Ankiel’s Splash HR Lifts Braves Over Giants In 11
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two of the newest Braves produced the key plays to keep Atlanta from the brink of playoff elimination.
Kyle Farnsworth induced a double play in the 10th inning to thwart a rally, Rick Ankiel splashed a home run into McCovey Cove in the 11th for his first postseason clout, and the Braves rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the San Francisco Giants 5-4 on Friday night. The best-of-five NL division series is tied at 1-1.
Farnsworth and Ankiel joined Atlanta together at the trade deadline from Kansas City.
“The two guys we got in the trade won us the game tonight,” catcher Brian McCann said. “This was the best win I’ve ever been a part of. You don’t want to be down 0-2 in a best-of-five series. That was huge. I’m in awe of what we just did.”
Another midseason acquisition, Alex Gonzalez, hit a tying, two-run double in the eighth against 2010 majors saves leader Brian Wilson. Gonzalez came in a swap with Toronto in mid-July.
The Braves pulled this one out with manager Bobby Cox watching the final nine innings from the clubhouse after his third career postseason ejection. The skipper told his team a victory in Game 2 would swing the momentum to the Braves as they headed home to Turner Field.
“The biggest homer of my career by far,” Ankiel said. “To be honest with you, I wanted to go from the batter’s box to the dugout and be with the guys and not run the bases. What a cool thing to do and what a cool way to win.”
Farnsworth pitched 1 2-3 shutout innings for the victory, relieving in the 10th after closer Billy Wagner injured his left oblique. Farnsworth escaped a bases-loaded jam when Buster Posey grounded into an inning-ending double play that was started by late-inning replacement Troy Glaus, who had played only nine games at third base the past two seasons.
Before his home run, Ankiel had been best known in the playoffs for his meltdown against Atlanta in 2000 while pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
That year, Ankiel started Game 1 of the NL division series but had major control problems and wound up walking six with five wild pitches in 2 2-3 innings. In Game 2 of the NLCS, he didn’t even make it out of the first inning, walking three and throwing two more wild pitches while retiring only two batters.
The issues with his command eventually persuaded the once-promising lefty to switch positions and become an outfielder. He struck out in his only two postseason at-bats last year for St. Louis.
“It’s been a long, fun journey and I appreciate everything that’s happened,” Ankiel said.
Atlanta earned 46 come-from-behind victories this season and did it again when it mattered most. This is the only first-round playoff series that is even after two games.
Ankiel’s drive on a 2-2 pitch from Ramon Ramirez was just the second splash homer in the postseason at 11-year-old AT&T Park. Home run king Barry Bonds hit the other in Game 2 of the 2002 NL championship series against St. Louis.
Wagner, who plans to retire after the season, first grabbed at his left side after chasing pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria’s bunt single to start the inning. The left-hander then fielded Andres Torres’ sacrifice bunt back to the mound, threw to first for the out and immediately grabbed at the area near his left hip before crumbling to his knees.
The 39-year-old Wagner walked slowly off the field with a trainer.
“We’re not going to write him off yet,” Cox said of Wagner. “He’s probably done for this series. We’re not sure.”
Farnsworth entered and hit Freddy Sanchez on the right hand on his third pitch. Sanchez went down writhing in pain and was quickly examined, but went to first base.
Wilson relieved with runners at the corners and none out in the eighth after Sergio Romo gave up back-to-back singles to Derrek Lee and McCann.
Melky Cabrera hit a slow roller toward third that scored Atlanta’s second run. Pablo Sandoval’s throw to first pulled Aubrey Huff off the bag for an error, but Cabrera looked as though he would have beaten the throw anyway.
Gonzalez tied it two batters later with a double to left-center.
Wilson was trying for his first career six-out save. He pitched two innings twice during the regular season.
“When I’m called upon, I enjoy being the stopper. When the skipper asks me to come out, regardless of the situation, I feel like I should be able to get out of it,” Wilson said. “It’s already past me. The game’s over. I can’t really focus on that.”
Atlanta’s rally spoiled a strong postseason debut by Giants starter Matt Cain a day after Tim Lincecum’s 14-strikeout, two-hit gem in a 1-0 victory. Pat Burrell hit a three-run homer in the first inning to stake San Francisco to a quick cushion.
Burrell connected on the first pitch from Tommy Hanson with two outs in the first, sending the pompom-waving sellout crowd of 44,046 into a frenzy of orange. The attendance was the largest in the history of AT&T Park, topping the total from the 2007 All-Star game.
But Ankiel’s shot silenced the ballpark, and he was pelted with a celebratory cream pie after the game.
“It’s a tough loss, no getting around it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “You have to bounce back. They fought hard. We had a couple of chances to add on, but their ‘pen shut us down.”
The teams have Saturday off for travel. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez goes in Game 3 for the Giants against righty Tim Hudson. Both pitched their teams to victory and playoff berths on the final day of the regular season.
Cox got tossed by umpire Paul Emmel in the second after Gonzalez was called out at first on a close play. Emmel was the umpire at second base in Game 1 who called Posey safe on a stolen base when replays showed he was out. Posey later scored the only run of the game.
The 69-year-old Cox, who is retiring after the season, did not argue in the opener — but he did this time. He was ejected by Emmel immediately after throwing his hat to the ground.
Notes: Cain went 11-0 in 18 starts when receiving three runs of support this season. … Cox has been ejected from a record 158 regular-season games. … Ankiel’s shot was the 18th go-ahead homer of his career.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.