Giants eliminate Braves, send Cox into retirement

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A Braves fan held up a sign pleading for the team to “Win It For Bobby,” but Ross and the Giants were in no mood for sentimentality. Not even with the comfort of knowing that Game 5 would’ve been back in San Francisco, and Lincecum was all rested and ready to go after a two-hit, 14-strikeout shutout in Game 1.

Now, the Giants ace is lined up to face Halladay, who pitched a no-hitter last week in his postseason debut. The Phillies and Giants split six games this season.

“I can’t say enough about our pitching,” Ross said. “They keep us in it the whole time. We just need to score a few.”

The Braves couldn’t blame this one on Brooks Conrad. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez made a couple of errors — including a high throw in the decisive seventh that got Ross to the plate with two outs. He delivered a bases-loaded single to left, driving in the tiebreaking run.

Gonzalez also got caught loafing down the line in the eighth after hitting a soft liner toward shortstop — violating one of Cox’s few rules (always play hard). Edgar Renteria dropped it, but still threw out Gonzalez easily at first.

Conrad didn’t start after making three errors in Game 3, which the Braves were one out from winning to take the lead in the series. The last of those let in the winning run of San Francisco’s 3-2 victory, a stunning turnaround that gave the upper hand back to the Giants.

They didn’t let it slip away, even after falling behind twice in Game 4. Bumgarner pitched like a veteran, allowing six hits and both Atlanta runs.

Missing Chipper Jones and Martin Prado from an offense that wasn’t all that strong to begin with, the Braves simply didn’t have enough bats to extend Cox’s career. Heyward had his first two hits of the series but still batted .125. As a team, Atlanta managed just 24 hits in the four games.

Lowe did all he could, turning in a gutsy performance on three days’ rest. He blanked the Giants without a hit over the first 5 1-3 innings, but Ross struck in the sixth with a liner to left that barely cleared the wall. Just like that, it was 1-all on San Francisco’s first hit of the night.

Brian McCann, who had a sacrifice fly in the third to give Atlanta its first lead of the series before the eighth inning, struck again in the sixth. He led off with a shot over the wall in right to quickly restore the Braves’ lead.

Lowe — working hard, muttering to himself and sweating profusely on an unseasonably warm night — finally ran out of gas in the seventh.

With one out, Aubrey Huff drew a walk from Lowe. Buster Posey followed by topping one toward third baseman Troy Glaus, who was essentially Conrad’s replacement but can barely move because of a sore knee. Posey beat it out without even drawing a throw.

Cox walked slowly toward the mound as though he was going to make a change, but he wanted to ask Lowe how he felt. The pitcher nodded his head and Cox left him in the game, drawing a huge cheer from the crowd.

But the Giants stayed patient against the tiring Lowe. Pat Burrell worked the count to 3-1, then Lowe threw a pitch that darted toward the inside corner. A little too far inside. Ball four.

Lowe threw out his arms, practically pleading with home plate umpire Mike Winters for the call. Cox emerged slowly from the dugout a second time, this time to make the change. Lowe bent over behind the mound, then walked toward Cox to hand him the ball and kept on going toward the clubhouse.

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