Cubs clutch again in their return to AT&T Park as defending World Champs

August 8, 2017

MLB, San Francisco Giants

AP17220110755737

Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez, left, slides past San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey to score on an inside-the-park home run during the second inning of a baseball game, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–It’s been the better part of a year since the Cubs and Giants last met with the stakes at their highest. Neither team is anywhere near where they were in the 2016 NLDS, but the one difference between the two clubs is a big one.

The Cubs have hope for the remainder of this season. The Giants.. not so much.

On Monday, Cubs starter Jake Arrieta wasn’t much better than the scuffling Matt Moore. And the Giants power game wasn’t absent, in fact their four doubles and Ryder Jones’ first-ever, big league home run outpaced the Cubs’ homer and a triple.

But the Cubs made winning plays, and Arrieta got the big outs leading Chicago to a 5-3 win. And a win was all the Cubs needed to increase their narrow lead in the NL Central, and inch further away from just being the most noteworthy team hoovering around the .500 mark.

And where have we seen elements of the clutch Cubs and faltering Giants previously? Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon knew as soon as he arrived on Monday.

“First of all, no time elapsed. What was it, nine months ago?” Maddon said before the game, referring to the Cubs’ miraculous, four-run, ninth inning rally that took them past the Giants, 6-5, in Game 4 of last season’s NLDS. “It’s incredible how, we as humans, time just evaporates. The nine months evaporated. It was like we had just walked in yesterday.”

Maddon went on to say that win was the key to the Cubs erasing their century-long championship drought. The win on Monday might have some greater significance as well. The Cubs got stunned late by the Nationals on Sunday at Wrigley Field, and saw their lead over the Brewers remain precarious.

And then the Giants provided a path, uniquely off the outfield wall in Triples Alley.

After Jason Heyward singled with two outs in the second inning of a scoreless game, Javier Baez sent a shot into right center field that caromed offensively past Carlos Moncrief toward the right field foul line. That sent the speedy Baez into overdrive rounding second base, and given the green light from third base coach Gary Jones, all the way to home plate.

But Moncrief, the powerfully built rookie, recovered and unleashed a monster of a throw–over 300 feet–to the plate. With catcher Buster Posey applying a swipe tag, the sliding Baez was safe–barely.

“That’s Bo Jackson-arm stuff right there,” Maddon said.

A great play by both players and Posey with the tag, but the significance to each club? Like a night and day difference.

The Cubs’ highlight play of the game plated two runs, and those would become the margin of victory. The Giants’ big play–Moncrief’s monster of a throw–neither scored a run or produced an out.

Matt Moore surrendered Baez’ shot, and took the loss, his 12th of an increasingly rough season. Moore has won just once in his last 14 starts, and Bochy pointed to the pitcher’s epic struggles with left handed hitters, who are hitting .380 against him. On Monday, Moore allowed six of his eight hits to lefty batters.

“He’s really good at times,” Bochy said. “And then he makes mistakes.”

Arrieta continued to right his season, after a rough middle part in which he was beaten in consecutive road starts at Boston, Denver and St. Louis. California is more to the 31-year old’s liking where he’s 7-1 in his last nine starting assignments dating back to August 2015.

Arrieta admitted to not being at his best physically on Monday, but his approach proved correct.

“Gave up some hard hits, but afterwards I was able to spin the ball and get some guys out,” he said. “You want to pitch to contact in this ballpark.”

The Giants offer Ty Blach on Tuesday in a battle of lefties. Jose Quintana gets the start for the Cubs.

 

 

 

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