Houston 2, Atlanta 1


Wilson Betemit looked a lot less professional today. In the fifth inning, with one out, a runner on second, and the Braves leading 1-0, he mysteriously tried to cut down the runner at third rather than throwing to first. Two batters later, the runner scored on a sac fly. The runner had previously reached when Betemit couldn’t make a play on a wicked grounder which turned into a double. It was at least the third time in the past three weeks that the Braves were hurt by a player trying to get the lead runner when getting the batter probably would have gotten them out of the inning unscathed.

The Astros didn’t need much help with Andy Pettitte — another member of the Enemies List — on the mound. Pettitte allowed only one run on two hits through six. The term for his performance was “effectively wild” — 58 strikes on 101 pitches.

Which leads us to Ortiz, who got the loss despite one of his best outings, striking out nine. But he threw 133 pitches through 6 2/3 before giving way, inevitably, to Gryboski with the bases loaded. And Gryboski walked in the leading run. I don’t get any of this. Why was Ortiz (on a hot day) allowed to throw so many pitches? And why was he allowed to walk the bases loaded that late in the game? And why bring in Gryboski, who’s supposed to be the double-play guy, with two out? Typically, Gryboski gets out with an ERA that’s slightly improved. Atypically, Juan Cruz pitched the last two innings, but typically he was terrific, striking out two, walking none, and allowing only one hit.

The Braves stand to fall to 3 1/2 behind the Marlins, who are winning big as I type, while the Phillies play tonight. The Mets could pull to half a game behind the Braves… The Braves travel to St. Louis for three, then Milwaukee. I like to think of this road trip as the Beer Run.

22 thoughts on “Houston 2, Atlanta 1”

  1. How many times over the last week or so has DeRosa come to the plate with a chance to tie the game or put the Braves ahead, and done nothing? I wonder how much longer the Braves can survive with his non-existent offense in the lineup, especially if, for whatever reasons, Bobby keeps batting him at the top of the order. If Andy Marte was hitting well at Greenville, I’d say bring him up now. Unfortunately, he isn’t….

  2. To be fair, that ball took a bad hop nearly over Betemit’s head.
    I would blame the loss on the fact that we scored 1 run, not on a defensive error by a rookie SS making an emergency start due to injuries, or questionable management of the pitchers (which I agree happened).
    Pretty damn hard to win 1-0 every day.

  3. When was the last time Betemit played shortstop before last night anyway?

  4. I think Betemit was playing shortstop in Richmond, actually.

    Matt, I agree. But how many times can I say “And the Braves didn’t score any runs, again?” And in how many different ways. Plus I’m sick of the Braves trying to throw people out at third base without even a force in effect.

  5. I think Betemit only played his last game at SS at Richmond before he got called up. I believe he had been playing 3rd regularly before that.

  6. ,or I think Betemit only played his last game before he got called up at SS for Richmond.

  7. Via No Pepper, baseball america has a by position listing and betemit has only played two games at short this year (compared to 21 at third). I went to the game on thursday in richmond and he was at third. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a quiet audition for Wilson. I’ve only seen two games in Richmond but he hasn’t looked good. He did hit a homer to dead center on thursday but I think everyone in the place was a tad surprised.

  8. Steffen,

    You hit it on this one. The Braves are walking a tightrope this year. We don’t have an extra MVP in the middle of the lineup to present any sort of “murderers’ row” type innings. Thus, we really need the run creation to be spread out across the lineup, and have every hitter do what they do well, or passably well.

    We’ve actually been doing this, to a great extent. JD has missed what, 10 games? And chipper missed 12 or so. We’re still pretty close to .500. Estrada has been, well, the total package. LaRoche is out of the gate slow but holds his own defensively and shows promise at the plate. Garcia has actually played well of late! Impressive.

    And yes we have been forced to watch Wise flail at pitches (though Hollins made a good impression). But DeRosa is the only “regular” who really hasn’t been pulling his weight in the least (break given to Furcal since he’s been out). DeRo, who I loved in 2002 and wanted to do well this year, has really not gotten into it at all.

    He must have had “chances” every time at bat tonight and just couldn’t do anything. Say what you will about situational hitting, he’s hitting .214, which isn’t good no matter what situation you’re in. Especially if you’re freaking batting LEADOFF!

    I still want him to stay in there and recover and start slugging like you know he can. But right now, it’s ugly.

    Free Andy Marte. :)

  9. It would be a stretch to say that LaRoche has been pulling his weight either. However he has looked better than DeRo as of late. At least one of our corner infielders is going to have to contribute offensivly if we are going to contend.

    Protecting a 1 to 1 tie is the type of situation I think that you bring in your best reliever. That might be Reitsma as of now. But Bobby is way smarter than me.

    I agree with Andy B. Betemit is being auditioned for something. Trade bait?

  10. This was a text book game in the “little things add up” category.

    Betemit did actually see considerable time at SS in spring training, whether that was for audition purposes or seeing whether he would go North instead of Garcia is a good question. Terrible brain lock for Betemit in a tight game.

    The comparison often used for Betemit when he was coming through the system was Tony Fernandez, and boy, do I see that. He’s not as good as Tony, but he runs and carries himself just like him. It looks like he has the physical end of the SS skills taken care of nicely.

    Can’t add much to what’s already been said. I’m one of Bobby’s biggest bobos, but when Russ hits the 120 pitch mark, if I’m Bobby, I’m thinking “the needle is in the red.”

