SAN FRANCISCO — The scene in the Cubs clubhouse Tuesday night was as you’d expect after their series-clinching victory over the Giants, with champagne and beer flying every which way.
Along with the celebration, however, came a healthy amount of respect for the team they managed to topple. The Giants’ “even-year” aura was a very real phenomenon. And after Chicago’s 6-5 victory wrapped up the National League Division Series, the Cubs understood the magnitude of what they accomplished.
“They proved to be the toughest team that this league has seen, the toughest team to beat in the postseason, especially when their backs are against the wall,” Cubs left fielder Ben Zobrist said. “They find a way to do it. Us knowing that, and still being able to come back in this game and win, I think just says a lot about this team.”
The Cubs rallied from a 5-2 deficit with a four-run top of the ninth off five Giants relievers, then turned things over to Aroldis Chapman to close it out in the bottom half. The game-winning rally began with Kris Bryant’s single to lead off the ninth against Derek Law, who came on to replace Giants starter Matt Moore.
“It’s huge,” Bryant said. “They’re a tough team. Obviously they struggled at the end of the year, but just getting into the playoffs, anything can happen. So beating one of the best teams of the last decade is pretty good for us.”
The Cubs seemed to find it extra gratifying to clinch the series at AT&T Park, in front of a raucous sellout crowd that sensed the Giants were conjuring up more of their familiar postseason mojo.
“They’ve won championships before,” Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward said. “In their even year, coming in and beating them at home is definitely special.”
The Giants had the championship pedigree, but the Cubs had Chapman.
And though the flame-throwing lefty coughed up a lead in the Giants’ Game 3 win on Monday, his presence Tuesday night made all the difference. With Giants manager Bruce Bochy shuttling through relievers rapidly in the top of the ninth trying to shut off the Cubs’ come-from-behind rally, Chapman came on in the bottom half for Chicago and struck out the side to end it swiftly.
“When it comes to the ninth inning, sometimes that’s the toughest one to beat a team in,” Zobrist said. “That’s why a shutdown closer is so important. We had that in Chappy tonight, which was huge. And they struggled with that over the last month of the year and stuff. I’m sure that’s gonna be something that they address as a club. But we felt like we had a good chance when they put the bullpen in.”