October 9, 2010 by staff
From there, where he began, his eyes are more difficult today. Maybe it came from years and miles, to stand alone in a crowd and the unrequited search for the inexplicable.
Rick Ankiel is booed and silenced the Giants fans after his dramatic home run in 11th inning, his first in the playoffs.
(Eric Risberg / AP)
It would be a great pitcher. Now he is a hitter OK. Between the two, only he could have counted the steps and know their toll.
“Unfathomable, Chipper Jones (Notes) said. “It just goes to show you the type of stones they have. It’s really remarkable.”
Ten years before Ankiel hit the home run that changed the National League division series, Jones had seen a boy of 21 years to disintegrate at a distance of 60 feet. On a hot afternoon and sunny at Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Cardinals led their series with Ankiel. Young, strong and sure of himself, he would start Game 1 against the Braves Jones Atlanta.
What followed was as sad as it was impenetrable. Between and around eight outs, the final tally was six walks and five wild pitches. Jones had two at bats, walked once and had a ball go to the net.
Incurable baseball took Ankiel. They all knew this day. Well, most of them knew. Ankiel did not stop pitching for four more years, long past, everyone over time, but knew him.
“The baseball part of you feels sorry for him,” Jones said. “Nobody wants to see a fight like that guy. And the thing is, he always gets the best guys.”
Dontrelle Willis (notes). Mark Wohlers. Ankiel.
“It was what is safe,” said Jones. “The guy next door.”
So he was not.
Then it would be a wonderful athlete catching up on the years in the batting cage. It was old in his 30s – remains strong, but younger – and a career batting 0248, a hitter in 0210 two months of 2010 with the Braves, a hitter in the 0143 division series that preceded his final at-bat of Game 2.
Then he was comparing a fastball from Ramon Ramirez (notes), turning right for the Giants in San Francisco, have five. The last he hit into the bay.
“I wanted to go to the batter’s box at the shelter, he said. “I do not want to run the bases. I wanted to be with the guys. What a cool way to win. ”
The Braves, too, by a score of 5-4. Thus the division series is tied at a few hundred reasons (and a very large number, 450-foot one), most of them coming in the last six rounds on Friday night. Buster Posey (notes), everything Giants rookie, had a giant impetus to push the edge of the NLC, and he grounded into a double play 10th inning Brian Wilson (notes) on 48 of the regular season saves, was asked for a backup extremes, and Alex Gonzalez (notes), who had two hits in his previous 43 at-bats, doubled home two runs. Tommy Hanson (notes) and six relievers held the Giants without a goal for the last nine innings, their shutout to match Tim Lincecum (Notes) game 1. And they did around what could be an injury ended his career more oblique Braves Billy Wagner (notes), who took a knee in the Giants’ three golf handle 10.
But the lasting memory will be of the fastball that fired the bat Ankiel, and the story of perseverance he has said it is on the brick wall in right field – and life, breathed into a canoe and a franchise.
Ankiel had happened in the first days of August the Kansas City Royals with Kyle Farnsworth (notes), both of them learning new, as they soaked in a hot tub inside the big Kauffman Stadium. They shared a flight to Atlanta, delighted to throw first in the Eastern League. Farnsworth was the winning pitcher Friday night, Ankiel provide the run he would need after all these steps put Ankiel in the box as a hitter.
The last of these have included Terry Pendleton, the Braves’ hitting coach. Pendleton asked him to slow his body to speed up his hands. That’s what they worked on in recent weeks, in at-bats leading up to Friday. As Ankiel covered the last 30 feet of the dugout to the plate, Ramirez waiting, a teammate turned to another and was told: “It is a bit of guy Ramon”, which means a fastball hitter corresponding to the Ramirez pitcher’s fastball.
“I was looking for something to drive,” Ankiel said.
The fifth fastball split the plate a little higher. Right fielder Nate Schierholtz (notes) in a few strides, without the heart to the wall. The largest crowd ever at AT & T Park has gone so quiet, he heard the cries of Ankiel as he returned to the shelter, and the cries of the rest of the Braves.
“I just got lucky,” Ankiel said.
Jones was among the first steps.
“You know, it’s awesome,” Jones said. “It really is, how things come full circle. He had the bad taste in my mouth for so long. Believe me, I was in the batter’s box against him and it’s not funny. But it is then, back in the playoffs and a hero for the Braves tonight. ”
When he arrived in the clubhouse, the Braves have met again with applause, with a face full of shaving cream, thanking him for everything that was put there.
On television, Ankiel’s home run called “the epitome of everything I’ve ever done.”
More precisely, perhaps, for all he has ever done.
“It’s been a long journey fun,” he said. “And I appreciate everything that happened. And I’m happy to put the Braves by the deadline. And what a fun thing, what a cool thing to be part of, Bobby [Cox] all the way to retirement. I mean, I cannot put into words how it feels. “
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