Ailene Voisin

Opinion: Giants’ Ishikawa redeems himself

The Giants’ Travis Ishikawa rounds first base after hitting a three-run walk-off homer in Game 5 against St. Louis, sending San Francisco to the World Series against Kansas City.
The Giants’ Travis Ishikawa rounds first base after hitting a three-run walk-off homer in Game 5 against St. Louis, sending San Francisco to the World Series against Kansas City. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

In the middle of the Giants’ champagne-bathed clubhouse, the place that broke his heart and then brought him back, Travis Ishikawa was hugged, cheered and serenaded with chants of “Ish, Ish, Ish.”

The memories of his pennant-winning, walk-off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals – the stuff of baseball legend, really – will be shared with his grandchildren, assuming he can cobble together the details.

His thoughts remained foggy late into the evening, though the lapses had nothing to do with the protective goggles he was wearing. It was simply too much to absorb. His emotions skidded all over the place, reflecting a career that resembled an atlas, that started with such promise with the Giants, dropped him into minor-league ballparks in Fresno, Nashville, Norfolk, back to Fresno and, somehow, back to AT&T Park.

He has played mostly first base and right field, but because of the Giants’ injury situation, has experimented the past several weeks in left. On Thursday, and in the matter of a few hours, he was down and out, and then he was on top of the world.

After his drive cleared the wall in right, sending the Giants into their third World Series since 2010, no one around here was going to remind him about the Jon Jay fly ball he misplayed into a double in the third inning, enabling the Cardinals to strike first.

“Every run in the postseason is huge,” said Ishikawa, “and I had just given the Cardinals (one) of them and was feeling terrible. I took a bad route. But nobody let me dwell on it. Every single guy said, ‘Come on. We’re gonna get them.’”

Long before the stunning finish, this game featured a little bit of everything. Starters Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner slugged it out for seven and eight innings, respectively, and both aces were sharper toward the end than the beginning. Wainwright left with a 3-2 lead, series MVP Bumgarner after having retired the final 14 Cardinals he faced.

There were two singles by the light-hitting Gregor Blanco, the surprising jolt inside the foul pole in right field by rookie second baseman Joe Panik, and the tying jolt into the opposite neighborhood in the eighth by pinch hitter Michael Morse. There was Jeremy Affeldt’s stab of Oscar Taveras’ comebacker to end the Cardinals’ threat in the top of the ninth, and earlier that inning, two spectacular defensive plays by Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford.

Posey’s one-handed stab of Santiago Casilla’s high, inside pitch to Tony Cruz could have been a wild pitch and would have led to a go-ahead run. Crawford, who makes the impossible appear routine, fielded a deep grounder by Kolten Wong that deflected off Pablo Sandoval’s glove, and in the same motion, threw a laser to get the force out at second.

But that shot by Ishikawa? That one came out of nowhere for the final 6-3 score? That one came out of fantasyland.

The Giants’ lack of pop throughout the postseaon had left Bruce Bochy feeling like a worker in a widget factory, laboring to manufacture runs in his least-favorite fashion. Even though Blanco’s bunt pressured Cardinals reliever Randy Choate into a game-ending, errant throw on Tuesday, the Giants’ manager still wasn’t budging much about bunts.

“I’ll admit,” Bochy said before the game, “I’d love to have a homer here and there.”

His dream sequence is a deep splash into McCovey Cove. And, well, how little he knew. Ishikawa’s drive didn’t hit the water, but he cleared that wall.

Sandoval, in the midst of another prolific postseason, opened the ninth with a sharp single against Cards reliever Michael Wacha. With one out, Brandon Belt walked. Bochy, who had given some thought to yanking Ishikawa after the misadventure in left, decided to give the journeyman one more at-bat before turning to Juan Perez, a superior defender.

“ (Ishikawa) has done a good job,” Bochy said. “That ball just sailed on him. We did have the lead. One mistake wasn’t going to change my mind.”

The 31-year-old Ishikawa went to the plate thinking strictly fastball. He worked the count in his favor, then directed Wacha’s 90-mph delivery almost exactly where he had planned, in fact, in a better location than he had hoped.

He thought it was a double, which would have won the pennant, anyway. But to end it like this? To make up for his mistake with a blast at least reminiscent of his 2010 season, when he ranked seventh in the National League as a pinch hitter with a .319 average)?

Pinch him, because, well, because it’s all a blur.

“I don’t remember going from first to second,” he said, “and I don’t remember touching third. The next thing I remember was being thrown down with my jersey ripped off, and then finally, I was so out of breath from yelling and screaming, I had to have five guys help me stand.”

In the clubhouse afterward, he was summoned into the circle, his teammates dancing, singing, and screaming, “Ish, Ish, Ish.”

Someone, and it sounded like Ishikawa, responded. “We’re going to the (championship).” That means Kansas City, and another trip to the World Series.

Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin, (916) 321-1208.

Editor's note: This story was changed Oct. 17 to correct Travis Ishikawa’s age.

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