10/06/2002 09:38 am ET
Press Row: Too Manny runs
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
With one game left on their own home turf, the Giants have their backs to the wall. Saturday's game, which allowed the Braves to move one win away from taking the series, turned on one crucial decision. Rafael Hermoso of the New York Times sets the
"Giants Manager Dusty Baker emerged from the home dugout facing a crucial decision with the bases loaded and his team tied with the
Braves in the sixth inning today. Baker also carried with him a history of being second-guessed after early postseason exits.
"His move -- to send in the 30-year-old journeyman Manny Aybar -- would only lead to more questions after the game. On two pitches,
Aybar allowed a two-run single to Vinny Castilla and a three-run home run to Keith Lockhart as the Braves went on to a 10-2 victory.
Atlanta leads the National League Division Series, two games to one.
" ' Manny is probably my best guy down in the bullpen, and also has the ability to throw the sinker and slider to try to get a double play,"
Baker said. "So that's what led to the pitching change.' "
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle offered his own take on the same situation.
"Since it is mathematically impossible to give up more than five runs in two pitches, Manny Aybar's name will be inextricably welded into
the superstructure of Giant postseason disasters. After all, a bases-loaded single and a three-run homer in the time it takes to get halfway
to the bathroom ... is a rarity at any level.
"Then again, maybe Aybar can be an asterisk on an afterthought when the bigger picture is revealed. It all depends right now on what the
Giants plan to do about Saturday's preposterous 10-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the NL Division Series.
" ' It doesn't matter how it happened,' manager Dusty Baker said, fibbing only the slightest bit. 'It only matters that you lost, and whether
you overcome it the next day.'
"Therein lies the local nine, yet again, backs against the band saw and needing Livan Hernandez to be as October as he can be."
The Giants have a lot of experience in this precise scenario -- win or go home. Henry Schulman of the San Francisco
Chronicle writes that they may have more experience than they would like.
"It is sad for the Giants to say, but they have been here before during the Dusty Baker era, probably more than they would have wished,
their backs purple from being slammed so often against the proverbial wall.
"With Saturday's 10-2 loss to the Braves in Game 3 of their National League Division Series, which turned on two successive Manny Aybar
pitches that yielded five runs, the Giants have put themselves in a place where they can find no comfort from history.
"Since the Division Series began in 1995, none of the six NL teams that fell behind two games to one came back to win. Five of 10 AL
teams did overcome a 2- 1 deficit, but only one, the 1999 Boston Red Sox, won the decisive fifth game on the road.
"For the Giants to advance to the NLCS, they must beat Game 1 loser Tom Glavine this evening at Pacific Bell Park and then overcome
Game 2 winner Kevin Millwood in Atlanta on Monday night.
" ' There's nothing for us to do but win,' said second baseman Jeff Kent, still seeing stars after taking a Greg Maddux pitch on his left ear
flap in the third inning. ' I guess it's best that we get this out and over with today and move on. We're the Giants. We have a tendency to
do this every now and then.' "
David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution didn't place the blame squarely on Aybar's shoulders. He spread it
around to Jason Schmidt, who put the Giants in an awkward position.
"Questionable control was one reason the Braves traded pitcher Jason Schmidt in 1996. Six years later, it played a big part in the Braves
taking command of the National League Division Series against the Giants.
"Schmidt walked three consecutive batters in the sixth inning, opening the door for a two-run single by Vinny Castilla and a three-run
homer by Keith Lockhart that fueled a 10-2 victory Saturday afternoon in Game 3 at Pacific Bell Park.
"Castilla and Lockhart hit the first two pitches from reliever Manny Aybar, turning a tie score into a 6-1 margin faster than the Giants and a
stadium-record crowd of 43,043 could say 'two games to one,' the margin the Braves hold in a best-of-five series that could end tonight.
" 'We changed the game right there, in two pitches,' said Castilla, whose bloop single gave him four hits and three RBIs in the series. 'You
go ahead five runs, that's huge.' "
Terence Moore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about the man of the moment. Keith Lockhart, seldom thought
of as a power source, had the big hit in the game-winning rally.
"Inside the Braves clubhouse, their lockers are in a row. To Gary Sheffield's left, you have Julio Franco. To Franco's left, you have Keith
"To hear Sheffield tell it, they also have a higher power in their midst. ' We're all meant to be together,' said Sheffield, who joins Franco
and Lockhart as strong Christians on the team. 'You can't see these things in the natural sense, but everything happens for a reason.'
"As a result, Sheffield has said all season that Lockhart and his .216 batting average were around to do something mighty. Just ask the
San Francisco Giants, who are trailing 2-1 in this division series after Lockhart did the mighty and the unthinkable Saturday at Pacific Bell
"He homered. He hadn't done so in 79 previous plate appearances in the postseason. Not only did he homer, but he did so when the
Braves needed it most. With the Giants still in reach after the Braves scored twice in the sixth for a 3-1 lead, Lockhart lofted a deep fly to
right. It just kept going. It finally bounced off the top of the roof for a three-run homer and the Braves' spark to a 10-2 blowout."
Spencer Fordin, a reporter for MLB.com, can be reached at email@example.com. This story
was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.