Giants Vs. Cardinals: Nate Schierholtz Unlikely Hero In 11-Inning Victory

Part-time outfielder Nate Schierholtz delivered huge hits in both the ninth and 11th innings as the San Francisco Giants topped the St. Louis Cardinals 7-5.

It's a funny game, baseball.

When the San Francisco Giants play the St. Louis Cardinals and Tim Lincecum starts for the Giants, he's supposed to win it. Or if not him, Albert Pujols. Or Lance Berkman. Or maybe Tony La Russa, the Smartest Man in the World.

Or someone else. But not Nate Schierholtz, the Giants' fifth outfielder. But in point of fact, when the Giants beat the Cardinals Wednesday night, 7-5 in 11 innings, Schierholtz qualified as the hero not once, but twice.

Back to Lincecum for a moment, though. After giving up a run in the third and two more in the fourth -- one of them coming on a strikeout-slash-wild-pitch -- Lincecum and the Giants trailed 3-0 after five frames.

In the top of the sixth, though, the Giants drove St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook from the game with three runs of their own, tying the contest at 3-3. And they went ahead in the seventh on Aubrey Huff's solo homer off reliever Miguel Batista.

After his rough fourth inning, Lincecum had cruised through the fifth and sixth and seemed well on his way to his sixth victory of the season.

Did I mention it's a funny game? Because it is. Funny.

Lincecum couldn't hold the slim lead he'd been given. Skip Schumaker led off the bottom of the seventh and struck out, but Daniel Descalso tripled and rookie Allen Craig, pinch-hitting for Batista, belted a hit-me slider over the left-field fence and into the Giants' bullpen to push St. Louis back in front. Next came consecutive singles, and Lincecum was out of the game. Things almost got a lot worse for the Giants, as reliever Santiago Casilla entered the game and walked Pujols to load the bases, but he got Berkman on an inning-ending double play.

Still, St. Louis was ahead 5-4 and the Giants went down meekly in the eighth. In the ninth, Cardinals closer Fernando Salas took over and quickly retired the first two San Francisco hitters on three pitches. Unaccountably, though, Salas then walked Aubrey Huff on four pitches. Emmanuel Burriss pinch-ran for Huff, with Nate Schierholtz coming up.

On Salas's fourth pitch to Burriss -- a ball that ran the count to 2-and-2 -- Burriss took off for second base and made it safely without even a throw. Schierholtz drove Salas's fifth pitch on a line into center field, with Burriss scoring the tying run without even a throw home.

The Cardinals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth, and nobody scored in the 10th.

In the 11th, Ryan Franklin entered the game.

In case you haven't been following Flyover Land Baseball this spring, Franklin's been a whole thing. After losing his job as closer in mid-April, Franklin was allowed to pitch in only six games. In the first three of those games, he gave up runs. But in the latest three, he was almost flawless and struck out six hitters in 3-2/3 innings. With his entrance Wednesday night, he seemed to have finally regained his manager's confidence after six weeks in exile.

Somebody should probably get that exile ready again. Because this time Franklin got hammered. With one out, Freddy Sanchez smacked one of Franklin's offerings into deep left field, where it bounced over the fence for an automatic double. And with two outs, Nate Schierholtz came up again and delivered again: this time, he laced a single into right field, Sanchez scoring the go-ahead run. And after an intentional walk, rookie Brandon Crawford singled to left to plate Schierholtz with an insurance run. Franklin finally got the third out, but too many cows had escaped from the barn.

In the bottom of the 11th, Brian Wilson gave up a couple of singles but also got a double-play grounder, and retired Allen Craig on a grounder to second to end the game and earn his 15th save of the season.

It's a funny game, unless you lose in 11 innings. Then it's probably not that funny.

For more about the Giants and Cardinals, please visit McCovey Chronicles and Viva El Birdos.

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