of San Francisco vanquished the Chicago Cubs 6-5 in 13 innings to push the heavily-favored North Siders one game closer to elimination. Joe Panik’s double off the wall in the bottom of the 13th inning drove home Brandon Crawford who lead off the inning with a double of his own.
There is so much to write about this memorable, incredible, unbelievable, epic, suspenseful and thrilling game that it will be simpler for me to make a bulleted list of items rather than trying to make a narrative out of it.
The List of Destiny
- Madison Bumgarner was not sharp. He could not put hitters away. In the second inning with two outs and two on, no score, and a 1-2 count to Jake Arrieta, The Giants ace threw a fat fastball above the belt that Arrieta powered into the left-field bleachers. That was the 5th RBI and second homer by Cubs pitchers in the series. MadBum would give up more hits in the inning. While he threw 43 pitches, he managed to avoid further damage, pitching valiantly to keep the game at 3-0. He hung tough to pitch two more innings and keep the Cubs from piling on. MadBum’s performance was not dominant but it was gritty, tough, and incredibly inspiring.
- Denard Span had a huge game with a sensational catch, a double and a triple igniting rallies and scoring two runs. After a largely un-remarkable regular season, Span is proving to be a gamer and a fighter, the type of player you want in a baseball death-match against a heavily-favored opponent.
- Conor Gillaspie, with a lifetime batting average against left-handed relievers of .179, pulverized a 103 MPH fastball from Aroldis Chapman to triple and drive in two runs that gave the Giants their first lead in the series in the bottom of the 8th inning.
- Sergio Romo gave up a wall-scraper two-run home run to Kris Bryant, who had an exceptional game, with one out in the 9th inning that squashed the spirits of Giants fans waiting to celebrate their first victory in the series and tied the game.
- Buster Posey, who punished baseballs left, right, and center all night, drilled a ball down the right field line in the bottom of the ninth inning with one out and Brandon Belt on first. Belt was running all the way and for a few hopeful breath-taking seconds it looked like the Giants were going to win it until Albert Almora, Jr. made the catch of his life and doubled Belt off first base ending the inning, the rally, and perhaps any optimism of Giants fans.
- Ty Blach pitched two shutout innings for the win and needed a double-play to escape trouble in the top of the 13th inning.
- Brandon Crawford lead off the bottom of the 13th inning with a double. Joe Panik was next up. Many schools of baseball logic dictates a sacrifice bunt to move the winning run to third with one out. But Bruce Bochy made the call of his life electing to let Panik hit away against left-hander Mike Montgomery who had thrown over 50 pitches in the longest relief appearance of his career at that point. With the pitcher’s spot in the hole and Blanco on deck, it was suprising that Maddon did not walk Panik. On the third pitch Joey Baseball mutilated a high fastball off the wall in Right field sending Brandon Crawford home with the winning run and giving the Giants their first win of the series in a game for the ages that nobody will ever forget.
That was a game destined to enter the lore of Giants playoff classics for so many reasons. Let’s begin with the story line of the Giants narrowly-escaping an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the upstart Cubs. This was the tenth elimination game in a row won by the Giants, a Major League record and certainly one of the most memorable. Between the horrible umpiring, unconscionable review that failed to over-turn a call at first that went against the Giants, and the general pro-Cubs bias in the media, the Giants were basically an after-thought most of the game. They were bit performers sharing the stage to the leading men from Chicago.
Bruce Bochy Out-Manages Joe Maddon
The chess match between Joe Maddon and Bruce Bochy ended up a checkmate for the San Francisco manager after the Chicago skipper depleted his relief corps and bench. His gamble to pitch Chapman, his closer, with nobody out in the 8th inning backfired. Maddon was liberal with his use of relief pitchers throughout the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings which meant that there was only one Cub pitcher available after Montgomery. How ironic that Bochy, the manager who never met a late-game relief match up he didn’t like, had more arms available in the bullpen than Maddon. This was a crucial part of the game that would eventually turn in the Giants favor.
Giants Baseball + October = Unforgettable Drama
This game had everything a baseball fan, a sports fan could ever dream of: epic homers, amazing catches, clutch hits, triple digit fastballs, a raucous crowd, lead-changes, comebacks, a historic story line and much much more. The suspense was ridiculously entertaining. The plot-lines were many. If anyone ever tells you baseball is boring just make them watch this game. Only baseball could provide such scintillating drama and compelling story lines worthy of William Shakespeare and Alfred Hitchcock both.
I am writing this on four hours sleep so I will refrain from going into further detail about the Giants lack of aggressive base-running that may have cost them at least two runs or the continued media and officiating bias that is embarrassingly pro-Cubs. This was one of the biggest Giants wins of the year and certainly since last Wednesday’s Wild Card game.
A Championship Pedigree
One of the most gratifying aspects of this game for me was how the Giants did not give up and fought with everything they had, even with all the set-backs and adversity, with their season on the line! Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and Robert Evans, indeed the entire Giants organization, have created a culture of perseverance and relentless pursuit of victory, regardless of the moment or the player. The Giants may not have the biggest numbers, the pitcher with the best fastball, the hitters with the most home runs, but they have a will to win, a quiet confidence and a championship pedigree that is already legendary and something all fans should be proud of.
I am still in a bit of disbelief. I need to catch a nap because all the fun begins again to night with Matt Moore on the mound in game four, pitching to bring the Giants one step closer to the NLCS.
Two down and ten to go.