SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants leaned on some new faces and aces this time around, hoping to ride that even-year magic through another October.
It all fell apart with one final meltdown by their crumbling bullpen.
After Matt Moore coolly pitched and hit the Giants into good position to force a Game 5 in the NL Division Series, their relievers let it get away. The Chicago Cubs rallied for four runs in the ninth inning and San Francisco’s season ended with a 6-5 loss Tuesday night.
The Giants had won all 10 games when facing postseason elimination under manager Bruce Bochy. That was part of a run that included World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
A day after rallying to beat the Cubs in 13 innings, the wild-card Giants were looking forward to a deciding matchup at Wrigley Field. Instead, it’s over.
“It’s a weird feeling, it is,” Bochy said. “It just ends so abruptly and especially the way it ended. That’s kind of tough on all these guys. They played so well today. Great job, what Matt did for us. And you like to think that you’re going to hold on and we’re headed to Chicago.”
“It kind of gives you an empty stomach to go out like this. But these guys, last two weeks have been playoff games, they played their hearts out. And it’s a tough way to go out,” he said.
While Conor Gillaspie delivered again as San Francisco’s latest unheralded postseason star, a pair of errors by Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford proved costly.
The Giants had been downright unflappable for years now in these pressure-packed scenarios. Then again, most of those wins came with a reliable bullpen.
After owning the best record in the majors at the All-Star break, the Giants struggled. This group of relievers was the biggest problem in the second half, with the team setting a franchise record by losing nine games it led after eight innings — most in baseball — including five in September.
One last collapse doomed them. Five relievers in the ninth, no relief.
Held to two hits over eight innings by Moore, the Cubs trailed 5-2 before coming back.
Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras tied it with a two-run single with none out. Javier Baez singled in the go-ahead run two batters later as the Cubs capitalized on Crawford’s throwing error.
“We were lined up. All our guys are setup guys, everybody there,” Bochy said.
“I would like to think you’re going to get three outs there. We couldn’t do it,” he said.
Closer Sergio Romo faced one batter and gave up an RBI double to Ben Zobrist.
“You got to get outs. I wasn’t able to do that today,” Romo said. “For us, we’re more in shock that just it happened, how it happened, the way it happened. We went in, pretty decent lead going in that ninth. It looked pretty good in our favor to win tonight.”
Said Baez: “We just made their bullpen pay.”
Moore singled home Gillaspie for the go-ahead run in the fourth and struck out 10. Later, as the orange towel-waving sellout crowd chanted “Con-or!” Gillaspie singled in the eighth for his fourth hit.
In the end, these Giants couldn’t pull off the kind of improbable comeback that defined their championship runs in recent seasons. In 2012 against Cincinnati, they became the first team to rally from an 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three straight road games. San Francisco also overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NL Championship Series that year against St. Louis.
Chasing their first World Series title since 1908, the Cubs will get a few days of rest before opening the NLCS on Saturday at Wrigley Field, awaiting the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals. That series is going to a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday.
One day after getting tagged in the eighth of an eventual 6-5, 13-inning loss, Aroldis Chapman closed this one out by striking out the side in order. When he set down Brandon Belt to end it, Chapman’s teammates rushed to the mound to hug him and begin the celebration.
Crawford was the first Giants player to commit two errors in a postseason game since Don Mueller in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.