Stalwart bullpen lets down Giants
Romo, Wilson combine to allow game-tying runs in eighth
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was, in theory, the perfect situation for the Giants.Eighth inning, three-run lead, and the back end of arguably the league's best bullpen entering the game to close out the Braves and give the Giants a commanding 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series. "Four-one lead, you take that any day with our team," Giants closer Brian Wilson said afterward, referring to the advantage his team had after five innings. Instead, Sergio Romo and Wilson failed to deliver, as the Braves' three-run, eight-inning rally tied the game and eventually lead to Rick Ankiel's 11th-inning homer and a 5-4 Braves win Friday night at AT&T Park.
"When I'm called upon, I enjoy being the stopper," said Wilson. "When the skipper asks me to come out, regardless of the situation, I feel that I should be able to get out of it."That can't happen," added Wilson, who gave up a two-run double to Braves shortstop Alex Gonzalez that tied the game. "In a big game that can't happen. I obviously have to take full credit. I had to get six outs at that particular time and I didn't." Heading into the eighth inning, the Giants were in firm control of Game 2. Starting pitcher Matt Cain had allowed one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings, and lefty reliever Javier Lopez struck out rookie slugger Jason Heyward with two on to end a seventh-inning threat. With two innings remaining, Romo and Wilson were ready to close the game as they had so many times before. But Romo, who entered the postseason having allowed only three hits to his last 31 batters, gave up back-to-back singles to Derrek Lee and Brian McCann, forcing Giants manager Bruce Bochy to call in Wilson, the Major League saves leader with 48. The call wasn't out of the ordinary, as Wilson had 11 saves in which he recorded more than three outs this season. "At that point, we're going with our closer to try to get out of the eighth, and I have no concern with [Wilson] going two innings," Bochy said. The first batter Wilson faced, Melky Cabrera, reached on a throwing error by Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, scoring Lee and putting runners on first and second. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners up a base, Gonzalez drove Wilson's 97-mph fastball to the left-center-field gap to tie the game. "I saw he was struggling with the heater in the first game and the better part of that game, so I'm going to throw mine; that's my best pitch," Wilson said. "He got a good piece of it." Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff agreed with Wilson's assessment. "It was a good pitch. It was up, but [Gonzalez] was able to catch up to it," Huff said. "We'll take Wilson every day. He's been our guy all year long and in no way, shape or form do I think he shouldn't be out there." Wilson got out of the inning with a flyout and a strikeout and also pitched a one-two-three ninth, but the damage was already done. Two innings later, the series was tied at one game apiece with both teams heading to Atlanta. After the ninth, Wilson yelled at himself as he walked off the mound, and in between innings, TV cameras caught him ripping a towel in half in disgust. After the game, Wilson said the eighth-inning failure was out of his mind. "It's already past me," Wilson said. "The game's over. I can't really focus on that."
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.