Pete Hodges recaps Game 3 of the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants in which the Giants walked off to preserve their playoff lives.
The San Francisco Giants returned to AT&T Park facing elimination, down 2-0 in their best-of-five series. However, there was a silver lining as playoff uber-star Madison Bumgarner would be making the start for the hometown team. He would be facing off against one of Chicago’s aces in Jake Arrieta.
In the first inning, after retiring Dexter Fowler via a lazy fly to left field, Bumgarner left a 92-mph two-seamer over the plate to Kris Bryant that resulted in the former rookie of the year standing at second base. An Anthony Rizzo groundout moved Bryant to third, but Bumgarner was able to strike out Jorge Soler to end the early threat.
That was just a sign of things to come as the Giants star lefty hit shortstop Addison Russell with a 2-2 slider on the eighth pitch of the at-bat – and his 28th of the start, just four outs into the game in the top of the second. A hard grounder down the third base line proved too much for Conor Gillaspie as he was unable to make a play on the ball – leading to men on first and second. Following a Miguel Montero lineout, Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta proved that the designated hitter is an overrated idea, and did this:
One-upping Bumgarner in his home park, the bearded wonder put the Cubs ahead 3-0. Following a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti, Bumgarner walked Bryant on four pitches that wanted no part of the strike zone before retiring Rizzo on a line drive to short.
Arrieta entered the third having struck out four, walked one, and given up one paltry single. He quickly dispatched the hard-hitting Bumgarner on one pitch before surrendering a two-strike double to the silver fox, Denard Span. Two batters later, catcher Buster Posey singled the center fielder home, bringing the Giants to within two runs, 3-1.
After surrendering the Arrieta blast, Bumgarner kept the Cubs off the board but his pitch count continued to climb. After five innings it sat at 101 and his third at-bat of the game came around, so manager Bruce Bochy made the call for pinch hitter Eduardo Nunez. The former Twin and Yankee grounded out to shortstop, but the venerable Span smashed a triple to deep right field – which sent the Bay Area crowd into a frenzy. A Brandon Belt sac fly scored Span, doubling the Giants score and cutting the Cubs lead to one, 3-2. Arrieta then allowed a Buster Posey single, but retired Hunter Pence to end the threat of further damage.
Arrieta was replaced by Pedro Strop in the top of the seventh inning after throwing 97 pitches over six innings, in line for the win with the Cubs up 3-2 thanks to his three-run dinger in the second. Derek Law replaced Bumgarner for the Giants and he pitched two scoreless innings, walking one batter and striking two. He was followed by Hunter Strickland, who walked Willson Contreras in the eighth inning, but struck out Russell and Jason Heyward to escape the inning unscathed.
Travis Wood began the eighth inning for the visitors, allowing a leadoff single by Brandon Belt. Cubs manager Joe Maddon used a quick hook and went to former closer Hector Rondon. The righty walked Buster Posey and was then replaced via a double switch. Maddon wasn’t fooling around: He called on his lefty closer, Aroldis Chapman, for the six-out save. Things started out great as Pence could not handle Chapman’s triple-digit heat and was retired by way of the K. However, Conor Gillaspie obliterated a 100-mph fastball that would have been a home run in any other park – but was merely a two-run triple in San Francisco. The Giants then scored again, this time taking a 4-3 lead, on a Brandon Crawford single on another triple-digit fastball. It gave the Giants some breathing room and a 5-3 lead. Maddon took a Joe Panik walk as a sign that his closer did not have it on the evening, and removed Chapman in favor of Justin Grimm – an apt name for the situation. The righty reliever induced two groundouts to end the Giants’ threat.
One of the Giants’ biggest problems this year has been the closer role – having blown 32 saves on the season – and that reared its ugly head once again. Sergio Romo entered the game to face Dexter Fowler and put the leadoff hitter on first base after a hard-fought, eight-pitch walk. Kris Bryant then deposited a ball into the stands to tie the game at five with this monstrous clout:
Romo then retired the next three batters in order to send the game into the bottom of the ninth. Mike Montgomery replaced Grimm for Chicago and allowed a one-out walk, but was able to induce an inning-ending, extra-inning causing, double play.
Romo came back out to pitch in the top of the tenth and retired the side in order, striking out two. Montgomery followed suit, though he only struck out one. Will Smith replaced Romo in the 11th, tossing a perfect inning of relief, striking out one. Montgomery returned to the mound again and allowed a leadoff single to Panik – who was moved over by a sacrifice bunt – but was stranded at third following consecutive groundouts.
In the 12th inning, Ty Blach replaced Smith and pitched another spotless frame with one K. Montgomery continued to do yeoman’s work, allowing a single but keeping the score even. Blach remained in the game for the 13th, and allowed back-to-back one-out singles by Javier Baez and Willson Contreras. Maddon called on David Ross to pinch hit for Chris Coghlan and this efficient double play was turned to, perhaps, save the game:
Montgomery came out for his fourth inning of work in the bottom of the 13th and allowed a leadoff double by Brandon Crawford. Joe Panik then followed suit with a double of his own, and Crawford scampered home to end the game in the bottom of the 13th inning.
The two teams will square off again in Game 4, with the Cubs leading the series 2 games to 1 and San Francisco holding home-field for one more game.