CINCINNATI -- After Scott Rolen struck out to end the National League Division Series, and after the Giants players came together on the field, and after they ran into the clubhouse and opened the champagne bottles, after all that reliever Sergio Romo, who had saved the game, walked over to a row of lockers covered by sheets of clear plastic and started to weep. He put his hands on his knees and he grimaced and tears filled his dark eyes.
"I'm very proud to be that guy they asked to get the last out," he sobbed. He choked up and sucked in breath. "I couldn't let them down. It's not in me. I never thought ... " His words were interrupted when someone emptied a bottle of champagne on his head. "Holy cow," he said.
Holy cow, indeed. Romo had orchestrated the key at-bat of the game in the bottom of the ninth, the defining moment of the Division Series. He already had walked a batter and given up two singles and one run, and the Reds were trailing by only two. Jay Bruce came to the plate, Bruce the potential winning run.
Romo immediately ran the count to 0-2, and Bruce seemed in trouble. But the count went to 1-2. And then Bruce fouled off pitch after pitch, a smart hitter buying pitches. Before one pitch, Romo seemed ready to deal but stepped off the rubber. He got ready again. Stepped off again. Buster Posey hustled out to him. "He had shaken me off a few times," Posey said later, "and I wasn't sure which pitch he wanted."
Romo got ready yet again. Ball outside. Count 2-2. The crowd dressed in red, looking like one wild red organism, waved white rally towels. Bruce fouled off more pitches. This was the ultimate battle of ball and bat, an exquisite moment of playoff baseball.
After each foul, Romo walked to the side of the mound. He rubbed ball. He seemed to think serious thoughts. The count went full. The Cincinnati fans yelled "Bruce" and it sounded like "boo." Finally, after 12 pitches that seemed to carry the weight of the world, Bruce hit a routine fly ball to left. Rolen's at bat after that, his game-ending strikeout, was almost an anticlimax.
"I knew he had the same mindset I had," Romo said of Bruce. "&‘This guy's not going to beat me. I'm going to get him.' And that's what I was thinking toward him. I always knew I was going to win that battle."
The other key moment of the game, the death blow, was Buster Posey's grand slam in the top of the fifth, which Jeremy Affeldt called a "no-doubter." Affeldt watched the home run, which flew 434 feet and hit the facing of the second deck, watched it from the bullpen.
"We had guys jumping on the fence," Affeldt said. "Me and Jav (Javier Lopez) and (Guillermo) Mota, we try to keep it as calm as possible down there with these young guys. We just felt a little bit of a breather, too. It's not 1-0. It's 6-0."
Think about Posey, how he got his leg busted and came back and had an imposing season and how he struck the key blow in the series winner, how he took Mat Latos deep, Latos who was losing his mind on the mound over strike and ball calls, Latos unprofessional and Posey the ultimate professional — Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella.