Braves bring late-game momentum to Turner Field for Game 3

As unintimidating as the Braves might look on paper, in the scouting report, and sometimes, yes, on the field, the Giants have to feel a twinge of concern: How do you defend mojo?

Without rhyme, reason, or their injured closer, the Braves came from behind late in Friday night’s game to draw even with the Giants in the National League Division Series 1-1.

They’re coming home for Game 3 on Sunday with something strangely powerful in their back pocket: momentum.

“Last night was huge,” Tim Hudson said Saturday, on the eve of taking the mound against Giants’ left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. “It was enormous. That really swung the momentum our way.”

Playing in Turner Field, where the Braves led the majors and tied a home franchise record with 56 wins, they turn to arguably their best pitcher this season, start to finish. Hudson was just named National League comeback player of the year; that’s in keeping with the team theme.

The Braves are down two No. 3 hitters, two starters, and now Billy Wagner, who’s likely out for the rest of this series and probably the next, if there is one, with a strained left oblique muscle. The Braves are waiting until Wagner is evaluated by doctors Sunday before deciding if they will disable him, which would cost him the National League Championship Series by rule.

The longer the odds against the Braves, the seemingly deeper they dig.

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

Braves fans had to agonize until 1:24 a.m. EDT Saturday to see the last of the Braves’ 26th final at-bat win of the season. But by now, they know to keep watching. Somehow the Braves keep ratcheting up the drama.

Two of the coldest hitters in the Braves’ lineup came through with the most coldest-blooded hits. Down three runs with five outs left, Alex Gonzalez tied the game 4-4, with a two-run double off Giants closer Brian Wilson. Rick Ankiel, best known for losing his grip on the strike zone as a pitcher for the Cardinals in a 2000 division series, found the sweetest spot of all with a splash-shot to McCovey Cove.

“The biggest homer of my career, by far,” said Ankiel, and he wasn’t just talking geography. “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.”

That’s the part that’s hardest to measure. How close this Braves team is and what that means when players keep going down to injury one by one.

“We’re not the most talented club, but I feel like we have the most heart and a lot of guts,” Hudson said.

Troy Glaus was sent out in a double-switch in the 10th inning as a defensive replacement at third base, a position he had played the first 12 years of his career, but only two innings this season. With nerves that made him feel sick to his stomach, he made the gutsiest play of the game. He fielded a grounder to third and instead of going home, he threw to second base to start a double play that would send the game to the 11th inning.

One bobble, and the game was over, the Giants’ up 2-0 in the series. Instead, the Braves got a great turn by Omar Infante at second base, a fist pump from first baseman Derrek Lee and three more outs in the 11th from Kyle Farnsworth.

“That’s why we’re so proud of this team,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “They bounce back.”

Staff writer David O’Brien contributed to this article.