Lots to 2nd guess: Giants give up lead, win on E

Lots to 2nd guess: Giants give up lead, win on E

ATLANTA -- The Giants proved Sunday that they had plenty of perseverance left.

Having overcome numerous obstacles to reach this point, they scaled even more in a messy but thrilling 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

After pinch-hitter Eric Hinske's two-run homer in the eighth inning put Atlanta ahead, the Giants relied on Travis Ishikawa's walk, singles by Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff and Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad's third error of the game to score twice with two outs.


The Giants grabbed a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series and can advance to the NL Championship Series with a victory Monday. After much speculation, rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner will start for the Giants. The worst-case scenario for the Giants is facing Atlanta in a fifth and deciding game Wednesday at AT&T Park. San Francisco would have ace Tim Lincecum on the mound for that one, guaranteeing plenty of confidence.

But the Giants relished the opportunity to end this series in Game 4.

"My legs are still shaking a little bit, to be honest with you," Ishikawa said, more than a half-hour after Sunday's final out. "I'm definitely going to be excited to come to the ballpark tomorrow."

Said manager Bruce Bochy, "We have all the confidence in the world that Madison will give us everything he's got. This kid has no fear."

Fabulous like 'The Freak'
Most strikeouts in a postseason game in Giants history
Pitcher Date Opp. SO
Tim Lincecum 10/7/2010 Braves 14
Jonathan Sanchez 10/10/2010 Braves 11
Jack Sanford 10/10/1962 Yankees 10
Hal Schumacher 10/5/1936 Yankees 10
Carl Hubbell 10/3/1933 Senators 10
Jesse Barnes 10/11/1921 Yankees 10

The Giants could have had plenty to fear at Turner Field after apparently spoiling Jonathan Sanchez's scintillating 11-strikeout effort. Sanchez, who set a franchise postseason record for most strikeouts in a game by a left-hander, took a one-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning. But he yielded Alex Gonzalez's leadoff single and was removed one out later.

With right-handed-batting Troy Glaus in the on-deck circle, Bochy summoned right-hander Sergio Romo, who allowed singles to Derrek Lee and Brian McCann to open the eighth inning of Game 2. That launched Atlanta's three-run rally that tied the score and set up Atlanta's 11-inning victory.

Second-guessers probably swooned when the left-handed-swinging Hinske replaced Glaus. Romo hung a 2-2 slider that Hinske lined up the right-field line and over the wall for his second career postseason homer. Sensing impending victory, the sellout crowd at Turner Field howled gleefully.

"That put a lot of heads down," Huff said.

Romo, who was unscored upon in 48 of his final 54 regular-season outings, kept his chin elevated by finishing the eighth inning without fuss. That left matters up to the hitters, who mustered six hits in the first eight innings and scored only once in the first two innings despite putting seven runners on base in that span against Braves starter Tim Hudson.

Rookie right-hander Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta's first choice to replace injured closer Billy Wagner, sandwiched outs around a walk that Ishikawa drew on a 3-2 pitch.

"Everybody was telling me that it was going to be a big day for me," said Ishikawa, acknowledging the vibe of wearing No. 10 on Oct. 10, 2010.

Freddy Sanchez fell behind 0-2. But he didn't stress over being one strike away from making the out that would put the Giants behind in the series.

"I was pretty calm," he said. "I want to be in those situations. Two strikes or not, you've still got another strike."

Sanchez singled to center on a 1-2 pitch, bringing Huff to the plate and left-hander Mike Dunn from the Braves bullpen. Huff's single to right field scored Ishikawa with the tying run.

"Shut your mouth! Of course," Huff replied when asked if that was the most important hit of his career. "Biggest up to now was the San Diego double [for an RBI in last Sunday's NL West clincher], and this one tops it."

Then Buster Posey hit a smash directly to the embattled Conrad, who mishandled a first-inning grounder, dropped a second-inning popup that enabled a run to score and popped up an eighth-inning bunt attempt. This time, the ball scooted between Conrad's legs into right-center field, scoring Sanchez.

"I thought he was going to make the play," Posey said of Conrad. "You don't ever wish that upon somebody. That's the way the game is sometimes."

Maybe; maybe not. The Giants notched 37 come-from-behind victories and 20 wins in their final at-bat during the regular season. But in Brian Wilson's opinion, nothing topped this one.

"I haven't seen us do that too much: 0-2, down by one, two outs," he said, referring to Sanchez's plate appearance. "To be able to come back right there is huge, especially [given] the timing of the season. Game 3."

Wilson breezed through the Braves' half of the ninth to record the save.

"I did my job description. I didn't do anything special," he said.

Enough of his teammates certainly did.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.