San Francisco, CA (Sports Network) – Rick Ankiel’s one-out solo bomb into McCovey Cove in the 11th capped the comeback, as the Atlanta Braves recovered from an early four-run deficit to stun the San Francisco Giants, 5-4, and even their National League Divison Series at a game apiece.
Ankiel, whose postseason experience began with multiple wild pitches as a pitcher with St. Louis in 2000, hit his first career postseason home run for the Braves, who scored three runs in the eighth to tie the game and held off a bases-loaded, one-out threat from the Giants in the 10th.
“It’s hard to describe or put into words,” Ankiel said of his feelings. “The biggest homer of my career by far, and to be honest with you, I wanted to go from the batter’s box to the dugout. I didn’t want to run the bases.”
Atlanta’s offense looked to be headed toward a similar fate as Thursday’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tim Lincecum, scoring no runs through five innings, but the lineup came alive with two hits apiece from Ankiel, Omar Infante, Derrek Lee and Brian McCann. Playing most of the game without manager Bobby Cox, who was ejected in the second inning, the Braves were able to steal home-field advantage away from the Giants, with the series shifting to Turner Field on Sunday and Monday for Games 3 and 4.
Kyle Farnsworth (1-0), the seventh Braves pitcher of the evening, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, including inducing a double-play groundout from rookie sensation Buster Posey to end the 10th with the bases loaded.
Pat Burrell hit a three-run homer in the first inning, but the Giants ended the game with nine consecutive scoreless innings in the loss. Burrell was the only San Francisco player with more than one hit, also doubling later in the contest.
Matt Cain pitched well enough to win, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and two walks while fanning six in 6 2/3 frames. Sergio Romo, however, allowed two runs without recording an out, and closer Brian Wilson gave up another run — unearned — in two frames. Ramon Ramirez (0-1) served up Ankiel’s monster shot to take the loss.
“You have to (bounce back),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s how you do it because it’s part of the game. You know, they came back on us. And, you know, that’s a tough loss, no getting around it, but you have to bounce back.”
The Braves’ offense finally woke up in the eighth, tying the game with a three-run rally off the Giants’ bullpen.
Romo began the inning on the mound, and Lee greeted him with a single to left. McCann followed with a soft single to right, allowing Lee to scamper to third.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy opted to turn to Wilson to get the six-out save, but he came up short. Melky Cabrera sent a soft dribbler down the third- base line, and Pablo Sandoval’s throw pulled Aubrey Huff off first base, allowing Lee to score for a 4-2 game.
Brooks Conrad sacrificed the runners to second and third with a bunt, and Alex Gonzalez followed with an enormous two-run double into the gap in left-center, tying the game at 4-4.
The offenses went into hibernation until the 10th, when the Giants nearly won it.
Billy Wagner began the inning, and Edgar Renteria put down a perfect bunt toward the third base line that went for an infield single. Wagner looked to hold his side after the play, but stayed in the game, and Andres Torres put down another bunt to sacrifice Renteria to second.
On that play, after Wagner threw to first to record the out, he went down to one knee, grabbing his side and grimacing. He was forced to leave the contest with an undisclosed injury.
Farnsworth came on in relief and nailed Freddy Sanchez in the hand, and Sanchez immediately went down in a heap of pain. He stayed in the game, and Huff walked to load the bases with one out, but Posey grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to squander the opportunity.
“(Sanchez) finished the game,” Bochy said. “He’s another guy we’ll check on tomorrow we’ll see how he’s doing.”
Ankiel immediately made San Francisco regret its inefficiencies on offense, sending a moonshot into the water beyond right field with one out off Ramirez in the 11th. Farnsworth stayed on in the home half of the inning and pitched around a one-out single to lock down the victory.
“It’s been a long, fun journey,” Ankiel said “And I appreciate everything that’s happened. And I appreciate the Braves bringing me over here on the deadline. And what a fun thing, what a cool thing to be a part of, from Bobby retiring to all the way here. I mean, I can’t put into words how it feels.”
After both teams struggled to score on Thursday, the Giants jumped out quickly on Friday with one swing of the bat.
Sanchez singled with one away, and Posey drew a two-out walk. Burrell followed by crushing a three-run homer to left, a bomb that went deep into the seats.
Meanwhile, another controversial call by umpire Paul Emmel led to Cox’s ejection from the contest.
With one out, Gonzalez hit a ground ball deep in the hole to short. Juan Uribe came up with it and fired to first, where Huff appeared to come off the base at the last moment. Gonzalez was called out by Emmel, much to his dismay, and he was eventually held back in favor of Cox, who threw his hat down to warrant an ejection.
“I thought he was way off the bag at least six, eight inches,” Cox said. “And he calls him safe, Ankiel gets a base hit, Hanson bunts him over, and Infante, 3-2 game, maybe.”
Emmel was the second base umpire in Thursday’s game and called Posey safe at second when replays showed he was tagged out, leading to the game’s lone run.
Cain eventually got out of the inning unscathed and helped himself in the home second with an RBI single to plate Cody Ross, who had doubled a batter earlier.
The Braves put together their first threat in the fifth, when Infante walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Jason Heyward, however, grounded a Cain offering right to Uribe, who stepped on second and fired to first for the inning-ending double play.
Atlanta, though, finally broke through for its first run of the series in the sixth. Lee singled to begin the frame, moving to second when Burrell dropped the ball in the outfield. McCann followed with an RBI single to cut the Braves’ deficit to three, but Cabrera, Conrad and Gonzalez were all retired in order to end the threat.
Cain was lifted after giving up a two-out single to Infante in the seventh, and Javier Lopez came in and struck out Heyward looking to keep the margin at three.
Cox was ejected for the third time in postseason play. The majors’ all-time leader in ejections, Cox was also thrown out during the 1992 and 1996 World Series…Tommy Hanson, who was hit in the eye during batting practice on Thursday, started and gave up four runs on five hits in four innings…Burrell hit his fifth postseason home run and first with the Giants. He hit four with the Philadelphia Phillies…The Braves had 46 come-from-behind wins in the regular season.