I had the title all planned out: “Against the Odds: The Eric Hinske Story”. Hinske blasted a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the eighth to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead over San Francisco Sunday, then watched from the dugout as Aubrey Huff singled home the tying run with two down in the ninth, with Buster Posey following with a shot through second baseman Brooks Conrad’s legs to score Freddy Sanchez with the go-ahead run. Brian Wilson set down the Braves in the bottom half, giving the Giants a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series edge.
Hinske, if you’ll believe it, is in pursuit of his fourth straight World Series appearance with four different teams, having gotten to the Fall Classic with Boston, Tampa Bay and New York the past three seasons (and winning the first and third). On another one-year deal, he hit 11 homers in 281 at-bats in the regular season for Atlanta, and his homer in Game 3 looked to stand as the winner when rookie reliever Chad Kimbrel, who gave up just one earned run and struck out 40 in 20 1/3 innings in the bigs this season, took to the hill to finish it off in place of the injured Billy Wagner. After Sanchez’s single left men on first and second with two out, manager Bobby Cox called on lefty Mike Dunn, who then coughed up Huff’s bloop single to right to tie it. Peter Moylan replaced Dunn and got Posey to line one straight at Conrad, but his third error of the game was enough to seal Atlanta’s fate.
Regardless of who comes out on top, the San Francisco-Atlanta series is shaping up to be the most competitive of the opening round, with the first three games now decided by a run apiece. The teams are back at it Monday for Game 4, with 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner (7-6, 3.00) going for the Giants against Derek Lowe (16-12, 4.00 and 0-1, 1.69 in the series) of the Braves.
Also of a bit of interested, the Rangers and Rays are headed back to Tampa Bay for Game 5 after a 5-2 Rays win Sunday afternoon. I’d be worried, but Cliff Lee will be on the hill for Texas and the Rays are due to be no-hit this week, so that should be enough to avoid a dreaded New York-Tampa Bay ALCS. For several reasons, I’ve come to really dislike the Rays over the past couple years. They’re not quite in New York and Boston territory yet, but they’re getting there.
Also, the Reds shocked nobody by bowing out in three games Sunday, falling 2-0 at home to the Phillies, who picked up a complete game, five-hit shutout from 2008 playoff hero and 2009 playoff goat Cole Hamels. If Hamels’ performance dictates Philly’s fate, then they just may be on the road back to winning it all. Oh yeah, and they picked up another starter this season that may have something to do with that, too.