10/04/2003 7:13 PM ET
Giants proud of their fighting spirit
MIAMI -- J.T. Snow tromped toward the clubhouse minutes after the Giants were eliminated from the National League Division Series by the Marlins on Saturday. He stopped near the door and looked up at a nearby TV, watching a replay of Ivan Rodriguez triumphantly thrusting a ball in the air -- the ball with which he tagged Snow to end the game, 7-6, in favor of the Marlins.
The play not only halted the Giants' season, it snuffed a second stirring comeback mounted by the Giants in an attempt to force a decisive Game 5 in the series. Entering the ninth down two runs didn't seem insurmountable after the Giants had already erased a four-run deficit earlier in the game.
"We battled back," said outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds. "We were down 5-1. We didn't quit. We battled and they stopped us from winning, because we definitely were trying to win it. We didn't roll over."
The Giants had fallen behind after Jerome Williams and Jim Brower combined to surrender five runs in the first four innings. Dontrelle Willis had allowed one run on one hit through five innings when San Francisco mounted its charge in the sixth.
Ray Durham and Hammonds singled, and Rich Aurilia punched home a run with a double. Willis challenged Barry Bonds, delivering a first-pitch strike down the middle, but Bonds lofted the second pitch to left for a sacrifice fly. Edgardo Alfonzo, the Giants' best hitter in the Division Series, doubled home Aurilia and chased Willis from the game.
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
"The mood [in the dugout] was, it was just a matter of time before we were going to score," said Aurilia. "We hit the ball pretty good. We just couldn't find any holes. To score those runs and come back like that was big. We've done it all year. Guys have been coming through all year."
Brad Penny, Florida's Game 2 starter, came into the game in relief and got Marquis Grissom to ground out before Snow singled home the game-tying run.
The rally died there, however, as Rodriguez picked off Snow at first despite Snow's protests that Derrek Lee tagged him too late, and the game remained knotted at 5.
In the bottom of the inning, the Marlins threatened to snatch the lead right back, as Dustin Hermanson walked the leadoff batter and Matt Herges walked another. Then Herges hit Lee with a pitch to load the bases with none out.
Herges managed to escape by striking out Miguel Cabrera and then inducing an inning-ending double play.
"Getting the double play was the biggest double play I ever got in my life," he said. "The last thing I wanted to do was leave basically, potentially, the last time we play this year going out like that -- no way."
But the Marlins snapped the tie with a two-run eighth, and the Giants had to face mounting yet another rally. During the regular season, San Francisco had 37 comeback wins and went 28-12 in one-run games, so the team was used to playing it close.
Neifi Perez led off the ninth with a double off Marlins closer Ugueth Urbina, and Snow singled him home. Two outs later, Urbina hit Durham with a pitch, and Hammonds blooped a hit into shallow left.
As Snow chugged home, Jeff Conine threw the ball to the plate. Rodriguez retrieved the offline throw and blocked the plate. Snow barreled into the catcher, but Rodriguez held the ball, ending the game and, stunningly for the Giants, their comeback.
"I knew it was going to be close," said Hammonds. "Conine was coming. J.T. gave it all he had and made a play. My hand went in the air, like, 'Come on, baby, let's go -- score this run.' They made a play. Game over."
But although that rally died, the Giants still were proud of themselves for at least making the game, and the series, come down to a final play.
"The fact that we did come back from 5-1, that showed me a lot," said Herges. "We didn't die, and to come down to a game like that -- I'm grateful to be part of a game like that. Then again, it breaks your heart. It really does."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.