JOHN AMIS / AP Enlarge
ATLANTA — The San Francisco Giants won another thriller, again with help from some shaky Atlanta defense, and they're off to the NL championship series for the first time since 2002.
For Bobby Cox, there are no more games.
Cody Ross homered and drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning single, leading the Giants to a 3-2 victory in Game 4 Monday night and wrapping up an NL division series that was tight and tense to the very last out.
Every game was decided by one run, but the Giants won three of them to take the best-of-five series and earn a shot against the two-time defending NL champion
Phillies. Game 1 is Saturday at Philadelphia and features a marquee matchup: Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay.
After Melky Cabrera grounded out with two runners aboard to end the series and Cox's career, the fans chanted “Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!” The retiring manager finally came out of the dugout and tipped his cap. Even the Giants halted their celebration, clapping for Cox and tipping their caps from the winning side of the field.
“Thank You, Bobby Cox,” the giant video board said as “Georgia On My Mind” played throughout the stadium.
Asked if he addressed his players, Cox said, “I did it the best I could. I told them I was really proud of them,” his voice cracking.
Atlanta starter Derek Lowe pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning, and still it wasn't enough. The Braves have yet to win at Turner Field with a series on the line, losing for the eighth straight time in that situation since the Ted opened to baseball in 1997. Cox won't get a chance to end that streak, deciding more than a year ago to call it a career at age 69.
He heads for the rocking chair as the fourth winningest manager in baseball history (2,504 regular-season victories) but one major shortcoming on a record that will surely be good enough to land him in Cooperstown. In 16 trips to the playoffs — one with Toronto, 15 with the Braves — Cox's teams captured only one World Series title, way back in 1995.
A Braves fan held up a sign pleading for the team to “Win It For Bobby,” but Ross and the Giants were in no mood for sentimentality. Not even with the comfort of knowing that Game 5 would've been back in San Francisco, and Lincecum was all rested and ready to go after a two-hit, 14-strikeout performance in Game 1.
Now, the Giants ace is lined up to face Halladay, who pitched a no-hitter last week in his postseason debut. The Phillies and Giants split six games this season.
“I can't say enough about our pitching,” Ross said. “They keep us in it the whole time. We just need to score a few.”
The Braves couldn't blame this one on Brooks Conrad. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez made a couple of errors — including a high throw in the decisive seventh that got Ross to the plate with two outs. He delivered a bases-loaded single to left, driving in the tiebreaking run.
Gonzalez also got caught loafing down the line in the eighth after hitting a soft liner toward shortstop — violating one of Cox's few rules (always play hard). Edgar Renteria dropped it, but still threw out Gonzalez easily at first.
Conrad didn't start after making three errors in Game 3, which the Braves were one out from winning to take the lead in the series. The last of those let in the winning run of San Francisco's 3-2 victory, a stunning turnaround that gave the upper hand back to the Giants.
They didn't let it slip away, even after falling behind twice in Game 4 with rookie Madison Bumgarner on the mound. The 21-year-old lefty pitched like a veteran, allowing six hits and two runs in six innings.
Missing Chipper Jones and Martin Prado from an offense that wasn't all that strong to begin with, the Braves simply didn't have enough bats to extend Cox's career. Heyward had his first two hits of the series but still batted .125.