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Giants stare down elimination and rediscover the magic

11 Oct

dt-common-streams-streamserverby Lowell Cohn –

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants still have the magic. File it away. The magic lives. And so do the Giants. They beat the Cubs 6-5 in a game that lasted a year and ended just before Monday midnight.

It seemed like the magic had gone away. That thing the Giants do in the postseason when they’re at death’s door but Madison Bumgarner, the hero, rushes in to save them. To let them play another day.

He pitched five innings Monday night in Game 3 of this Division Series, an elimination game for the Giants. They have faced down so many elimination games in the past. Are legendary for being elimination-proof.

But Bumgarner labored and scuffled and, in the second inning, he gave up a three-run homer to pitcher Jake Arrieta, putting the Cubs up 3-0. So ironic that home run. Bumgarner is the big-hitting pitcher who wounds other pitchers and now Arrieta had wounded him. Bumgarner lasted only five innings and, for once, was not the story.

And it all seemed lost. The magic and the Giants’ life. Although the Giants scratched out two runs and made the score 3-2, everything was going the Cubs’ way. The Giants were about to be eliminated. And in case you don’t know, the word “eliminate” comes from Latin and it literally means “turned out of doors.” And, metaphorically, it comes down to being “driven out.” And this would be the Giants driven out of their own home.

But in the top of the eighth, they did what they do when they do things well. They found the magic just in time and they made the unflappable Cubs tremble. Got the tying and go-ahead runs on base. And drove them home. And the Giants refused to go away. And it was all there for them, all over again.

It was 2012 when the Giants faced three elimination games against the Reds in Cincinnati and lived. Refused to be driven out, and then won the World Series. The Giants making the other team crack. Always making the other team crack. And crack the Cubs did. Twice. The Cubs known as the best team in baseball. And they cracked.
And this you should know. Cubs manager Joe Maddon did everything to win Game 3. Played the game like it was Game 7 of the World Series. Because you don’t give a team like the Giants life. A team with a pedigree of three world championships starting in 2010, a team that knows how to overcome the worst, and has overcome the worst, a team that will make you suffer. A team that won’t go out the door.

Maddon got so nervous in the eighth, he brought in closer Aroldis Chapman, asked him — pleaded with him — to get a six-out save. Unprecedented. And Chapman couldn’t do it. Wasn’t up to it against the Giants who have something indefinable about them at times like this.

Chapman, the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball, gave up a two-run triple to Conor Gillaspie, a shot to the deep dark part of the yard, and all those Giants running around the bases and the Giants going ahead 4-3. And then Brandon Crawford driving in Gillaspie. And then Crawford stealing second and the Cubs catcher throwing the ball into center field. And Crawford taking third. And then another bad throw and Panik taking second. And the Giants scoring three improbable runs in the bottom of the eighth and going ahead 5-3.

And the Cubs’ world in an uproar. The Cubs cracking. The way the Giants made the Rockies and Dodgers crack to end the regular season and secure a wild-card spot. The Cubs cracking up before our eyes because all season things had come so easily to them and they were not used to this playoff pressure, this stomach-tightening, gullet-closing pressure. Baseball becoming hard. the world out of order.
And then Maddon yanked Chapman from the game. He had failed. The most feared closer in baseball couldn’t close and that means the Giants have instilled fear in the Cubs, exposed their power pitcher.

And even after Sergio Romo gave up a two-run homer in the ninth and the game was tied and went into extra innings — the Giants don’t have a closer — well, even after that, the Giants hung in and hung in. And made the Cubs crack yet again. Demolished Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery in the bottom of the 13th — consecutive doubles by Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik for the win. You cannot eliminate these Giants.
Giants stay alive on Panik’s RBI double in 13th inning

The Giants served notice this series isn’t over by a long shot. Maddon and the Cubs wanted Game 3 as the end of things. As a period, not a semicolon. And now they have Game 4 on Tuesday night. A game they didn’t need and never wished for. And if the Giants win Game 3 — Matt Moore will pitch and he is slick and elusive — well, if the Giants win Game 3, this thing goes back to Chicago, do or die for both teams. You can bet the Cubs never thought that could be possible.

And for the Giants there’s a sense of the world righting itself. The Giants not going away quietly, the Giants not going away at all.

Before the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy talked about elimination games — specifically his team facing elimination games. “It makes it a little bit easier for them to realize that this can be done,” he said. “It’s not as big an uphill climb as you think, because it’s been done. So it just gives them that sense of belief that, you know what? This can be done. But it starts with tonight. You have to win tonight.”

And you know what? The Giants won tonight, which by now is last night — barely. The door remains open wide for them. No getting driven out. Not now. Maybe not ever.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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