Ankiel's 11th-inning homer gives Braves win, evens NLDS

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Braves probably have had more improbable, come-from-behind, extra-innings postseason wins than they pulled out Friday, but none immediately come to mind.

Rick Ankiel hit a towering 11th-inning home run to lift the Braves to a 5-4 win against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, evening their National League Division Series at a game apiece before it shifts  to Turner Field on Sunday.

"It's hard to describe or put into words," Ankiel said of his first postseason homer, which sailed into the waters of China Basin, clearing the right-field wall and the seats atop it. "The biggest homer of my career, by far, and to be honest with you, I wanted to go from the batter's box to the dugout. I didn't want to run the bases. I wanted to be with the guys.

"But what a cool way to win."

The stage was set for Ankiel when Troy Glaus made a strong defensive play at third base to start an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the 10th. Glaus had only played third base in one other game all season before entering Friday's game in the 10th inning as part of a double-switch.

"Whoever's writing this script, just keep doing it," Braves reliever Peter Moylan said.

It was an important but costly win for the Braves, who lost closer Billy Wagner after he  strained a left oblique muscle in his side. He was hurt in the 10th inning and will be out at least for the rest of the series and the next round if the Braves advance.

The Braves will replace Wagner with reliever  Takashi Saito or pitcher Jair Jurrjens before Sunday's game.

After a day off for travel Saturday, the Braves will host  Game 3 on  Sunday and Game 4 on Monday, before the series returns to San Francisco for Game 5, if necessary, on Wednesday.

After trailing 4-1 through seven innings Friday, the Braves created a seismic shift in the series by scoring three runs in the eighth inning and pulling out the extra-innings road win.

"We were looking at going home down 2-0; I don't know how many times that's ever been overcome," said first baseman Derrek Lee, who singled and scored the Braves' first run in the sixth, and hit a leadoff single and scored in the three-run eighth. "So this was pretty much a must-win game. We talked about it before. We came through.

"Now we're going home 1-1. You'd like to win two, but you've got to be happy with the split."

Manager Bobby Cox said, "You can never figure out baseball, for sure. I was telling guys before the game, win this one and the momentum swings the other way... We're not the most talented club in the major leagues, but [in terms of] hard work and trying, dedication -- we've got to be at the top."

Cox wasn't around to see much of the game, after being ejected in the second inning for arguing that Alex Gonzalez should have been called safe on a groundout. Gonzalez came through later with a two-run double off Giants closer Brian Wilson in the three-run eighth.

The Giants were in position to win in the 10th after loading the bases with one out, but Glaus fielded Buster Posey's bases-loaded, one-out grounder and made a throw to second base to start an inning-ending double play.

Though teammates and most everyone else watching thought that Glaus would throw home for the safer out, the longtime former third baseman said he was thinking double play all the way.

"I thought, if the ball's hit hard to me, I'm going to second," said Glaus, who played third base almost exclusively throughout his career before moving to first base to sign with the Braves last winter. "If it's hit soft, I'm going home.  That's all I thought about. The ball was hit hard enough and I threw it to second."

Omar Infante had moved from third base to second on the same double-switch when Glaus entered the game. Infante reached for Glaus' slightly wide throw, kept his foot on the base, then made a quick turn and fired to first ahead of Posey.

"Omar did a great job," Glaus said. "Omar's got a left-side-of-the-infield arm. And he got up on top [of the ball], threw a seed to first, and it all worked out."

With one out in the 11th, Ankiel connected with a 2-2 pitch from Ramon Ramirez, blasting it to the water that Barry Bonds used to hit balls into on a fairly regularly basis, but where few others are able to reach.

"He's here, he's back in the playoffs, and a hero for the Braves tonight," said injured third baseman  Chipper Jones, who was there when Ankiel, then a pitcher, had his famous meltdown of control problems in the 2000 postseason against Atlanta.

Ankiel eventually converted to being a position player after arm surgery.  He was let go by St. Louis after last season, signed with Kansas City, and was traded to the Braves along with reliever Kyle Farnsworth on July 31.

"I talked to [Royals manager] Ned Yost when we got him," Cox said.  He said he can carry your club for a period of time, and we've been waiting for that. He had a great night tonight, defensively and offensively."

