I just wrote a long piece (more about that later) praising Bobby Cox. But he’s made some major mistakes tonight that perhaps cost the team any chance of winning. With the score 4-0, Tom Glavine led off the third inning. He should have been pinch-hit for. That’s an obvious move, to me anyway; he was pitching very poorly, it’s the playoffs, and you have a seven-man bullpen, complete with a fourth starter (Damian Moss) you don’t intend to use until Game Four of the NLCS — if you even get there.

But Bobby let him hit. I can only assume he was saving his pen for the fifth game that will now almost certainly take place tomorrow night in Atlanta. The first problem is that Bobby basically waived the towel in the third inning with that move — he admitted the game was already lost! Second, this decision — leaving in the starter who is getting pasted to save the bullpen for a later day — is a loser strategy. Not only does it concede the game, it rarely even accomplishes its goal of saving the bullpen, because most of the time the starter will continue to be pasted until you have to pull him.

As happened in the bottom of the third when Tommy gave up a three-run homer to Rich Aurilia, and Kevin Gryboski relieved him. Bobby had to go to the pen anyway, and the small chance of winning the game is now microscopic. Now the Braves will have to play an elimination game, with a pen that’s seen heavy use, with Kevin Millwood on short rest against the Giants’ ace on regular rest. The only advantage would be that the game is scheduled for Atlanta.

UPDATE: I should have checked instead of believing the computer. Glavine made the last out of the second, not the first of the third. With the based loaded, yet. I would have seriously considered hitting for him then, already down 2-0 and looking bad, but that’s too much to ask for. But he should have been lifted when he got in trouble in the third.