Kawakami: Put Travis Ishikawa among San Francisco Giants’ legendary heroes – hits walkoff homerun in bottom of 9th to send Giants to World Series

SAN FRANCISCO — Travis Ishikawa and Michael Morse were not Giants legends before Thursday, but they are now.

That’s what this team is: A bunch of guys just patiently waiting their turns to be legendary, on a nightly basis.

Then doing the legend thing, again and again and again … all the way to their third World Series in five years.

At the end of this National League Championship Series against St. Louis, the Giants’ final hero was Ishikawa, who started his career with the Giants, was released, and eventually came back this season as an unassuming role player and then suddenly was thrown into left field for the playoffs.

Now? He’s Bobby Thomson 2.0.

On Thursday, it was Ishikawa — a 31-year-old journeyman first baseman — who misplayed a fly ball in left field that led to the Cardinals’ first run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner.

So of course it was Ishikawa who came up in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on, then hit the home run that won this game, 6-3.

And he’s the one who had to fight through his teammates’ giddy tackles as he rounded the bases.

Just legendary.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew instantly the game was over because I knew it would be at least be off the wall,” Ishikawa said.

“As I was going across the (first-base) bag, I was thinking, ‘Man, if this goes out it’s going to be incredible.’

“And I just saw it sneak over. And after that I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything else after that.”

Time stopped. The moment froze. The Cardinals players drooped. That’s what happens when history happens in a lightning flash.

Then it all sped up again, and everything was noise at AT&T Park after hours of tension, worry, surprise, and now release.

Game over, series over, the pennant in their pocket and now the Giants take on the Royals in the World Series starting Tuesday in Kansas City.

Giants’ Travis Ishikawa(45) celebrates his walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 5 of the National League baseball
Giants’ Travis Ishikawa(45) celebrates his walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

“The story of tonight’s Ishikawa, man — that was unbelievable,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “Him running around the bases — he had to have been floating. He felt so bad on that misplayed fly ball there. So for him to get redemption like that, can’t be any greater feeling for him.”

Ishikawa became just the fourth player in baseball history to send a team to the World Series on a walk-off homer in an LCS game and the first Giant to hit a pennant-winning homer since a guy named Bobby Thomson in 1951.

“That’s baseball history right there,” outfielder Hunter Pence said.

It sure is. This whole team is living history, though.

Before Ishikawa’s home run came Morse’s dramatic pinch-hit solo blast an inning earlier to tie the game 3-3, when all looked rather dark and gloomy for the Giants’ hopes of finishing off this series on Thursday and preventing a trip back to St. Louis for Game 6.

And yes, Morse had his own back story: The Giants’ everyday left fielder was injured for the final weeks of the season, hadn’t been particularly good for many weeks before that, and was held out of the Giants’ wild-card game and series against Washington.

If Morse hadn’t gotten hurt, Ishikawa would not be playing left field (or at all) in this postseason.

But when Morse got his opportunity against tough reliever Pat Neshek on Thursday, the ball left the yard to tie the game.

“I had a feeling he was going to do something good,” Bumgarner said of Morse, who was pinch-hitting for the pitcher after Bumgarner’s eight-inning stint.

“Nobody — especially no right-handed hitter — likes facing Neshek. So you know it’s going to be a tough at-bat. But we had a good feeling with him going up there.”

Add in Joe Panik’s two-run shot in the third inning and that gave the Giants three homers in this game — after going the previous six postseason games without a long ball.

“For us to have no home runs and then all of a sudden we get one to go ahead, another to tie, another to win it — I mean, that’s a storybook deal right there,” Affeldt said.

Game 5 hero Travis Ishikawa poses with the man who caught his home run ball and returned it to him, Frank Burke of Oakville. Burke got a bat from Ishikawa

Game 5 hero Travis Ishikawa poses with the man who caught his home run ball and returned it to him, Frank Burke of Oakville. Burke got a bat from Ishikawa in exchange for the soon-to-be-iconic ball. (Dan Brown / Mercury News)

“That is an amazing feat by this team. It’s a credit to everybody playing hard, keeping this game close, and then anything can happen.”

Affeldt had an enormous series coming out of the bullpen repeatedly in crucial situations, and he was summoned one last time in this one to get dangerous pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras with the bases loaded in the ninth.

Taveras hit a tapper back to Affeldt, who raced the ball to the bag himself to end the inning.

That led to the bottom of the ninth, which opened with a Pablo Sandoval single, then a Brandon Belt walk, then Ishikawa, with one out.

It wasn’t time to brood about his misplay hours earlier. It was time to become a legend.

“Obviously, I spent the rest of that defensive inning thinking that I might’ve just cost us the game,” Ishikawa said of his blunder. “But Bum did a fantastic job only allowing that one run to score. Joe hit a big homer in the following half-inning to get us back in.

