Travis Wood became just the second relief pitcher ever to hit a postseason home run. (Photo: Dennis Wierzbicki, USA TODAY Sports)
Ok, the title of this article is a little prophetic, I admit.
After the Giants fell to the Cubs 5-2 tonight, they find themselves in a 0-2 hole in the best of five NLDS, a situation in which they need to win three straight games, which they did twice in 2012 against the Reds and then the Cardinals (being down 3-1 in a best of seven). So, they’ve done it before, but against this Cubs club? They are clearly the better team, but that doesn’t always guarantee a ring, obviously.
If a comeback is to materialize, it begins on Monday with Bumgarner, Mr. October 2, toeing the rubber against Jake Arrieta. Bumgarner has 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and the Giants have won nine consecutive elimination games. Sounds good, but even if they extend that streak to 10, they’ll need Moore to pitch well in game 4 and of course, Cueto back in Chicago for game 5. Possible, but not likely.
It was crucial for the Giants to split in Chicago, and the key was definitely game 1. That is a game that could have gone the other way, but the Giants made crucial base-running mistakes, and never got a hit with a runner in scoring position. Tonight, Cubs pitchers knocked in three runs, one more than the Giants have in two games.
Samardzija “earned” this start, according to Bruce Bochy, but his poor stats at Wrigley, and against teams he used to play for (9+ ERA), confirmed the foreshadow. He struggled with pitch count and location, and allowed a crucial two-run single to starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, which extended the inning for the next ensuing RBI hit, putting the Cubs up 4-0. George Kontos had an excellent third inning, but after Travis Wood relieved Kyle Hendricks after he exited the game after being hit on the arm by a Pagan line drive, Kontos promptly gave up only the second homerun hit by a relief pitcher in postseason history, in the fourth, to finalize the score at 5-2. That energized the crowd at Wrigley shortly after Giants fans and the media were wondering if the Billy Goat curse manifested itself in the injury to Hendricks.
We’ll never know if Moore would have performed better, but many Giants fans preferred the latter option, given his last two starts that helped the Giants seal the second wild card. Besides, it’s hard to win a game at Wrigley with just two runs. We may get a chance to see Moore on Tuesday, should the Giants take game 3.
On the positive side, the Giants bullpen threw six innings, only giving up one run (that rogue relief pitcher HR by Wood), and Ty Blach looked good, setting down the 3-6 hitters in order. He looks to be a valuable asset and possible starter in 2017.
After their horrid second half, the Giants are fortunate to be in the NLDS, erasing that memory, but their performance in these first two games is a reminder of the offensive struggles that permeated the summer months. Of course, facing the #1, 2, and 3 leaders in ERA in the NL in their first three games didn’t help that. Jake Arrieta struggled at times this year, but has a swagger that almost matches Bumgarner, and is a Cy Young winner, so I don’t think Monday will be a cakewalk, especially if the Giants don’t score more than a few runs.
We’ll have to wait and see, one game at a time, if the even-year magic has run its course or not.