Chicago's flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman was on the hill with a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday night. Clinching a spot in the National League Championship Series -- and sweeping the San Francisco Giants -- was so close.
But even though the Cubs are the odds-on favorite to win the World Series after winning 103 games in the regular season, never count out the Giants. Especially when it's an even year. And never underestimate the power -- or at least the idea -- of the Cubs curse.
Conor Gillaspie tripled to deep right center, driving in two and giving San Francisco a 4-3 lead. The next batter, Brandon Crawford, singled to center to drive in Gillaspie to make it 5-3.
The Giants, the 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series champions, were back in business at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The #BeliEVEN vibe was strong. Was the Cubs' curse alive and well too?
Staving off elimination in dramatic fashion with a walk-off hit by Joe Panik, the Giants went on to win 6-5 in 13 innings. Incredibly, the Giants have now won an elimination game for the 10th consecutive time, a streak that started in 2012. The series, while still in the Cubs' favor at two games to one, is far from over.
Game 4 is Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. If the Cubs win, they advance to the NLCS. Should the Giants escape with another win, they would force a winner-take-all Game 5, which would be played Thursday in Chicago.
Cubs fans may be tempted to panic after this loss. Is their team tempting fate by not closing it out Monday? Is this a game Chicago fans look back on for years to come and think of what could have been?
But if the Cubs are worried, manager Joe Maddon isn't showing it.
"Obviously you want to win that game, you had it right there, you had your good guys, your best guys in there, everything seemed to be lining up properly and you didn't win," Maddon said after the loss. "That's just the baseball game.
"And you got to give them credit. You got to give them credit, man. They kept fighting. And you knew that they would.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to leave pretty good tonight, because when you're in the dugout among your players and they're playing like that, with that kind of enthusiasm and effort and just everything right about them and we don't win, that doesn't mean you get upset, man. Just come back tomorrow and let's see what we can do tomorrow, and hopefully shut it out. But great baseball game from both teams."
Initially, the night looked so promising for the Cubs. Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, one of the most dominant postseason pitchers of all time, got roughed up, allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings. Even more surprising, the damage done came off Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, who connected on a three-run home run in the second inning.
And even after the Cubs fell apart in the eighth inning, they rallied in the ninth, forcing extra innings with a Kris Bryant two-run homer to make it 5-5.
But it wasn't enough, and not capitalizing on Bumgarner's mistakes could loom large. Still, even though the game didn't end in Chicago's favor, Maddon had a simple takeaway Monday night: It was a good baseball game.
"I think that both sides should be somewhat exhilarated," Maddon said. "Obviously they win, so they're going to feel a bit better about it, but there's nothing on our side to be ashamed of."