Last year in the 5th game of the National League Champion Series, Travis Ishikawa won the pennant for the Giants with a majestic walk-off home run. It ended a tie game and the bat he used is now in the Hall of Fame.
But that pennant winning home run was not even the most important and influential at-bat Ishikawa had for the Giants. In fact, he had such a critical at-bat in 2010 that the Giants dynasty may not have even started without him.
Think back to the first round match-up against the Braves in 2010–those days when Giants fans still walked around trying not to notice that the team had never won a World Series in their entire San Francisco history. When the subject did involuntarily and painfully come up in conversation, there were always the four titles from the ancient New York days to reference. Yes, it was that bad.
In game one of the NLDS vs the Braves, Timmy threw a two hit shut out and the Giants won 1-0–incredible start! Game two went to the Braves 5-4–after Sergio Romo started out the 8th and went zero innings and gave up 2 runs–not so good!
In a prelude to Bochy’s post season fearless adjustments, after Romo also blew the save the next game in game 3, Bochy essentially stopped using Romo for the rest of that post season during close games.
For game 3 in Atlanta, Giants fans had reason to fear a quick exit from the playoffs. A loss in game 3 would give the Braves the opportunity to clinch the series at home in game 4. And, the Giants were facing Braves star pitcher in game 3, Tim Hudson!
After the aforementioned blown save it was a tie game going into the ninth, and Bochy chose his pinch hitter to start the inning: Travis Ishikawa. A tie game in the ninth, sounds familiar.
Ishikawa drew a walk, and after key hits from Freddie Sanchez and Aubrey Huff and then an error, Ishikawa scored the game winning run and the rest is history. As the stats show, a leadoff walk scores 38% of the time. Without that walk to start the inning, this game and even this series might have gone very differently. Of course, this rally starting walk was much less dramatic than the home run to win the pennant. I was at the pennant winning game and hearing the fans chant “ISH-I-KA-WA over and over is something I will never forget. But even if the Giants had lost game 5 last year, they would still have been up 3-2 and been able to clinch at home. However, if the Giants had lost game 3 in Atlanta in 2010, they would have been down 2-1 and could have lost the series the next game on the road. That’s why I think that at-bat in 2010 by Ishikawa was one of the most important in San Francisco Giants history, and why it even trumps his at-bat where the bat now sits in the Hall of Fame.
Ishikawa has been a great Giant, and hearing about his DFA today hurts. I so enjoyed having him brought back last year. Bochy chose to start him in left field during critical games in the 2014 postseason, over guys like Gregor Blanco. Once again, this shows how Botchy is ready to do anything to win a post season game, no matter whose feelings get hurt. But I guess in baseball, winning a post season game is different than constructing a roster with the flexibility to win enough during the long season grind to make the playoffs. Good bye Travis, all Giants fans owe you so much. And, if he signs with another team and faces the Giants in a critical tie game in the 9th inning, all Giants would be scared–and grateful at the same time.