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Giants 3, Cubs 2: A Playoff Preview?

You can’t win ‘em all, as the old saying goes, but that’s a really, really tough way to lose.

Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Anthony Rizzo could have a long career with the Cubs, perhaps a decade or more.

I’m reasonably certain you will never, ever see him do again what he did in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 3-2 Cubs loss to the Giants that snapped the Cubs’ five-game winning streak.

Rizzo, who had been on deck several times earlier in the game, was double-switched into the game at first base in the ninth inning, and thus was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the ninth. He walked.

Dexter Fowler, up next, showed bunt on the first pitch, then fouled off Santiago Casilla’s second offering. Fowler bunted the third pitch down the third-base line, right near the line. Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez could have let it roll foul, but instead picked it up and threw Fowler out, advancing Rizzo to second.

Unfortunately, Rizzo strayed too far off second base. Did he think perhaps third base wasn’t being covered? It wasn’t, but Rizzo wasn’t far enough past second base before Nunez got back there, and that sent Anthony scrambling back toward second. Giants second baseman Joe Panik, after recording the out at first, threw to shortstop Brandon Crawford and they caught Rizzo too far off base for the second out, killing a potential game-tying rally.

Rizzo likes to make things happen on the field, we’ve seen this innumerable times. But that was a chance he never should have taken. He would have been in scoring position with one out and Kris Bryant due up.

Here, if you insist on watching it, is the video of the play. Personally, I’ll pass on seeing it again.

I suppose you could say that directly led to the loss, but there were many, many other factors, beginning with Tommy La Stella’s throwing error in the first inning that allowed Angel Pagan, who had doubled with one out, to score the first Giants run off Jake Arrieta. Jake then threw two good innings before a two-out single, a stolen base and a wild pitch put Panik on third, where he scored on a single by Nunez.

It was 2-0 at that point, but the Cubs got one of the runs back when Javier Baez singled, stole second and scored on an Arrieta single in the fifth -- all the way from second base [VIDEO] when third-base coach Gary Jones noticed the ball just sitting around. Crawford picked it up, but too late to get Baez at the plate.

But Jake had a rough sixth. Crawford singled, stole second and third (the latter uncontested) and Jake wild-pitched him home. That turned out to be the decisive run.

I thought Jake threw pretty well, but that sixth inning meant he was done for the afternoon. 17 pitches in the inning brought his total for the day to 103.

The Cubs scored a second run in the top of the sixth. Bryant singled and was forced at second by Ben Zobrist. Addison Russell was hit by a pitch and Willson Contreras singled, loading the bases. Javier Baez lofted a fly ball near the right-field bullpen, just foul, and Hunter Pence caught it, scoring Zobrist. But Matt Szczur struck out, ending the inning.

I thought it was quite odd that Jorge Soler was scratched from the original lineup with what was reported as an “ingrown toenail,” yet a few hours later was healthy enough to bat for TLS in the fifth and stay in the game for an inning in left field. Further, when TLS was added to the starting lineup, I’d have put him at second base instead of third and had Baez play third. TLS is a decent second baseman, but doesn’t really have the arm for third base, and it showed in that first-inning error.

Give the Cubs bullpen some credit. Trevor Cahill, Justin Grimm and Travis Wood threw a perfect inning each, retiring all nine batters they faced, and with Jake striking out the final two he faced in the sixth, the last 11 Giants went down in order.

The Cubs loaded the bases with two out in the seventh on singles by David Ross and Bryant and a walk to Zobrist — that the Cubs appear to have gotten a break on:

But Russell hit a line drive right to Pence to end the threat.

Who knows what might have happened with Rizzo on second, one out and Bryant up? I only wish Anthony had stayed there. It’s a really, really rough way to lose a game that had playoff-type intensity, and you could tell that by the fact that almost no one in the sellout of 41,250 left early. The Cubs left nine men on base in all and easily could have scored five or six runs if anyone could have produced with RISP (they were 2-for-9 with RISP in this one).

This game, though — compelling, exciting, lots of different things going on, both managers trying to outsmart the other. You can’t ask for more interesting baseball, or a nicer afternoon to watch it, again with unlimited sunshine and temperatures in the mid 70s. You can ask for a better result for your side, and the Cubs will certainly take this one as a learning experience. From Joe Maddon:

Let’s hope we have games just as intense in October, only with the Cubs winning.

A couple of notes: Hector Rondon threw 22 pitches in a sim game before Saturday’s contest and is ready to go:

And, the Cubs swept August National League honors, as Bryant was named N.L. Player of the Month and Kyle Hendricks received the N.L. Pitcher of the Month award. It’s the third Pitcher of the Month award for a Cubs hurler this year (Arrieta won in April and Jon Lester won in June) and the first Player of the Month for a Cubs position player in 2016.

Awards are nice. Winning’s better, and the Cubs are headed for October business to take care of, perhaps against the Giants. The teams have split six games so far, so the winner of Sunday afternoon’s game will take the season series. John Lackey is expected to be activated from the DL to start for the Cubs, and our old N.L. Central nemesis Johnny Cueto will go for the Giants.