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Today’s Brave Hero: Rick Ankiel

October 9, 2010 1 comment

Ankiel's blast restores Braves' hope, sends series to Atlanta tied 1-1

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MY DESK, SAVANNAH – One mighty, slashing swing, by an outfielder with a .230 average, rocked two cities to the core, stirred up the echoes of memorable post-seasons past, and set in motion a series of events that would culminate in the 2010 Atlanta Braves becoming perhaps the most improbable World Series Champion in baseball’s long and storied history…

…Thanks to Rick Ankiel, hopes of factually typing that sentence remain alive and well.

Ankiel, who nearly witnessed the end of his career in a postseason game one decade ago, reached the pinnacle of baseball life Friday night ( Saturday morning on the right coast), when the 31 year-old outfielder launched Ramon Ramirez’ 2-2 fastball into McCovey Cove in the 11th inning of a 5-4 Braves playoff victory.

The former pitcher raised an arm to the band of brothers standing in the visiting team’s dugout, as he watched the no-doubt blast soar deep into the night sky.

“The biggest homer of my career by far,” said Ankiel. “To be honest with you, I wanted to go from the batter’s box to the dugout and be with the guys, and not run the bases. What a cool thing to do and what a cool way to win.”

The extra-inning shot capped an improbable Atlanta comeback, tying the series at one game apiece, and sent the major’s most successful home-team back to the friendly confines of Turner Field with renewed hopes of advancing to the National League’s Championship Series.

“We were looking at going home down 2-0,” said first baseman Derrek Lee. “I don’t know how many times that has ever been overcome. So this was pretty much a must-win game. We talked about it before. We came through.”

“Coming through”, and defying adversity, has become a staple of this year’s version of the Braves – The Bravos led the National League in come-from-behind and last at-bat victories, and managed with high profile injuries on the infield (All-Stars Martin Prado and Chipper Jones).

“Whoever’s writing this script, just keep doing it,” said reliever Peter Moylan.

The Ankiel blast, along with clutch contributions from shortstop Alex Gonzalez and the entire bullpen (Kyle Farnsworth’s effort is particularly noteworthy), will have the Braves playing for a series lead in Atlanta Sunday – Their starter, because he was used to clinch a postseason appearance on the season’s final day: The ace, Tim Hudson.

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Tim Hudson will take the mound Sunday, looking to give the Braves a series lead

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