The Giants’ problematic bullpen reared its ugly head once again in Game 4 of the NLDS at AT&T Park on Tuesday evening. During the regular season that bullpen blew 30 saves, most in baseball and the most for any playoff team since saves became an official stat in 1969. That bullpen nearly cost the Giants Game 3. It cost them Game 4. But let’s start from the top.
The Giants opened the scoring in the bottom of the first, plating a run on a Buster Posey sacrifice fly off of Cubs starter John Lackey. The Cubs tied it at once apiece in the third inning when David Ross swatted a solo home run to left field off of Giants starter Matt Moore.
In the fourth inning, the Giants staged a one-out rally as Conor Gillaspie and Joe Panik singled and Gregor Blanco walked to load the bases for Moore. Moore, an American League pitcher until joining the Giants this summer, has taken 44 career plate appearances and has just three hits (all singles) to show for it. Nevertheless, the Giants’ lefty grounded a single to right field, plating a run to break the 1-1 tie. Denard Span then hit what appeared to be an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play ball, but Lackey slipped over the first base bag and missed the out, allowing another run to score.
The Cubs fought back for a run in the top of the fifth on a Ross sacrifice fly. In the bottom half, the Giants scored two more. With one out, Hunter Pence singled up the middle and Brandon Crawford doubled to deep right-center on a play that was reviewed. Lefty reliever Travis Wood relieved Lackey, but postseason hero Conor Gillaspie came through with an RBI single to center and Panik followed up with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2.
Moore cruised through eight innings. He gave up just the two runs on two hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts on 120 pitches. It’s really a shame what happened next, considering how well he pitched.
Derek Law, with all of one career save to his name, took over in the ninth. He allowed a leadoff single to Kris Bryant and was immediately replaced by lefty Javier Lopez. Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs in Ben Zobrist. Lopez out, Sergio Romo in. Zobrist ripped a double down the left field line, plating Bryant. Romo exited and lefty Will Smith came in. Smith gave up a two-run, game-tying single up the middle to Willson Contreras. 5-5. Jason Heyward tried to bunt Contreras over to second base, but Contreras was forced out at second. Shortstop Brandon Crawford, though, made a wild throw to first base, allowing Heyward to advance to second base. Can you guess what happened next? That’s right, another pitching change. Hunter Strickland came in and immediately gave up a go-ahead RBI single up the middle to Javier Baez, making it a 6-5 game. At long last, Strickland ended the inning by inducing a 4-6-3 double play out of Ross.
Aroldis Chapman toed the slab for the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth, fresh off of his abysmal showing in Game 3. This time was different. Chapman struck out the side: Gorkys Hernandez, Denard Span, and Brandon Belt.
The Cubs move onto the NLCS. They’ll play the winner of Thursday’s Game 5 between the Dodgers and Nationals.