The Chicago Cubs, behind a miraculous comeback, defeated the San Francisco Giants 6-5 on Tuesday night and advanced to the National League Championship Series for the second straight year.
After the Cubs were retired quietly in the top of the first inning, Denard Span got the Giants off to a rocking start in the bottom of the frame as he drilled a double down the right field line. He then advanced to third base on a flyout by Brandon Belt, leaving him 90 feet away with one out.
John Lackey did induce another flyout from Hunter Pence, but it was deep enough to get Span across the plate to give the Giants an early 1-0 lead.
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The second inning got off to another ominous start as the Giants got two runners on with only one away. Lackey was able to strike out Gregor Blanco for the second out and induced a weak groundout from Matt Moore to finish off the inning.
The Cubs built on that momentum in the top of the third inning, and it was David Ross that did the honors. Ross cracked a towering home run over the left field wall to knot things up at 1-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, the bottom of the Giants' lineup killed the Cubs again. Conor Gillaspie and Joe Panik both reached base, and with the bases loaded and one out, Moore helped his own cause by stroking a single into right field. Denard Span followed that up with a fielder's choice, and in the blink of an eye the Giants took a 3-1 lead.
The Cubs did manage to get a run back in the top of the fifth, and some hustle by Javier Baez did the trick. On an error by Brandon Crawford, Baez reached third base with one out, and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Ross to make it a 3-2 game.
Lackey's day ended after four innings, but the Giants continued finding green grass, or in the case of Crawford, a brick wall. The shortstop hit a long double off the top of the barrier, and Gillaspie drove in Pence in his next at-bat to put the Giants back ahead by a 4-2 margin.
Panik added to the lead even more as he hit a sacrifice fly to left field, chasing home Crawford to make it a 5-2 game.
The sixth and seventh innings yielded no positive results for the Cubs, and negative breaks continued to go their way. After Dexter Fowler led off the sixth inning with a walk, Bryant blooped a ball in front of Pence in right field. Caught in between, Fowler was forced out at second base on the throw, and the Cubs failed to start a rally.
In the top of the ninth inning, the Cubs finally got into the Giants' bullpen and miraculously took the lead. Willson Contreras came in as a pinch hitter and drove in a pair of runs with an RBI single up the middle, and even after Jason Heyward failed to lay down a good bunt, he still wound up on second on a throwing error.
Baez did the rest, as he slashed another single into the outfield to score Heyward and give the Cubs a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the 9th inning.
Aroldis Chapman came into the game in the ninth inning, and the closer did exactly what he needed to do, getting three straight outs and sending his team to the NLCS for the second consecutive season.
The Cubs will host Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday at Wrigley Field, with their opponent yet to be determined. The Los Angeles Dodgers forced a Game 5 in the other NLDS series, and they will take on the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Thursday night to determine the Cubs' next opponent.