Yes, it’s an Even Year. What else needs to be said?
Except Conor Gillaspie and Joe Panik are the new Miracle Workers. And there will be a fourth game in a National League Division Series that for most of a somewhat unbelievable and totally hysterical Monday evening seemed destined to end in three games.
The Chicago Cubs, the best team in baseball, so we’re told, had this game, had the series, and then suddenly, the Giants, their No. 1 pitcher battered, their loyal fans at AT&T Park stunned, tore it away, roaring back from what once was a 3-0 deficit to go ahead but only briefly.
Maybe it ends tonight; maybe the Cubs escape their own tortured history, the century without a World Series victory, the squandered opportunities in other postseason battles. Or maybe, with Gillaspie and Panik, with the Brandons (Belt and Crawford) and Buster Posey, the Giants get one more game. And a game after that.
Maybe one of those games ends like this one Monday, as the clock ticked toward midnight, with Panik ripping a drive into Triples Alley, against the bricks in right center, to score Crawford in the bottom of the 13th for a 6-5 Giants win.
Players surged from the dugout onto the field, their field, and the fans that hadn’t left — and can you blame them for leaving when the game lasted past 11:30 p.m.? — went properly bonkers.
It was Gillaspie who jolted the Giants to life with a two-run triple in the eighth. Another run thanks to a Crawford single, and the home team had a 5-3 lead.
But Kris Bryant, the bomber, hit his own homer, with a man on. The lead was gone. The crowd was stunned.
Such belief, that after World Series championships the previous three Even Years — 2010, 2012 and 2014 — the Giants would win another in 2016. Indeed, it seemed that way when San Francisco rolled along until July. Still, it also was supposed to be the Cubs’ year, according to the predictions of spring, and Chicago winning 103 games did nothing to hurt the idea.
The Cubs marched into the postseason loaded with power, pitching and confidence. When they went up two games to none over the Giants in a best-of-five NLDS, well, the only question was who would be the next opponent — the Dodgers or the Nationals.
Everything was going Chicago’s way. The Giants’ ace, Madison Bumgarner, he of the Ford 150 truck commercials and wicked slider, was, you hate to use the word terrible, but he wasn’t very good.
Jake Arrieta, the Cubs pitcher, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, no less, hit a three-run homer in the second off the great MadBum, and the ballpark was as silent as an undiscovered tomb. That was the season. See you, Scottsdale.
But in reality: No, see you Tuesday.
Pregame, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was reminded he was on the 1984 Padres who came from 0-2 to beat the Cubs in five. And in 2012 the Giants were down 0-2 to the Cincinnati Reds and won.
Still all that, and the videos during the game of Will Clark’s hit against the Cubs’ Mitch Williams that lifted the 1989 Giants into the World Series didn’t seem to mean much.
Not with the Giants in a hole.
Then they got a run. Then they got another. Then Gillaspie, the man who got the Giants as far as they were with a three-run blast in the ninth of the Wild Card Game against the Mets, had an encore miracle.
It was 5-3 when Sergio Romo took over in the top of the ninth. Ineffectively. A walk and that Bryant homer, and the game was headed to extra innings.
The 10th, the 11th, the 12th, the 13th. Three hours, four hours, five hours. But there was no whimper. It was a bang off Panik’s bat. It was Travis Ishikawa in 2014. It was thrilling. And most important of all, it was a Giants win.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Art SpanderBruce BochyChicago Cubsconor gillaspieMLBNLDSSan Francisco Giants