SAN FRANCISCO – Joe Maddon delivered a simple message to the Cubs before the playoffs started: Things will go wrong, so how do you deal with it? The point being a 103-win team shouldn’t change its focus or routine while the outside world obsessed about 1908 and the pressure of World Series expectations.
Now let’s see what the 2016 Cubs are made of – if this 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 13th inning will be remembered for the right or wrong reasons.
What a head-spinning night of October baseball, from Madison Bumgarner looking human in a five-inning start, to Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta drilling a three-run homer off the Giant, to Aroldis Chapman melting down, to Kris Bryant creating another MVP moment, to several breathtaking defensive plays.
When Game 3 finally ended late Monday night on the West Coast, nearly 2 a.m. Tuesday back in Chicago, the Giants clawed back into this National League Division Series, now down 2-1 after Joe Panik drilled a Mike Montgomery fastball off the right-field wall to score Brandon Crawford from second base.
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But after a walk-off loss, the Cubs didn’t show any signs of panic in the visiting clubhouse, recognizing this has been an epic best-of-five matchup against a battle-tested team that won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
“There’s no worry here,” said Bryant, the budding superstar who never gets too high or too low, an attitude that helped turn this into another instant classic that lasted five hours and four minutes. “You just have to appreciate that it was a great game.
“We’re all pretty exhausted, but that’s playoff baseball at its best.”
Bryant had tied the game in the ninth inning, launching a Sergio Romo slider into the left-field seats for a two-run homer. At that point, the Cubs had already gone through five relievers on a night where they would use three different catchers. Enter Montgomery, the lefty who showed why the Cubs believe he can become a big part of the rotation in 2017 and beyond, throwing four scoreless innings before the Giant breakthrough in the 13th.
“We’re a confident group of guys,” Montgomery said. “We know we got a good team. We’re not going to let one game like this effect us.”
Tuesday night will definitely be a Big Boy Game for John Lackey, who has won two World Series clinchers and will start opposite San Francisco lefty Matt Moore. The Giants have now won 10 playoff elimination games in a row, part of an unbelievable run that has already seen them win 11 straight postseason series, which ties them with the 1998-2001 New York Yankees for the longest streak in major-league history. No one ever said this would be easy for the Cubs.
“Just because we’re down doesn’t mean we’re out,” Panik said. “If we’re breathing, we’re still fighting.
“If we’re breathing, we’re not out of it.”