Entering the ninth inning of Tuesday's Game 4, the San Francisco Giants had a three-run lead and looked all but certain to force a decisive Game 5. Yet the Chicago Cubs had other plans, taking advantage of a leaky bullpen by scoring four times and punching their ticket to the NLCS behind a stunning 6-5 victory.
Here are some things you need to know about Game 4
1. The Cubs joined the '86 Mets in a special class
How? By staging a three-run comeback in the ninth inning of a series-clinching game:
Those Mets, of course, were down 3-0 in the ninth inning of Game 6 versus the Astros. They would rally, then later blow a 14th-inning lead before and winning in the 16th inning to advance to the World Series. The Cubs hope for the same end result -- albeit with a less-scenic route there.
2. The Giants bullpen blew it
Everyone knew entering the series that the Cubs had the advantage on the benches and in the bullpen -- we told you as much. That advantage showed up big in Game 4.
Bruce Bochy stretched Matt Moore as far as he could, then did his best to hold onto a three-run lead in the ninth inning by juggling relievers. It wasn't enough.
Sit down. Please. This stat will shock you. The Giants had the most blown saves for any playoff team since saves became official in 1969.— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) October 11, 2016
Bochy gave the ball to Derek Law to start the inning before removing him after one batter. He'd do the same with Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo. Will Smith then entered -- Joe Maddon had bluffed using Chris Coghlan as a pinch-hitter, before flipping and using Willson Contreras, who delivered the game-tying knock. Hunter Strickland would finally come in and allow the go-ahead run to score, before inducing an inning-ending double play.
The Giants will have to play the what-if game all winter. Along the way, they might want to find a few reliable relievers.
3. The Cubs deserve plenty of credit, too
Chicago's lineup might be young, but it showed serious poise and polish in the ninth. Ben Zobrist's at-bat against Romo was particularly impressive. Zobrist displayed his trademark strike-zone command, forcing Romo to come into the zone. When Romo did, on a 3-1 pitch, Zobrist drove the ball down the right-field line, scoring a run and putting two runners in scoring position. Both would come around to score three pitches later.
Javier Baez deserves special mention as well. Not only did he have an outstanding night on defense -- nearly turning in one of the slickest stop-and-throw plays you'll ever see -- but he also had a high-quality night at the plate. It was Baez who drove in the go-ahead run.
4. Moore had a great night wasted
When the Giants acquired Moore from the Rays at the trade deadline, the hope was he could slot into San Francisco's playoff rotation alongside Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija. It took Moore three NLDS games and a Wild Card Game to get his first appearance, but he made the most of it.
Matt Moore at 120 pitches. Most pitches in a postseason game since 2010: Justin Verlander, 133, Game 5 of 2011 ALCS.— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) October 12, 2016
Moore pitched eight innings, yielding two hits and one run -- on a David Ross home run we'll touch on later -- while striking out 10 batters and walking two. Moore had been inconsistent throughout his nascent Giants career, but he brought it when needed, mixing his pitches and throwing strikes.
Scowlin' John Lackey, Moore's counterpart, wasn't as sharp. He allowed seven hits over four frames, allowing three runs before he departed in deference to Justin Grimm. Unfortunately, for Moore, Lackey's bullpen did a better job of closing the door.
5. Moore even delivered at the plate
If you're a fan of NL baseball, you're probably enjoying this series. Because it's NL baseball, yes, and also because pitchers have been raking. Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta had each homered in previous games. Moore didn't do that on Tuesday night, however, he did come through with an RBI single through the right side of the infield.
Moore, who'd spent his entire career in the AL prior to the August trade, has one regular-season RBI to his name -- and that came in 2012. He now has one postseason RBI.
6. The Giants' even-year magic ran out
You probably knew this already, given the Giants had won the World Series each of the last three times they'd reached the postseason. They hadn't been eliminated from the postseason since 2003. But San Francisco was nearly impossible to stop in elimination games. In fact, the Giants' loss on Tuesday snapped their streak of 10 elimination-game victories in a row.
Still, that streak might not be the craziest example of the Giants' magic, however. That honor instead goes to the unlikely ascent of Gillaspie, who went 4 for 4 and drove in a run and was rewarded with M-V-P chants by the San Francisco crowd. Yes, that really happened. No, it wasn't a fever dream. And no, it didn't really matter in the end.
7. David Ross made history with a home run
Ross, 39 years old and making his second start of the series behind the plate, hit a home run in the third inning. Noteworthy? You betcha. Not only did Ross tie the game -- if only for a little while -- but he also earned multiple spots in the record book:
David Ross just became the oldest catcher to homer in a postseason game, as well as the oldest Cubs player.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) October 12, 2016
Counts all the same, even if it was wind-aided:
For the record, David Ross' 3rd-inning HR was calculated at 382 feet.— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 12, 2016
It gained 28 feet due to the wind.
8. The Giants, meanwhile ...
Did not homer in the entire series. Brandon Crawford did come ridiculously close to changing that factoid in the fifth inning:
Crawford was an inch away from a two-run homer: pic.twitter.com/1cX99sm00D— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) October 12, 2016
But close doesn't get the job done. That's a fitting wrap for the 2016 Giants.