ATLANTA (Ticker) -- In the city where most of his postseason
struggles took place, Barry Bonds earned a measure of
Addressing the only shortcoming in his Hall of Fame career,
Bonds homered and scored twice as the San Francisco Giants edged
the Atlanta Braves, 3-1, in Game Five of their National League
The Giants advanced to the NL Championship Series for the first
time since 1989, when they reached the World Series. San
Francisco will head to St. Louis, where it will face the
Cardinals on Wednesday in Game One of the NL Championship
"I feel so great that we beat this team," Giants catcher Benito
Santiago said. "I said whoever wins this series is going to
beat St. Louis. You still have to get there, but we are going
to be there. We beat a good team - (Atlanta) has a good team -
but the best team wins, and that's what happened tonight."
"We shape up good and we are going to beat them," San Francisco
center fielder Kenny Lofton added. "People didn't look at us as
a team that would get (to the postseason). Then they didn't
think we could do anything when we got there, and we did."
Tagged with the reputation as an unclutch performer - much of it
derived from back-to-back postseason series against Atlanta in
the early 1990s - Bonds got the Giants going early.
The superstar left fielder singled and scored in the second
inning and lined his third home run of the series to open the
fourth. Bonds, fourth on baseball's all-time home run list with
613, entered the series with a .196 average and one homer in 97
"I'm just a ballplayer," Bonds said. "That's just unfortunate.
During the course of a season I put up numbers that are pretty
overwhelming. And the expectation for me every at-bat is to hit
a home run or score a run or steal a base or do something every
single at-bat. During the course of a season, that never
happens at all, either. It's just unfortunate that it's just so
much emphasis put on me as an individual than us as a team."
"I think it is a great feeling for us because we knew he was
going to get a big hit for us and he waited until the right
time," Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia said. "He works hard and
he gets a bad rap. He's the greatest player to play the game."
With Bonds and under Baker, the Giants were just 1-6 in Division
"If there are two guys you are happy for, Dusty is one of them
and Barry is the other," Aurilia added. "(Bonds) got a huge
home run for us and I hope this kind of squelches the talk about
him not being a good postseason player."
"It's step two in a four-step process," Baker said. "We've got
two more steps. I'm very, very happy, but we realize we've got
two more steps to go, two giant steps to go."
Bonds had just three hits in the first four games and stood to
wear the goat horns yet again, but he gave starter Russ Ortiz
some early room for error. Ortiz and four relievers made the
lead stand up, combining on a seven-hitter.
"I've never been past the first round. I'm shocked, to be
honest with you," Bonds said. "I've seen a lot of celebrations
by them. They're a class act team. ... They've got a class act
organization. That's why they won as many championships as
they won and been the team that they've been over the decade."
Atlanta, which posted the best record in the NL, lost in the
Division Series for the second time in three years. The Braves
had not been beaten in the Division Series before 2000 but were
swept by the Cardinals that season and blew a two games to one
lead in this series.
"They're all tough," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "They're
all equally tough. If you're a real professional and care about
your sport, they're all tough. We wanted to win as bad as
anybody in the world, and it just didn't happen. We gave
ourself chances. That was the important thing, and it didn't
Ortiz allowed four hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings but
yielded just one run. After Aaron Fultz allowed a hit to the
only batter he faced, Felix Rodriguez got the final two outs in
Tim Worrell, who was hammered in his two previous outings in the
series, tossed two scoreless innings before giving way to
closer Robb Nen, who blew two of three save chances against
Atlanta in the regular season.
The ninth did not start well for Nen as Rafael Furcal grounded
sharply up the middle. Second baseman Jeff Kent made a
spectacular stop but threw wide of first for an error. After
Furcal stole second, Julio Franco singled to right, leaving
runners at the corners.
Nen quickly regrouped and struck out slugger Gary Sheffield on
four pitches. He threw a fastball down the middle that Chipper
Jones took, and on Nen's next offering, the former MVP grounded
sharply to Gold Glove first baseman J.T. Snow, who started an
unconventional series-ending double play.
"I got behind Furcal and got myself in a bind," Nen said. "I
just wanted to get ahead of (Jones) and go from there. I faced
Chipper a lot. I wanted to stay focused and confident. It was
a slider. I watched it and as soon as (Snow) stepped on the
bag, I knew."
"In the ninth inning, we were set up perfectly with the guys at
the plate," Jones said. "We're just sick about it. I was in a
similar situation this year and I got a hit. It was basically
the same pitch, just a little more out. I was a little more out
in front. I don't know how it stayed fair."
The save marked the second time in the series that Nen got a big
double play in the ninth inning against the heart of the
"I just tried to go out to out," Nen said. "Whether that
(first) run scored, it didn't matter. Try to get a ground ball,
double play or try to get a punchout or anything. When your
back is up against the wall, you've got to go out and think
positive and really relax and try to make pitches. That's kind
of what I did."
"Robb is not a big double play guy, but he got two huge ones in
the series," Aurilia added.
According to Santiago, deciding on the pitch selection to Jones
was not an easy task.
"The hardest pitch to call was that first pitch to Chipper,"
Santiago said. "It took me 10 minutes to figure out what to
throw him. I was thinking fastball first pitch, I never
concentrate that much ever. When he was still in the dugout, I
thought that he was the one that could make something happen. I
gambled and we threw him the fastball and he took it and I
said, `We are going to get this guy.'"
Even Giants owner Peter Magowan admitted to a few uneasy moments
in the ninth.
"With two outs left, I knew we would be celebrating and having
champagne or a disaster would happen," Magowan said. "I didn't
know which way it would go - that is baseball."
Atlanta starter Kevin Millwood (1-1) pitched well, allowing two
runs and four hits in five innings while working on three days'
The Braves left two aboard in the bottom of the first inning and
Bonds helped the Giants take the lead in the second. He
singled sharply to center field, took second on a groundout and
scored on former Brave Reggie Sanders' two-out single up the
After San Francisco left a runner in scoring position in the
third, Bonds drilled a 3-2 pitch from Millwood over the wall in
left-center field for a 2-0 lead.
"I didn't think it was a horrible pitch," Millwood said. "It
was a little more over the plate than I would have liked. Barry
hit it good."
Atlanta left two on in the fourth and had the bases loaded with
two out in the fifth when Jones ripped a grounder up the middle
that took a bad hop. Aurilia made a quick adjustment, gloved
the ball and raced to second base, just beating Sheffield.
"I am just so happy I was playing up the middle," Aurilia said.
"In that situation, I was just trying to knock it down. It took
a funny hop and I kind of fielded it behind me. I don't know
what it hit. I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but I ran to
that base feeling like (teammate) Tom Goodwin."
Felix Rodriguez, who overcame a disastrous first half of the
season, replaced Fultz and got pinch hitter Matt Franco and
Furcal on flyouts to center.
The Giants added a key insurance run in the seventh when Braves
reliever Mike Remlinger allowed a double and two walks to open
the frame. Darren Holmes did a stellar job, allowing just a
sacrifice fly to Lofton that gave San Francisco a 3-1 edge.
Worrell escaped a seventh-inning jam, striking out Lopez with
the tying runs on base, then cruised through the eighth with two
"Everyone contributed tonight," Worrell said. "It was
unbelievable. They gave me a chance to come back after two
outings that were terrible. It was awesome. Today I just tried
to stay calm, relax and throw my game."