Ankiel's was only the second "splash" homer hit into the water in a postseason game at AT&T Park.

"That's one of the farthest balls I've ever seen hit in person," Braves outfielder Matt Diaz said. "I think he cleared the first row of kayaks. That's a bomb."

Giants pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria had begun the Giants' 10th by taking advantage of Glaus' presumed lack of mobility, putting down a bunt that rolled only about a third of the way up the line.

Glaus fell down trying to field Renteria's well-placed bunt, and Wagner was hurt on the play trying to avoid a collision with Glaus as both converged going for the ball.

Renteria advanced when Andres Torres followed with a sacrifice bunt, which Wagner fielded in front of the mound. He was able to throw out Torres, but that was all for Wagner, who walked gingerly off the field.

Farnsworth entered and hit the next batter,  Freddy Sanchez, then walked Aubrey Huff to load the bases with one out. But Glaus fielded  Posey's grounder and started a double play that got Farnsworth and the Braves out of the jam.

"Troy Glaus, you know, he's been there and done that," McCann said. "This isn't new to him, playoff baseball. The pressure. It's not new to him, and he showed it.  If I had that ball at third, I'd have choked it.

"He made his mind up, if that ball was hit to him he was going to turn two. He made the right play. He's been doing that a long time. He can make that throw in his sleep, but he hasn't done it in a while. That's amazing. That was an amazing play."

The double play set the stage for Ankiel's big moment in the 11th, which helped give the Braves their first postseason win since 2005, when they won only one of four games in a division-series loss to Houston.

Lee and McCann started the three-run rally in the eighth with consecutive singles off reliever Sergio Romo, before the Giants brought in Wilson to have him attempt his first six-out save of the season. He got six outs, but not the save.

Lee scored when third baseman Pablo Sandoval threw wide to first base on Melky Cabrera's slow grounder, and Brooks Conrad followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved runners to second and third.

Gonzalez  snapped out of a deep slump, lining a double to left-center field to drive in both runs for a 4-4 tie. Gonzalez had been in a 2-for-43 slide and was without an RBI in 10 of his past 11 games.

Pat Burrell's three-run homer in the first inning off Braves starter Tommy Hanson turbocharged the Giants and their orange pompom-waving fans. The game drew the largest crowd (44,046) in the history of AT&T Park.

The Braves lost 12 of their last 18 regular-season road games, and were shut out by Tim Lincecum in Thursday's series opener.

They are making their postseason appearance since 2005, and trying to send retiring manager Cox out on a high note.

Cox was ejected after arguing that first baseman Aubrey Huff's foot came off the bag as he stretched for the throw from shortstop Juan Uribe. Cox tossed his cap near first base during the argument and was tossed by umpire Paul Emmel, the same ump who blew a call that went against the Braves on Thursday.

Emmel called Georgia native Posey safe on a stolen-base attempt Thursday, when replays showed he was tagged out before touching second base. Posey then scored on a Cody Ross single for the only run.

"I thought he was off the bag at least 6, 8 inches," Cox said of Huff's play Friday. "If he calls him safe, Ankiel gets a base hit, Hanson bunts him over maybe and Infante [knocks him in] it's a 3-2 game.

"I honestly wasn't going to talk about it if we had gotten beat. It's the umpire's judgment, and they make great calls and miss some once in a while. I thought he was off the bag pretty far."

Cox said he mentioned the Posey play from Thursday during his argument Friday with Emmel.

Friday's ejection was the third career postseason ejection for Cox, who owns the major league record with 158 ejections in regular-season games.

Burrell's two-out, first-pitch blast to the left-field seats provided Giants starter Matt Cain with a fairly comfortable margin, considering the recent offensive woes of the Braves.

They mustered only two hits and struck out 14 times against Lincecum in Thursday's 1-0 loss, and the Braves had four singles through the first five innings Friday against Cain.

Hanson, making his first postseason start, lasted four innings and was charged with four runs, five hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

Cain helped his own cause by driving in a run with a second-inning single, and the Giants led 4-0 before the Braves scored their first run of the series on back-to-back singles by Lee and McCann to begin the sixth inning. Lee was just the second Braves baserunner to touch third base in two nights.

But the Braves were just getting started Friday, and mounted a rally that produced a win when it was well after midnight back home in Atlanta.