Giants reliever George Kontos grew up in the Chicago area going to Cubs games as a fan, and on Saturday got his first chance to pitch in a playoff game at Wrigley Field.
He’d probably pictured it going differently.
Kontos entered the Giants’ 5-2 loss in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at the start of the third inning, the earliest he has come into a game all season, after the Cubs knocked starter Jeff Samardzija out with four runs in the first two innings.
Kontos retired his first four hitters, but in the fourth inning became an unwilling party to history when he gave up a home run to Chicago relief pitcher Travis Wood. It was the second homer ever hit by a relief pitcher in a postseason game, the other belonging to Rosy Ryan of the 1924 New York Giants.
“Until that, it was a normal game,” Kontos said. “I didn’t really hear anything from the crowd before that, it wasn’t overly loud or anything. Obviously once that ball left the yard, it got loud for a quick second. But (after), everything kind of toned down.”
Kontos retired his next two hitters to finish the inning and was replaced in the fifth by Ty Blach. The 31-year-old Kontos, who went to high school in nearby Skokie and was drafted out of Northwestern by the Yankees, has said playing at Wrigley holds a special significance.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to pitch in the postseason it’s obviously very special,” said Kontos, who was part of Giants teams that won the World Series in 2012 and 2014.
“From this one I’m going to look back at the other six batters I got and just try to learn from it. Regardless of who’s at the plate, you can’t lose focus even for one second, especially with a team as good as (the Cubs) who can create runs one through nine.”
The Giants trail 2-0 in the NLDS, just as they did in 2012 against the Reds. That year, they rallied to win three straight elimination games, and have won their last nine such games, a postseason record.
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned about this ballclub it’s that ’til the last pitch is thrown and we’re not playing anymore, you can’t count us out,” Kontos said. “Luckily we haven’t come to that point in our postseason career. And I hope this series isn’t it.”
Swinging pitchers – Cubs pitchers drove in three runs in Game 2, and Monday’s game features two more starters who can help themselves with a bat. Madison Bumgarner has won the Silver Slugger Award for pitchers the past two seasons and hit three homers this year. Jake Arrieta is no slouch, with a .262 average this year and two homers of his own.
“The last thing any pitcher wants to do is give up a hit to another pitcher,” Bumgarner said Sunday. “I know (Arrieta) can swing the bat a little bit. You’re going to have to make pitches to him. You’re not going to sit there and throw three fastballs by him.”
Arrieta said Bumgarner is “one of the guys that you treat like a typical position player.”
“I feel like we’ll attack each other accordingly,” Arrieta said.
Et cetera – Giants manager Bruce Bochy said third baseman Eduardo Nunez (hamstring) will likely come off the bench again in Game 3 but could be ready to start Game 4 if the series goes that far. Nunez has pinch hit in each of the first two games and gone 0 for 2.
▪ The Giants landed back in San Francisco a little after 2 p.m. on Sunday’s travel day and held an optional workout at AT&T Park. Only a handful of players participated, including several infielders and Bumgarner, who played light catch.