Back at the scene in S.F.: Reliving the inning that changed Cubs history

The Cubs were equal parts overjoyed and relieved to beat the Giants in Game 4 of last year's NLDS. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

SAN FRANCISCO -- When you think back to the Chicago Cubs' 2016 postseason run, what's the first moment that comes to mind? Maybe, it's the Game 7 finish that made the Cubs champs or the ensuing final-out celebration on Cleveland's infield -- or the parade down the streets of Chicago. But none of that might have occurred if not for something that took place weeks earlier on the West Coast.

One player called it as memorable as any World Series game -- and for good reason. Game 4 of last October's National League Division Series between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants will be remembered, at least by the Cubs and their fans, for one inning and one inning only.

Up 2-1 in the series and needing one more win to advance to the NLCS, the Cubs were dead at the plate for the first eight innings, as Giants starter Matt Moore held them to two hits. But soon-to-be retired catcher David Ross kept the visitors within striking distance by driving in two runs earlier in the game.

Trailing 5-2 entering the ninth inning -- with the prospect of facing Johnny Cueto in Game 5 -- the Cubs put together a rally that would go down in franchise history.

As the Cubs return to San Francisco this week for the first time since they won Game 4 by a score of 6-5, some of the participants recalled the memories and emotions of the dramatic inning and win.

Righty Derek Law starts the ninth inning for the Giants, after Moore exits having thrown 120 pitches.

Joe Maddon: "My snapshot of the night was Johnny Cueto. The way the game is playing out, I'm saying to myself, 'I do not want to play the Giants in Game 5 with Cueto pitching.' ... The whole night I'm thinking of bullpens, lineup, saving people, and all of sudden we started our comeback."

Kris Bryant leads off the ninth with a base hit to left field.

Bryant: "Any time you get the leadoff guy on and get the defense on their toes and the pitcher into the stretch, that's huge."

Mike Montgomery: "I thought we could come back, but three runs in the ninth inning? It's not realistic. ... I was probably thinking about Game 5. Fly back, the off-day, then Game 5."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy brings in lefty Javier Lopez to face Anthony Rizzo, who follows Bryant's single with a walk.

Rizzo: "We were excited. We came back a lot last year, and that was no different."

General manager Jed Hoyer, who was watching in the stands with Theo Epstein and other Cubs executives: "Going into the ninth inning, I had a level of frustration to that point. We weren't doing anything offensively, so the frustration was in flying back to Chicago and preparing for a Game 5 against Cueto -- a one-game playoff."

Montgomery: "When we got two baserunners on, it gave us all a little hope. To put together like four hits after having just two, that's one of the highlights of the season."

Hoyer: "It was at that point [two guys on] you start thinking, 'OK, this is interesting.' Then, when Ben Zobrist hit that double, you have the feeling this might happen."

Righty Sergio Romo enters the game as the third pitcher of the inning for the Giants. Zobrist drives a 3-1 pitch to right field for a double, scoring Bryant. Rizzo stops on third, and the score is 5-3.

Zobrist: "I rolled over a two-seamer, getting on top of it but getting it over the first baseman's head to shoot it down the line for a double. I remember being a little bit surprised because I had not been swinging the bat very well. I was surprised he threw a pitch up in the zone because I was looking down and away.

Bryant: "You don't really expect to win that game because it's tough to come from behind like that in a playoff game. Knowing that they had struggled in the bullpen, we knew we had a chance."

Montgomery: "I remember the Zobrist hit the most, down the line. We needed one big hit to get it really going, and he came through."

Next comes Maddon's big move of the inning. He sends lefty Chris Coghlan to the plate, while Bochy counters with lefty Will Smith. That provides for the matchup Maddon wants, as he burns Coghlan to have rookie Willson Contreras pinch hit.

Maddon: "The next moment I remember, for me, was hitting for Addison to get to Contreras. That's a perfect example of guys buying in. We went from Addison to Coghlan to Contreras to get to that hit. That stood out because that's something you don't do in the regular season."

Contreras hits a 1-1 pitch through the middle for a two-run single, tying the game 5-5. Then he lets his emotions be known.

Rizzo: "That's my memory: Willson. He likes to beat the drum [his chest]."

Zobrist: "I also always think of Willy's hit up the middle and his beating his chest. ... Those are the things I remember from that inning, and everyone kind of coming out of their shoes, as far as the dugout is concerned."

Contreras: "I was just trying to get a ground ball to second base to move up the runners, and I got a base hit. That was a special moment for everyone, especially me."

Bryant: "I remember Willson going nuts at first like he wanted to kill someone. He was crazy."

Game 4 starter John Lackey: "I was inside the clubhouse. I remember Willy getting a hit and going crazy. That stands out."

Contreras: "I like to show my emotions. I'm not showing anyone up. That's my passion. ... When I saw the ball get past the pitcher, I knew a run would score, but then when it went into center, it was amazing."

Hoyer: "At that point, you really want to take the lead. Tying it would have been great, but taking the lead and getting the win on the road before extras was huge."

Montgomery: "I had thrown a lot of pitches the night before, but I told them: If we go extra, I'm ready."

There are still no outs in the inning as Jason Heyward bats against the lefty Smith. Heyward is asked to bunt Contreras over.

Heyward: "I was thinking, 'This is a guy that's kind of tough to bunt off of, a hard-throwing lefty who comes across his body.' That's what's going through my mind. ... He threw me a pretty hard fastball. It came off the bat pretty hot."

Heyward bunts the ball right back to Smith, who throws to second to get Contreras. But the throw to first by Brandon Crawford is wild, and that allows Heyward to advance to second. The Cubs get what they wanted: a runner on second with one out.

Heyward: "It's not what we expected, but it worked out that way."

Hoyer: "The break we got was the error on Jason's bunt. It allowed us to win instead of just tie. I feel like that's the forgotten moment in that inning."

After yet another pitching change, Javier Baez faces righty Hunter Strickland. Baez's base hit up the middle down 0-2 in the count plates the eventual winning run, with Heyward hustling home from second.

Heyward: "I had a good idea the way they were positioned they weren't throwing me out. Good at-bat, he kept it simple. I just went as hard as I could."

Rizzo: "Javy getting the game-winning hit up the middle on 0-2. I can see that."

After Ross hits into a double play to end the inning, closer Aroldis Chapman strikes out the side in the ninth for a dramatic turnaround victory, from prepping for Game 5 to celebrating a trip to the NLCS.

Montgomery: "It was a cool feeling because we were stressed if we had to go to Game 5. In the matter of 15 minutes, we went from stressed to celebrating on the mound. That was pretty awesome."

Heyward: "Those at-bats are what I remember. ... It wasn't a home run -- just the hustle and all those little things."

Lackey: "It was definitely big. The Giants had their history. It was a big step to get past them, for sure."

Hoyer: "You wanted to dismiss it, but the whole even-year thing with the Giants [winning it all in 2010, '12 and '14], they believed in it. This wasn't a typical first-round opponent. That was part of the emotion as well."

Rizzo: "My next memory of that is about 20 minutes later -- the celebration."

Maddon: "The dramatic home run is nice to get, but normally it's going to be that: just good at-bats and a swarming offense."

Bryant: "The World Series games were great, but that game is as memorable as any we played."

Hoyer: "I think it's impossible to look at that comeback without looking at what we were facing going back to Chicago. ... For young players not to get caught up in the moment was huge.

"My memory is of three hours of frustration. The celebration after that win, the plane ride home, that was as much fun as we had. We pulled that one out of the fire. We all had that sense that we escaped something much worse."