A wild finish to the series wound up with the Braves sweeping, but maybe losing Mike Hampton. Hampton left the game with two out, a run in, and two on in the second with a strained groin. Trey Hodges came on in relief, and allowed a two-run single, but after that was superb, allowing only two walks and an infield single in the next three innings. (I don’t hold that first hit against him; I figure you can’t blame someone for allowing a hit to the first batter after coming into the game unexpectedly.) Hodges was in line for a win when the Braves rallied, and then Darren Holmes got through the sixth… But the setup men were lurking and did not disappoint, this time with Gryboski in the starring role.
How does Bobby get away with it? (Until the postseason anyway.) By all rights, the Braves should have blown this game in the seventh. After King mysteriously failed to walk the leadoff batter, instead getting a groundout, Bobby lifted him for Gryboski. Yes, lefty/righty, A-Rod and Juan Gone coming up, but it’s still Gryboski, who promptly allowed a single and a game-tying double. After an intentional walk to Texeira, Bobby then remembered how to double-switch and brought Bong and Vinny into the game, Bong throws a wild pitch and then Bobby has him walk the bases loaded with one out and Todd Greene, who was 2-3 on the day, on deck. By all rights, the Braves should have at least allowed one run, but somehow Bong retired the next two batters, then the three in the next inning, and wound up with the win. Smoltz pitched the ninth, but got no save because the Braves got three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Offensively, Gary Sheffield hit another homer, a solo job in the first, but it was Javy Lopez’s game. Finally returning to the lineup, he hit a solo homer to give the Braves the lead in the bottom of the seventh, and also drove in an insurance run with a double play in the eighth. Every regular who started had at least one hit, but DeRosa started for Vinny and was 0-3, and Bragg started in center again and was predictably 0-3, though he did draw a walk. The Braggometer stands at .129. Furcal was called out trying to steal (third, with Sheffield hitting!) in the fifth, his first CS of the year. According to the game story, he should have been safe.
Because of the differing number of teams in the two leagues, two NL teams have to play each other while everyone else is figuring out what the rules are. This weekend it’s the Braves and Pirates. It should be a nice rest up for the road trip of death coming up next week — three in Oakland, three in Seattle, and three in Philadelphia. 4-5 against those three teams on the road would be a triumph. If the Braves’ lead doesn’t shrink during the next two weeks… well, the season won’t be over, but they’ll certainly have the odds on their side.