Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 9, Braves 4 (11)

Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 9, Braves 4 (11)
July 19, 2012, 4:35 am
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ATLANTA It felt exactly like one of those wild, one-strike-away games from the 2010 NL Division Series.It certainly was all torture and rapture for Brandon Crawford in the 11th inning of an instant classic Wednesday night.Crawford, who entered the game as a defensive replacement, bent at the waist for several moments after fouling a ball off his knee. The Giants were out of position players, so he had to grit his teeth and step back in the box.Wouldnt you know it? Crawford sent the next pitch screaming into the right field seats for a tiebreaking, three-run home run his first since April 11, or 249 at-bats ago and the Giants poured on more for a 9-4, 11-inning victory at Turner Field.It was the craziest moment in a game that wont be forgotten anytime soon.Plenty of wildness preceded Crawfords limp around the bases.The Giants survived a death scare in the bottom of the ninth inning, nearly losing in walk-off style a half-dozen times. But somehow, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez coaxed the game into extra innings.They created a two-run lead in the 10th, only to watch Santiago Casilla let it slip away when Freddie Freeman hit a two-out, two-strike double and Brian McCann followed with a concussive home run. It was Casillas fifth blown save in his last eight opportunities.This was wild in more ways than one. The Giants set themselves up for a potential three-game sweep in Fulton County something they havent accomplished since June, 1988.Theyve already clinched just their second series victory in 16 years at Turner Field; the Giants entered with a 1-14-3 series record in the land of the Chop, winning their only other series in 2008.The Giants are 6-1 in extra innings this year; the Braves had been 4-0 in extras before losing.Starting pitching reportAlthough he was a fading memory by the end of the game, Ryan Vogelsong was a terrier-bulldog hybrid on the mound yet again. He pitched with his heels dug in over six innings, slipping only when Juan Francisco led off the third inning with a home run.The rest was pure Vogelsong. He pulled a gritty escape in the fourth after Jason Heyward chopped an infield single and stole second base. Vogelsong appeared to have Brian McCann struck out on a 2-2 pitch, but the umpire ruled that the Braves catcher checked his swing. Refusing to give in, Vogelsong ended up issuing a walk.He decided to toy with slumping second baseman Dan Uggla instead, shattering his bat on a first-pitch foul and eventually guiding a changeup under his swing to strike him out. Francisco hit a deep fly out to the warning track to end the threat.A leadoff walk to Heyward and another stolen base provided the Braves with a perfect opportunity in the sixth. But Vogelsong retired the heart of Atlantas order, finishing his night with a painted third strike to Uggla.Vogelsong has thrown at least six innings in all 17 of his starts; he also nudged down his ERA to 2.31, which ranks third in the NL.Bullpen reportJeremy Affeldt threw 2 13 scoreless innings before yielding to Romo with one out in the ninth. Then the wildness began.An old nemesis awaited Romo. Uggla was 3 for 4 with two homers off him, so the right-hander understandably pitched carefully. He came back from a 3-0 count to run it full before missing with a pitch that plunked Uggla on the left leg.Romo looked totally out of sorts while missing badly on the first two pitches to Chipper Jones, then the Braves came within a foam tomahawks length of winning the game when Jones sent a foul drive into the right field corner.Jones ended up reaching when he tapped one to the right side and second baseman Theriot either screened by the baserunner or the spectre of Conrad fumbled the ball for an error.Romo and catcher Eli Whiteside, who was catching his first major league inning of 2012, appeared to get crossed up on a very high pitch that allowed both runners to advance. But Romo came back to get Paul Janish to strike out on three tentative swings at sweeping sliders including one that Whiteside blocked in the dirt, saving the game.The next batter was pinch hitter Eric Hinske, who hit a home run off Romo that nearly cost the Giants a Game 3 victory in the 2010 NLDS. Giants manager Bruce Bochy wasted no time summoning Javier Lopez, who issued an intentional walk when the Braves burned Hinske in favor of Tyler Pastornicky.With the bases loaded, Lopez battled Michael Bourn for a nine-pitch at-bat that included four two-strike fouls before finally striking him out on a two-seamer, saving the game.We told you it was wild.Casilla appeared to be on his way to a quiet 10th inning and a save, but Freeman and McCann flipped the script. McCanns opposite-field shot sent the crowd into a frenzy.It was the sixth home run allowed by Casilla this season; the rest of the Giants bullpen has allowed just 12 homers all season.Brad Penny allowed a solo homer to Jones in the ninth, tying him with George Brett for third place on the all-time RBI list among third basemen. But Penny was operating with a six-run lead at the time.At the plateAtlanta left-hander Mike Minor entered with a 5.97 ERA that ranked 99th among 100 major league starters who qualified for the ERA title. (Tim Lincecum was 98th.)But Minor mystified the Giants, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning before Buster Posey led off with a well struck double down the right field line.That was a prelude to poor situational hitting, though. Pablo Sandoval struck out looking, Brandon Belt looked at two strikes before swinging through another, and after an intentional walk to Joaquin Arias loaded the bases, Vogelsong popped up.Melky Cabreras home run tied it in the sixth, but the Giants blew another chance in the seventh after Sandoval lined a leadoff double to left field. Angel Pagan failed to advance the runner with a pop up to short, and after Belt did well to draw a walk, the bottom of the order came up empty again. Arias grounded into a fielders choice and pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz tapped out to first base to strand runners at the corners.Giants pinch hitters entered the game with a .176 average this season showing why GM Brian Sabean must upgrade the bench for the stretch drive.Posey led off the ninth with a single off flamethrowing closer Craig Kimbrel and Bochy pinch-ran Gregor Blanco for him, but Blanco was nearly thrown out twice on pickoff throws and then Sandoval grounded into a double play.The Giants finally brought a runner home in the 10th after Arias hit a one-out triple.Jones, the Braves venerated third baseman, made a barehand grab of Justin Christians tapper down the line but his Skee-ball toss to the plate comically soared over the catchers head as the Giants scored the tiebreaking run. Cabrera, the former Brave who was booed loudly after his home run in the sixth, added an RBI single for his 42nd multi-hit game of the season.It turned out to be an important second run.The Giants set up Crawfords homer in the 11th when Whiteside was hit by a pitch and Belt drew a walk against Anthony Varvaro. Chad Durbin threw a first-pitch cutter that Crawford fouled high off his leg, but inexplicably, Durbin didnt come back with another inside pitch. Crawford hammered the next one into the right field stands.Following an error and an intentional walk, Blanco launched a three-run home run to allow the Giants to exhale at least a bit for the first time all night.In fieldJones is in the twilight of his career, but hes still able to handle anything within fall-down range. After entering the game as a pinch hitter in the seventh, he took a hit away from Justin Christian with a diving stop to begin the eighth.Cabrera got an earful from the crowd after dropping Heywards fly ball in the eighth following a long run, but his tough two-base error didnt end up costing the Giants a run.Jones error cost the Braves dearly in the 10th, though Arias might have scored anyway.AttendanceThe Braves announced 29,410 paid, most of whom sat through a rain delay of one hour, 16 minutes prior to the first pitch. The clever scoreboard folks entertained themselves with an oblivious cam that timed how long it took bored fans to realize they were on the huge outfield screen.Up nextThe Giants conclude their series at Turner Field with a Thursday game in sunshine. (Now theres a hopeful thought.) Madison Bumgarner (11-5, 3.15) takes the mound against right-hander Tim Hudson (7-4. 3.80). Bumgarner will try to become the first Giants pitcher to claim a victory in a sweep in Atlanta since Don Caveman Robinson on June 29, 1988.

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