Batiste's Night: Comeback Of The Year, And In One Game In The 9th, He Threw A Lead Away. In The 10th, He Won The Game And Avoided A Sad Place In Phils History.

Posted: October 07, 1993

He could have gone down in Phillies history with Art Mahaffey, throwing that ball off the screen as Chico Ruiz stole home in 1964.

He could have gone down in Phillies history with Greg Luzinski, leaping in vain after Manny Mota's fly ball on Black Friday, 1977.

Yes, Kim Batiste could have gone down with some of the all-time goats in Philadelphia baseball history. Except he wouldn't let himself.

"I wanted to make sure they didn't have anything negative to say," Batiste said last night after making the big roller-coaster ride from playoff goat to playoff hero faster than you can say "Mitch Williams."

"I've had some bad moments in my years in baseball," Kim Batiste said. ''But after tonight, I can honestly say it's great to get the opportunity to come back in this game."

Yes, one minute, he was the defensive replacement who threw a double-play ball into right field in the ninth inning.

The next minute, he was the guy who smoked the game-winning single into the right-field corner that gave the Phillies a 4-3 win over the Braves in 10 heart-stopping innings.

It can be a great game, this baseball. And it can be an awful game. Sometimes all in the same night.

For eight innings last night, Kim Batiste wasn't a hero or a goat or even an entry in the box score. But then came the ninth inning. That is his time.

For three months now, he has been trotting into ball games in the ninth as Dave Hollins' defensive replacement. Incredibly, he hadn't made one error in that role in all those months.

But last night, he slurped up Mark Lemke's sure-fire double-play ball - a double play that would have all but wrapped up a hard-earned 3-2 victory. And then . . .

Then he sidearmed the ball off into the Bermuda Triangle or someplace - for an error that quickly turned into a blown save and a blown win and a ballpark full of unhappy people, people who wouldn't forget.

"After that error, I definitely felt bad," Kim Batiste said. "I said, 'What have I done now?' I was just sitting there, basically talking to myself, saying: 'What are you doing? Where were you throwing that ball?' There were so many things going through my mind."

But then, as he sat there blaming himself for what looked like a certifiable Philadelphia postseason disaster, he began to hear voices - the voices of friends, reassuring him that he wasn't a goat yet, reassuring him that there was still time to make those people cheer again.

"He was taking it real hard in the dugout," said his friend, Milt Thompson. "I went up to him and just told him, 'Hey, it's over with. Let's go. You're coming up. It's in our hands. Let's win it.' "

But it wasn't just him. It was "20 guys," Kim Batiste said. "They were telling me, 'Don't worry. You'll get a chance to win this.' "

And then there he was in the 10th. One out. John Kruk had just doubled. And whose turn was it to hit? The guy looking for a shot to redeem himself.

He got behind reliever Greg McMichael, 1-2. McMichael threw him a change- up. Kim Batiste smacked it into the left-field corner. Kruk came roaring home. And, all of a sudden, out there at second base, there was a mob scene of Phillies, all pounding Kim Batiste on the back - and then lifting him into the

electrified night and carrying him off the field.

"It was just an emotional thing," said Thompson, who was in charge of half the heavy lifting. "We all felt so good for him, coming back after the error the way he did. I just looked over, and Danny Jackson was holding him up there, trying to carry him by himself. And I said, 'I better give him a hand. He's got to pitch in this series.' "

So Thompson grabbed a leg. And then the Phillies engaged in a scene you don't often see in this game - professional athletes staging an impromptu parade for the hero of the moment. It was a scene that epitomized exactly why the Phillies have gotten to this point.

Kim Batiste stood at his locker later, unable to wipe the smile off his face. He was asked if he had ever been carried off a field before in his life.

"Not like that," Batiste said. "Maybe I was carried off with a sprained ankle or something like that. But not for getting congratulated."

This was the first run he had driven in since way back on Aug. 15. But there was a certain air of deja vu to this game - because in that game, against the Mets, he had made an error, too - and then came back to stroke a game-winning single.

In the nearly two months since, he had no errors - and no RBIs. And then he wrapped up both of them in one amazing night.

"That's the way we do things on this team," said Thompson. "We rally around each other. And we find a way."

Last night, Kim Batiste found a way. But he couldn't have done it without a little help from his friends.

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