The Cubs struck early and rallied late in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, scoring all their runs in a 6-5, 13-inning Giants victory on just two swings -- from their starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, and one of their NL MVP candidates, Kris Bryant.
With the win, San Francisco forced a Game 4 on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT on FS1).
Arrieta's home run got Chicago off to a fast start against none other than Madison Bumgarner, who entered Monday night's start with an aura of postseason invincibility. The Giants' left-hander is a three-time champion, won 2014 World Series MVP honors, then extended his postseason streak of scoreless innings to 23 by tossing a shutout against the Mets in last Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game victory.
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But Arrieta emphatically put an end to that streak in the second inning, when he became the first pitcher to homer off Bumgarner by driving a go-ahead, three-run shot to left field. The crowd at AT&T Park was stunned, and although Bumgarner didn't allow any more runs, he exited after just five innings, falling short of a ninth straight postseason quality start.
As Statcast™ shows, Bumgarner simply wasn't quite the same pitcher who dominated the Mets in his last outing.
Against New York, Bumgarner's four-seam fastball averaged 92.1 mph. His 6.8-foot average extension -- the distance from the pitching rubber to the release point -- helped him post a slightly higher average perceived velocity of 92.4 mph. He threw 11 four-seamers that reached a perceived velocity of at least 93 mph, including one that struck out counterpart Noah Syndergaard.
On Monday, however, Bumgarner didn't have quite the same sizzle on his heater. The four-seamer averaged 90.0 mph -- a 2.1-mph drop and his lowest of the season-- and his 6.6-foot extension provided no boost to his perceived velocity, which was also his lowest in any start this season.
When Arrieta stepped to the plate with two on and two out in a scoreless game, he brought a dangerous bat to the plate. The righty posted a .720 OPS in 70 plate appearances this season and had hit four homers over the past two years, including a 440-footer at Chase Field this April that stands as the longest by a pitcher in the Statcast™ era.
Cubs pitchers have now homered in consecutive games, making them the first team to have two pitchers homer in the same postseason series since the 1924 New York Giants (Jack Bentley and Rosy Ryan). Cubs pitchers have combined for six RBIs, twice as many as the position players had contributed through the first three innings of Game 3. And before this series, no pitcher had gone deep in the postseason since Joe Blanton in the 2008 World Series.
Arrieta connected on a 1-2 fastball, driving it over the left-field wall for a 3-0 lead. The 106.2-mph exit velocity made it the third-hardest hit home run by a pitcher in 2016, according to Statcast™, and the exit velocity combined with a 26-degree launch angle qualified it as his third barrel of the season.
"He's really effective up in the strike zone," Arrieta said of Bumgarner. " ... I just wanted to put a nice, easy swing on it and try and find the barrel. That's what I was able to do. It put us in a good spot."
It was the first home run Bumgarner had served up to a pitcher in 418 career plate appearances against them, including the postseason. And it was a rare October misstep for a southpaw who has established himself as one of the month's finest performers.
As rare as Arrieta's home run was, Bryant's almost seemed inevitable in this Cubs season. After the Giants rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 5-3 lead, Dexter Fowler led off the ninth with a walk before Bryant homered on an 0-1 pitch from Sergio Romo. But as Statcast™ shows, the fly ball Bryant hit to left field was no sure thing to leave the ballpark.
Launched at an angle of 42 degrees -- the highest figure for a postseason homer in the Statcast™ era (2015-16) -- the ball soared a projected 342 feet and bounced off the top of a cutout of a car in an advertisement on the left-field wall. That distance is also the shortest home run Bryant has hit in his career, coming in under a 351-foot shot he hit against the Tigers on Aug. 9, 2015.
"Jake hitting the homer there, great start," Bryant said. "Our pitchers, they're unbelievable. For myself, it's probably the biggest hit of my career."