CHICAGO -- For all the concern about the Giants bullpen heading into the postseason, it proved to be the least of their worries following a 5-2 loss to the Cubs in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.San Francisco had to pick up
CHICAGO -- For all the concern about the Giants bullpen heading into the postseason, it proved to be the least of their worries following a 5-2 loss to the Cubs in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.
San Francisco had to pick up six innings after starter Jeff Samardzija's two-inning, four-run outing, and six relievers stepped up to the task. The group allowed one run -- on a rare postseason homer by a reliever, Cubs lefty Travis Wood -- and scattered three hits without a walk.
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Their combined effort gave the Giants a chance to rally, but that effort fell short, as San Francisco mustered only two runs on six hits and didn't score after the third inning, putting the Giants on the brink of elimination.
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"You're just focused on each pitch, coming in and getting outs as quickly as possible because you're not sure what's going to happen after that," right-hander George Kontos said. "We had seven innings to possibly cover. You've got to try to be efficient and execute your pitches."
Facing Wood with one out in the fourth, Kontos left an 86 mph cutter up and over the middle of the plate. Wood got all of it, blasting the first postseason homer by a pitcher since Joe Blanton in the 2008 World Series -- and the first playoff homer by a reliever since the New York Giants' Rosy Ryan in Game 3 of the 1924 World Series.
"He's a pretty good hitting pitcher," Kontos said. "I made one mistake and they capitalized. That's playoff baseball for you."
The bullpen was mistake-free the rest of the way. Ty Blach struck out two of the four batters he faced. Santiago Casilla gave up two hits but escaped the sixth. Derek Law struck out Kris Bryant and left after an error by Joe Panik, then Javier López cleaned up the seventh inning. Hunter Strickland worked a perfect eighth.
The only relievers who went unused were lefty Will Smith and closer Sergio Romo. With an off-day Sunday and Madison Bumgarner pitching Monday's Game 3 (9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT, FS1), the Giants bullpen should be rested and ready if the series goes to Game 4.
The Giants bullpen blew a franchise-record nine games in which they held a ninth-inning lead this season, and five of those came in September. They were better down the stretch and didn't allow an earned run in the season's final five games. Then they sat quietly during Bumgarner's Wild Card Game shutout and again in Johnny Cueto's Game 1 gem.
But they showed in Game 2, even in defeat, that there's little reason to shy away from them if the situation calls for it in San Francisco.
"Obviously I'm a believer in the guys that we have down there. I know it was a tough stretch for us, but I think now, a lot of the pressure came with being so fine to make it to the playoffs," Lopez said. "I think guys were grinding more than they normally would. Now that we're here, I think you're seeing guys just be in the moment as opposed to trying to force things to happen. I think that's why you're seeing really good results."
Adam Berry has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2011.