Relay race: Cubs thwart inside-the-park HR

Russell's strong throw home bails out Denorfia, who thought Aoki's ball went foul on lunging attempt

Relay race: Cubs thwart inside-the-park HR

SAN FRANCISCO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon was able to find a bright spot after watching the Giants' Madison Bumgarner strike out 12 over six innings in Chicago's 9-1 loss on Thursday. In the Giants' seventh, the Cubs were able to thwart Nori Aoki, who got a little too adventurous on the bases.

With one out and the Giants leading, 5-1, Aoki lofted a ball to left field, which deflected off Chris Denorfia's glove and into foul territory.

"To be honest, I thought it was foul," Denorfia said. "That's why I didn't pop up right away. Then I heard the crowd start yelling again and realized it wasn't [foul]. When I slid, I saw the line underneath me. It must have nicked me. I saw it bounce foul and figured it was foul."

But it wasn't, and Denorfia chased down the ball and fired to shortstop Addison Russell, who threw to catcher Kyle Schwarber in time to get Aoki at home plate.

"A great relay throw by 'Addie' just saved me right there," Denorfia said. "It was a little mental mistake by me, and my teammates picked me up."

Right fielder Chris Coghlan immediately followed with a terrific diving catch on Matt Duffy's liner to end the inning.

Coghlan's diving grab

Bumgarner shut the Cubs down, giving up two hits and walking two, for the win.

"They beat us today -- they deserved to beat us today," Maddon said of the Giants, who took the series. "But I love that our guys understand the concept of playing down to the last drop."

Schwarber was making his first start behind the plate since Aug. 6, and he was charged with an error in the third when his throw to second to try to get Aoki sailed into center field.

"He did a nice job behind the plate," Maddon said of the rookie. "The throw was strong. I much prefer throwing the ball over the middle infielder's head as opposed to in the ground. Give the guy credit for that."

Bryant nabs Perez at second

Give Kris Bryant credit for making the switch from third base to the outfield. Bryant started in right for the first time this season and then moved to center in the eighth. He threw out Juan Perez at second base.

"It was a little weird," Bryant said of the outfield. "I felt I went back on some balls that I should've gone in on. I threw a guy out, which is pretty cool. Wherever they want me to play, I'll play. I'm a baseball player. I'm willing to do whatever."

Which is all Maddon wants.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.