SAN FRANCISCO — Joe Maddon was working hard to put his best spin on the Cubs’ marathon defeat Monday at AT&T Park, which included an eighth-inning lead evaporating with his flame-throwing closer on the hill.
“Good baseball game,” the Chicago manager said. “I think that both sides should be somewhat exhilarated. … There’s nothing on our side to be ashamed of.”
The Giants’ 13-inning, 6-5 win that forced a Game 4 of this National League Division Series was one for the ages, a thrilling adrenaline rush for the Giants and their fans that rekindles hope that this best-of-five series is far from over.
For Maddon, his work is cut out as he tries to keep his team in a healthy frame of mind heading into Tuesday’s Game 4. The Cubs commanded a 3-0 lead on Jake Arrieta’s three-run homer in the second. They chased Giants ace Madison Bumgarner from the game after five innings, a victory in itself for the visitors. The path seemingly was cleared to a champagne celebration and a return trip to the NL Championship Series.
But the Cubs’ offense took a nap after the Arrieta homer, and that gave the Giants the sliver of opportunity they needed to deny Chicago a series-clinching victory. Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Maddon called on closer Aroldis Chapman to attempt a six-out save.
The move backfired horribly, as Chapman gave up Conor Gillaspie’s two-run go-ahead triple followed by Brandon Crawford’s RBI single. That the Cubs tied it in the ninth on Kris Bryant’s two-run homer before losing in the 13th did little to put a positive shine on this one.
Chicago’s bullpen hadn’t surrendered a run to the Giants in 33 2/3 innings this season before Gillaspie’s triple, on which he turned around a 101 mile-per-hour fastball from Chapman and drilled a liner to right-center that scored the tying and go-ahead runs. The Giants’ come-from-behind victory was their 10th in a row in an “elimination” scenario, stoking the belief that there might still be some “even-year” magic left for San Francisco to draw upon.
The Cubs still lead the series 2 games-to-1 heading into Tuesday, when they send veteran John Lackey to the mound to oppose lefty Matt Moore. But has the momentum swung to the Giants? Is it the Cubs who now should be feeling the pressure?
Chapman, acquired in July in a move aimed at pushing the Cubs over the top, said Monday’s blown save wouldn’t have any carry-over effect for him.
“Once I get on the field tomorrow, everything is forgotten about today,” Chapman said through an interpreter.
Maddon didn’t envision calling on Chapman with no outs in the eighth. Lefty Travis Wood gave up Brandon Belt’s leadoff single. Then Maddon called on right-hander Hector Rondon, who walked Buster Posey to bring up Hunter Pence with two aboard and the Cubs leading 3-2.
“Had (Rondon) gotten Posey out, I would have let him pitch to Pence right there,” Maddon explained afterward. “But there was a threat for a bunt. There’s all kinds of things they could have done there. And I know it’s hard to bunt a hundred miles an hour. So let’s just bring (Chapman) in right there, give him a little wiggle room.”
Chapman reportedly had expressed to Maddon earlier this season that he wasn’t real comfortable entering games in the eighth. Asked about that after Monday’s game he said: “I didn’t have any problem. I told him if he needed me in the eighth inning I was available.”
The Cubs did so much that was good Monday. They drove Bumgarner from the game early. They got a gritty four-inning relief effort from Mike Montgomery, who eventually gave up Joe Panik’s walk-off double in the 13th. And they got a sensational diving catch from rookie Albert Almora Jr. in the ninth that became an inning-ending double play.
But it didn’t result in a Game 3 victory. As a result, Game 4 will take place Tuesday night. Maddon said his entire bullpen, excluding Montgomery, should be available. The question is how the Cubs respond after such an emotionally draining defeat.
Maddon will be preaching a “keep your chin up” mantra.
“Obviously you want to win that game,” Maddon said. “You had it right there. You had your good guys, your best guys in there. Everything seemed to be lining up properly and you didn’t win. You’ve got to give them credit, man. They kept fighting. And you knew that they would.”
Arrieta’s homer made the Cubs just the second team in major league history to have two pitchers homer in the same postseason series, joining the 1924 New York Giants. Wood went deep in Game 2.