Wild 10th turns tide in Braves' favor
Huge double play after Wagner's injury sets up Ankiel's heroics
SAN FRANCISCO -- It looked for all the world like the inning that would doom the Braves. And in a way, it still might turn out that way. But in the immediate term, the bottom of the 10th inning of Friday's Game 2 of the National League Division Series saved Atlanta's season and slowed the Giants' express.
All it took was the right pitch in a huge situation by Kyle Farnsworth to Buster Posey, as well as a superb double play started by Troy Glaus.
Yes, it was that kind of inning.
The Giants got their leadoff man on base and then loaded the bases with one out for Posey. Yet instead of capitalizing, taking a 2-0 series lead and boarding a flight to Atlanta with the NL Championship Series right in front of them, the Giants instead missed the opportunity, saw the Braves take the lead in the next half-inning and now face a series that will last at least four games.
"You can never figure out baseball, for sure," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who earned his third career postseason ejection in the second inning and was replaced by bench coach Chino Cadahia.
The 10th inning began strangely, with Glaus being brought in to play third base as part of a double switch. Glaus was once a fine defensive third baseman, but injuries have limited him to emergency-only status at the hot corner these days. This was an emergency.
Edgar Renteria, pinch-hitting, wisely put down a bunt to challenge Glaus, and the veteran shortstop beat it out. Andres Torres' sacrifice bunt moved Renteria to second, but on the play, Braves closer Billy Wagner pulled up sore. He had injured his left oblique muscle on Renteria's bunt and had to be removed from the game.
"When I tried to get out of Troy's way, I felt it tweak," Wagner said. "I tried to finish the inning."
Instead, having used five relievers already, Cadahia had no choice but to call on Farnsworth, he of the 5.40 ERA since being acquired from Kansas City. Things did not start auspiciously, as Farnsworth hit Freddy Sanchez on the hand with a pitch. He then walked Aubrey Huff, and just about every Braves partisan on earth was feeling some real dread.
"That's probably the calmest I've ever been in a long time," he said. "For some reason. It's just one of those things you can't really explain."
Even with Posey at the plate, Farnsworth remained composed. With the season on the line, for all practical purposes, the famously excitable right-hander threw a first-pitch slider that Posey swung at and missed. Posey took a slider in the dirt, then rolled over one more breaking ball, hitting it to the left side, where Glaus was waiting to be tested again.
Glaus could have gone home for the sure out and allowed Farnsworth to take his chances with No. 5 hitter Nate Schierholtz. Instead, he got greedy and tried to turn the double play.
"When the ground ball is hit to Troy, even in the outfield, I'm thinking, 'Home! Home! Home!'" recalled Rick Ankiel.
Glaus threw to second, where Omar Infante made an acrobatic play to receive his tailing throw, tag second and fire to first to end the inning. Two batters later, Ankiel hit the solo homer that was the game-winner.
"I thought, 'If the ball's hit hard to me, I'm going to second. If it's hit soft, I'm going home,'" Glaus said. "And that was all I thought about. The ball was hit hard enough, and I threw it to second."
And the Braves lived to fight another day. No sweat.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.