SAN FRANCISCO -- Maybe this was supposed to happen in a game pitting the Major Leagues' winningest team of the season against the most successful one of the past decade. Neither would yield easily.
Joe Panik's double scored Brandon Crawford to snap a 13th-inning tie and lift the Giants to a 6-5 victory over the Cubs on Monday night in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. When the thoroughly entertained AT&T Park audience of 43,571 finally departed, slack-jawed from amazement, the Giants had trimmed the Cubs' lead in the best-of-five series to 2-1.
Panik's big hit ended a five-hour, four-minute game that was only 29 minutes shy of the total time taken to play the first two games last week at Wrigley Field. This was the longest postseason game in Cubs history, topping the 12 innings in Game 6 of the 1945 World Series, which was the last time the Cubs won a game in the Fall Classic.
"This is October baseball," Chicago starter Jake Arrieta said. "We know games are going to be very closely contested. [The Giants] are no slouch with their pedigree in the playoffs. We have our work cut out for us."
San Francisco, which won the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14, recorded its 10th consecutive victory when facing postseason elimination after Crawford christened the 13th with a double off Mike Montgomery, who was pitching his fifth inning of relief. Up came Panik, whose drive caromed off the right-field wall as Crawford raced home.
"I think that ball hung up a little longer than I wanted it to," Panik said after the Giants recorded their seventh postseason walk-off victory in franchise history. "I knew I hit it well and I knew it was going to at least get the wall, but it felt like forever to get that thing off the wall."
That followed a series of wild shifts in momentum that strained belief.
Round 1 went to the Cubs, who jumped ahead on Arrieta's three-run, second-inning homer off Madison Bumgarner. That ended Bumgarner's postseason scoreless stretch at 24 consecutive innings, matching Lew Burdette for the third-longest ever.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he willed his way through five innings," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Almost unnoticed, the Giants shaved their deficit to a single run before erupting for three in the eighth. Conor Gillaspie, whose three-run, ninth-inning homer accounted for the scoring in Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game win over the Mets in New York, accelerated this rally with a two-run triple off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, who apparently was installed to attempt a two-inning save.
"Everything's possible," Chapman said when asked if he was surprised Gillaspie could square up the 102-mph fastball. "It was high in the zone and it went well for him."
Then Chicago, which finished a Major League-best 103-58 this season, erased San Francisco's 5-3 edge in the ninth on Kris Bryant's two-run homer off Sergio Romo, who allowed his first homer to a right-handed batter in 26 postseason appearances. Bryant's drive caromed off the top of a cartoon automobile that forms part of the left-field barrier and extends above the rest of the wall.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Home run derby: The Cubs wanted to make Bumgarner work, and they did that in the second. Addison Russell was hit by a pitch after an eight-pitch at-bat and Javier Baez singled after battling Bumgarner in a nine-pitch at-bat. Miguel Montero flied out on the first pitch, but Arrieta was more patient and smacked a three-run homer, the second by a Cubs pitcher in the series, on the 28th pitch of the inning by the Giants' lefty. It was the first home run by a pitcher off Bumgarner in his career. Cubs pitchers have driven in six runs in the three games.
"I just wanted to put a nice, easy swing on it and try and find the barrel," Arrieta said. "That's what I was able to do. It put us in a good spot. We had a chance to win the game, but they made some plays and swung the bat really well to turn the tides in their favor." More >
Bummed out: In the NL Wild Card Game, Bumgarner needed just 21 pitches to get through the first three innings -- exactly seven in each. This time, he flung 37 pitches in the second inning alone, reflecting his lack of command and difficulty with command and putting away hitters.
"I didn't see the bigger number on the board, but he still pitched well and effectively," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. More >
That's Almora: After making a gallant effort to catch Gillaspie's triple, substitute right fielder Albert Almora Jr. preserved the ninth-inning tie with a sliding catch of Buster Posey's slicing line drive that likely would have scored Brandon Belt from first base with the winning run. Almora entered the game one inning earlier as part of a double-switch in which he replaced Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward.
"That's the highlight of my career so far," Almora said of his catch. "One hundred percent. But we didn't win, so none of this matters." More >
Glovework: Ben Zobrist started in right field for the Cubs in place of Heyward, and he was tested in the third. The Giants had a runner at first and two outs when Hunter Pence lined a ball to right. Zobrist had to sprint to make the catch and end the inning. According to Statcast™, the ball was hit at 108 mph at a 26-degree launch angle, and this was the first time that combination wasn't a home run. Zobrist couldn't get to Denard Span's triple in the fifth. Heyward took over in right field in the seventh, but Almora took over in the eighth.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Before Arrieta, the last time a pitcher drove in at least three runs with a homer in the postseason was Oct. 6, 1978, in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series. The Phillies' Steve Carlton hit a three-run shot off the Dodgers' Don Sutton in the second inning.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Giants requested a review of a sixth-inning ruling which maintained that Gillaspie was thrown out after a slick stop of his grounder up the middle by Baez. San Francisco believed that Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo pulled his foot from the bag while taking Baez's throw. The review determined that the call stands.
The Giants spoke up again with one out in the 12th inning after Almora hit a low liner to center field that Span snared with a dive. Almora pulled into second base as it was initially ruled that Span trapped the ball. But a replay review proved otherwise, and the call was overturned.
In the 13th, the Cubs had runners at first and second when David Ross hit into what was ruled a 6-4-3 double play. Maddon challenged the call. After a review, the call stands.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:John Lackey will make his 21st career postseason start Tuesday in Game 4. He's 8-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 23 total playoff appearances. Lackey last faced the Giants in the postseason in the 2002 World Series, earning the victory in Game 7. First pitch will be 7:30 p.m. CT at AT&T Park.
Giants: Left-hander Matt Moore, who finished 6-2 down the stretch to help San Francisco stay close in the NL Wild Card race, will start Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT.