Oct. 11, 2010RATTO ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMLB POSTSEASONRay Ratto
ATLANTA -- In the end, the Giants remembered their manners. They celebrated at the mound after Brian Wilson choke-slammed the rally he had brought to life, and then they stopped and applauded Bobby Cox one last time.
Cox, the Atlanta manager since forever, stood a few steps in front of the Braves dugout after his team went down, 3-2, in the final game of the NL Division Series, waved his hat over his head in a circle the way managers used to, and the Giants stopped what they were doing and saluted him.
And Cox remembered his manners too. He didnt milk the applause. He pointed at the victors and nodded, and then turned and descended the dugout stairs for the final time, and the Giants returned to the matter at hand.
Assembling themselves for Philadelphia, and a battle that will be far more difficult, and probably nowhere near as bizarre.
The Giants beat the Braves thrice in four one-run games, with a different hero each time. Tim Lincecum in One, Aubrey Huff (assist Brooks Conrad) in Three, and Cody Ross in Four. Ross homered to break up Derek Lowes no-hitter on a first-pitch cutter, and slapped the game-winning single to left in the seventh off Jonny Venters.
In doing so, he became a kind of folk hero in these parts (San Francisco, not Atlanta), the desperation pickup designed to foil the Padres who became the square peg for so many square holes. With the improbable combination of shaved head and beard that always makes a guy look like he left the house with his head upside down, Ross won hearts and minds in a town that normally goes for younger, more fashionable types.
Their loss, too, because Ross is exactly the kind of guy who makes playoff teams have deep playoff runs. He took the eighth place in the order and made it a useful part of an often non-useful offense. He put the ball in play most of the time; he struck out only twice the entire series, fewer than any starters except Pablo Sandoval, who played only two of the four games.
And Monday he provided the dent needed to show his mates that Lowe could be hit. That mattered because this was a starting pitchers series in the extreme; the eight starters combined to allow only 10 earned runs in 51 23 innings, an ERA of 1.75, and only one, Tommy Hanson in Game 2, didnt make it to the sixth.
Ross, though, also justified his place on the roster both in this series and whatever else awaits the Giants. They open Saturday against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, and it is unlikely to see any changes in the roster unless some as-yet-unknown injury arises between now and Saturday morning.
The rotation is set up -- Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and, based on Mondays work product if nothing else, Madison Bumgarner in Game 4. Assuming the Phillies do nothing different after sweeping the Reds, Charlie Manuel will deal out Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and ... well, maybe Halladay again.
But there are five days to pound that one home. For now, the Giants have worked their way back to an NLCS for the first time since Barry Bonds was walking four out of every three times at bat. They have been put through a proper amount of hell by a badly undermanned Atlanta team, and by rights probably should have had to win Monday to get to play Game 5 Wednesday.
That is, unless you want to insist that they should have won Game 2. Thats parallel universe stuff, and youre welcome to all of it you can eat.
But no matter how messy the kitchen looks, the meal ended up being satisfying. Not too rich, certainly not too heavy, and probably not enough to meet the nutritional and caloric needs for the upcoming series, but just enough to win the series they should have won.
The hard way, and white-knuckling it down to the end, with Wilson walking Rick Ankiel, the Braves hero in Game 2, and Eric Hinske, the almost hero of Game 3, before bringing Omar Infante and Melky Cabrera to heel. It was a 25-pitch save, the kind that used to make Wilsonians yank their hair out in clumps, but it was entirely apropos for the evening.
But torture? That ones been exhausted, as weve already said. You want torture, wait until Saturday. You want to feel like your boys earned their way in, wait until Saturday.
In other words, the funs just started, masochists. Be not fooled by their genteel sendoff for Bobby Cox, a man like few others. Therell be blood on the walls from here on out.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.