Just like that, you can redeem yourself. Rafael Furcal, as I wrote below, seemed top be trying to win the game for the Pirates singlehandedly, committing two errors and starting 0-4 including a double play. And then, with one out, the bases loaded, and the game tied at 2 in the ninth, he singled home the winning run off of Jose Mesa. Yes, the Jose Mesa, who’s worth an elite prospect to hear the Pirates tell it.
The Braves fell behind 2-0 after three innings. John Thomson was pitching as well as he has in months, striking out five, walking one, and allowing only five hits, all singles, in six innings. It looked like he’d get hung with a loss, though, because the Braves (as predicted last night) went into hitless wonder mode versus Josh Fogg. (Actually, he allowed five hits in 5 2/3, not six hits as I’d predicted. Sorry.) The Braves’ only run entering the ninth came when Nick Green (who went 3-4 starting for Marcus Giles) singled in Marrero in the fifth.
But in the ninth, Estrada singled and Franco hit an infield single; DeRosa, running for Estrada, went to third on an error. DeRosa scored when Mesa — showing the brilliant baseball instincts for which he’s been long noted — tried to turn a double play and didn’t get anyone. Green screwed up the bunt, getting Julio forced at third, but Eddie Perez walked and Furcal singled in Marrero.
Meanwhile, the bullpen was great again. Juan Cruz not only pitched, he pitched the eighth in a one-run game, threw a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout, and got a win! Alfonseca allowed a single but erased the runner on a double play to end the seventh. Smoltz, of course, got the Pirates with no problems in the ninth.
In addition to Giles, Andruw started the game on the bench, with Drew playing center, Marrero right, and Thomas left. Andruw hit for Thomas in the eighth, I’m not sure why — perhaps to get a lefty out of the game. He singled, but in the ninth popped up with one out and the bases loaded, thereby adding fire to the Andruw-Haters Club. Giles pinch-hit as well, and in fact Bobby emptied the bench.
The Marlins mugged the Phillies again — I can’t believe Larry Bowa is still employed — and both teams are now 3 1/2 out. I told you, never count out the Marlins. The Mets are winning big late and will stay six out. The Braves now host those Mets for three, starting with another Hampton-Trachsel classic. Get out the No-Doz. It will be the Braves’ last series in the division until the end of August when they play at Philly. Considering that the Braves are 31-15 against the division and 23-30 against everyone else, they need to step up. The Marlins play the Expos, the Phillies the Cubs.