SAN FRANCISCO – Juan Uribe(notes) normally would have been thinking about avoiding a double-play ground ball. Or about what kind of pitch he might see. Instead, his mind was on his throbbing left wrist. The injury had kept him out of the previous two games, and the pain increased every time he swung in the ninth inning on Wednesday night.
Aubrey Huff(notes) stood on third base. Buster Posey(notes) was on first. Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, one out, and Uribe, having sat on the bench until entering as a defensive replacement minutes earlier, was fighting the sting coursing through his wrist. He swung through one fastball, then fouled off two more by Philadelphia Phillies flamethrower Roy Oswalt(notes), who had been thrust into a desperation relief role. One of the fouls was a pitch that might have hit his heavily wrapped wrist, but the umpire ruled it hit the knob of the bat. Uribe soldiered on.
"It was a problem," Uribe said. "It hurt, bad."
Oswalt probably could have blown him away with a fifth consecutive fastball, but he threw a changeup down in the strike zone. Though Uribe's weight shifted onto his front foot, his hands stayed back. He flicked the barrel of the bat and lifted a fly ball to left field, easily deep enough to score Huff. The moment he made contact, Uribe knew his team had won 6-5 and taken a 3-1 lead in the series.
[Photos: See more of Giants star Juan Uribe]
Pain flooded his wrist. Pleasure flooded his brain. He'd gone from a wounded question mark to Magic Juan. Within seconds, he was engulfed by delirious teammates. Uribe, a thoughtful man of 31 who grew up in the Dominican Republic, stood at his locker underneath a photo of his four children moments later and mustered his best English to describe his feelings.
"I got a whole lot of happy," he said.
So did this entire city. On a mild, cloudless night under a full moon at AT&T Park, the Giants and Phillies traded blows typical for a game begun by No. 4 starters and handed to the bullpens before the end of the fifth inning. Everybody knew the Giants could match the Phillies pitch for pitch, but swing for swing as well? That's the surprise.
Posey had four hits to raise his NLCS batting average from .091 to .313 and made a nifty play at the plate in the fifth inning by catching a throw from center fielder Aaron Rowand(notes) on a short hop and tagging out Carlos Ruiz(notes) on a close play. He was the first Giants rookie to get four hits in a playoff game since Freddy Lindstrom in 1924.
"When he slumps, it's not for long," Huff said. "There's a 30-year-old mind in that body."
Sandoval, buried on the bench because of a prolonged slump, started at third base primarily because Uribe couldn't. With Burrell on third and Ross on second with one out in the sixth, he drilled a line drive that looked to land on the right-field line. It was called foul, however, and it appeared the free-swinging Sandoval was headed for a strikeout. But he laid off a pitch in the dirt, then laced a neck-high fastball to left-center to score both runners and give the Giants a 5-4 lead.
It was an impressive display of re-focusing by the undisciplined Kung Fu Panda.
"Especially when you hit two doubles. Just kidding," he said, referring to the questionable call. "I just calmed myself down. Counted to 10. Breathed.
"When I was a little kid in the backyard, I dreamed of coming through in the postseason. We'll come back here [Thursday] to play hard, have some fun."
Game 5 at 8 p.m. ET will be a rematch of aces Tim Lincecum(notes) of the Giants and Roy Halladay(notes) of the Phillies. Ross homered twice off of Halladay in Philadelphia and San Francisco made a stunning statement that this series would not be an easy steppingstone to a third consecutive World Series for the Phillies.
Halladay, who memorably pitched a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds two weeks ago to kick off the postseason, will be tenacious. As will be Lincecum, whose two-hitter against the Atlanta Braves gave the first indication the Giants might be a team of destiny.
"Two of the best arms in the game," Posey said.
Uribe, who hit a career-high 24 home runs this season, likely won't be in the starting lineup. The wrist injury he sustained sliding into second during Game 1 might be an issue the rest of the postseason. His defense hasn't suffered – he made a sensational backhand play and strong throw for the first out of the ninth inning – but four or five at-bats could be out of the question.
Count on another late-game appearance, though. If these underdog Giants indeed are a team of destiny, one more wave of their Magic Juan might get them past the Phillies.
And should it happen in front of their home crowd Thursday, count as well on a whole lot of happy.