October 9

When Rick Ankiel put one in the water, in a place where Barry Bonds once did, every fan in the stadium knew the Giants were sunk. They might claim otherwise but if so they’re lying. You know how baseball works. The air was sucked out of the place.

A record crowd of 44,046 made as much noise as possible for most of the game, but after Ankiel’s go-ahead shot, you’ve never heard that many people be so quiet. The Braves won 5-4 in 11 innings, and added to the pantheon of crushing Giants postseason losses.

The Baseball Gods do not reward teams that played like the Giants did Friday night. As a result, the NLDS between the Giants and Braves is even at a game apiece and it’s possible the Giants have played their last game at home this season.

So many questions in this one, but let’s tackle the biggest one: why did Giants manager Bruce Bochy bring in Brian Wilson for a six-out save ? He’d never had a six-out save, so why now ? Bochy’s answer: “the game was on the line.”

I didn’t see it as a six-out save, but an 8th inning save situation, and then we would see about the 9th. Sometimes you have to stop the bleeding an inning early, then worry about the 9th later. I even posted on Facebook before Wilson threw a pitch that it was a good move.

Of course many of my “Friends” disagreed with me … after the fact. I didn’t hear any protest from any of the 44-thousand fans at AT and T Park who cheered when Wilson was summoned and “Jump Around” was played on the loudspeaker. I didn’t see too many people posting or tweeting that it was a bad move beforehand, although there was spirited debate in the press box.

Fact: this might have turned out differently had Pablo Sandoval been able to make a play on Melky Cabrera’s chopper. Then Alex Gonzalez, who had been missing high fastballs, happened to hit one and the game was tied. Oh, we heard from the armchair managers THEN.

Wilson did complete two innings, and in fact looked strong in the 9th. He hadn’t pitched since Sunday and Saturday is an off day, so it wasn’t crazy to think he could get the job done. He didn’t, and now I wonder about the fate of the beard.

The debate over this move obscured several other important facts:

The Giants failed to cash in on a couple of opportunities to blow the game open. They failed to win the game in the 10th despite loading the bases with one out against a wild Kyle Farnsworth. Buster Posey got anxious, rolled one over to third, and Troy Glaus ( yes, THAT Troy Glaus ) turned two instead of going to the plate.

The Braves were gumby-shouldered until Pat Burrell’s error in the 6th that allowed Derrek Lee to reach second on a single. Brian McCann, the toughest out in the lineup, singled home Lee and the Braves were alive. After that they become more persistent and eventually chipped away at the lead.

The Braves bullpen was lights out, but it looks like it won’t have closer Billy Wagner. He suffered a strained oblique muscle fielding an Andres Torres sacrifice bunt in the 10th. That could be big for the rest of the series. The Giants bullpen is still fresher than the Braves, and fans shouldn’t forget that.

Tim Lincecum starting Game 4 on a very short leash is now a much greater possibility. It depends on whether Jonathan Sanchez can get the job done Sunday. If he can’t, it’s all hands on deck Monday.

The stage might be too big for Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo. Pablo was a popular “X” factor pick before the series but a series of poor at-bats and poor fielding plays have raised huge questions. Romo left too many pitches up in the zone to start the fateful eighth-inning rally.

The Giants needed to get some huge breaks to win just one game in Atlanta this season, but Friday night’s drama showed that the postseason a totally different brand of baseball, and what happened in the regular season usually means nothing. I would not be surprised to see the Giants and Braves back in San Francisco for Game 5 on Wednesday.


One Response to “Ker-Plunk”

  1. Greg Olzack ("Greg in Atwater") Says:

    Ray, I know this is after the fact, but it’s not a moot point because history can repeat itself. Personally, I DID know that it was a mistake right away when Bochy brought Wilson in the 8th inning. I have vivid memories of him coming in earlier than usual and not being able to produce. In truth, he’s scares me to death because he is innately unreliable. Unfortunately, he’s not as good Rod Beck in coming through in a pinch, however, he’s not as bad as Armando Benitez.

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