On a Monday night when Madison Bumgarner was mortal, the San Francisco Giants found a way to stay alive.

Sure, they’re down 2-1 in the best-of-five National League Division Series to the young, potent Chicago Cubs. They’ll face another elimination game Tuesday. A win in that game will only assure a trip back to Chicago for Game 5.

Still, after prevailing 6-5 in 13 innings Monday, the Giants are officially in this. That old, familiar postseason mojo is stirring by the shores of McCovey Cove behind a cast of heroes old and new.

For much of the evening, things looked bleak for San Francisco.

After dropping the first two games of the series at Wrigley Field, the Giants watched Bumgarner—their battle-tested October ace—surrender a three-run homer to Cubs starter Jake Arrieta in the second inning to give Chicago a 3-0 cushion.

Just like that, a pessimistic fog descended on AT&T Park. Maybe this even-year nonsense was finally over.

The Giants, though, chipped away, plating runs in the third and fifth innings. Veteran center fielder Denard Span—playing in his first postseason with San Francisco—doubled, tripled and scored twice.

Then, in the eighth, Conor Gillaspie cracked a two-run triple off flame-throwing Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman to give San Francisco a 4-3 lead.

That’s the same Conor Gillaspie who hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning of the Giants’ 3-0 Wild Card Game win over the New York Mets.

That’s the same Conor Gillaspie the Giants drafted in the first round in 2008, only to watch him drift off to the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels before returning this season in an ancillary role.

The only reason Gillaspie is starting for San Francisco is because regular third baseman Eduardo Nunez tweaked his hamstring.

A wayward former prospect coming up huge for the Giants in October—where have we heard that one before?

Oh, right.

Brandon Crawford added an RBI single in the eighth Monday to make it 5-3. But the Cubs’ Kris Bryant launched a two-run homer off Giants closer Sergio Romo in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

After that, it was a battle of the bullpens. While San Francisco’s pen was a source of angst and inconsistency down the stretch, Giants relievers rallied.

Romo rebounded to record a scoreless 10th, lefty Will Smith logged an uneventful frame and rookie Ty Blach tossed two shutout innings.

Blach earned the win thanks to second baseman Joe Panik’s walk-off double off the bricks in right-center field.

After more than five hours, the Giants could finally celebrate. They are now 10-0 in elimination games dating back to 2010.

“Every year is a different year. It’s definitely not an ideal situation,” right fielder Hunter Pence said prior to Monday’s action, per NBC Bay Area’s Brendan Weber. “We understand the situation. Our backs are against the wall.”

That hasn’t changed. One win, even a dramatic one, doesn’t reverse the Giants’ uphill struggle against a deep, dangerous Chicago club.

But Game 3 recaptured the magic that defined San Francisco’s 2010, 2012 and 2014 title runsthe inescapable sense the Giants were always in it, no matter the circumstances.

Even with Bumgarner wobbling, familiar names chipped in.

Buster Posey went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Steady skipper Bruce Bochy pulled the right levers, expertly managing his bullpen while his counterpart, bespectacled media darling Joe Maddon, burned through relievers and was left with few options as the night wore on.

But it was the relative newbies—including Gillaspie, Span and Blach—who kept the Giants kicking.

As Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, Gillaspie has gone from “a crazy postseason novelty” to “a full-blown legend.”

On Tuesday, another new face will look to contribute, as trade-deadline pickup Matt Moore takes the hill against the Cubs’ John Lackey.

For now, San Francisco can bask in the glory of a vintage playoff performance.

We don’t know if the even-year shenanigans will continue, but we do know the Giants will troll the baseball world for another day at least.

This team never dies. Which means, by definition, they’re alive.


All statistics and results current as of Monday and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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