SAN FRANCISCO – Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner went completely off script before the San Francisco Giants wrote another classic ending as the playoff team that will not die.
“This is October baseball,” Arrieta said after a crazy 6-5 loss that took 13 innings, the Cubs wasting a golden opportunity to finish off the Giants and end this National League Division Series with a three-game sweep. “We know games are going to be very closely contested. These guys are no slouches. With their pedigree in the playoffs, we know we have our work cut out for us.”
With one swing, Arrieta had seemingly shattered the aura of invincibility around Bumgarner on Monday night, temporarily exposing the Giants as a team without any magic tricks left. It silenced a crowd that had been whipped into an orange-towel-waving frenzy. The Cubs turned AT&T Park’s visiting dugout into a mosh pit, celebrating as if they had just clinched.
Uh, wasn’t this still only the second inning? A team that designed a Party Room into the clubhouse as part of the $600 million Wrigleyville development reacted spontaneously and deliriously when Arrieta lined a 90-mph fastball into the left-field seats for a jaw-dropping three-run homer.
Bumgarner – who had willed the Giants through 23 scoreless innings in his last three postseason elimination games – leaned over on the mound with his hands on his knees and dropped his head. Anthony Rizzo gave Eric Hinske a bear hug in the dugout, lifting up the big assistant hitting coach as the Cubs jumped around in the dugout. Arrieta screamed as he reached home plate.
If Arrieta felt slighted by all the pregame attention paid to Bumgarner, all the questions about his fitness for October, he hid it pretty well on his stone face. Especially for someone with guts, a huge ego, an endorsement deal with an underwear company, a cover spot on ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue and a Boras Corp. attitude to play everything out until free agency and a potential nine-figure megadeal next winter.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!
This would automatically be remembered as The Arrieta Game, if Jake hadn’t already thrown two no-hitters in a Cubs uniform and a complete-game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in last year’s wild-card game. And if the rest of the night hadn’t involved so many different twists and turns, the Cubs five outs away from winning Game 3 before a Giant comeback.
Arrieta is an alpha male who wanted to be in the Home Run Derby this summer as soon as he heard about Bumgarner’s interest in the All-Star event. Arrieta takes his hitting seriously, homering twice and putting up a .720 OPS during the regular season. But relying so heavily on the pitchers for offense isn’t sustainable – Kyle Hendricks and Travis Wood drove in three of the five runs during a Game 2 victory at Wrigley Field.
A grinding mentality forced Bumgarner to throw 51 pitches through two innings. Giants reliever George Kontos actually warmed up in the second inning and never got in a game that lasted five hours and four minutes. The Cubs knocked out Bumgarner after five innings, but allowed the Giants to hang around and win their 10th consecutive postseason elimination game.
Arrieta still outdueled Bumgarner – giving up two runs across six innings and finishing with five strikeouts against one walk – and that’s not an insignificant takeaway for a Cubs rotation that will need to survive three playoffs rounds in a year set up as World Series or bust.
“We were that close,” Arrieta said. “But at the same time, we know the task isn’t going to be an easy one. These guys aren’t going to roll over and just let us clinch a series in their ballpark. We’re going to have to come out tomorrow and be ready to go again.”
Around midnight in the Bay Area, a reporter mentioned that it’s today already.
“It’s tough to not get up for games like this,” Arrieta said. “The emotions are just going to continue to run throughout the playoffs. And that’s kind of what you live on.”