Hinske's knack for timely knocks not enough
Pinch-hitter comes through for Braves, but Giants roar back
ATLANTA -- He raised his right arm, seemingly sailed around the bases and disappeared into a mob of teammates when he reached the dugout steps.
It was surely Eric Hinske's time to be the hero on a club that seems to pass such a title along every few days.
His two-run blast, one that clipped the netting on the right-field foul pole, had propelled Atlanta ahead of San Francisco by one run on Sunday. It put the Braves on the cusp of a 2-1 National League Division Series lead, which would have given Atlanta the opportunity to clinch a series win at home on Monday.
And yet, by the time the cameras and the microphones found Hinske in the clubhouse afterward, little was there to say about what could have been the biggest hit of the 33-year-old's career. Rather, Hinske spoke, his voice hardly elevating above a whisper, about the uphill battle ahead.
Hinske has become a perennial postseason participant, playing now in his fourth postseason in four years with four different teams. But never had he experienced a personal moment like the one he did in the eighth inning of Game 3.
Called on to pinch-hit after Giants manager Bruce Bochy summoned righty Sergio Romo out of the bullpen, Hinske fell into an early 0-2 hole. But he worked the count even, seeing a pattern in the process.
"First, I was looking for the fastball and he threw me a lot of sliders, so I just tried to slow down and get something up," Hinske said. "I wasn't necessarily sitting slider, but I was just slowing down a little bit after he wasn't throwing me a lot of fastballs. I just got a pitch I could handle and put a good swing on it."
So good that he had most of the 53,284 fans at Turner Field believing that an Atlanta team that punched its postseason ticket with comeback wins had managed another.
"When Hinske did that," outfielder Matt Diaz said, "it was like, 'Here we go again. This is our team. This is what we've done all year.'"
"It was the shot in the arm that we needed," added starter Tim Hudson.
And yet, thanks to a turn of events in the ninth, Hinske's home run won't be anything more than a nice note in a box score after Sunday.
The blast was Hinske's second career hit in seven postseason at-bats, all of which have come off the bench. His previous hit was also a solo homer, that one coming in the Rays' Game 4 loss to the Phillies in the 2008 World Series.
"You never know what you're going to do pinch-hitting," Hinske said. "Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. Today it did."
Now, Hinske may have to hope his presence is enough to push the Braves deeper into the playoffs. In each of the past three seasons, Hinske, who had three pinch-hit homers during the regular season, has played for a team that has advanced to the World Series -- the 2007 Red Sox, the 2008 Rays and the 2009 Yankees.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.