SAN FRANCISCO -- Dexter Fowler hopelessly froze in the batter's box and Giants catcher Buster Posey began jogging back to the dugout before the umpire called the third strike.Fowler watched Matt Moore's cutter paint the outside edge of the strike zone for the final out of the eighth inning and
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dexter Fowler hopelessly froze in the batter's box and Giants catcher Buster Posey began jogging back to the dugout before the umpire called the third strike.
Fowler watched Matt Moore's cutter paint the outside edge of the strike zone for the final out of the eighth inning and it seemed to embody the type of night Cubs batters were enduring. They simply couldn't find an answer against Moore, who allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits through eight shutdown innings in the Giants' 6-5 Game 4 loss in the National League Division Series on Tuesday night.
:: NLDS: Giants vs. Cubs coverage ::
In what the left-hander called the most important start of his career, Moore rarely flinched. He struck out 10 batters and grew more dominant as the game wore on, retiring the last nine hitters he faced. But Moore also watched as the Cubs' offense kicked into gear as soon as he exited, scoring four runs off five Giants relievers to clinch the NLDS.
Instead of heading back to Chicago for Game 5, Moore and the rest of the club were left wondering if he could have gone one inning longer.
"We can look now and say, hey, push him even more," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "But we had confidence that these guys that we put out there would get outs against that lineup, we could get the matchups that we wanted."
Moore simply had done his job, according to Bochy. And that was clear.
Moore, who allowed one run in eight innings to the Dodgers in the final game of the season, continued to showcase why San Francisco acquired him before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. While David Ross crushed a solo home run in the third inning, Moore proved to be at his best facing the Cubs' most powerful hitters.
He limited Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist to one single while also recording four strikeouts against the trio.
"He got better as the game went along," said Posey. "Those are fun games when you have a pitcher in the situation he was in, especially with a new team. For him to go out and do what he did, it's pretty exciting."
Everything seemed to be going Moore's way. He hit an RBI single in the fourth inning to give the club a 2-1 lead and received a lucky break from his defense in the sixth.
After surrendering a leadoff walk to Fowler, Bryant manufactured a bloop into right. Hunter Pence got a bead on it, though, and fired to Brandon Crawford at second for a forceout.
"That was pretty ugly. I'm sure I made a lot of people in the dugout nervous, walking Dexter on four pitches," Moore said. "That was a heads-up play by Hunter and I think that gave me a little bit of momentum heading into the next hitter."
That was evident. Moore followed Pence's play by striking out Rizzo, then forcing Zobrist to hit into a fielder's choice. Moore never allowed a Cubs player to reach base again and walked off the mound after throwing 120 pitches.
Moore contests he wasn't at his best Tuesday. But he knew he was sure close to it. He became the 10th Giants pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts in a postseason game and finished 2016 without allowing more than two runs in consecutive outings.
"I had no problem coming out there," said Moore. "I couldn't imagine being in this spot at the end of July. I'm just really grateful to have the Giants family pull me in."
Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area.