SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy always seems to find an unlikely hero when it comes playoff time.
In 2010 it was Cody Ross who ripped five post-season homers as the Giants rolled to the World Series crown. Marco Scutaro followed with his post-season heroics on the way to the 2012 title. And no Giants fan will ever forget Travis Ishikawa’s home-run that clinched the National League title in the 2014.
Ross and Ishikawa were reclamation projects, picked up by San Francisco after other teams had given up on them. Meanwhile, Scutaro was in the backside of his career and picked up in a trade for a minor league prospect.
Now comes Conor Gillaspie, who inked a minor league deal with the Giants in the off-season, hoping to breathe new life into his sagging career.
Bochy picked Gillaspie to replace injured All-Star Eduardo Nunez to play third base against the New York Mets in Wednesday’s National League Wildcard game.
In his two of his at-bats against Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, he was simply overmatched.
But in the ninth inning, Syndergaard was no longer on the mound when Gillaspie came to bat. With two runners on, Gillaspie took All-Star closer Jeurys Familia deep and the rest was history as San Francisco won 3-0.
When asked after the game, Gillaspie said he had no idea where the pitch was – he just hit it.
“I was pretty excited that Syndergaard wasn’t in there,” he said. “Let’s get that out there first. He has some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen. As far as the home run, I’ll be honest with you I couldn’t tell you where the pitch was at – right now I have no idea where it was. I just know that it was up enough to swing at.”
He also admitted Wednesday night’s heroics seemed so surreal in the wake of the twists and turns of his Major League career. Gillaspie was originally drafted by the Giants, but angered some in the organization with his attitude and was traded away.
After struggling with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels last year, he was resigned to a minor league contract with the Giants this season.
The journey has changed him.
“It’s been a little bit of a tough road for him,” Bochy said after the game. “We thought a lot of him and brought him back here. Starts out in the minor leagues and works his way back up.”
Gillaspie also said he took a lot of time in the off-season to examine his life.
“I just got to a point last year where I let the happiness of my life and the happiness of the relationships with people I care about – that was all based on what I did in the game.”
“When I went home last year in September I thought about that. I said ‘You know what? There is absolutely no reason to let my happiness depend on whether I get a hit or not. Being able to go out and approach this just like you (the reporters) do – You go out and do your best, you put in your preparation and then after that you got to be okay with whatever you write, just like we have to be okay with whatever comes out in the game.”