Game 3 between the Cubs and Giants was a wild one. And a long one. It was a 13-inning affair that ultimately ended in a 6-5 walk-off victory for the Giants, helping stave off elimination in the NLDS.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta got the action started early, blasting a three-run home run off of Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner had never, in his career entering Monday night, allowed the opposing pitcher to homer. And he’d homered 14 times off of pitchers himself. But Arrieta changed that right quick, putting the Cubs up 3-0 in the second inning.
The Giants fought back for a run against Arrieta in the bottom of the third thanks to a Buster Posey RBI single. They tacked on one more in the fifth on a Brandon Belt sacrifice fly. It would remain a 3-2 game until the bottom of the eighth inning.
Cubs reliever Hector Rondon started the bottom of the eighth, but allowed a leadoff single to Brandon Belt followed by a walk to Buster Posey, prompting manager Joe Maddon to call on closer Aroldis Chapman for a six-out save. Chapman struck out Pence, seeming like he’d have no trouble escaping the jam. But Conor Gillaspie strode to the plate, the hero of the NL Wild Card game against the Mets. Gillaspie, you may recall, hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning to break a scoreless tie in that one.
Here’s what seemed to be the problem for the Giants: Chapman, historically, owned left-handed hitters, holding them to a .393 OPS (!) over his career. Gillaspie, historically, struggled against lefty pitchers, mustering a .523 OPS over his career. The odds were certainly in Chapman’s favor. And yet, Gillaspie laced a line drive to the gap in right-center field, a foot out of the reach of a diving Albert Almora, Jr., allowing Belt and Posey to score, giving the Giants a 4-3 lead. According to FanGraphs, the Giants’ probability of winning jumped from 26 percent entering the inning to 92 percent after Gillaspie’s triple.
Chapman continued to struggle, as Brandon Crawford singled up the middle to bring Gillaspie home to make it a 5-3 game. Crawford then stole second base and advanced to third base on a throwing error by catcher Willson Contreras. Chapman finished off the at-bat by walking Joe Panik before Maddon came out to the mound to bring in Justin Grimm. To recap: against Chapman, a feared lefty-killer, lefty Gillaspie hits a two-run triple, lefty Crawford hits an RBI single, lefty Panik walks. Baseball. Grimm escaped the inning, inducing consecutive ground outs from Gregor Blanco and Gorkys Hernandez.
The Giants were three outs from moving onto Game 4 with their NLCS hopes still alive, but that meant trusting their infamous bullpen. As ESPN’s David Schoenfield notes, the Giants’ 30 blown saves in 2016 were the most by any playoff team since saves became official in 1969. So in the top of the ninth, Sergio Romo walked leadoff batter Dexter Fowler. Kris Bryant then yanked a slider out to left field that just barely went over the fence, tying the game at five apiece. Romo was able to get through the rest of the ninth with no further damage. He worked a scoreless 10th as well.
The game would remain 5-5 until the bottom of the 13th inning. Lefty Mike Montgomery, entering his fifth inning of work, allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Crawford. That was followed by another double by Joe Panik to plate the winning run.
Game 4 of the NLDS between these two teams begins at 8:30 PM on Tuesday evening. The Cubs’ John Lackey will oppose the Giants’ Matt Moore at AT&T Park.