It didn’t take long for a seemingly hopeless situation to become a memorable win for the 2010 Atlanta Braves in this episode Braves look backs.
(*if you’re needing a baseball fix, the whole game can be found here).
That’s the way their NLDS was against the San Francisco Giants, still the only postseason series in MLB history where every game was decided by one run. It didn’t look like game two would fall into that category when the Braves trailed 4-1 after seven innings, but they rallied to force extra innings before Rick Ankiel homered deep into McCovey Cove.
Ankiel’s blast is the lasting image of two game two, but so much had to go right for the Braves to even get in position to win the game. Most of that got lost in a series filled with tight plays and sudden changes, but there were a lot of huge moments in game two that led the Braves to their first playoff win in five years. Here are nine things you may not remember about that night at AT&T Park
Braves Look Backs: San Francisco’s bullpen was virtually unhittable
Remember when I said it was a seemingly hopeless situation for the Braves? That might be understating it. Tim Lincecum fired a complete game shutout in game one, and Matt Cain kept the Braves quiet into the seventh inning the next night.
By the time Atlanta’s bats finally got to start an inning against a San Francisco reliever, they were six outs away from heading to Turner Field down 0-2. And that bullpen the Braves had to find three runs off of was coming off of a September for the ages.
The Giants’ bullpen pitched 82 innings in September, and allowed just nine earned runs. And six of those came in one rough game at Coors Field. Away from Coors? Three earned runs in 76 innings for a 0.36 ERA. And at AT&T Park, where the Braves had to score three? One run in 42 ⅔ innings for a September ERA of 0.21.
Those numbers don’t even seem possible, but that’s the mountain the Braves had to climb in the final two innings. They needed a miracle.
Braves Look Backs: The Giants did provide one big break in the eighth
In all too typical Melky fashion, he hit a soft roller to the left side. It was slow enough to score Lee from third, but Cabrera looked like he would be out at first with a strong throw across the diamond.
But Pablo Sandoval couldn’t deliver that strong throw, as he delivered one just wide of first base. It was enough to pull Aubrey Huff off the bag, and Cabrera—carrying the trying run—reached base on what should’ve been a groundout.
It was always going to take a little bit of luck for the Braves to find a way through a bullpen that good, and Sandoval provided it at the crucial moment.
Braves Look Backs: Atlanta’s first run also came off an error
It was Lee and McCann teaming up in the sixth to get the Braves their first run of the series, as they knocked back-to-back singles just as they would in the eighth. But Lee’s single turned into a double when Pat Burrell made a mistake in left.
Lee was already pulling up to stop after rounding first, but Burrell dropped the ball as he was going up to throw it back into the infield, giving Lee just enough time to hustle into second.
McCann knocked him in on the next pitch, and the comeback was on.
Pat Burrell’s error also helped Atlanta in another way
Beyond getting the Braves a run, the error in left also got Burrell out of the lineup for the rest of the night.
Burrell was by far the most dangerous hitter on either side through the first 15 innings of the series. He was the only man with multiple extra base hits, and his three-run home run in the first inning is what put the Braves in the early hole.
But Burrell was never a strong fielder, and that error was enough for Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Burrell hit a double in the bottom of the sixth, and then Nate Schierholtz entered the game as a pinch runner and stayed in as a defensive replacement. Schiertholtz posed much less of a threat at the plate, and that proved to be true as he was 0-for-2 in his at-bats.
Would Bochy have taken his hottest hitter out of the lineup for defense without the error? It’s possible. The Giants did have a lead to protect, and there wasn’t much of a reason to think their usually impenetrable bullpen was crack. But after his mishap in left, the decision was made.
Atlanta’s bullpen was stellar
While the Giants only had to get the bullpen involved from the eighth inning on, it was a different story for the Braves. Tommy Hanson only made it through four innings, allowing four runs in his time.
It was 4-0 Giants when Mike Dunn took the ball to start the fifth for Atlanta, and what followed was a parade of fantastic relief work for the Braves. It’s probably the most forgotten part of this game, just how much good work Atlanta’s relief corps did while the offense pulled the four runs back.
