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Atlanta's bullpen the rock in Game 2 win

Atlanta's bullpen the rock in Game 2 win

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Rick Ankiel was the obvious hero in the Braves' dramatic 5-4 victory over the Giants in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. It was Ankiel's 11th-inning blast into McCovey Cove -- one that erased Atlanta's prospect of staring at three must-win games -- that will dominate highlight reels for as long as the Braves' stirring postseason run continues.

Hand the assist, however, over to the bullpen.

Six Atlanta relievers combined to post seven scoreless innings on Friday, ensuring that the game didn't get too far out of hand and providing the offense ample time to come to life.

"It was one of those situations where every guy who came after the last one didn't want to give up a run," said Peter Moylan, who skirted around a two-out double to close out the sixth. "Again, it's the kind of bullpen we've been all year. We're more like a family than a 'pen. It's an awesome feeling to be able to come in and throw for the team like that."


Mike Dunn preceded Moylan, who was then followed by Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel, Billy Wagner and Kyle Farnsworth. The zeros looked nice, though this was a case where the end justified the means. In other words, it wasn't all pretty in between.

Venters, who led all rookies with 93 strikeouts this season, recorded the biggest of his young career in the seventh, when he got Andres Torres to swing through a slider with one out and runners on the corners. Three pitches later, Venters was out of the inning unscathed.

And then there was Farnsworth, who induced a double-play ball to get out of a mess in the 10th before capping his effort with one more inning to seal the victory.

"Two nights in a row, we've been absolutely perfect," said manager Bobby Cox, who watched it all from the visitors' clubhouse television following his second-inning ejection.

For those who have watched this Atlanta bullpen all year, though, Friday's success should not have come as much of a surprise. This bullpen finished the year with the Majors' third-lowest ERA (3.07) and held opponents to a .221 batting average.

Standing out, in particular, were Kimbrel and Farnsworth -- Kimbrel for how effortlessly he sailed through two innings, and Farnsworth for gutting it out in a 10th inning that could have easily left the Braves staring at the unenviable task of climbing out of an 2-0 series deficit.

Kimbrel, who estimated he hadn't made a two-inning appearance in at least two months, did just that. And the rookie reliever retired all six hitters he faced, four on strikeouts.

"That was definitely the most exciting game I've ever been a part of," said Kimbrel, a 2008 Draft pick who moved up and down between Triple-A and Atlanta all year. "It was amazing. There were just emotions everywhere. I just tried to use those to my advantage. I've done that so far."

Add Friday's success to what Kimbrel did in his postseason debut on Thursday, and the right-hander hasn't allowed any of the eight hitters he's faced to reach.

"The kid has impressed us all year," Wagner said of Kimbrel, whose only previous two-inning appearance in the Majors came against the Rays on June 15. "This is a tough situation to be put in and he did well."

As for Farnsworth, the 34-year-old veteran made an already precarious situation in the 10th worse before finding a way to extend the game. He was forced to enter cold when Wagner left with an oblique injury, and he found the potential winning run standing at second with one out when he finished his extended warmup.

Farnsworth's third pitch plunked Freddy Sanchez in the right hand. Seven pitches later, he walked the bases loaded.

And still: "I think that's the calmest I've been in a while," Farnsworth said. "It's better not to think out there anyhow. I decided to go out there and try to keep the team in the game by being aggressive and making good pitches."

He went at rookie catcher Buster Posey with three straight sliders, the last of which Posey grounded to third. Troy Glaus gloved it and began a game-saving double play to end the frame.

"I had all the faith in the world that Kyle was going to get out of it," Moylan said. "He's a guy that's been there before. He's not going to stress out. Once that ball was hit and we turned the double play, I think momentum really swung to us."

Ankiel, who joined Farnsworth in a Trade Deadline deal from the Royals to the Braves, followed with the home run that Farnsworth then made the game-winner. Atlanta's bullpen has now begun the postseason with 9 2/3 scoreless innings.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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