It was an unreal scene, or perhaps surreal would be a better way to describe it. Sitting there in AT&T Park in the top of the ninth inning you could feel the stress that Giants fans were under before the inning even began. We know it all too well as Cubs fans and, to be completely honest, it was nice not having that burden to bear.
Yes, the Giants were up by three runs, 5-2, as the ninth inning began, but Matt Moore, who pitched more like Madison Bumgarner tonight, was just pulled from the game after an almost super-human effort that saw him give up only two runs on two hits while striking out ten. It was up to the bullpen and the Giants bullpen was been incredibly bad the second half of the season.
The inning started with a Kris Bryant single followed by an Anthony Rizzo walk. Suddenly, you could feel the life being sucked out of the stadium. Bruce Bochy walked calmly to the mound to make his third pitching change in the inning. It didn’t matter to Ben Zobrist, who came up and slammed a double into the right field corner to score Bryant and advance Rizzo to third base.
After the Giants made their fourth pitching change, with runners on second and third Joe Maddon called on Willson Contreras to pinch hit. The rookie came up in a huge spot and calmly hit a two-run single back up the middle of the infield. Suddenly the game was tied 5-5 and the pressure of all the hype surrounding the Giants and their even-year mojo was crumbling all around them.
When Jason Heyward came up to bat next, he bunted the ball directly back to the pitcher who pivoted and threw a strike to second base. Shortstop Brandon Crawford then, inexplicably, threw the ball away past first baseman Brandon Belt and into the Cubs dugout. Heyward took second base on the play and the all-to-real nightmare scenario for the Giants was coming to fruition. It was as if the gods had decided this one belonged to the Cubs, and only the Cubs.
Javy Baez was up next and all he needed to do was hit a simple single and the Cubs would have the lead. That’s exactly what he did.
The Cubs stormed back, against all odds, and stole this game right out from under the Giants (Box Score). They now advance to the NLCS for the second year in a row and will play the winner of Thursday’s NLDS game five, either the Nationals or the Dodgers.
Now, it’s time to party.
Stats that matter
- John Lackey wasn’t at his best, not nearly good enough, but it’s a team game – 4.0IP, 3R, 7H, 2BB, 4Ks, 74 pitches
- Justin Grimm, who came in for Lackey in the 5th, wasn’t much better – 0.1IP, 2R, 2H
- Wood, Edwards and Rondon stepped up big to stop the bleeding – 3.2IP, 0R, 2H, 3Ks
- Chapman shut it down in the ninth with 3 HUGE strikeouts
- Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist, Contreras, Baez, and Ross each had one hit, one run and one heck of an impact on this game
That was unreal. I mean, this is the stuff that Cubs fans have dreamt about for so many years and instead of it happening to us, it happened for us. And if you think this is amazing, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Stay tuned, this is just getting started.
We know when the Cubs will play again, Saturday, but we don’t know who. It will be either the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals. That will be decided on Thursday at 7:00 PM CT in Washington DC. We’ll update you once the Cubs announce starting pitchers and their NLCS roster but expect Jon Lester to make the game one start.