Cubs mess with Aroldis Chapman's routine and Giants make them pay

The Giants Are Harder to Kill than a Vampire.

That’s what I was thinking, watching them deny the Cubs with a stunning comeback in Game 3 of the NLDS, winning a 10th straight postseason elimination game, going back to 2010.

Well, that was my first thought, anyway, as Conor Gillaspie — yes, the same guy who took Jeurys Familia deep — turned on a 101-mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman for a two-run triple in the eighth inning.

But considering it was already almost 1 a.m., in a game that wouldn’t end until about 2:45 — over five hours long — I was also thinking it was too bad millions of baseball fans in the East and Midwest were sound asleep, missing one of the most compelling postseason games ever.

I know it’s tricky for MLB in this NLDS round, wanting to avoid overlap in televising games in four series, but the Cubs are such a national story, trying to end their 108-year championship drought, the powers-that-be should have found a way to kick them off before 9:40 p.m. in the East.

But in any case, for anyone who stayed up — what a classic.

Not Released (NR) No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

Aroldis Chapman isn’t used to being brought in to pitch the eighth inning.

(HARPERWEBCOL12S/Getty Images)

The Cubs were about to move on, it seemed, when the Giants rallied in the eighth inning. And this turned out to be Joe Maddon’s turn to be second-guessed for his bullpen maneuvering, as he brought in Chapman with two runners on in the eighth and no outs, looking for a six-out save.

Chapman has been almost exclusively a three-out save guy during his career, and the FOX postgame crew, including Alex Rodriguez, essentially suggested that Maddon panicked going to him in the eighth inning.

A-Rod wasn’t as overtly critical as Frank Thomas and Pete Rose were, but he made his point by saying: “Playing with Chapman this season, I know he’s a big routine guy. ”

Meaning that Maddon was taking a gamble by messing with Chapman’s usual three-out routine.

Still, it was shocking to see the lefthanded-hitting Gillaspie crush a high fastball from Chapman the way he did.

Inside Edge, a statistics-based website, tweeted that Gillaspie, a 31-year-old journeyman, who is only playing because of Eduardo Nunez’s hamstring injury, had never faced a pitch of 100 mph or higher in over 1,000 major-league at-bats.

Joe Panik's walk-off RBI double gave the Giants their 10th straight postseason elimination win.

Joe Panik’s walk-off RBI double gave the Giants their 10th straight postseason elimination win.

(John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

So his two-run double put the Giants ahead 4-3, and they made it 5-3 before Maddon pulled Chapman. Yet the Cubs came back in the top of the ninth to tie on Kris Bryant’s two-run home run off Giants closer Sergio Romo.

Yes, the Giants still have bullpen issues, which nearly cost them their wild-card spot, but they did hold the Cubs scoreless the rest of the way, until back-to-back doubles by Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik off lefty Mike Montgomery ended the game in 13 innings.

And so the Giants reinforced their reputation, built on those three championships since 2010, for being perhaps the mentally toughest and strongest-willed team in baseball.

I still think the Cubs will find a way to beat them, probably with Chapman closing it out, but, man, at this point I sure wouldn’t bet on it.

Some other takeaways from what is already a fascinating postseason:

***

The Indians Were Awfully Smart To Trade For Andrew Miller.

We knew that at the time they made the deal with the Yankees, but Terry Francona has maximized Miller’s value by boldly using him as few other managers would, bringing him early in games to be the bridge from shaky starting pitching to the back end of his bullpen.

Francona brought him into the fifth inning of Game 1 against the Red Sox, for six outs, and then in the sixth inning in Game 3 on Monday night for six more outs to help the Indians sweep the Red Sox.

Not Released (NR) No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

Andrew Miller has been invaluable for the Indians in October thus far.

(HARPERWEBCOL12S/Getty Images)

Without those 12 outs, seven by strikeout, it’s hard to see how the Indians would have held off the Sox and their usually potent offense.

As it is, the Indians were considered the longshot among the eight LDS teams, mostly because their NO. 2 and 3 starting pitchers, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, are out with injuries.

But by getting so many outs from their bullpen, plus a great start from Corey Kluber in Game 2, they’re moving on the face the Blue Jays in the ALCS.

***

MLB Replay Has Gone Off The Rails.

All season, replay decisions have left players and managers shaking their heads, as the system seems to have become way more unpredictable in its third year of existence. Most noticeably the umpires reviewing plays at the replay center in Chelsea have seemed reluctant to overturn calls despite video evidence that looks obvious.

Monday night’s Cubs-Giants game offered just such an example: in the sixth inning, Conor Gillaspie was called out on a spectacular play up the middle by Javier Baez, but the replay clearly showed that Anthony Rizzo’s foot was off the bag as he stretched toward right field to catch the throw.

Two different angles showed space between Rizzo’s foot and the bag, to the point where Baez was seen shrugging, as if to say, “Oh, well.” Yet somehow the call stood.

Had the Giants not rallied in the eighth to win, it could have been a potentially game-changing decision.

Yet at least a couple of times in these playoffs runners who beat tags going into a base have been called out because they lost contact with the bag for a milli-second during their slide — which was never the intent of having replay.

The system isn’t working.

***

Bullpen Great; High-Priced Starters Not So Much.

The Giants-Cubs Game 3 was the rare exception, with both closers blowing leads, but this postseason has continued the trend from recent years of October becoming more and more bullpen-oriented.

The surprise is how bad much of the starting pitching has been.

Through 28 postseason games, starters have a combined ERA of 5.22, and it would be higher if not for the brilliance of Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard in the NL Wild-Card game.

Madison Bumgarner has had one of the few strong starts in this year's playoffs.

Madison Bumgarner has had one of the few strong starts in this year’s playoffs.

(Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

Some of the highest-paid starters in the game have come up empty, proving especially costly for the Red Sox and Rangers.

David Price and Rick Porcello, earning $50 million between them this season, went 3 1/3 and 4 1/3 innings, respectively, each giving up five earned runs in losses to the Indians.

Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, earning $33.5 million between them, went 3 1/3 and 5 innings, giving up six and five earned runs, respectively.

Neither Clayton Kershaw nor Max Scherzer earned his huge salary either in his NLDS start.

The starters who have delivered gems in this postseason: Jon Lester, Kluber, Syndergaard, Bumgarner (who wasn’t so good on Monday night) Marco Estrada, and Johnny Cueto.

Meanwhile, countless relievers have been dominant, an indication that baseball has never had so many power arms coming out of bullpens on every team.

You wonder if at some point this trend results in teams paying less for starting pitchers and more for relievers.

Tags:
mlb
mlb playoffs
chicago cubs
san francisco giants
joe maddon
aroldis chapman
conor gillaspie
joe panik

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