10/01/2003 10:18 PM ET
DeRosa's tiebreaker ties it up
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Game 2 wrapup: ATL 5, CHC 3
ATLANTA -- World Series hopes are alive in Atlanta, thanks to Mark DeRosa and Marcus Giles, a couple of unsung heroes on a talented Braves squad that possesses the uncanny resiliency teams need to survive in the postseason.
DeRosa created the biggest moment in his young career when he drilled a two-out, two-run, eighth-inning double off Dave Veres that enabled the Braves to overcome a rare John Smoltz blown save and claim a 5-3 win over the Cubs in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field on Wednesday night.
"Nothing compares to this," said a smiling DeRosa, whose key hit enabled the Braves to head to Chicago for Friday's Game 3 with the best-of-five series tied at a game apiece.
DeRosa received a rare start at second base on Wednesday because Giles had suffered a severely bruised left quadriceps muscle in Game 1. He accepted the challenge knowing that it was his job to produce just like Giles has done throughout the year.
"He's been our sparkplug all year," DeRosa said of Giles. "So I went up to him today and said, 'If you can go, you go'. I understand my role and if he could go, I wanted him to go."
But at the same time, Giles was fully confident that DeRosa would deliver in the eighth inning, despite the fact his good friend had struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth.
"You couldn't have picked a better person for that to happen to," Giles said of DeRosa. "I think it's no secret that he could start for a lot of other teams. He accepts his role and when he gets a chance to play, he does a great job of it."
As the game-winner landed into left-center field, scoring the speedy tandem of Jesse Garcia and Rafael Furcal, DeRosa, who was a standout quarterback at the University of Pennsylvania, pumped his fist and displayed emotion that signified just how important this game was for the Braves.
"I got a little too fired up," DeRosa said. "That was a little football mentality coming out in me. Hopefully they don't take offense to it. I was just fired up with the situation. It's just an unbelievable feeling to come through."
Although he was unable to start, Giles always saw to it that he contributed to the evening. The gutsy All-Star second baseman heroically limped off the bench and delivered a pinch-hit, two-out single in the sixth that scored Javy Lopez from second and gave the Braves a 3-2 lead enabled them to erase the two-run deficit they encountered before taking their first swings of the evening.
"We are always giving ourselves a chance to win the game," DeRosa said. "Whether guys come through or not, it's a comforting feeling knowing our bats can come in there and win the game."
Smoltz, who missed most of September with tendinitis in his right elbow, entered the game in the eighth for what was apparently the beginning of a two-inning save. But after allowing the Cubs to tie the game with a run in the eighth, his save opportunity turned into a 13th career postseason victory when he rebounded to toss a scoreless ninth.
"I made some bad pitches and fortunately was able to get another chance," said Smoltz, who was charged with his fourth blown save of the season in his final regular-season appearance.
In the early going, it appeared the Cubs were going to gain a commanding 2-0 series lead. But showing bulldog-like characteristics, Braves starter Mike Hampton battled his way out of a corner and let his offense begin creating the comeback.
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, who allowed the Giles single, was charged with three earned runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Every hit he allowed was a single, including one from Andruw Jones in the fourth that tied the game at two runs apiece.
While Zambrano was hit at a steady pace, Hampton recovered from his first-inning struggles and was charged with just two runs on four hits, while recording nine strikeouts and issuing five walks in six innings.
Hampton walked the first two batters he faced and threw just 11 of his first 15 pitches for strikes. But after allowing a two-run Sammy Sosa double off the top of the center-field wall, the southpaw battled out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by recording three consecutive strikeouts.
His mastery of the strike zone continued into the second inning, where he struck out all three batters he faced. The six consecutive strikeouts tied a postseason record that had been accomplished just three times before.
"That was unbelievable pitching performance out of him," Robert Fick said. "He came back strong. You can't teach that. He's got heart."
And the Braves once again have a healthy pulse.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or