ATLANTA (AP) – The San Francisco Giants are one win away from advancing to the NLCS for the first time since 2002.
If they do, it would mean a very disappointing and frustrating end to Bobby Cox’s career with the Atlanta Braves.
The Giants will look to clinch the division series Monday night in Atlanta after a stunning come-from-behind victory one day earlier.
After the Braves rallied for a 5-4 win in 11 innings Friday, the Giants answered with a comeback of their own in a 3-2 victory Sunday. San Francisco was down to its last strike before recording three consecutive hits. Aubrey Huff singled home the tying run and Freddy Sanchez scored the go-ahead run from second after Brooks Conrad’s third error of the afternoon. Conrad has been benched for Monday’s game.
“It was completely embarrassing,” said Conrad, who has made eight errors in the last seven games going back to the regular season. “Once again, I feel like I let everyone down.”
The Braves, who had taken the lead on a two-run, eighth-inning homer by pinch-hitter Eric Hinske, were without closer Billy Wagner, who injured his oblique Friday and was taken off the NLDS roster.
“To come back like that after a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, I mean, that can take the wind out of your sails,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And these guys came right back and found a way to get it done. That is a great win.”
Bochy’s club opened the series with a 1-0 win Thursday, scoring the game’s lone run following a questionable umpiring call.
With their season – and Cox’s managerial career – one loss from ending, the Braves may not be in position to give Conrad a shot at redemption. When asked if Conrad would start Monday, Cox said he would “sleep on it.”
Sloppy defense was the last thing the injury-depleted Braves needed given their struggles at the plate. They’ve hit .165 in the three games and managed just four hits Sunday. Rookie Jason Heyward, who drove in 72 runs during the regular season, went 0 for 4 and remains hitless in 12 at-bats with seven strikeouts in the series.
Atlanta needs two wins to join a very short list. Only one of the last 16 teams to fall behind 2-1 in the NLDS have advanced.
“This team is resilient,” Derrek Lee said. “We haven’t made it easy all year. Why start now?”
Derek Lowe will try to force a Game 5 in San Francisco on Wednesday when he takes the mound Monday for the Braves.
Lowe pitched 5 1-3 innings in Game 1, allowing one run, four hits and four walks. He struck out six.
The right-hander will be pitching on three days’ rest, but neither Lowe nor Cox were worried. Over his career, Lowe has pitched on rest of three days or less four times in the playoffs, going 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA.
“This time of year, your adrenaline kicks in,” he told the Braves’ official website. “I’ve done it before. You can’t really explain how your body is able to bounce back, knowing what’s on the line. … You’d rather be the guy out there failing than not trying.”
Lowe was 10-5 with a 3.72 ERA at home this season and has allowed three or fewer earned runs in six of his last eight outings at Turner Field.
While he took the loss against San Francisco last week, he was pitching opposite Tim Lincecum. The Giants, however, opted not to bring Lincecum back Monday and instead will turn to Madison Bumgarner for Game 4.
The 21-year-old Bumgarner hasn’t pitched since Sept. 30 when he gave up one run and struck out seven in five innings of a 4-1 win over Arizona. He will be facing the Braves for the first time.
Bumgarner has the tough task of trying to follow a string of solid starts by the Giants. After Lincecum struck out 14 in a complete game Thursday, Matt Cain gave up one unearned run in 6 2-3 innings in Game 2. On Sunday, Jonathan Sanchez allowed one run, two hits and struck out 11 in 7 1-3 innings.
“We have all the confidence in the world that Madison will go out there and give us everything he’s got,” Bochy said. “This kid has no fear.”
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