MLB Playoffs 2010: Atlanta Braves Defy the Odds, Ride Momentum Back Home

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MLB Playoffs 2010: Atlanta Braves Defy the Odds, Ride Momentum Back Home
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rick Ankiel was never supposed to be an outfielder.

Troy Glaus was not supposed to be a third baseman.

Brian Wilson was not supposed to be human.

The National League Division Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves is not supposed to be tied—but it is.

The Giants were only five outs away from taking a 2-0 lead in the NLDS, and taking one more step towards sweeping the Braves, but the team with the second-most comeback victories in all of baseball was not going to go down without a fight.

The Giants led 4-1 all the way into the eighth inning before shortstop Alex Gonzalez tied the game up in the Braves' three-run eight inning with a two-run double off the NL saves leader, Brian Wilson. Twenty-two-year-old Craig Kimbrel shut down the Giants lineup for two innings to carry the game into the 11th inning.

The rest could very well be history.

With one out in the top of the 11th, Rick Ankiel, the former St. Louis Cardinals pitching phenom, hit the go-ahead home run on a 2-2 fastball from Ramon Ramirez out of AT&T park and into McCovey Cove—only the fourth postseason go-ahead home run in extra innings in Braves franchise history.

Ankiel's former Kansas City teammate, Kyle Farnsworth, pitched a scoreless 11th to give Atlanta the victory and swing the momentum their way as the Giants come to Turner Field and try to get back on track.

Isn't baseball a funny game?

As far as pitching matchups go for the rest of the series, the Braves may have the edge over the incredible Giants pitching staff.

In Game 3 on Sunday, Braves ace Tim Hudson will duel it out with the resurgent Jonathan Sanchez, but now that Game 4 is set in stone, managers Bobby Cox and Bruce Bochy have an important decision to make—who will start?

Cox is likely to bring back Derek Lowe on short rest. Lowe threw only 96 pitches in Game 1 and is 4-1 with a 4.30 ERA in seven starts on short rest. 

Bochy has a more difficult decision to make. He has not ruled out bringing back Tim Lincecum on short rest, though Lincecum never has been used on three days' rest and threw 119 pitches in his spectacular Game 1 start. His other choice is rookie Madison Bumgarner (7-6, 3.00 ERA), who would be getting the ball on nine days' rest.

Suddenly the pitching matchups and home-field advantage have turned for Atlanta—Hudson against Sanchez in Game 3, and possibly Bumgarner against Lowe in Game 4.

The Braves are the best team in baseball on their own diamond, so there is nothing they would love more than to end this series on Monday night—in their house.

 

News and Notes:

  • Braves closer Billy Wagner left Game 2 with an oblique injury and he will not return for the rest of the series or, if the Braves reach the NLCS. Takashi Saito will replace Wagner on the roster.
  • The likeliest candidate to take over closing duties is rookie Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel threw 33 pitches in two innings of relief on Friday night—and the Giants only put two of those pitches into play. Since being called up in May, Kimbrel has pitched 23 1/3 innings and struck out 45 men.
  • Jason Heyward has yet to record a hit in his first postseason. The Giants' Buster Posey is 3-for-8 with two runs scored.
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