08/16/2002 02:41 am ET
Giants can't stop rain, Braves
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Barry Bonds is used to seeing flashbulbs go off on every pitch, but obviously Robb Nen isn't.
With rain falling, thunder booming and lightning flashing, Nen got the Giants to within their final strike yet again, only to allow a game-tying, backbreaking two-run single to blow his fourth save in the last five opportunities. San Francisco fell a season-high nine games out of first place with its first tie game in more than three decades.
Heavier rain began to fall in the 10th inning, causing the game to be delayed and ultimately suspended following a 2:33 stoppage. With the Giants unsure of how long the extra-inning contest might last, there was concern the team would lose its airline crew and have to stay an extra night in this city.
By the time the decision was made to suspend the game at 1:37 a.m. local time, few of the 35,340 fans remained but those that did glumly headed for the gates. The game will be replayed in its entirety at a later date, but only if it has any bearing on the playoffs.
"I hope that we have to come because it would mean something," said manager Dusty Baker. "It just feels weird. This is about the fourth or fifth time we've been one strike away with two outs. That's what's disappointing. I know Robb feels bad. He feels terrible."
With one out in the ninth, Nen gave up a double to Rafael Furcal but struck out Matt Franco to get within one out of the victory. But a four-pitch walk to Gary Sheffield put the tying run on base, and inexplicably, the Giants allowed both runners to advance a base on defensive indifference while Chipper Jones was at bat.
"You can't stop them from running," said Baker. "Everybody knew they were going to run but there was nothing you can do about it. You can't stop them because Robb's not very quick to the plate."
Needing only a single to score both runners, Jones fouled off a tough two-strike slider before hitting another one into right field, tying the game, 3-3, and getting thrown out trying to advance to second base to send the game to extra innings. Nen sat dejectedly in the visitor's dugout as the skies opened up and caused the delay, during which Atlanta's game entertainment crew unknowingly played Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, the song that is played when Nen pitches at Pacific Bell Park.
Nen's blown save will go in the record books, as all individual stats count from Thursday's contest.
That's good news for Braves starter Damian Moss, who tied his career high by pitching eight innings. Entering the game, the Giants knew it would be tough to hit off Moss, who had held opposing hitters to a league-low batting average of .198. This night would be no different, as San Francisco managed just four hits in 28 at-bats (.143) against the southpaw but made them count. Jeff Kent's two-run homer in the first inning -- his 11th in the last 18 games -- seemingly gave Jason Schmidt enough to work with.
Schmidt, who entered the game ranked seventh in the league in opponents' batting average, allowed just two hits over seven innings but walked seven batters, including Andruw Jones to lead off the second inning. Jones came around to score on Marcus Giles' run-scoring double, but Atlanta managed little else against Schmidt, Felix Rodriguez and Tim Worrell before Nen's breakdown in the ninth.
Though Giles did not hit in the key ninth inning for the Braves, his mere presence might have been enough to bring bad luck to Nen. After all, it was his older brother, Brian, whose two-run single Aug. 2 beat Nen and handed him just his fourth blown save of the season. Entering that game, the right-hander's ERA was a miniscule 1.31, but it currently stands at 2.22 after allowing a run in five of his last six appearances.
Nen has closed out just one game in the past two weeks, his 300th career save that also came during a game in which he allowed a run.
"It's just an unfortunate period that he's going through right now," said Baker of Nen, who was unavailable for comment. "The life of a closer is that. A closer is taking that last final out and breath out of the opposition, and it's tough in any animal. They'll fight you, no matter how lopsided the victory may be."
The last time a Giants game ended in a tie was Sept. 2, 1968, when a 1-1 contest in Chicago was called after nine innings. The last time the Giants had a rainout that was not rescheduled was Sept. 28, 1980, and it remains to be seen if this one will be played.
One possible date is Sept. 30, which would otherwise be the day after the season's last game. If the Giants were in a position to win the Wild Card, the game would be played here and the odds are so would the first round of the playoffs for San Francisco.
Josh Rawitch covers the Giants for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.