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Heartwarming story about Franklyn Gracesqui

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Saving grace: Call-up caps it


With his teary father in the crowd, Franklyn Gracesqui -- making his major-league debut -- comes on to record a strikeout and preserve a win for Florida.



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SAN FRANCISCO - Hollywood couldn't have scripted it better.


The Marlins are clinging to a 4-3 lead with two out in the ninth inning. Franklyn Gracesqui, just called up from the minors, is warming up in the bullpen and preparing to make his major-league debut in front of a hostile crowd of 37,306 and with the tying run on third.


As he's about to run out to the mound, the nervous reliever hears a familiar voice from the stands. It's his father, Fausto, who spent the day flying across the country from his home in New York and scrambling to get to SBC Park in time to see his son.


''I looked at him, and his eyes were raw,'' Gracesqui said of his father. ``He was crying.''


With that image seared in his mind, the 24-year-old pitcher took the ball from manager Jack McKeon and proceeded to strike out Michael Tucker to preserve Thursday's win against the San Francisco Giants.


''I didn't know how many people were in the stands,'' Gracesqui said. ``I didn't hear anybody. All I did was focus on Tucker. And when the count went to 2-2, I knew I was going to get him.''


Gracesqui was so excited about being in the big leagues that he hardly slept or ate since Wednesday, when his manager at Triple A Albuquerque (N.M.) told him the news. He said it didn't even embarrass him that the Marlins' other relievers made him carry a bright pink satchel containing snacks out to the bullpen before the game.


'A bunch of fans were screaming at me, `Nice pink bag,' '' Gracesqui said.


But the Dominican-born pitcher, who was promoted after Florida placed Chad Fox on the disabled list, said he was just glad to be there.


And he made the most of his opportunity.


Barry Bonds hit his 668th home run, which he stopped to admire before trotting around the bases. But Bonds admired two other home runs from his spot in left field, turning to watch Ramon Castro's fly over the wall in the seventh to give the Marlins a 3-1 lead and again in the ninth when Mike Lowell snapped a 3-3 tie with a solo shot to the same vicinity in left.


''He didn't beat us today,'' Gracesqui said of Bonds. ``We beat him. He got the home run, but it wasn't enough to win the ball game. That's all that matters.''


Sitting in the dugout before Thursday's game -- the opener in a four-game series and the first meeting between the teams since the playoffs -- McKeon told reporters he wouldn't be afraid to throw the untested Gracesqui ``into the fire.''


''We'll baptize him quick,'' McKeon promised.


He wasn't kidding.


Brad Penny took a 3-1 lead into the eighth, the lone run coming on Bonds' blast near the 421-foot marker in right-center field. It brought to 1,000 the number of homers hit by Bonds and his late father, Bobby.


But it didn't do in Penny or the Marlins. They can live with solo shots when holding a 2-0 lead, as they were at the time.


Penny ran into trouble in the eighth, giving up three consecutive hits as the Giants cut the lead to 3-2.


More troubling for the Marlins was this: Penny was taken out with runners at first and second, nobody out and Bonds due up. McKeon summoned left-hander Matt Perisho, who walked the slugger on a 3-2 pitch.


In came Justin Wayne, who played his college ball just down the road in Palo Alto at Stanford. Wayne got Pedro Feliz to ground into a double play, which scored pinch-runner Dustan Mohr, before retiring Edgardo Alfonzo on a groundout to end the inning.


Wayne gave up a leadoff single in the ninth to A.J. Pierzynski. Pinch-runner Yorvit Torrealba advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved on to third when Jeffrey Hammonds grounded out to second baseman Luis Castillo.


That's when Gracesqui -- called upon because Armando Benitez was given the day off after being used extensively of late -- came in to get the save, striking out Tucker on a 2-2 slider.


''That's what we were looking for,'' McKeon said. ``Survive the pressure and bail us out.''


Said Gracesqui, who planned to spend the evening celebrating with his father: ``My dad's been wishing for this his whole life.''

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