What a weird, and ultimately frustrating, game. The Braves led 1-0 with two out in the ninth, Smoltz looking pretty good, when he gave up a pinch-hit homer to Todd Freaking Hollandsworth to send it to extra innings. In the fifteenth, the Cubs got the winning run in when J.D. Drew caught a deep foul ball that turned into a sac fly.
Horacio Ramirez was sharp, throwing seven (shutout, of course) innings, allowing four hits and striking out five, though he did walk five. Andruw had the Braves’ only run on a solo shot in the second, but grounded out to end the game.
The extra frames were like a family reunion or something. Ex-Cubs Alfonseca, Cruz, and Cunnane (the loser) were the Brave pitchers, while the Cubs trotted out Andy Pratt, Kent Mercker (the winner) and Joe Borowski (who got the save). It’s all really inbred. Cruz looked great; he allowed three hits in three innings, but struck out five.
You have to worry about Smoltz, of course. He’s pitched in three consecutive games, and has allowed a homer each time. It would be nice to get through tomorrow without having to use many relievers, but of course Jaret Wright is starting. (Only Gryboski and Nitkowski didn’t take a turn tonight.) I think that the Braves have to think about Cunnane or someone getting “tendinitis” or a “tired arm” or something and calling up Trey Hodges.
“Offensively”, J.D. Drew was 0-3 but walked four times. The only player with more than one hit was Eddie Perez, starting at catcher, who had two. I have to point out that the winning run came with Estrada catching, and that Perez has caught 14 innings with one run scoring while Estrada… Well, hasn’t. I don’t really believe in the catcher’s ability to affect pitching like that, but I have to wonder.
The most important thing I save for last: Rafael Furcal left the game in the sixth with a pulled muscle in his lower back he received on an awkward swing. I’ve had a lower back strain, and it’s the sort of thing that can re-occur a lot. I expect Jesse Garcia will start tomorrow, at least. Bobby better not lead him off, or we’re going to have words.
In the past, Bobby has done crazy things like that with his line-up, on the theory that he doesn’t want to “disrupt” the entire batting order just because one guy is injured or taking the day off. This practice reached its absolute nadir when Cox batted Ozzie Guillen (he of the .287 lifetime on-base percentage) when Walt Weiss was hurt a few years ago.
We’ll find out for sure in a few hours, but my hunch is that Cox moves DeRosa up to leadoff and plugs Garcia in the 8-hole.