The Giants and Cubs went to extra innings for the second time this series, and for the second time, the Giants came out victorious. The Giants had several opportunities to end it earlier than the thirteenth. The Giants were just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. It wasn’t all them stepping into a bucket; the Cubs’ defense denied several opportunities from Chase d’Arnaud’s liner in the eighth to Buster Posey’s grounder up the middle in the eleventh. But Kris Bryant couldn’t catch Posey’s knock off the wall in the thirteenth, and the Giants walked it off for the eighth time this year.
The eventual game-winning rally began with a Brandon Belt walk with two outs in the inning. Andrew McCutchen followed it up with a single on a 3-0 count. Posey worked a 2-2 count and got a mistake fastball over the heart of the plate, and he crushed it. Perhaps if Bryant were playing a normal depth, he would have been able to make the catch at the wall, but that’s why you don’t play shallow on Buster Freakin’ Posey.
Of course, none of that is possible without Dereck Rodriguez and Will Smith combining for five scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Mark Melancon also had a nice outing in which he struck out two. Ty Blach deserved better than he got. Really, when you consider the Giants held the Cubs to seven runs over 33 innings, everyone pitched well.
When Johnny Cueto began the game throwing 88 MPH fastballs and slinging sliders all willy nilly, I suspected the first inning would end with a 4-0 lead. I did not expect the Giants to be the ones who took it. Cueto started off by hitting Ben Zobrist and walking Jason Heyward. This set up runners at first and second with nobody out and Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez coming up. But Cueto struck out Bryant, got Rizzo to fly out, and Báez to swing out of the zone (shocking!) and roll a grounder to short.
The Giants got things going with a *checks notes* Chase d’Arnaud lead-off homer? All right, I’m into that. I did not see that coming since I did not see d’Arnaud coming, and I had given up on the Giants hitting another home run for the rest of the season. d’Arnaud added a double later in the afternoon, too.
The Giants followed up the lead-off dinger with a two-run double from Gorkys Hernández and Steven Duggar’s first major league RBI. One of my favorite things about AT&T Park is watching opposing right fielders try to play caroms off the right field wall. Watching a world class athlete having to scramble after a ball because it ricocheted in the complete opposite direction the player thought it would really hammers home how difficult it must be to play that position. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy watching Ben Zobrist blunder around and let Hernández scamper over to third.
Though Cueto began the game inauspiciously, he looked much sharper as the game wore on. His fastball velocity topped out at 91 though there were still some 88’s and 87’s mixed in. The All-Star break should be good for Cueto to regain some arm strength and get his velocity back to where it needs to be. The real encouraging thing about Cueto’s start was how effective his curveball and changeup were.
However, things came unraveled for him pretty quickly in the fifth. In the top of the inning, Cueto rolled a pitch to first base. As he swung, he appeared to be getting murdered by some unseen assailant. The way he twisted around and cried out in anguish made it seem like he undergone some career ending (or life ending) injury. Turns out, he just stung his hands by hitting the ball off the sweet spot. Sometimes I forget how much hitting a baseball poorly stings until a player has a reaction like that.
With bees in his hands, he lost command and his velocity dipped. He threw two fastballs at 86 in the inning, and Bryant homered on an 89 MPH fastball at the belt. He somehow finished out the inning, adding another strikeout to end the day with seven.
On a scale of 1-to-He’s Back, I would give this outing about a 6.5. The velocity isn’t there just quite yet, but it was an improvement over his last start. But his breaking pitches worked well enough that he could live as Bronso Arroyo-type dookie thrower. Of course, it would be much better if he started throwing 93 again.
Chase d’Arnaud not only contributed with his bat, he preserved a lead with the bases loaded and two outs. Rizzo hit a swinging bunt down the third base line. Once it got past Moronta, I thought it was going to be another run scored on BABIP bologna; Zobrist and Heyward reached base earlier in the inning with softly hit balls. But d’Arnaud barehanded it and slung it to first to get Rizzo by a step. If d’Arnaud doesn’t play that ball perfectly, the Cubs tie the game and still have the bases loaded. Also, if anyone other than Rizzo is running, he’s safe.
Every so often, I’ll have dreams where I’m trying to run somewhere, but my body is moving in slow motion. No matter how much I struggle, I can’t move any faster than walking speed. Watching Rizzo run down the line was literally like watching one of my nightmares. Between that and Cueto being murdered by a ghost, there was some spooky stuff going on in this game.
The home run Tony Watson surrendered to Báez in the seventh inning was the first run he had given up since May 28 in Colorado. Báez hadn’t done any damage against the Giants until that point, so I suppose it was just a matter of time. I’m glad the Cubs are gone so I can go back to enjoying watching Báez play.