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Cubs 12, Giants 11: Kris Bryant saves the day

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After more bad relief work, KB’s homer gave the Cubs their fourth straight win.

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

It was one of those nights where you were glad your team had the last at-bat.

And then Kris Bryant made that unnecessary. His eighth-inning go-ahead homer and another Craig Kimbrel save gave the Cubs a wacky 12-11 win over the Giants Wednesday evening.

There was no wind to speak of when this game began, but home runs started flying out of Wrigley Field anyway in the top of the first inning. Evan Longoria hit a two-run shot off Yu Darvish to give the Giants the lead.

After Jason Heyward walked to lead off the bottom of the frame, Nicholas Castellanos continued his scorching-hot hitting [VIDEO].

We have many, many fun Castellanos facts!

Some days, that might be enough for an entire game, but we have just begun with this one.

After the first, Darvish settled down... for a while, anyway. He retired 12 in a row after Alex Dickerson doubled following Longoria’s homer. The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the second. Ian Happ and Victor Caratini walked with one out, and then Darvish showed some bat [VIDEO].

Darvish was showing bunt, then pulled back and smacked the ball into left field for an RBI single. One out later, Castellanos again [VIDEO].

That made it 4-2. The Cubs continued the parade of two-run innings in the third. Anthony Rizzo led off with a single, and one out later, Kyle Schwarber joined the homer barrage [VIDEO].

There are always fun facts about Cubs home runs:

So now it’s 6-2 and Darvish is cruising. Easy win, right?

If you said that or thought that you do not know the 2019 Cubs very well, not very well at all.

Darvish allowed a one-out double in the fifth, and after striking out pinch-hitter Donovan Solano, up stepped Mike Yastrzemski. He homered to make it 6-4. Since this game was pretty silly, let’s have a silly fun fact:

Even sillier fun fact:

The Cubs got one of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth. Rizzo was hit by a pitch. Two outs later, Happ walked and Caratini batted next [VIDEO].

That well-placed opposite-field single made it 7-4 Cubs.

Then it all fell apart for Darvish and the Cubs in a disastrous sixth. With one out, Darvish got a weak grounder to Rizzo at first, Anthony tossed to Yu... who dropped it.

That error seemed to bother Darvish. He served up back-to-back homers to Stephen Vogt and Kevin Pillar and the game was tied 7-7.

That brought in Derek Holland, presumably just to face the lefthanded hitters Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. He did not retire either of them. Belt walked and Crawford singled. Okay, it happens. But then Holland was left in to face two righthanded hitters and that... did not work out well, just as it had not worked out well with the Giants, and you could see why they let him go. Pinch-hitter Austin Slater doubled in two runs to make it 9-7 Giants. Holland finally got out of the inning, but really, Joe, please don’t let him face righthanded hitters in game situations like this.

The Cubs got to work getting the lead back in the bottom of the inning. Heyward and Bryant singled, sandwiched around a rare Castellanos strikeout. Rizzo was up next [VIDEO].

Heyward scored, but Bryant was sent back to third. Dickerson did what all visiting outfielders are trained to do: He held up his arms when the ball got stuck in the ivy, even though it was visible. The crowd booed, but the rule is what it is:

In the end it didn’t matter, because Javier Baez drove Bryant in with a hit that went about 60 feet [VIDEO].

Schwarber followed with an RBI fielder’s choice and the Cubs had a 10-9 lead. Again, the thinking at this point is: “Good thing the Cubs have the last at-bat in this game.”

Tyler Chatwood, who had been very good in relief recently, entered for the seventh, and... wasn’t. He issued a walk and allowed two singles. That tied the game and that was enough for Joe Maddon, who brought the recently-activated Steve Cishek into the game. Cishek got outs, to be sure... long fly-ball outs that nearly left the yard. One of them wound up as a sacrifice fly and the Giants had the lead again, 11-10.

Here’s where relief pitcher numbers don’t necessarily reflect how the pitcher did. Cishek gets a scoreless inning in the boxscore, but he’s the one who gave up the lead. The only pitches Cishek got credit for a “strike” for were the three pitches on which he recorded outs.

The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the seventh thanks to a Giants rookie named Jandel Gustave who throws 97-98 and nearly had an immaculate inning, throwing his first eight pitches for strikes before getting Heyward to ground out to end the frame.

Finally, Joe found a reliever who could get outs without surrendering runs. Brandon Kintzler allowed a two-out hit, but struck out Dickerson to end the inning.

And now, the highlight you’ve been waiting for. Castellanos singled to lead off the eighth, and Bryant went K-BOOM [VIDEO].

The reaction from Castellanos sums up this entire game:

The reference in that tweet is to something Castellanos says to Maddon every day on entering the clubhouse: “Happy Opening Day.” They must all feel like that to him. He’s provided tremendous energy to this ballclub, on the field and in the locker room, a terrific trade acquisition.

Bryant’s homer, his 26th, was the Cubs’ 200th home run of the year. It’s the sixth time in franchise history a Cubs team has hit 200 or more homers, and:

The franchise record is 235, set in 2004. The current pace would give the Cubs 257 homers. The franchise record is going to be obliterated.

So then it was Kimbrel’s turn, and for the second straight night, he dominated. He struck out the first two hitters he faced and ended the game with a lazy fly to left for his 11th save, and the Cubs now have a four-game winning streak.

Some takeaways from this, fun and otherwise:

More Darvish:

Even more Darvish:

On Castellanos’ four-hit night:

Derrick Goold is a Cardinals beat writer. Let’s hope he’s right. (Yes, I know Castellanos can’t have 31 hits in a game. Four will do.)

And this one sums things up:

Rizzo is right. This team seems on a roll, despite the shaky middle-inning relief. They’re certainly having fun:

The Cubs also got a break thanks to some weather. Not in Chicago, but in St. Louis. A huge thunderstorm cluster halted the Cardinals/Brewers game in the eighth inning with Milwaukee leading 5-3. They could not resume play and so the Brewers got a rain-shortened win, which puts the Cubs back in first place by half a game. Milwaukee trails by 3½.

That was certainly worth the entertainment dollar, but personally, I could do with better relief pitching. Fortunately, Cubs bats rose to the occasion and a win, as they say, is a win.

The Cubs go for the series sweep Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks — who has been nearly unbeatable at home — will start for the Cubs and our old buddy Jeff Samardzija will go for the Giants. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN (and nationally on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Giants market territories).