- John Minchillo/AP
The Chicago Cubs advanced to the National League Championship Series with a wild ninth-inning rally to knock off the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night.
With the Cubs trailing 5-2 in the top of the ninth, Kris Bryant got things started with a leadoff single.
Anthony Rizzo then drew a walk after Giants manager Bruce Bochy opted to make a pitching change and put Javy Lopez in. After the walk, Bochy pulled Lopez and put in righty Sergio Romo, who promptly gave up a double to Ben Zobrist, batting left-handed, that drove in Bryant and made it 5-3.
With the Giants on their heels, this is when Cubs manager Joe Maddon began tinkering, and nobody tinkers better than Maddon.
With two men on, Maddon put in Chris Coghlan, a lefty, to pinch hit for Addison Russell. Bochy, wanting to get a left-hander to face Coghlan, pulled Romo and put in Will Smith. With a lefty now on the mound, Maddon then pulled Coghlan and used Willson Contreras – a right-handed hitting rookie – to pinch hit.
Contreras singled up the middle, driving in Rizzo and Zobrist and tying the game at 5-5.
The move was key, as it pushed the Giants to remove Romo from the game. As ESPN’s David Schoenfield said, Romo has been “death” for righties. During the regular season, Romo allowed a batting average of .234 against righties, allowing 18 hits to 24 strikeouts. In Romo’s career, righties have just a .187 batting average against him.
While the Giants’ bullpen has struggled this year, Romo has been their best reliever and has plenty of postseason experience.
Maddon deked Bochy into taking him out of the game.
The Cubs weren’t finished, of course. Jason Heyward bunted, forcing Contreras to second base, but Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford overthrew the ball to first base, allowing Heyward to advance. Javier Baez then drove in what ended up being the winning run with a single.
Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth, and the Giants were sent home.
It was a wacky ninth inning that saw the Cubs use two pinch hitters and the Giants make five pitching changes. Once the Cubs got going, the floodgates opened. Though it was the players who got it done, it was the key adjustment from Maddon to get a matchup he liked to drive the rally.