Conor Gillaspie home run lifts Giants to Chicago
The Giants said adios to Conor Gillaspie one February morning.
It’s a safe bet Gillaspie never forgot that day, with a high temperature of 60 degrees in San Francisco and a low of 24 degrees in Chicago, where Gillaspie was traded. The aimless White Sox were his new employer.
The Giants and Gillaspie found each other once last offseason, and he and Giants fans will never forget his Wild Card knock that victimized Mets closer Jeurys Familia and clanged off the metal roof of the Citi Field bullpen.
Gillaspie’s mouth hung clumsily half-open as he awaited the 1-1 offering, with runners at first and second, before clinching his jaw and contorting his body inward in a sweeping, clockwise motion.
The bat head was down and his elbows flared, but his light blue eyes never left the ball.
Another awkward look from Gillaspie displayed slight confusion. His 29-year-old jaw sunk and his upper teeth were showing. The bat head swept down from behind his ear.
And the ball? Well the ball took flight towards Chicago. And the Giants soon followed.
Jay Bruce — who the Giants took a hard run at acquiring in July as the trade deadline approached — was still running full speed as right foot hit the warning track.
Gillaspie punched his clenched fists into the air and screamed “YEAH!”
Noah Syndergaard, who had pitched a near-perfect game before departing after a rocky seventh inning, locked his eyes onto Gillaspie, if only to begin coping with sure anguish.
It was the top of the ninth, and the Mets hadn’t gotten much going against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, who was sure to finish the frame.
Without a miracle, the Giants would be celebrating out of the visiting dugout, winning on the heels of transcendent pitching and a lesser-known utility player who never took a post season swing before October 5, 2016.
That was the reality, as Gillaspie met infielders Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik at home plate, and offered up the most enthusiastic home plate celebration by a Giant in New York since Bobby Thomson smashed his “shot heard ’round the world” to win the NL pennant at the Polo Grounds in 1951.
It’s always the unsung man on the Giants roster that comes through at the clutch moments in playoff ball, or at least it feels that way. And for now, that clutch player is Conor Gillaspie.