Well, wasn’t that odd? Despite the antiheroics of Kevin Gryboski, an umpire who decided to make himself part of the story, and Chipper reinjuring his hamstring, the Braves did sweep the Marlins and now are a game out of first. It’s possible, just possible, that Scheurholz and Cox know what they’re doing. I know that’s a controversial statement.
Not that Bobby’s perfect, of course. He remains entirely too fond of using Gryboski in high-leverage situations. Mike Hampton was nearly flawless for seven innings, taking a three-hit shutout into the eighth. He’d only throw 92 pitches after the leadoff man singled, but Bobby (he’d actually been ejected by this point, but he was certainly still making the decisions) decided to go to the hook a little early and brought in Gryboski, who promptly allowed a two-run homer to serial Braves killer Ramon Castro to tie the game at 2.
(Digression on Gryboskiphilia.)
Bobby’s feeling in these situations is that Gryboski has a good chance at getting a ground ball that could become a double play. That’s true, but the flip side of this is that he also stands a good chance of giving up a homer. And since Bobby always brings him in with runners on base, that means that the homer will often be of the two or three run variety. In that situation — runner at first, none out, and a two-run lead — you don’t need the double play so much. What you want to avoid is the extra base hit that can score a run right away, especially the homer that can tie the game. The Braves’ best relievers are Smoltz and Reitsma; since Smoltz will give you one inning at best Reitsma is the way to go.
I think that if there’s a role for Gryboski, it should be in a tie game or when you’re a run or two behind, when giving up one run is nearly as bad as giving up two or three. He should almost never come in when the team’s ahead, because he’s the pitcher most likely to change that in a hurry, as he did today.
The Braves initially took the lead in the sixth, when Andruw hit a solo homer with two out. Estrada and Marrero (no, Drew still isn’t back; Furcal update to come) walked, and Garcia singled Estrada home. Hampton walked too to load the bases, but DeRosa struck out, meaning that the game was still in reach for Gryboski.
The events of the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth were big. First, Marcus Giles was ejected for arguing balls and strikes ending the inning with Hampton at second. It looked to me like the pitch he took for strike three was a strike, but the umpire overreacted as usual and turned it into a big argument. Bobby got ejected as well. Furcal had to come into the game at short, Garcia moving to second, even though the Braves apparently wanted to give him a couple more days off. (The only other option would have been to shift DeRosa and bring in Chipper or Marrero from the outfield.)
Then Chipper, pursuing a ball that would have been caught by most left fielders, pulled his hamstring. He actually had to be carted off; they say he will be reevaluated tomorrow. If it’s as severe as it looks, he might need to take a DL stint, but Chipper’s pretty much the anti-Drew when it comes to healing. Wise came in to play left. So the Braves are playing without three of their top hitters, and the game goes to extra innings, and Base12 was sent out to pitch because Bobby for some reason trusts him more than Juan Cruz. He didn’t pitch well but managed to get out of it because of some nice defense.
With two out, Andruw walked. Estrada hit a fly ball to right that should have been caught, but Cabrera bungled it and Andruw came around from first to score on the “double”. McKeon argued, but he was safe. It was the Braves’ first sweep of the Marlins since 1996.
Tuesday, the annual Road Trip From Hell commences a little early: Cincinnati, Florida, San Francisco, and Colorado. That’s a very odd assortment.