San Francisco, CA – Call it torture baseball! The Giants had their streak of ten-consecutive postseason elimination games snapped in tonights 6-5 loss to the Cubs. An epic collapse by San Francisco’s bullpen who gave up four runs in the ninth and a total of 32 blown saves for the season.
“I would like to think you’re going to get three outs there,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “We couldn’t do it. Because of the job he did, we had all the guys lined up, we just couldn’t get outs.”
The Giants headed into the ninth with a 5-2 lead. After Matt Moore tossed a phenomenal eight frames his night was done. Many will wonder had he stayed in after throwing 120 pitches, San Francisco would be celebrating instead of Chicago. Once the bullpen took over, Derek Law gave up a leadoff single to Kris Bryant.
Then Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo replaced Lopez and surrendered a double to Ben Zobrist who scored in Bryant. Will Smith replaced Romo and yielded a single to Wilson Contreras who knocked in two more runs tying the game 5-5. Hunter Strickland came in and gave up a single to Javier Baez who drove in Jason Heyward to extend the Cubs lead 6-5.
After that, defeat had spread across the field. The fight the Giants had in yesterday’s game was gone. Closer Aroldis Chapman got a second chance to prove himself after unraveling yesterday in the ninth. Chapman struck out the side to end the game and send Chicago to the National League Championship Series as they await the winner of the Washington Nationals vs Los Angeles Dodgers game Thursday night.
“We’re building that reputation just like the Giants have established,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You play until the last drop, and this time of the year you better come with your A game because we’re going to show up for 27 outs.
Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field, I was telling folks, if you ever look at those numbers, they’re not good for us. He’s really tough on us. So, I’m happy to not have to face him in a winner-take-all-game.”
San Francisco used one of their biggest weapons on the mound tonight. Moore struck out a postseason career-high 10 batters and became just the 10th pitcher in Giants franchise postseason history to record double-digits strikeouts. Moore certainly could’ve gone the distance. But Bochy thought his bullpen could get three simple outs.
“Nobody really came up to me and told me I was done,” Moore said. “I think everyone kind of new it was my last one, no real conversation about it. That’s how baseball goes sometimes. In the moment of where were at winning, I didn’t want to make about myself and say ‘hey leave me in’ and we have guys down there. This is one of those moments we can change next year, the agony of losing.”
Moore had a strong start after retiring the first two batters he faced before giving up a walk to Rizzo in the first. Moore exited the inning without any damage. San Francisco’s offense got off to a good start when Denard Span doubled, advanced to third and scored on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly making it a 1-0 game.
But it wasn’t long before the Cubs responded. David Ross led off the third with a solo shot to left field tying the game 1-1. Ross’ only previous postseason home run was back in 2012 when he played for the Atlanta Braves. After that hit, the Giants defense got better allowing no runs until the fifth.
“I was trying to be like these young guys who have way better swings than I do,” said Ross. “I’m just trying to get something up in the zone and put a good swing on it. We got down early and I tried to get us back in the game. I put some good wood on it and that doesn’t happen to often for me.”
The Giants got a break against Lackey in the fourth. Lackey loaded the bases with two back-to-back singles and walked Gregor Blanco. Moore’s RBI single scored in Conor Gillaspie and Span followed grounding out into a force out making it a 3-1 game. Brandon Belt flew out to center field stranding two.
No room for mistakes, Brandon Crawford threw to first baseman [Brandon] Belt after Javier Baez grounded to him but Crawford over threw first and Baez advanced to third in the fifth. Ross’ sacrifice fly scored in Baez to trim San Francisco’s lead 3-2. Meanwhile Lackey was pulled after surrendering two runs in the fourth. He tossed four innings, gave up seven hits, three runs and struck out four.
Crawford smashed a home run untouched that bounced off the right field wall, Pence stayed at second only to double back to second and then finally ran to third. The play was ruled a double though Pence could’ve scored on the play. Nevertheless, Gillapsie came through and drove in Pence extending their lead 4-2.
“I think he thought he missed second, so that’s why he went back to make sure he tagged it,” Bochy said. “It didn’t hurt us there with Conor getting that big hit there.”
Gillaspie went 4-4 at the plate and became the just the 15th Giant to record four hits in a postseason game. The last player to do that was Pablo Sandoval on October 24, 2012 in Game 1 of the World Series. San Francisco now heads into the offseason with many changes to be expected with their bullpen after such a tough loss.
“The season was very trying, baseball is amazing cause you never know what will happen next,” Romo said. “Tonight’s a great example and last night was a good example. So being part of the bullpen you want to do your job and we were unable to do that tonight.”
“A loss is always disappointing, especially since I’m a bullpen guy and I take pride in that,” said Strickland. “We can’t control where the ball falls, it hurts, it’s frustrating for sure. We win and lose as a team. We’ll prepare and get ready for next year.”