If the San Francisco Giants continue their even-year magic in 2016, they will likely look back on Monday as one of the craziest games in their journey. 

The 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series champions kept their dreams alive with a 6-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs in a 13-inning thriller at AT&T Park. Chicago still leads the National League Division Series 2-1, but Joe Panik played the role of hero with a game-winning blast off the wall that scored Brandon Crawford. 

Fox Sports MLB pointed out that the Giants are nearly impossible to eliminate with their backs against the wall:

There were plenty of heroics to go around outside of Panik’s game-winner. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant connected with a two-run homer in the ninth off Giants closer Sergio Romo with his team trailing 5-3 to force the marathon extra innings.  

ESPN Stats & Info noted the blown save was nothing new for San Francisco:

The Cubs likely would have won in nine were it not for another clutch performance from Conor Gillaspie. He drilled a home run in his team’s National League Wild Card Game victory over the New York Mets and saved San Francisco’s season with a two-RBI triple against Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning.

Chicago held a narrow 3-2 lead at the time, but Gillaspie drove the ball to plate both runners. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted how unlikely the moment was on the marquee stage:

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the fact that Madison Bumgarner was not the one who served as the postseason hero in Game 3. The southpaw started the game and allowed three earned runs and seven hits in just five innings and didn’t resemble the clutch performer who earned a shutout win in the Wild Card Game and won the 2014 World Series MVP.

The three runs he allowed came off a Jake Arrieta three-run homer in the second inning.

Chicago’s starter was solid on the mound as well and allowed two earned runs and struck out five in six innings of work. He did enough to win, but Chapman, Hector Rondon and Travis Wood couldn’t lock it down in the fateful eighth.

The Cubs wasted little time getting to Bumgarner when Arrieta hit that home run. Ryan Baker of CBS Chicago said it snapped Bumgarner’s streak of 24 scoreless postseason innings, while Amy Lawrence of CBS Sports Radio noted it was the first time the Giants southpaw allowed a single earned run in a playoff elimination game.

Chicago received two RBI from Kyle Hendricks and a solo homer from Wood in Game 2, and ESPN Stats & Info underscored how effective the pitchers have been at the plate:

The Cubs threatened again in the third with runners on the corner and a single out, but Bumgarner struck out Javier Baez and retired Miguel Montero. He kept the Giants within striking distance early by escaping trouble, and his offense rewarded him in the bottom of the frame when Denard Span doubled and scored on a Buster Posey single.

While the Giants still found themselves behind, Bumgarner settled in after a slow start and kept Chicago at three runs through five innings. His pitch count was elevated to 101, and manager Bruce Bochy elected to pinch hit Eduardo Nunez in the pitcher’s spot to lead off the bottom of the fifth.

Nunez grounded out, but the top of the San Francisco order did some damage. Span tripled and scored on Brandon Belt’s sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Arrieta bounced back and worked a 1-2-3 sixth, but he received some help on Baez’s spectacular backhanded play to retire Gillaspie. Anthony Rizzo’s foot appeared to come off the base on the throw, but the call stood after review.

Jonah Keri of CBS Sports described the sequence:

Despite the call, Derek Law kept the Giants within a single run with two scoreless innings, and Hunter Strickland added a shutout eighth for San Francisco and positioned it for the dramatic comeback.

Pedro Strop countered with two quick outs as the first Chicago reliever in the seventh. However, Wood allowed a single to Belt in the eighth, and Rondon walked Posey before Maddon turned to Chapman with two runners on and nobody out.

The fireballer struck out Hunter Pence but gave up the bases-clearing triple to Gillaspie and an RBI single to Crawford. By the time Chapman left the game, the Giants had a 5-3 lead and runners on the corners with just one out.

Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago raised an interesting point after Chapman’s struggles:

Justin Grimm kept the score at 5-3, which proved critical when Bryant connected with his game-tying homer. ESPN Stats & Info highlighted just how close the long ball was to not making it over the fence:

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports joked it was unusual to see a Chicago hitter outside of the pitchers come through at the plate:

Mike Montgomery forced extras with a scoreless ninth, but it only happened when Albert Almora Jr. made a diving stop on Posey’s sinking line drive and doubled off Belt from first base. 

Romo redeemed himself with a perfect 10th that included two strikeouts, but Montgomery matched him and pushed the back-and-forth affair to the 11th. The Cubs offense couldn’t do anything against Will Smith or Ty Blach in the 11th and 12th, but Montgomery continued to shut down the Giants and extend the contest.

Chicago threatened in the 13th with two runners on, but David Ross grounded into a double play. 

Montgomery’s scoreless streak came to an end in his fifth inning, as Crawford doubled and scored on Panik’s blast to keep San Francisco’s season alive.


What’s Next?

Game 4 is Tuesday in San Francisco.

The Giants have a chance to tie the series and send it back to Chicago for a do-or-die Game 5, where Johnny Cueto will likely start with Bumgarner as a possible option out of the bullpen. The Cubs will want to attack Matt Moore in Game 4 to avoid that scenario and will counter with veteran John Lackey.

Lackey has 23 postseason appearances under his belt and a solid 3.11 ERA in those games, but this will be his first in a Chicago uniform. If he turns in a noteworthy performance, the Cubs will find themselves in the National League Championship Series.


Postgame Reaction

Although things looked bleak for the Giants at various points throughout Game 3, especially when Chicago tied it in the ninth, Panik discussed the team’s never-say-die attitude following the crucial victory, according to ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon“If we’re breathing, we’re still fighting.”

The Giants have been unbeatable in elimination games over the past several years, and Arrieta is well aware that it will take a massive effort to oust them, per MLB.com’s Chris Haft and Carrie Muskat“This is October baseball. We know games are going to be very closely contested. [The Giants] are no slouch with their pedigree in the playoffs. We have our work cut out for us.”

While the loss was a disappointing one for a Cubs team that is trying to exorcise more than a century of postseason demons, Maddon remained upbeat following the defeat, according to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune“Both sides should be somewhat exhilarated There’s nothing on our side to be ashamed of.”

Bochy also had a positive outlook on the game and was impressed with the manner in which his team dug deep to come out on top, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle“It was one of the best, most exciting games I’ve ever been involved in. They found a way. The game had everything: pitching, timely hitting on both sides. It was just a fun game to be involved with.”

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