Panik pounces in 13th to keep Giants alive in NLDS
A fan sitting behind the Giants’ dugout had a gift for Derek Law: his Giants’ orange rally rag.
That fan probably knew he was passing some of that rally ju-ju into the right hands, Law was amped. Despite the two-game NLDS series deficit to the best team in baseball, the three-run deficit incurred at the hands of the opposing pitcher, Law felt good. He hoisted himself above the dugout, in plain view, and whipped the rag like a maniac:
“I was just trying to rally the troops…It kind of felt like the Wild Card game…do or die.”
The Giants used every last ounce of ju-ju Monday, clawing their way out of a demoralizing deficit, losing a lead and, in the 13th inning of this October night, finally walking off to seal the victory.
Joe Panik, just one of Monday’s heroes, hit a walk-off double off the Levi’s Landing wall to score Brandon Crawford from second base, sealing the Giants’ exquisitely painful 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs.
AT&T Park jolted — a quake indicating a shift in momentum. Brandon Belt has seen Panik pull off some big-time plays, but this one stood out:
“I think I use unbelievable too much, but I think that was truly unbelievable.”
Brandon Crawford knew his team had this kind of win in them:
“With our backs against the wall, we seem to play better baseball.”
The Giants have now won 10 straight elimination games and haven’t lost a game when Madison Bumgarner takes the mound since Game 3 of the 2014 NLDS.
As if a two-game deficit wasn’t enough, though, the Giants were forced to play their do-or-die game out the gate. The damage was inflicted by two of the most unlikely sources — though haven’t we learned to expect the unexpected?
Bumgarner knew he couldn’t feed Jake Arrieta a slew of fastballs — the guy has two home runs and seven RBI this season — but two fastballs into his first at-bat, Arrieta jacked Bumgarner’s third into the left field bleachers.
The Cubs had a 3-0 lead by the second inning and Bumgarner’s postseason scoreless streak snapped at 24 innings. It was a good run. Weird way to lose it: Arrieta became the first pitcher to hit a three-run bomb in postseason history and the first pitcher to hit a home run off Bumgarner…ever.
With a team win on his side — and four other innings of scoreless ball to hang his hat on — Bumgarner could only chuckle:
“That would be a bad way to go home.”
And, for the meat of this game, it looked like Arrieta’s dinger would send this team home.
The balloon around AT&T Park popped, and slowly began to rebuild as they watched as the Giants claw their way to a one-run deficit. Buster Posey went 3-for-3 against Arrieta, knocking in Denard Span from second for their first run. Span tripled in the fifth and Brandon Belt sent him home on a sac fly to come within one run.
Visions of victory grew completely obscured once the hardest-throwing reliever in the game took the mound for a six-out save. The Cubs’ bullpen hadn’t allowed a run to the Giants in 32.1 innings. Aroldis Chapman hadn’t given up a run since August 31.
Conor Gillaspie (now we’re talking) took the plate with two runners on just hoping to get something on a fastball. Chapman dished his typical 102 heater and Gillaspie put his head down and went for it:
“You just fire your hands sometimes and sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
Gillaspie put barrel to the ball and it sailed into weird territory. Time froze as fans recalled the sure-fire, game-tying home run Hunter Pence fired in the same direction a few innings earlier that landed into Ben Zobrist’s glove. Gillaspie’s ball fell into the triple’s alley gap. The skeptical fans erupted, said Gillaspie:
“I looked up and had no idea where it was.”
The ball bounced around long enough to clear the bases and give the Giants their first lead in this NLDS. Crawford even added on with an RBI. The even-year voodoo that abandoned the Giants for these cursed Cubs seemed to have found its way home.
The bullpen was exceeding expectation — despite the horribly low bar. Law pitched two innings of no-hit ball, pumping his chest and fist in a rare show of emotion as he walked off the mound. He’d get his rally towel a few minutes later, anyway. Hunter Strickland and Will Smith pitched two innings of no-hit ball combined to keep the Cubs out of scoring position.
But the bullpen’s success wouldn’t just slide for Octobers’ sake; the second-half Giants came a-calling.
Sergio Romo, who’d instilled some ninth inning calmness and sealed the Giants’ last four saves, gave up a two-run bomb to Kris Bryant that bounced off the creepy orange car in left field and into the stands. Gregor Blanco was inches from it, and Romo thought it was in the park:
“I didn’t think he got it as well as he did.”
Ty Blach came in for the long haul and stretched his postseason scoreless streak to 3.1 innings; a reminder, this was just his second career appearance under these October lights.
Buster Posey commended the rookie, who hasn’t given up a run since September 25:
“Its one of the best things he’s done for us since he got here. He’s had a really quiet confidence.”
The Giants infield helped a bit, extinguishing a 13th inning Cubs rally with a tight double play off Chicago hero David Ross to end the inning.
Brandon Crawford wanted out. He doubled off Mike Montgomery to start the 13th and Panik wasted no time getting home.
Now, they get Tuesday, backs still against the wall, said Posey:
“It’s one win. We still got our work cut out for us.”
The Giants have made it through the Cubs’ terrible trio, and will pitt Matt Moore against John Lackey Tuesday night. It’ll be work, but this team likes the odds, said Belt:
“We feel confident with whoever we have out there.”