Giants rally to defeat Braves, 3-2, in Game 3
As one pitcher departed from the diamond and another stepped onto it, the video scoreboard at Turner Field showed a five-month-old highlight of Brooks Conrad hitting a home run.
The home crowd booed.
Conrad stood on the infield dirt with his hands by his side. On Sunday, he was about as far removed as he could be from that glorious day in May when he hit a grand slam that decided a game.
The stone-gloved second baseman had committed three errors. The Atlanta Braves overcame the first two. They couldn’t overcome the third.
The San Francisco Giants scored the go-ahead run when Buster Posey’s ninth-inning ground ball skipped between Conrad’s legs and into the outfield, sending the Braves tumbling to a 3-2 defeat in Game 3 of the National League division series.
The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, which will resume Monday at Turner Field.
“It’s completely embarrassing,” Conrad said. “I felt like I let everybody down. I feel terrible. I wish I could just dig a hole and go to sleep in there.”
The last player to commit three errors in a postseason game was Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal, who did so in Game 5 of the 2008 National League Championship Series.
But Furcal was a former All-Star with a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract. The game was dismissed as an aberration, the function of him missing 4½ months to recover from a midseason back operation.
Conrad has no such resume or contract to hide behind.
At 30, Conrad has played in only 139 regular-season games. Drafted in 2001 by the Houston Astros, he made his major league debut two years ago with the Oakland Athletics. He has collected 4,748 minor league plate appearances and made stops in towns such as Pittsfield, Mass., and Lexington, Ky.; Salem, Va.; and Gwinnett, Ga. The earliest he could be a free agent is in 2016 — that is, unless he is released, which has happened before. Twice.
“There’s not a guy in here who wouldn’t take Brooks Conrad in his foxhole,” Chipper Jones said.
Season-ending injuries to Jones and Martin Prado were what pushed Conrad into a starting role. But there were omens of the impending doom, as Conrad went into Sunday having made five errors in his last six games.
He made two more in the first two innings.
His fumbling of a potential double-play grounder in the first inning somehow went unpunished, even though the Giants had a hit and drew two walks in that inning.
But a dropped popup in shallow right field in the second inning resulted in a run for the Giants, as it immediately followed Mike Fontenot’s triple off Braves starter Tim Hudson.
Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez held the Braves to two hits over 7 1/3 innings and struck out 11. The left-hander gave up his first hit in the sixth inning, when Hudson singled to right.
Sergio Romo couldn’t hold the one-run lead he inherited from Sanchez, as he served up a two-run home run to pinch-hitter Eric Hinske that put the Braves ahead, 2-1.
“When he hit that two-run home run, I thought we had it,” Braves first baseman Derrek Lee said.
And if closer Billy Wagner were around, they might have. But Wagner officially went on the disabled list earlier in the day, his spot on the active roster taken by former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito.
With their All-Star closer unavailable, the Braves turned to rookie Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning.
A two-out single by Freddy Sanchez in the top of the ninth put runners on first and second with two out, and Cox called on left-hander Mike Dunn to face Huff, who bats left-handed.
Huff singled to right, Travis Ishikawa scored and it was tied, 2-2.
In came Peter Moylan to face Posey. Conrad’s life was about to change.
So was the Braves’ fate.
Facing elimination, the Braves will send former Dodger Derek Lowe to the mound in Game 4 on short rest. The Giants considered doing the same with Tim Lincecum, but opted to go with 21-year-old left-hander Madison Bumgarner instead.