Seasoned fans of any Major League Baseball team have been there before. It’s a statistical rarity that might happen to a team maybe once every two or three baseball seasons, and you’re damn lucky if you were accidently at that game, watched it live on TV or happened to be listening to the radio that day.
After a tight pitchers’ duel, your team has coughed up the lead late and time starts running out. The other team is trying to hold back their celebration as the final outs tick off one by one. Then it’s the ninth inning and there are two outs; then there are two strikes on the last batter.
Then miracles start to fall out of the sky like neon raindrops and magic starts happening right in front of your eyes. And your team somehow pulls a win out of very thin air and you are left emotionally exhausted and breathless.
Let’s add two small additional elements to that rare scenario. Your team is playing away, and by the way it’s also game three of the 2010 National League Division Series which is knotted up 1-1.
And that’s how the San Francisco Giants pulled off the Miracle of Turner’s Bluff in Sunday’s NLDS Game 3 at Atlanta. Forget about Braves’ second baseman Brooks Conrad’s slippery glove, and anything else that might distract from the real magic of Game 3.
Starter Jonathan Sanchez had a no hitter to the 6th inning, and gave up two hits in 7 1/3 innings before he was pulled. With 11 strikeouts, Sanchez became the second left hander in franchise history to have at least 10 Ks in a post season contest; the legendary Carl Hubbell did it first in the 1933 World Series.
In the top of the 9th the Giants were down 2-1 after a pinch hit home run by Eric Hinske off Giant’s reliever Sergio Romo in the bottom of the 8th. With one out, Travis Ishikawa managed a walk, then Andres Torres struck out. Two down.
The first indication of magic came off the bat of second baseman Freddie Sanchez, who singled up the middle with two strikes on him– mere inches from the Giants dropping Game 3 and going to Defcon 1, desperately forced to pitch ace Tim Lincecum with only three days’ rest in Game 4 the next day.
Braves’ Manager Bobby Cox went to his second reliever of the inning to face first bagger Aubrey Huff. Huff came through with miracle #2 as he blooped a single to right field and Ishikawa scored to tie the game. The SF Chronicle’s John Shea reported that when Huff, who has never before played in the post season, was asked after the game if that was the biggest hit of his 11 year MLB career, responded with characteristic crustyness: “Shut your mouth. What else would be a bigger hit?”
Which left the amazing Buster Posey to follow Huff with a ground ball hit hard enough to go straight though Brooks Conrad’s legs, and the Giants took the lead 3-2. Posey is batting .417 in three LDS games.
Closer Brian Wilson needed 18 pitches in the bottom of the 9th to dispose of the Braves, and the Giants went up 2-1 in the LDS.
In fifty-three years of baseball, no San Francisco team has come back in a post-season game after being behind in the 9th inning. Except this amazing team, who created this “miracle” the old fashioned way: with grit, determination and a dogged refusal to give up no matter what.