“Every single guy on this team, every single coach came up to me, slapped me on the back, said don’t worry, you’re going to get ‘em, you’re going to get ‘em, stick with it.”

Then Ishikawa got a high fastball from Michael Wacha and slammed it just over the right-field wall, and Giants pitcher Jake Peavy raced from the dugout and practically upended Ishikawa between second and third base.

Ishikawa motored through it and officially touched home plate, somehow.

“We forgot we had to let him touch home plate for a minute,” Bumgarner said.

Ishikawa found his way. He secured his legend. The Giants won the pennant — you might want to shout that out repeatedly just for history’s sake — and next up is the World Series.

Read Tim Kawakami’s Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him attkawakami@mercurynews.com.

 

via Kawakami: Put Travis Ishikawa among San Francisco Giants’ legendary heroes – San Jose Mercury News.

video: Travis Ishikawa’s double the big blow in 4-run first for Giants – CBSSports.com

SAN FRANCISCO – The hometown fans got a treat early afternoon in Game 3, as the Giantsput together an excellent two-out rally in the first inning.

First, Buster Posey singled, which makes sense. He’s hitting .333 this postseason with zero extra-base hits (singles machine!). Pablo Sandoval followed with a single and then Hunter Pence doubled, scoring the game’s first run (Posey). A Brandon Belt walk loaded the bases for Travis Ishikawa

Ishikawa is primarily in the game over Mike Morse due to being a better defender in left field, according to manager Bruce Bochy, but this time he came through with the bat. A fly ball to deep right-center initially looked like it might be a grand slam, but instead hit the wall and Ishikawa ended up at second with a three-RBI double. (MLB.com has video available, but we can’t embed until after the game due to copyright).

Before the dust had even settled, the Giants held a 4-0 lead in the first inning over John Lackey and the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS.

via Travis Ishikawa’s double the big blow in 4-run first for Giants – CBSSports.com.

Travis Ishikawa San Francisco Giants’ latest unlikely hero

ST. LOUIS — The Giants began their usual postseason mission to squeeze the life out of another opponent here Saturday. This time, it was the Cardinals. The score was 3-0. And the formula was standard. The Giants showcased some elite skill, got at least one lucky break and relied on an unlikely visitor to the clutch-play club.

On this night, the elite skill came from starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner. The lucky break was a nonbalk call against Bumgarner in a key situation in the seventh inning. And the unlikely visitor was Travis Ishikawa, nascent and nouveau left fielder.

Again.

“I’m just trying to get as comfortable as I can out there, as quick as I can,” Ishikawa said.

He has probably been the best most unexpected story of October for the 2014 Giants. At age 31, after a long baseball journey that has bobbled and hiccupped around the minor and major leagues, Ishikawa is suddenly a key ingredient on his team — at a position he has hardly ever played.

A career first baseman, Ishikawa started only three games in the outfield for the Giants during the regular season. But with the team in dire need of someone to play in left field after an injury to Michael Morse, manager Bruce Bochy has started Ishikawa in all but one postseason game in left. Ishikawa has not only been adequate. He has been crucial.

Consider the events of Saturday night. Ishikawa drove in the Giants’ first run of the game — the official winning run — with a second-inning single. He racked up another hit in his next at-bat.

And most stunningly, in the fourth inning with a Cardinals runner on base, Ishikawa sprinted in toward a sinking line drive off the bat of Yadier Molina and dived to make a highlight-video-worthy catch. The out ended the inning and sapped any St. Louis momentum.

“It was just an instinctive play, you might say,” Ishikawa said. “I don’t know if a dive was necessary, although the ball did come in low. I went after it and just let my momentum carry me to the ground.”

Bumgarner, watching from…

via Purdy: Ishikawa San Francisco Giants' latest unlikely hero – ContraCostaTimes.com.

New swing has Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa in a better place at plate

New swing has Pirates first baseman Ishikawa in a better place at plate | TribLIVE

Travis Ishikawa came to spring camp with no guarantees.

He was a nonroster invite with scratch-off lottery ticket odds of making the 25-man roster. The only reason he was invited at all was the Pirates failed to find a left-handed platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez via trade or free agency.

What he did have was a new swing.

The altered approach helped Ishikawa make a Cinderella run to a roster spot in March, beating out Andrew Lambo to become an unlikely platoon fit for Sanchez. Ishikawa is off to a strong start, batting .308 with a home run in the first week of the season. He has started five of the first six games at first base as the Pirates have faced all right-handed starters to begin the season. The Pirates return to play against another right-hander in the Cubs’ Edwin Jackson at 8:05 p.m. Tuesday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Ishikawa’s swing adjustment was born in a nondescript warehouse-type structure near Ishikawa’s offseason home in Southern California. It is there that private hitting instructor Craig Wallenbrock has studied the swings of nearly every successful major league hitter over the last 25 years. Ishikawa was introduced to Wallenbrock by his agent when Ishikawa was drafted by the Giants the 21st round in 2002 out of a Seattle-area high school.

