PHILADELPHIA A thought drifted through Santiago Casillas mind with two outs in the 10th inning and Jimmy Rollins stepping to bat.
It wasnt that Casilla had blown five of his previous eightsave attempts. It wasnt the firm reminder that pitching coach Dave Righettiand manager Bruce Bochy had given him to keep mixing his pitches to the veryend. It wasnt the cacophony of voices from back home who want the Giants toget an established closer on the trade market.
Instead, Casilla thought back to the last time he stood onthis mound, in this place. It was Game 2 of the 2010 NL Championship Series,and he gave up the bases-clearing double to Rollins that blew open a tightgame.
With a one-run lead and the tying run on first base, Casillathought this: This is a different game. This is going to be different.
He mixed his pitches to the end.
Casilla bought a strike with his slider, he missed with acurveball, then he came back with a backdoor cutter that Rollins mildly put inplay to seal the Giants 6-5 victory and ensure a pair of series victories onthis tough trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.
RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 6, Philliese 5 (10)
It felt like the Giants played a weeks worth of games in onelate afternoon, for all the back-and-forth action on Saturday. They rallied after Ryan Howards crushing, three-run shot off Matt Cain put thembehind. They tied it on Melky Cabreras solo shot and took the lead againstPhillies closer Jonathan Papelbon with a squeeze of redemption from GregorBlanco.
So when the Giants moved to the bottom of the 10th, they entrusted Casilla to protect more than just aone-run lead on the road. He was protecting their collective effort, theirspirit and their tenacity. To blow this one wouldve been an especially harshshock to the system. It's games like these that make executives spend millions to have "that guy" in the bullpen.
Bochy said he briefly considered letting Sergio Romo hit forhimself in the 10th so he could start the bottom of the inning. But Bochy thought it would be a needless risk. Hehad Casilla rested and ready, and he still believed in him. He wanted to makesure his closer, for all his struggles in the last two weeks, got that message,too.
That should build some confidence, Bochy said. Heregrouped. You could see he came out pitching right away a different guy.
Casilla went curve-slider-curve to retire John Mayberry Jr.on a fly out. Righetti came out for a visit following a walk to PlacidoPolanco, just to remind the right-hander not to get too cheddar-happy.
And when Casilla got two strikes on pinch hitter Ty Wigginton, he didn't go dead red. He buried one ofthose spike curves of his, Wigginton couldn't lay off and Buster Posey blocked it to get the strikeout.
Casilla made an interesting comment after the game. He said he had fallen intothe trap of pitching like it was the sixth or seventh innings, when hitters arestill trying to take pitches or time fastballs. He noted that he gave up only twohome runs last year but already has surrendered six this season.
The ninth is different because they swing hard, he said.Ive learned a little bit. Too many fastballs with two strikes. I have a goodslider. I have a good curve.
Thats why he said he didnt lose confidence, even when hewas giving up the lead with alarming frequency. His stuff wasn't the problem.
I never lose the feeling in my heart, Casilla said. Iknow I can pitch any inning. I dont lose that. You make a mistake here, youhave to pay and I pay!
But I feel good to know the manager, Bochy, he believes inme.
From everything I'm told, that belief is authentic. The Giants really do think theycan make it down the stretch and thrive in the postseason with Casilla in thecloser role. Theyll look to upgrade in the bullpen, for sure, and JonathanBroxton is an arm they like. Other closers, such as Rafael Betancourt andHuston Street, are less obtainable. Brett Myers just got dealt to the WhiteSox. So obtaining another closer isnt as easy as the catalog of names mightsuggest. If help arrives, it's more realistic that it'll come in the form of another right-handed setup man.
I asked Casilla: What would you tell people who arentconvinced you can be this teams closer down the stretch and into the playoffs?
I tell them that sometimes you go through a bad time,Casilla said. "I tell them that I know if I keep pitching, I can help this team.I can do this job. I tell them 'hey, were in first place.'
Casillas save was his 24th in 30 opportunities,third in the NL behind Craig Kimbrel and Joel Hanrahan.
He was in the middle of telling reporters that he didntcare about any statistics except team victories when Clay Hensley, residentwise guy, shouted from across the room: Aw, dont believe him. He just caresabout saves and ERA.
Hensley was smiling all the while. Casilla wasted no timewhile delivering a comeback line:
Hey! We won a World Series here, and you werent here!
Now thats how you mix it up.