SAN FRANCISCO -- It might have taken Derrek Lee a few weeks to endear himself to Braves fans. But now that crunch time has arrived, the veteran first baseman is proving to be the consistent offensive threat and sound defender Atlanta envisioned when the club acquired him from the Cubs on Aug. 18.
Rick Ankiel delivered the decisive homer that gave the Braves a 5-4 win over the Giants in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park on Friday night. But without the leadoff singles that Lee delivered in the sixth and eighth innings, this resilient club might not have found itself celebrating its ability to create late-inning heroics once again.
"I just told them, 'Can we please score some runs in the first four of five innings because I'm aging too quick here?'" Lee said. "I guess it's never boring."
The Braves had every reason to simply be frustrated when they went through the first 14 innings of this series without scoring a run. Lee turned the tide when he began the sixth inning with a single and then scored on a Brian McCann RBI single.
Consecutive singles by Lee and McCann also started the three-run, game-tying eighth that was capped with the two-run double Alex Gonzalez delivered against All-Star closer Brian Wilson.
Once McCann's single put runners at the corners with nobody out, Giants manager Bruce Bochy called Wilson out of the bullpen to notch a six-out save.
"Sometimes the save can be in the eighth inning, and he was fresh -- and you know we're trying to stop them," Bochy said. "I have no concern with Willie going two innings. He had a good ninth inning."
The dependable closer's outing began with Melky Cabrera producing a weak infield chopper that drew Pablo Sandoval's wide throw to first base and allowed Lee to score uncontested.
Before Gonzalez proved clutch with his game-tying double, Brooks Conrad produced a sacrifice bunt that McCann recognized as key to the inning.
"That's going to get lost in this game, but that's as big as any play in this game," McCann said.
Lee, who hit .360 in the final 15 games of the regular season, now finds himself in a familiar position. As a member of the 2003 Marlins, he experienced a Game 1 NLDS loss in San Francisco and then traveled to Miami with the best-of-five series split.
Having split this NLDS in the same manner, the Braves traveled back to Atlanta with the hope that they too might at least advance to the World Series, like that 2003 Florida club.
"Just cause you lose Game 1, you've still got Game 2," Lee said. "We didn't hold our heads down. We came back ready to fight and played a great game. It was one of the most fun times I've ever had on a baseball field."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.