Braves' midseason acquistions play huge role in come-from-behind win
SAN FRANCISCO --
The thirtysomethings weren't oblivious to the reality of the game, of course, and understood their value to a contending team, so they spent their time amongst the suds wondering if and where they might get traded.
Little did they know how it would turn out, that they'd be bundled together and shipped to the Braves and play a deciding role in Friday night's dramatic comeback win. Farnsworth, who with no notice replaced an injured
"We probably thought we'd be in the playoffs," Farnsworth said of his trade-deadline conversation with Ankiel, "but we never expected this."
Ankiel wasn't even sure about the first count.
"My initial feeling was that I wouldn't get traded," he said late Friday night, foam from a celebratory shaving-cream pie still dangling from the hair on the back of his head. "I had only been healthy for a week after a quad injury. The way it worked out was a blessing."
It was a game of firsts -- and maybe a few lasts. Ankiel's blast was not only his first career postseason home run but also his first postseason hit of any kind. For four pitches Giants reliever
Ankiel only contributed a .210 average and two homers in 47 games with Atlanta, but his manager was confident his latent power would rear its head at some point.
"You know, I talked to [Royals manager]
A determined Giants fan fished the ball out of McCovey's Cove and began a relay to throw the ball -- or at least a ball, as the origin of is difficult to guarantee -- back over the stadium's exterior wall and eventually land in front of San Francisco right fielder
Wagner, the veteran closer set to retire at season's end, may have thrown his last pitch sooner than expected. After fielding a bunt in the 10th inning, he fired to first base but immediately clutched his side, slinking to the ground in obvious pain, then exiting the game.
Farnsworth was staying periodically loose in the bullpen, stretching every five minutes or so, he reckoned, when he was inserted into the ballgame without having thrown a pitch until his first warm-up toss on the game mound. This was not Farnsworth's first trade-deadline deal -- it was his third, actually -- but after getting the final five outs, he nabbed his first career postseason win.
The Giants had positioned themselves perfectly in the early going, thanks to a three-run homer from
Cain couldn't quite match the historic performance of
With two out and two on in a three-run ballgame in the top of the eighth, Giants manager
But Wilson couldn't finish the job on this night. A slow roller to
"Frank said he was going to add depth," Braves left fielder
The Gonzalez at-bat against Wilson and the Ankiel home run showed two things: 1) The Giants' pitching staff, which seemed nearly untouchable through the first 16 innings of the series, is not invincible even against this injury-depleted Braves lineup; and 2) Atlanta's re-tooled roster is plucky, with just enough punch to pull a comeback.
That wasn't reassuring in the early innings. Before Braves catcher
Cox argued plenty and the tantrum seemed to have run its course, but Cox was still in the game, so he removed his cap and spiked it into the ground. Emmel promptly ejected him.
"Well, I brought that up," Cox said of the previous night's error. "The only run that scored last night, he was out. But still I respect the umpires, and they're human. So am I. And I'm not always right."
Certainly not, but Cox's faith in Ankiel -- who despite his weak offensive stats this season has started both games in center field -- was one decision that's been right.
For Ankiel it was, he said, undoubtedly the biggest home run of his career. It's no doubt his finest postseason moment, too, as in his first run as a pitcher, it was in an NLDS game against the Braves that he developed his uncontrollable wildness and the mental block that derailed his pitching career, ultimately sending him back to the minors and to the outfield for a second chance.
"It's been a long, fun journey," Ankiel said. "And I appreciate everything that's happened. 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."
For now, a pair of numbers -- the series score of 1-1 -- will suffice.