Ratto: Retribution? Luck? No, Giants Baseball

October 11, 2010, 2:00 am
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ATLANTA -- In the shards of broken glass, and the breathtaking prisms they emitted, that became Game 3 of the Giants-Braves series, it is hard to know which chunk to remember best.

But lets put it this way. Youd have to work hard to guess wrong.

It will be known to neutral observers everywhere as the Brooks Conrad Game, because of his three errors that contributed the first and then the winning run in the Giants 3-2 win. The killer came from Buster Posey, a sharp but unambiguous shot that nutmegged Conrad with two outs in the ninth and Freddy Sanchez at second.

Non-neutral observers (read: Giants fans) will view it as some form of divine retribution for any number of galling defeats of the past, but they will be wrong because, frankly, nobody should take too much credit for winning a game like this.

I mean, the Posey ground ball that goes through Conrads legs? God works in that mysterious a way? He has that kind of grudge on Brooks Conrad? Really?

Frankly, there is no way to explain this game save in the words of Brian Sabean, staring at a folded up piece of paper with a simple legend on it: Stranger than fiction.

That right there tells you what pressure is, he said, more dumbfounded than profound. I mean, how the hell does all that happen?

Its a question that will haunt Conrad, and Atlanta manager Bobby Cox for, well, about forever.

Not much (to say to Conrad), he said. Everybodys talked to him. Weve encouraged him as much as we can.

But does he return for Game Four? Ill have to sleep on it.

He wont sleep, though, and neither will Bruce Bochy, who said afterward with an odd smile, The baseball gods did me a pretty big favor there.

This was too ridiculous rich a game for sleep. Jonathan Sanchez pitched brilliantly and came out before the fun really started. Sergio Romo, the season-long eighth-inning man, mangled his second consecutive game by giving up what would have been the game-winning homer to pinch-hitter Eric Hinske.

And Hinske ended up being the not-quite hero, the owner of a story hell need a quart of Old Overcoat to tell his grandchildren: I hit the game-winning homer, and then we didnt win.

And Romo, who hung the slider to Hinske, may find himself the not-so-go-to-guy in the eighth inning, even though he managed to get the win.

Craig Kimbrel, who may well be the Braves closer of the future, got his first big shot at the job with the career-ending injury to Billy Wagner, and couldnt navigate the ninth inning. And Madison Bumgarner went from not seeing the light of day to starting Game 4 Monday night for the Giants.

Travis Ishikawa, the defensive specialist, coaxed a walk from a 1-2 count, and Freddy Sanchez, who looked quite overwhelmed by Kimbrel, snuck a ground ball through the middle to set up Huffs tying single.

Theres Brian Wilson, who got back on the horse after his Game 2 disaster and muscled the Braves into submission. There are even the absentees, like Wagner, whose blown oblique blew the Braves bullpen to shards, and second baseman Martin Prado, whose season-ending hip pointer exposed Conrad to a potentially career-shattering afternoon.

There is so much one can chew on (including a series of vice-grip managerial decisions that will overheat smaller minds) that digesting the game is impossible. Theres no time, not with 22 hours and descending before Game 4.

But know this. The Giants have pretty much run out of ways to exhibit the battle cry Torture, and that one should be retired with full honors. If they win another game like this, it will be a clich, and if they lose one, they cant complain. A lot of chits were called in Sunday night, and there were plenty of victims to go with the heroes.

Starting, and maybe even ending, with Brooks Conrad, who is either owed a lot of very good days from the baseball gods who covered Bochys behind, or will be forever hunted by the worst day a player can have.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area