Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – Cody Ross homered and drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning, as the San Francisco Giants came back again in Game 4 to clinch their National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves with a 3-2 decision at Turner Field.
The Giants scored twice in the seventh — aided by a Braves error — to erase a 2-1 deficit, and their relievers held up the one-run margin despite Brian Wilson’s shaky ninth to send the club to its first NL Championship Series since 2002.
Madison Bumgarner (1-0), the youngest playoff starter in Giants history, went six frames and allowed six hits and two runs to pick up the victory.
Brian McCann went 2-for-3 with a homer and drove in two runs, but it wasn’t enough to extend Atlanta’s season, nor manager Bobby Cox’s days on the bench.
Derek Lowe (0-2), pitching on three days’ rest, took a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up a one-out solo homer to Ross. He left with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and was charged with two more runs — one earned — when Peter Moylan and Jonny Venters failed to maintain Atlanta’s 2-1 lead.
“We played a really good ballgame…It just didn’t happen,” said Cox, who indicated late last season that the 2010 campaign was his last. “I’m proud of the team…They played their hearts out, and I’ll miss them.”
Each game in the well-pitched series was decided by one run, and it was Atlanta’s miscues in the field over the last two games that proved critical.
Brooks Conrad had three errors in Game 3, including one that went through his legs in the ninth to bring in the go-ahead run in a 3-2 Giants win.
On Monday, it was Alex Gonzalez’s throwing error in the seventh that extended the frame and allowed the visitors to jump in front.
“This series had everything,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Just the intensity and excitement of the series, it had to be thrilling for the fans. There was never an easy moment for Bobby or myself, because these games could have gone either way. We were fortunate to have come out on top. We know it.”
Lowe walked Aubrey Huff with one out in the pivotal inning, then gave up a swinging bunt to Buster Posey down the third base line.
Cox came out to check on his starter and after a brief discussion left him in the game, a costly mistake by the well-decorated skipper that proved as such when Lowe issued a free pass to Pat Burrell on five pitches.
Moylan was brought in to face Juan Uribe, who hit a grounder in the hole between third and short. Gonzalez made a sliding backhanded stab but his throw to second narrowly pulled Omar Infante off the bag, allowing Burrell to slide in safely and bringing in Huff with the tying run.
After Venters struck out pinch-hitter Aaron Rowand for the second out, Ross punched a single through the left side of the infield to knock in Posey. Matt Diaz threw out Burrell at the plate on the play, but the damage was done.
Santiago Casilla set down the side in the seventh and struck out Derrek Lee to start the eighth. McCann gave the Braves life with a single and was lifted for a pinch-runner, Nate McLouth, who attempted to steal second just as Gonzalez hit a soft liner to short. Uribe dropped the routine grab — and a chance at a sure double play — though he got the out at first as a result of Gonzalez not running hard out of the batter’s box.
Javier Lopez entered from the bullpen and stranded the runner on second by fanning Jason Heyward, the eighth time in the series the Rookie of the Year candidate struck out.
The Giants wasted a leadoff single by Huff in the away ninth before calling on Wilson for the third time in the series.
Conrad, who was benched in part for his eight errors over the previous seven games, flied out as a pinch-hitter to start the frame.
Patience at the plate made things interesting, as Rick Ankiel worked a walk after going down 1-2 in the count, then moved to second when pinch-hitter Eric Hinske took a payoff pitch off the plate.
Wilson was able to finish it off, though, striking out Infante and getting Melky Cabrera to ground out to third, with Huff making a nice stretch on Mike Fontenot’s throw to seal his second save of the series, sending the Giants into a frenzy.
Shortly thereafter, in a gesture of respect, both teams and the Atlanta faithful of 44,532 gave Cox a standing ovation in his last game after 29 years of managing in the big leagues.
“I’ve been emotional when we’ve gotten beaten in the World Series, and it feels the same,” Cox said after the game. “It doesn’t feel like this is the last time I’m putting [my uniform] on, but it certainly is, and I won’t put it on again.”
Bumgarner allowed three two-out baserunners in the second inning but got out of the jam by getting Lowe on a flyout to right.
The Braves recorded back-to-back singles to begin the third and got a run across when McCann’s deep sacrifice fly to right plated Infante for the game’s first tally.
Lowe allowed only one hitter to reach base in the first five innings. Andres Torres reached on a Gonzalez error in the fourth, but McCann erased the runner by throwing him out trying to steal second.
After Fontenot struck out to start the sixth, Ross, claimed off waivers from the Marlins in late August, hit a first-pitch cutter that narrowly cleared the wall in left field to tie the game, ending Lowe’s no-hit bid.
McCann answered leading off the bottom half the bottom half by lining a hanging breaking ball just over the wall in right for his third career postseason home run.
The Braves have lost six straight playoff series, their last win coming over the Astros in the 2001 NLDS…The Braves lost both games in the series at home after posting a major-league leading 56-25 record as the host in the regular season…Troy Glaus was in the starting lineup for the first time in series as a result of the Conrad benching. He played third base, where he saw action in just two innings during the season, and went 0-for-3…Lowe, who was 1-1 with a 3.28 earned-run average when pitching on short rest in the playoffs coming in, finished with eight strikeouts, two hits allowed and two walks…Heyward had two hits in the game but finished the series 2-for-16…Bumgarner, at 21 years and 71 days, became the second youngest starting pitcher ever to get a playoff series-clinching win, second only to Fernando Valenzuela (20 years and 352 days)…Giants starting pitchers in this series combined to allow just three earned run in 29 innings…Ross’ homer was his first in the postseason.