Conrad’s costly errors push Braves to brink

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“I’ve never experienced that range of emotions on a baseball field,” Atlanta outfielder Matt Diaz said.

The wild finish overshadowed Sanchez’s brilliant performance — he didn’t allow a hit until the sixth — and Hinske’s dramatic homer, which carried the Braves to within one strike of having a chance to close out the series at Turner Field.

The gaffes by Conrad cost them.

He was one of the last guys to make the Braves roster out of spring training and spent his first full year in the majors. Conrad was primarily a backup, though he did provide one of the season’s most dramatic moments with a pinch-hit grand slam that capped a seven-run ninth inning and a 10-9 victory over Cincinnati in May.

Then Jones hurt his knee, and an injury finished off Prado for the season, too. Down the stretch, the Braves were forced to go with Conrad at third base.

His defense was so shaky that Cox swapped him with Omar Infante before the crucial last game of the regular season with the Braves trying to wrap up the wild card, moving Conrad to second because he was having trouble making accurate throws from third.

His arm wasn’t the problem in Game 3.

Freddy Sanchez provided a key hit for the Giants, smacking a two-strike single to center to keep them alive in the ninth. Kimbrel was replaced by Dunn, another rookie, who threw a slider that Huff yanked into right field to bring home Travis Ishikawa.

Peter Moylan took over for Dunn and got what he’s known for: a ground ball from Posey. It went right through Conrad.

Sanchez and Atlanta starter Tim Hudson had quite a pitchers’ duel. The lone run off Hudson came after Mike Fontenot led off the second with a triple to right. Jason Heyward raced back to the wall and had the ball in his glove, but it popped out when he slammed hard into the padding.

Cody Ross followed with a popup into short right. Heyward might have made an attempt on it, but he got a late break and wasn’t charging that hard, perhaps still a bit groggy from his collision with the wall. But Conrad, looking back into the setting sun and running hard, got there in time to make the catch — only to have the ball pop out of his glove.

Fontenot, who wasn’t tagging, raced in with the first run while Conrad fumbled for the ball.

Sanchez was nearly as dominant as Tim Lincecum in a two-hit, 14-strikeout performance that carried San Francisco to a 1-0 victory in the series opener. The left-hander baffled the Braves with a slider, striking out 14 and holding them hitless until Hudson, of all people, singled to right in the sixth.

Nothing came of that.

Then, after Alex Gonzalez started the eighth with a single and Conrad — in yet another blunder — popped up a bunt, Hinske connected.

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