Travis Ishikawa, Cody Ross, Mike Morse and Marco Scutaro meet Conor Gillaspie — the newest member of the San Francisco Giants’ club of unlikely October heroes.
The third baseman found his way into the lineup for Wednesday night’s wild-card game at Citi Field because Eduardo Núñez was out with a strained hamstring.
He ended up providing the swing that produced the only runs in the Giants’ 3-0 win over the New York Mets, sending a three-run homer beyond the right-field wall in the top of the ninth.
“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my career,” Gillaspie told CSN Bay Area.
Against the Mets, the Giants followed the script that has served them so well during the last three even years — all of which have ended in World Series titles.
An unheralded Giant provided the big hit — this time in the form of Gillaspie — and Madison Bumgarner simply refused to allow the opponent to score.
“Shoot. There ain’t much to say,” Bumgarner told ESPN’s Buster Olney. “That’s a big game for us right there and we were fortunate enough to get some late runs and get the win.”
With his four-hit shutout of the Mets, the left-hander has now thrown 23 scoreless innings in his three starts in winner-take-all games. Bumgarner has also now delivered a pair of shutouts in his two wild-card game appearances.
The starter only allowed two Mets to advance as far as second base. Bumgarner pitched around T.J. Rivera’s leadoff double in the fifth before wiggling out of another danger spot in the eighth.
With Ty Kelly at second and two outs in the inning, Asdrubal Cabrera stepped to the plate. The shortstop drove a line drive right right back at Bumgarner, which hung up in the air just long enough for the lefty to snare it before pumping his firsts and charging off the mound.
Noah Syndergaard was nearly as brilliant as the Giants’ starter. The right-hander flung a 98 mph dart past Denard Span on his first pitch of the night, in what proved to be a sign of what was to come.
“I’ve got to rank this one tonight as good as any, under the circumstances,” Mets manager Terry Collins told MLB.com
“Great command. I mean, focused like he always is. I tell you, he stepped up when we needed him.”
The Mets No.1 punched out 10 Giants, as he worked seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball. The Giants didn’t manage a hit against Syndergaard until there were two outs in the sixth — when Span grounded a single into center.
Two innings earlier, Span was right in the middle of the Giants’ first mini-rally. After drawing a leadoff walk, the center fielder was called out at second on a stolen base attempt. Replays indicated that Span had beat the throw from Rene Rivera, but the call was confirmed after manager Bruce Bochy requested a replay review.
In the top of the seventh, the Giants nearly orchestrated a classic Even-Year rally. Brandon Crawford drew a two-out walk and then Angel Pagan reached on an infield single that trickled under the glove of James Loney at first. Joe Panik ended up grounding out as the opportunity went to waste.
The Giants also nearly found a breakthrough in the eighth. Gillaspie began the inning by bouncing a single to right and the team eventually loaded the bases with two outs before Pence struck out.
The decisive ninth inning began with a leadoff single to left center by Crawford, continued with a one-out walk by Panik and then was punctuated by the biggest home run of Gillaspie’s career.
As Jake Peavy told ESPN’s Jayson Stark, Bumgarner had just one for line for the third baseman when he returned to the dugout.
“Conor, I appreciate the hell out of that.”
Gillaspie’s three-run blast was even more remarkable considering that Jeurys Familia had allowed just one home run in 77.2 innings of regular season work.