Tonight marked the start of a four-game series between the Giants and Cubs at Wrigley. As decided on episode 80 of the podcast, the Elliott brothers will be heading to San Francisco for the Cubs return trip in August. Monday night's game was a good one; the Cubs came back from a 6-0 hole with four runs in the 8th, before the Giants pulled it out, 6-4. This game was simply one more in a long list of great games between the two teams in recent years. Let's take a look back.
Heading into an anticipated four-game series starting on August 5, the Giants held a half-game lead over the Cubs for the second NL Wild Card. That weekend would shift the race, however, as the Cubs swept all four games. It was also a turning point for the Cubs roster; Friday's game saw Addison Russell take over the everyday shortstop job from Starlin Castro and Kyle Schwarber get his first game action in the outfield. One more note on that Friday game: my brother and I were two of the 41,311 fans present. The game was a Christmas gift from Kevin; I'd say he picked a good one.
Sunday's game ended in dramatic fashion. Hector Rondon—then the Cubs closer—loaded the bases with a two-run lead before striking out the side.
The Cubs went on to win nine in a row and cruised to a playoff spot, 13 games better than the Giants by season's end.
The Cubs and Giants met again in late May 2016. Both teams came in atop their division; the Cubs were seven games up in the Central at 28-11 and the Giants led the West at 25-18. The Giants took two of three in San Francisco. The most memorable play of the series came from Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward 415 feet away from home plate.
By the time the teams met again on September 1, the Cubs had essentially clinched the division (15 games up), while the Giants were battling for both the division and Wild Card with the Dodgers and Cardinals respectively. The Cubs took three of four, capped off by a Sunday extra-inning walk-off single from Heyward (after tying it in the 9th).
The Giants inability to hold a lead would show itself again in the playoffs. During the regular season, San Francisco led baseball in blow saves with 30 (out of 73 chances). After Madison Bumgarner shut out the Mets in the Wild Card game, the Giants would face the Cubs in the NLDS. The Cubs took the first two games in Wrigley, getting just enough offense from Javy Baez, Kyle Hendricks, and Travis Wood.
As the series moved back to San Francisco, the Giants needed to win to stay alive. Games 3 and 4 will always be two of my favorite baseball games. In Game 3, the Cubs had a 3-2 lead heading into the 8th inning. Aroldis Chapman came in with two runners on in an attempt at a six-out save. Cubs' nemesis Conor Gillaspie thwarted that plan, crushing a triple to the same spot Heyward made his amazing catch in 2015—this time Albert Almora came up just short.
The Cubs were not done, however. Kris Bryant hit a two-run shot over that stupid car to tie the game in the 9th.
The Giants would ultimately prevail in a 13-inning, 5-hour classic. Momentum began to shift back to the Giants during Game 4; they built a 5-2 lead going into the 9th inning. By that point in the season, however, Bruce Bochy had such little confidence in his bullpen that he tried five different pitchers to get the last three outs. Those outs didn't come until the Cubs had put up four runs to take a 6-5 lead. Chapman ended the game—and series—by striking out the side in the Giants half of the 9th. If you'd like to relive that top of the 9th, I did my first (and most likely last) tweetstorm before I went to bed that night.
My favorite part of these Giants-Cubs games is the atmospheres at the park. Both stadiums are incredible (can't wait to see AT&T for the first time!) and both fan bases show up consistently. The attendance for the 18 Cubs-Giants games in 2015 and 2016 was 746,669, an average of 41,482.