“He’s watched so…

via New swing has Pirates first baseman Ishikawa in a better place at plate | TribLIVE.

Travis Ishikawa’s play mixing things up at first base for Pirates

Ishikawa’s solo jack00:00:26
3/19/14: Travis Ishikawa tattoos a solo home run over the right-field wall, knotting the score at 1 in the top of the fifth inning

BRADENTON, Fla. — If they are being objective and honest, most followers of the Pirates’ Spring Training will concede having considered Travis Ishikawa out of the picture even before he entered the batter’s box. Before Ishikawa got his first at-bat, he spotted Andrew Lambo 20 and Chris McGuiness 15, giving the competition quite a head start.

A strained right hamstring kept the veteran first baseman out of sight, definitely out of mind, for the first two weeks of exhibition play.

Since finally swinging into action, however, Ishikawa has made it hard to not be noticed. After going hitless in his first seven at-bats, he has gone 6-for-9, with a pair of tape-measure home runs, complicating things for the Bucs.

Not so much because he is tempting the club to move away from a commitment to either Lambo or McGuiness as Gaby Sanchez‘s lefty-hitting wingman. Lambo (3-for-34) has been cold all spring and McGuiness (0-for-10) has gone cold.

But if general manager Neal Huntington was of a mind to go after one of the outside options who have been on the back-burner for months, Ishikawa may be prompting him to hold off. With only 10 days to go to the March 31 Opening Day, only so much vacillating time remains.

“I think, most often, the organization usually has a pretty good idea of who they want to be their guy,” said Ishikawa, who is in his fourth different Major League camp in as many years. “But a lot of decisions can be made based on Spring Training. From first-hand experience, I don’t really know about that … but what I do know is you can’t really focus on what everybody else is doing, only on what you can do.

“So I just try to have good at-bats, so I can get going when the regular season starts, whether it is in Pittsburgh or Indianapolis.”

Not many 30-year-olds who have logged big league time in six of the last eight seasons would be so accepting of the possibility — perhaps even likelihood — of being sent to Triple-A.

But Ishikawa appears aware of the need to rehabilitate his reputation after three seasons in which he totaled 171 Major League at-bats with three teams (Brewers, Orioles, Yankees). He had been the primary first baseman in 2009-10 for the San Francisco Giants, who consigned him in ’11 to Triple-A, where he suffered a June shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. The Giants non-tendered him after that season.

So Ishikawa has been to a few of these rodeos. In 2011, he was the Giants’ last cut of the spring. He knows these opportunities can go down to the wire — and also that hopes can be clotheslined by that wire.

“So I’ve been in enough of these to know that the more you worry about stuff like that, the more it affects your play on the field,” said Ishikawa, who was invited to camp on a Minor League contract. “The biggest thing for me is to get myself ready for the season. Regardless of what happens here, I need to be ready to play. So I’m just preparing for that.”

The Bucs may not be able to afford carrying a part-time first baseman who can’t also assist in right field. It’s the Garrett Jones model. Ishikawa has very limited outfield experience, making it ironic that he incurred this spring’s hamstring injury playing the outfield, in the Feb. 25 Black vs. Gold squad game.

He has not set foot in the outfield since.

“I go where they tell me to go,” Ishikawa said. “I’m sure they’re trying to ease me back in. Knowing that hamstrings can be tricky sometimes, the last thing you want to do is re-aggravate it, so they’re helping me out with a lot of DH-ing and first base.”

Wherever his Spring Training leads, Ishikawa is pleased he resisted the urge to join the battle before he was fully healed.

“Absolutely … if this was five or six years ago when I was younger, I would’ve tried to play through it, and probably would’ve compensated in my swing so it wouldn’t hurt so bad, and it would’ve affected me.

“I’ve been around long enough to know what I need to do to get ready. The trainers did a phenomenal job of treating to get me healthy and back on the field. It was my best decision to hold off.”

Now Ishikawa is doing his best to make the Pirates staff’s decision difficult.

via Travis Ishikawa’s play mixing things up at first base for Pirates | MLB.com: News.

Chicago White Sox Sign Travis Ishikawa To Minor League Deal

The Chicago White Sox made a move today that bolstered their 3B depth in their system by adding corner infielder/first baseman Travis Ishikawa to their Triple-A Charlotte team.

Recently released by the New York Yankees, Ishikawa will try to earn  his way back to the big league level at some point this season.

via Chicago White Sox Sign Travis Ishikawa To Minor League Deal | Sports.

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