SAN FRANCISCO -- After every game, the Cubs' mantra is "We never quit." They yell it together, like a college cheer, and repeat it, "We never quit!" On Tuesday night, that no-quit attitude carried the Cubs into the National League Championship Series for the second straight year, and they got there by toppling the team dubbed the "October giant."
After being shut down by Matt Moore for eight innings (he threw 120 pitches), the Cubs rallied against San Francisco's beleaguered bullpen for an historic four-run ninth inning and posted a 6-5 victory over the Giants to take the best-of-five series, 3-1. Next up will be Game 1 of the NLCS, set for Saturday at Wrigley Field against either the Nationals or Dodgers on FS1 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT.
"Any time you can survive like that against an October giant like that -- it's hard to finish any team in the postseason, let alone a team with that kind of character and pedigree," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who was drenched in champagne after being soaked in the postgame celebration.
The Cubs' comeback was the biggest in postseason-series clinching history. In erasing a three-run deficit against five different relievers, Chicago matched the Mets' feat in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, when New York rallied to tie the Astros with three in the ninth and went on to clinch the NL pennant with three runs in the 16th, holding off Houston in a 7-6 victory.
"I wasn't worried, it's just that we weren't ourselves for eight innings," Epstein said. "We weren't having the kind of at-bats we normally have and that wasn't us. ... I believe in our guys, but it just was not a great feeling that weren't playing our kind of ball.
"Hitting before the ninth inning is overrated anyways," he added with a laugh. "It's about doing it when it matters, I guess."
The Giants can put the calendar away. They won the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14, but their attempt at a "Believen" season in '16 is over.
"[Moore] did his job," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were lined up. All our guys are setup guys … I would like to think you're going to get three outs there. We couldn't do it."
"We've had several games that feel like that during the season but when you do it in the postseason, it gives you a whole 'nother level of confidence late in the game," said Ben Zobrist, who delivered a key RBI double in the ninth. "Once [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony Rizzo] got on, you kind of felt like, something good is going to happen here. Really, the last two nights, that's what the Giants have done, they've put great at-bats together, rallies together. Tonight was our night."
Trailing, 5-2, in the ninth, Bryant singled to lead off against the first of five Giants pitchers Bochy called on. Rizzo then walked, and Zobrist followed with his RBI hit. Chris Coghlan was on deck to pinch-hit, but the Giants countered with Will Smith, and the Cubs counter-punched with rookie Willson Contreras, who smacked a two-run single, then pounded his chest to celebrate. The score was now tied at 5.
"[We did it] in a really difficult environment against a team that hasn't lost a closeout game in a while," manager Joe Maddon said. "All that stuff matters. All that matters is that we continue to move forward and establish this identity as being a team that plays well in the postseason.
"Give our guys credit. They're young, and people don't understand, they're young and inexperienced, too. To be able to do what we've done is pretty special."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Staying offensive: The Giants could have gone into shutdown mode after Crawford's fifth-inning drive struck the concrete border that lines the top of the right-field wall. Instead, they padded their lead, adding two essential runs on Conor Gillaspie's RBI single and Joe Panik's sacrifice fly.
The play looked strange, with lead runner Hunter Pence scrambling to return to second base.
"I thought it was a homer, so I made sure I touched second base," Pence said. The Giants requested a replay review to certify whether Crawford's drive was a homer.
Grandpa Rossy:David Ross extended his retirement party another day. Making his second start of the series, the 39-year-old catcher led off the Cubs' third with a home run to tie the score at 1. It was his second career postseason homer, and he became the oldest player in Cubs history to homer in a postseason game. Moises Alou had that distinction when he homered in the 2003 NLCS at the age of 37. Ross also is the oldest catcher in the Majors to do so. The Angels' Bob Boone held the mark, connecting in the 1986 American League Championship Series at the age of 38. Ross added a sacrifice fly in the fifth. More >
The home run traveled a projected 358 feet, according to Statcast™.
"To come back from three down against a really good ballclub says a lot about the character of this group that I've known about all year ... It's an amazing group and it's fun for me to be a part of," Ross said on FS1.
Glove work: If there was a Gold Glove awarded to players in the NLDS, the Cubs' Baez might win it. Baez, who began the season without a position and yet has started every game at second in the series, nearly threw out Denard Span to open the third. Span was called out, but the Giants challenged the ruling. And after a review, the call was overturned. Ross and Baez then combined to throw out Span trying to steal second, with Baez making his quick tag to get the speedy Giant.
Maddon proclaimed Baez the series MVP.
"Absolutely -- he should get the Corvette," Maddon said.
Crawford's rough night: Crawford, the NL's reigning Gold Glove shortstop, committed two uncharactersitic throwing errors. One generated a fifth-inning unearned run; the other enabled Heyward to advance to second base in the ninth, putting him in position to score on Baez's single.
"It kind of sucks," Crawford said. "That's not the way anybody wants to go out. … Especially with the lead in the ninth, it's kind of a punch in the gut. They scored three runs without getting an out."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Moore's fourth-inning single, which broke a 1-1 tie, was the first go-ahead hit by a Giants pitcher in the postseason since Hal Schumacher came through in Game 2 of the 1933 World Series against Washington's General Crowder. More >
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Span led off San Francisco's third inning with a grounder up the middle that looked as if it would be a base hit, though Cubs second baseman Baez made an outstanding play on the ball. Span was called out at first base, but the ruling was overturned after a replay review requested by the Giants.
San Francisco tried the replay route again in the fifth inning, after Crawford's one-out drive caromed off the top of the right-field wall. The Giants contended that it was a home run, but the ruling on the field that the ball was in play stood.
UP NEXT Cubs:Jon Lester, who threw eight shutout innings in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Giants, will open the NL Championship Series on Saturday at Wrigley Field, with game time TBD. The Cubs will face either the Dodgers or Nationals, who play Game 5 of their NLDS on Thursday (8 p.m. ET/FS1).