    I’m not going to hang it all in Grybo. Bobby has to think ahead there. You don’t want Grybo coming into a tie game with the bases juiced. In fact, I don’t think you ever want a reliever coming into a tight game with the bases juiced. But Grybo has to make Palmiero hit the ball in that situation. There is no excuse there.

    It seems the only guys who are performing in pressure situations are Drew and Estrada. Everyone else appears to be a “quart low.”

    What the heck was LaRoche doing swinging at the first pitch?

  11. I don’t understand all the fuss about Gryboski at all. He has a great ERA and has gotten the job done in many situations similar to tonight. Who knows what would have happened if Bobby brought in Cruz? Who knows what would have happened with Cruz in the sutuations where Gryboski did get the job done? BTW, he’s a double-play guy because he is a groundball guy, and that’s exactly what you need with the bases loaded – a possible forceout at every base, as opposed to a lazy flyball that might drop and score two.

  12. The problem is not that DeRo is not clutch hitting. The problem is that DeRo is not hitting in any situation. According the The Hardball Times stats page, as of last Thursday DeRo was batting .240 with RISP and .228 overall. I don’t think Schuerholz expected much from Derosa, but I think he expected more than he is getting.

  13. I don’t understand all the fuss about Gryboski at all. He has a great ERA and has gotten the job done in many situations similar to tonight.

    Yeah, that ERA looks great when you only allow inherited runners to score. He’s now allowed 5 of 13 inherited runners to score. If you factor that in, his ERA is more like 4.38. He’s now walked 6 in 12.1 IP, which is horrible simply because he has to get hitters to make contact to be effective.

  14. Sorry, there’s a glitch where the MT system won’t remember your name no matter how often you tell it to if you tell it not to the first time. It should be fixed in the next version out soon…

    As for ground balls and fly balls, the only difference that matters with two out and the bases loaded is outs and not-outs. Gryboski’s career OBP against is .367. Reitsma’s is .323, and that includes his work as a starter.

    Special bonus Grybostat: 12 1/3 IP, 4 strikeouts = 2.92 K/9.

  15. Gryboski – while probably a bit lucky – is in the top 50 ML relievers in Adjusted Runs Prevented (+4.7), so he hasn’t been too bad. That’s 2nd on the Braves to Reitsma (+5.0), who I agree would have been the better choice. That said, I’ve felt Grybo has thrown the ball pretty well this year – I’m surprised at the low K rate. Yesterday he just missed with three straight for the walk, but he really needed to just throw one down the middle and take his chances.

    I hadn’t realized Ortiz had thrown so many pitches, so yeah, he should have been pulled sooner. But man, why not just throw one underhand to Ausmus instead of walking him? It’s BRAD AUSMUS. Argh.

    I blame the offense, though. LaRoche is clearly pressing, and his solid plate discipline has abandoned him. DeRosa is pressing as well. Really, really, really pressing. Not sure how much patience the Braves can have with these two whilst trying to stay in the division race. BP touched on that fact in an article a week or so back. Those two (along with injuries) are killing the offense right now. I keep repeating to myself ‘it’s early.’

    BTW, any ‘beer run’ roadtrip would have to include a stop in Texarkana.

  16. Yes Gryboski has been solid so far (although I don’t think he can keep this up much longer), but you don’t wanna bring in a guy who walks a batter every other inning with the bases loaded. Chris Reitsma- who doesn’t give up many walks at all and is still likely to get the out- seemed like a fairly obvious choice to me. But of course you don’t use your setup man in the 7th inning.

  17. Keeping in mind his high pitch count and the fact that the pitcher’s spot was due up 3rd in the bottom of the inning, there really wasn’t anybody else to bring in besides Gryboski. Unless you wanted to see Alfonseca in there.

    I would have let Ortiz start the inning, but I would have had at least one guy warming up (Gryboski) in case he got in any trouble. He started the inning off looking like he was going to ride off into the sunset with the two strikeouts. But then the trouble came. I figured we’d see a reliever in there after the single.

    However, Cox waited too long to bring one in. I would see why he would want to leave Ortiz in there to finish the inning because of the great game he had thrown up until that point, but having a nice, neat boxscore of 7 innings pitched instead of 6 2/3 is not worth a loss.

    The first time you get a baserunner like that in a close game when the starter has a high pitch count, you bring in someone fresh, especially when the runner gets into scoring position.

    Seems like I remember that lesson from an ALCS not too long ago.

    Then again, every time you strand a runner in scoring position in a one-run game, you shoot yourself in the foot. Unfortunately, it cost Ortiz a ballgame.

  18. Funny you should mention the Grady Little factor.

    Wasn’t Grady Little a bench coach for Bobby one year? Or did he go from Richmond to another organization?

    Whatever. Bobby took a page out of Grady’s manual. And it’s odd, because I have always thought of Bobby as having a somewhat quick hook.

    I’m figuring Almanza will be with the team by the end of the week and it will be interesting to see what his role is out of the chute. If he’s behind Nitkowski in the LH pecking order, I hope he’s stocked up on Preparation-H, because he will be sitting. A lot.

    Almanza may have been the guy to pitch to Palmiero, but then Jimy would have gone to Biggio. I think. You can never be sure with Jimy.

  19. Even down a few games in the standings, Bobby needs to learn how honest and accurate his starters will be in assessing their own performance. It’ll cost a few losses here and there, but the hope is that down the road he has a better picture of Ortiz’s capabilities and judgment.

  20. If there is a positive here, I guess that is it. Painful that it has to come in a winnable game. Russ must have “8th inning-itis,” because the closer he gets to it, the more he seems to struggle.

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