By Austin Anderson
In the last 107 Chicago Cubs seasons, winning a Game Four as they did Wednesday would be unthinkable. Going into the ninth inning down by three runs with this Cubs team, it seemed improbable, but the task was doable.
Sure enough, the Chicago Cubs scored four times in the last frame to take the lead, and later won a 6-5 contest that stunned the San Francisco Giants for their first postseason series loss since 2003.
The catalyst for this rally was Kris Bryant, who led off the ninth inning in Game Four with a leadoff single. Three batters later, the game was all of the sudden tied at five.
The most recent dramatic comeback was not the most important moment of the series, but rather the comeback Bryant ignited in Game Three that ultimately led to the Cubs lone loss.
In the eighth inning of Game Three, Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to bring in his closer Aroldis Chapman to attempt to make a six-out save with the tying and go-ahead runs aboard. After Chapman struck out Hunter Pence, Connor Gillaspie hit a two-run triple to give the Giants a 4-3 lead, and San Francisco added one more to take a two-run advantage.
The expected response by a team that gave up the lead in this situation, only being five outs away from getting out of the NLDS, would be to cave in and to lose the game – especially a team that has had the bad fortunes in the last century like the Chicago Cubs. But before an out is recorded in the ninth inning, the Cubs tied the game. Kris Bryant’s two-run shot to left field allowed Chicago to tie the game at five.
Despite the Cubs not winning the game, Chicago was able to gain confidence from Bryant’s blast. When the Cubs eventually fell in the 13th inning, their bullpen was depleted as lefty Mike Montgomery threw four-plus innings. Because the Giants’ win was not immediately after the Chapman blown save, one could say the peak momentum for the Giants was mellowed, and the Cubs despair was lessened.
It appeared as if the Giants had all of the momentum in Game Four, outscoring the Cubs 5-2 through eight innings and outhitting the Cubs 11-2 through 8 innings.
But sure enough, the ninth inning hero the night before, Kris Bryant, was the catalyst in the Cubs’ ninth-inning rally. Once again, the Cubs tied the game before the first out occurred, and they completed the rally later in the inning.
Other than Matt Moore – who dominated through eight innings – leaving the game, and the Giants’ subpar bullpen entering the game, there were no other factors that would have suggested that the Cubs could complete the rally.
Except the fact that the Cubs did it the night before and psychologically the team knew they could do it again. And they did.