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Cubs rally in ninth to win NLDS, knock out Giants


NLDS Cubs Giants Comeback

It has been 71 years since they last won a National League Championship, but all indications point towards them breaking that streak – and getting a shot at ending a much longer one as well.

The Dodgers arrived for their Friday workout on fumes, a day after beating the Nationals 4-3 in an epic Game 5 of the NLDS in Washington. We went in, pretty decent lead going in that ninth.

But that had us looking too far outside the box.

When those same two teams met in the NLCS, they played four games, the Mets won them all, and the Cubs never so much as held a lead.

The Cubs were seemingly on the verge of disaster again in Game 4 of the NLDS, before a stunning ninth inning rally launched them to a 6-5 victory and their second straight NL Championship Series appearance.

If the Cubs snap their century-plus World Series drought this year, the rewards will be many, but money won’t be anywhere near the top of that list. But what they did in the ninth inning, nobody saw coming.

The Giants led 4-2 after Conor Gillaspie’s RBI single to center field against Travis Wood.

But on Tuesday, two truths bubbled to the top of this cauldron.

Instead the Cubs showed why they are the best in baseball in 2016.

Consider the Cubs’ strengths, of which there are many. He allowed three hits and walked one, before ultimately overwhelming opponents to escape the jam. Translated, for non-baseball nerds: They can hit, pitch and defend better than nearly any team in the game. Game 5 and perhaps Madison Bumgarner were looming. In 2014, they won the wild-card game before slicing through the NL.

David Ross became both the oldest catcher and oldest Cub to homer in a postseason game. He had done his job and then some.

The Giants had 32 blown saves this season. And thus, the “even year” magic was over. Giants starting pitcher Matt Moore shut Cubs batters down during his eight innings on the mound, allowing only one earned run and three hits. But after repeated failures, Casilla was removed from the role in September and the Giants used Romo, their closer in 2012, as a stopgap down the stretch. You gotta get outs. Derek Law was arguably their most consistent reliever as a rookie, while right-hander Hunter Strickland and left-handers Steven Okert and Josh Osich remain under team control this winter. He came into the at-bat 0 for 13.

It was the ideal setting for that bad giant to stomp around nationally and locally and get Cubs fans to twitch through mumblings of curses and inevitabilities.

Entering the ninth inning of game four Tuesday evening, with the series tied at two games a piece there was a 97.5 percent chance of a game five occurring Thursday in Chicago, according to ESPN Baseball Tonight. It didn’t take long.

“Luck is a great thing”, Heyward said, “but how you handle being down is a better thing”. Rizzo in particular hit.310 with runners on base and carried a 1.078 OPS with runners in scoring position. Dexter Fowler had two hits, and Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell had one. “Because normally it means that you have something good attached to it at the other side”.

Suddenly, all the good work the Giants did was unraveling.

Romo goes out, Will Smith comes in, and Willson Contreras singles, 5-5. No need to recall Steve Bartman, or shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s error on a potential double-play grounder. Then, none other than Javier Baez put the icing on the cake by bringing in what would end up being the winning run with a RBI single of his own.

It is an unanswerable question, an unfair one really, but Joe Maddon was going to face it late Tuesday night as his Chicago Cubs celebrated in a clubhouse covered in plastic to protect it from the spray of champagne and beer. Now they are eliminated in absolutely absurd fashion.

All that talk about paranoia, not to mention referring to a 108 years as “a while”, might have something to do with parents who have protected their children from what they know and what they have witnessed for themselves.