In total, six different relievers combined for seven innings of shutout work, allowing just five hits and one walk. Peter Moylan got a big strikeout with a runner in scoring position in the sixth, Jonny Venters got two huge outs with runners on the corners in the seventh, and of course Kyle Farnsworth induced a 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded in the 10th.
The four runs the offense put up gave the Braves a chance, but they would’ve been a footnote in this game’s history without the seven brilliant innings from the bullpen.
Troy Glaus only entered the game in the 10th, and he called his shot
The aforementioned double play Farnsworth induced in the 10th was by far the most important play of this game for the Braves, even more than Ankiel’s home run. Glaus fielded the ground ball off the bat of Buster Posey, and he fired it to Omar Infante at second in time for him to make the turn to Lee at first.
But Glaus didn’t even start the game. He didn’t play in game one either, meaning his first action of the series was checking in as a defensive replacement for Brooks Conrad in the 10th. Glaus checked in for Conrad at third, sliding Infante over from third to second.
And when Atlanta’s infield gathered for a meeting on the mound with the bases loaded in the 10th, Glaus knew what he was doing.
We’ll never know exactly what Glaus says here, but it appears he is pointing at Infante (off camera) telling him that he would go to second if there was an opportunity for a double play. On the broadcast, Bob Brenly had an idea of what Glaus said.
“On a slow hit ball I’m going to go home, on a hard hit ball I’m coming to second base,” Brenly said of the Glaus conversation on TBS. “No hesitation whatsoever on the part of Troy Glaus.”
Glaus could’ve tried to come home and turn a 5-2-3 double play when he got the ball, but he knew he wanted to go around the horn.
And as far as we can tell, he made sure Infante knew it too.
Brian McCann may have saved the game seconds before that
The 1-1 pitch from Farnsworth to Posey saved the game for the Braves. The 0-1 pitch almost lost it for them.
Farnsworth bounced a slider into the left handed batter’s box, and McCann got down to make a great block. Brenly—a former catcher—again had high praise for the Atlanta defense.
“That hard slider over in the left handed batter’s box, where hitters have been digging toe holds all night long, it’s very busted up, torn up right now,” he said on the terrain. “Nice job by McCann to stay in front of that one.”
McCann gave Farnsworth a second life in the inning, and he immediately returned the favor.
Bobby Cox watched almost the entire game in the clubhouse
Never one to shy away from arguing a close call, Cox completed the final game he would ever “manage” away from Atlanta the only way he could. With an ejection.
The skipper was tossed after arguing a close call at first base in the top of the second, as Alex Gonzalez was called out on a play that wasn’t reviewable in 2010.
Some of it was carryover frustration from the night before, when the only run of the game was scored after Posey was called safe on a stolen base attempt that looked like the wrong call.
But whatever it was, the last win of Cox’s managerial career was actually handled by bench coach Chino Cadahia for almost 10 full innings.
Alex Gonzalez tied the game after badly missing on the same pitch just before
Pretty much the only big play in this game I haven’t covered was the game-tying double by Gonzalez in the eighth, so let’s uncover one tidbit about that at-bat to wrap this up.
Brian Wilson ripped a fastball past him on the first pitch of the critical at-bat. It was 98 MPH up in the zone, and Gonzalez was way late on it. As he did all night, Brenly offered another insightful comment after the shoddy swing to start the at-bat.
“He’s going to have to turn it up a little bit if he wants to catch up with that 98 MPH fastball up around the letters,” Brenly said.
A few seconds later, Wilson threw almost identical pitch. 97 MPH and up around the letters.
But Gonzalez caught up to this one. He smoked it into the gap to even up the game, and set up the opportunity for the Braves to even up the series.
Thanks for reading this episode of Braves Look Backs at an historic game for the Braves. If you. enjoyed this, take a look at other look backs including this one on the 1995 World Series.