Cubs rally for four runs in ninth to beat Giants, 6-5, advance to NLCS

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SAN FRANCISCO – There were no goats for the Cubs Tuesday night.

Not John Lackey, not the bullpen, and not even the billy goat some Giants fans playfully led around the streets surrounding AT&T Park before Game 4.

The only goats in the ballpark were the ones Bruce Bochy kept rolling out of his bullpen in the ninth inning, as five relievers combined to cough up a three-run lead to give the Cubs a 6-5 win, wrapping up the National League Division Series for Chicago. “The biggest thing is it demonstrates, even if you get behind, you play nine innings hard the entire way and anything can happen,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It validates the concept. Everybody knows it’s true, but it’s always nice to get validation.”

Javier Baez delivered the final blow to the Giants’ streak of even-year magic as his RBI single off Hunter Strickland capped the four-run frame that sent the Cubs into the NL Championship Series for the second straight year.

The Cubs dogpile in front of the pitcher’s mound after winning a roller coaster of a NLDS.

Chicago will host the winner of Thursday’s Dodgers-Nationals game in Game 1 Saturday at Wrigley Field.

“Whenever you look at a postseason game and you’re closing somebody else out, you see a look on the other team’s face and in their eyes,” Maddon said. “I don’t want to be that group. Ever.”

For eight innings, it looked like the Giants would extend their own record and stave off elimination for an 11th consecutive time, taking a 5-2 lead into the final inning.

Jason Heyward scores the go-ahead run in the ninth as the Cubs will play in the NLCS for the second straight year.

But Derek Law, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Will Smith and Hunter Strickland combined to give up four runs, including a game-tying, two-run pinch-hit single by Willson Contreras and the game-winning hit by Baez.

“We didn’t give up,” Baez said. “We just made their bullpen pay.”

“That’s baseball,” Bochy said. “You got to get those last three outs, and that has been a problem for us.”

Aroldis Chapman gets redemption by closing out the series in Game 4 after blowing Game 3.

Jason Heyward scored the final run, having reached when Brandon Crawford’s relay throw on a double-play attempt got by first base, allowing Heyward to reach second. An earlier error by Crawford helped Chicago score its second run of the game, too.

Aroldis Chapman, who blew the save in the eighth inning of Game 3, came back to strike out the side in the ninth, picking up his third save of the series.

“It was beautiful,” Maddon said. “He was so focused; you could see he was not going to be denied. He did not like what had happened last night.”

Buster Posey and the Giants don’t have the even year magic this season.

A big sign on the side of the ballpark read “BELIEVEN,” and after the way Game 3 unfolded, there was little reason for the Giants not to think they were in the middle of something special. But the Cubs ended San Francisco’s quest for a fourth title in seven seasons, handing the Giants their first postseason series loss since 2003. “The run that they’ve been on in October is incredible,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “They’re the October standard these days, which makes it all the more meaningful what our guys just accomplished.”

Lackey was ineffective, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks in only four innings. The Cubs bullpen wasn’t much better, giving up a pair of runs in the fifth to extend San Francisco’s lead and give lefty Matt Moore some breathing room. Moore held the Cubs to two runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks over eight innings, striking out 10.

Five different Giants drove in runs including Game 3 heroes Joe Panik and Conor Gillaspie, the latter going 4-for-4 before his fairy-tale October came to an abrupt end.

Kris Bryant started the winning rally with a single off Law, then Anthony Rizzo drew a walk against Lopez. “Once KB and Rizz got on, you could kind of feel, ‘Something good is going to happen here. We’re just going to try to keep it going as much as we can,’” Ben Zobrist said. “The last two nights, that was what the Giants were doing.”

Zobrist doubled off Romo, scoring Bryant to cut the lead to two. Contreras followed with the two-run single against Smith; Baez hit the game-winner two batters later. “That felt a little heavier because of how well they play in elimination games and with their home crowd here, what they’ve done the last six years,” Zobrist said. “I think that made it extra special.”