Did you stay up for last night’s exciting affair? Ain’t gonna lie, I didn’t. Bill was covering it and I’m an old man morning person, so I woke up to see that (a) Aroldis Chapman allowed back-to-back hits to lefties and blew a save; and (b) Joe Panik drove in the winning run in the 13th inning. Baseball, man. You can’t predict anything about it other than the Giants hanging tougher than you’d think they’d hang given the circumstances.
Still, they have to do it again. And then one more time if they want to stay alive. It’s hard to see them doing that. Even if the games are coin flips from here on out, the Cubs have a 75% chance of advancing, and I don’t think we have coin flips yet. The long Game 3 taxed the Giants’ bullpen just as much as the Cubs and the Giants had less of an asset base from which to pay that tax in the first place. And, of course, they don’t have Madison Bumgarner to save them anymore (not that he did much to save them yesterday).
Tonight the Giants have to get past John Lackey (11-8, 3.35), who has been through this playoff rodeo a few times. Indeed, it’ll be his 21st playoff start, which is the most among active pitchers. You may remember that one of his earliest ones came in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series when Lackey, then a rookie, beat the Giants to give the Angels their only World Series title. That doesn’t matter now, but what else is a game preview for than dropping bits of history? How about this history: the last time he faced the Giants in the postseason he got beat up, losing to them in Game 3 of the 2014 NLCS while pitching for the Cardinals. He was a different John Lackey that year than he has been this year, however. He’s a lot better at the moment.
The Giants will counter with Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08 ERA), who pitched better down the stretch than his overall 2016 numbers suggest. Heck, he pitched better down the stretch than his down-the-stretch numbers even suggest, allowing two or fewer runs in six of his last eight starts. His September numbers were inflated by two disaster starts sprinkled in. At any rate, Bruce Bochy considered him to be his Game 2 starter before ultimately deciding on Jeff Samardzija.
All of the fundamentals still favor Chicago. They have better pitchers available in the series’ final two games, if indeed it goes two games. They have the better offense. They have the better defense. All they don’t have going for them is the fact that, in baseball, especially in a short series, sometimes none of that matters a dang bit.