SAN FRANCISCO -- By baseball standards, Deivi Cruz is short, round and slow -- but when he rolled toward home plate with the game on his shoulders, the rest of the San Francisco Giants just knew he'd get there before the ball.
Cruz scored from second base on Jason Ellison's short single to left, sliding under the tag at home plate to end the Giants' thrilling 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
The fireworks began in the late innings and built steadily to Cruz's dramatic dash to the plate -- appropriately setting up a real fireworks show on the San Francisco waterfront after the game. Pedro Feliz hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to put San Francisco up 4-3, but Adam LaRoche tied it with a solo homer off closer Tyler Walker (3-2) in the ninth.
Cruz reached second against Dan Kolb (2-6) with one out on shortstop Rafael Furcal's throwing error. After pinch-hitter Yorvit Torrealba drew a two-out walk from Jay Powell, Ellison popped a single to right -- and Cruz never hesitated, chugging around third and beating Kelly Johnson's throw and Johnny Estrada's tag by an eyelash.
"I thought he was going to make it," San Francisco manager Felipe Alou said. "He is not the greatest of runners, (but) I thought Cruz would make it."
"He can run fast enough to score," Feliz said. "That's all he has to do."
Powell, Estrada and Atlanta manager Bobby Cox all argued the call by plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth while the Giants celebrated their fourth victory in six games since the All-Star break. After the game, Cox said he wanted to see the replay before commenting, while Powell and Estrada weren't available.
Cruz knew exactly what he thought.
"I got my foot in there. I knew I was safe," Cruz said. "I knew it would be close. It's cool to score the winning run in a game like this."
Jason Schmidt struck out 10 and allowed seven hits over seven innings, but the San Francisco ace appeared headed for his third loss in four starts after the Braves took a 3-1 lead with three short rallies.
Horacio Ramirez was in control until the seventh, when Moises Alou doubled and Mike Matheny singled before Feliz drove his 13th homer into the left-field stands. It was a measure of redemption for the third baseman, who was booed by the home fans after leaving the bases loaded twice in the Giants' loss to Atlanta on Monday night.
Ramirez allowed 10 hits in 7 1/3 innings, but LaRoche's homer saved him from just his second loss in his last 10 starts. He retired nine of 10 before the Giants' seventh-inning rally.
"They were good pitches, pitches I wanted to throw," Ramirez said of his struggles in the seventh. "I can't complain. The home run was a pitch on the outer half of the plate. That's where I wanted it."
The Giants' ninth-inning rally could have been even better, but the Braves received a break when Feliz was ruled out at second base even though Furcal didn't tag him before making his poor throw to first base.
Andruw Jones, Estrada and LaRoche drove in early runs for the Braves, who fell 1½ games behind Washington in the NL East. Atlanta's clubhouse was somber after the missed chances.
"Kelly made a great throw," Kolb said. "It was a bang-bang play, and it didn't go our way."
Schmidt struck out at least 10 batters for the 22nd time in his career, matching his season high against Arizona on June 22.
"That's probably the best I'd felt since last year," Schmidt said. "The ball was jumping out of my hand. I was throwing just everything -- sliders, change-ups, fastballs, whatever the situation dictated."
After LaTroy Hawkins pitched the eighth in his seventh consecutive scoreless outing for the Giants, Walker needed just two pitches for his fourth blown save of the season -- his second in a row following his struggles against the Dodgers on Saturday. Walker then walked two and threw a wild pitch before barely escaping the ninth.
Furcal stole another base, giving him an NL-leading 31 this season, and extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Braves LHP Jeff Foster struck out Tucker in the ninth. Foster, a native of nearby Stockton, needed more than 30 tickets for friends and family at each of the three games in the series. ... Atlanta 3B Chipper Jones, who returned from the disabled list Monday, went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored while batting in the fifth spot for just the fifth time in his 11-year career. He was replaced by Wilson Betemit in the seventh when he complained of pain in his injured foot. "I didn't really foresee them scoring four runs off Horacio tonight," Jones said. "He was too good." ... Matheny batted fifth for the first time in that slot in his 12-year career.