The Astros jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of solo homers, one by Bagwell in the first and the other by the utterly homerless this regular season Raul Chavez in the third. Hampton was pitching well besides that, allowing only two other hits; there was a bit of a jam in the fifth, but he got Biggio to ground into a double play.
But while Hampton was keeping it close, there wasn’t much evidence of the Braves actually “being in the game” as Houston held them scoreless through six. But in the seventh, Wise hit for Gryboski (who finished the top of the seventh) and doubled with one out. Furcal singled him home. Garner brought in his closer Lidge — which might have cost him the game. Furcal stole second and reached third on a throwing error by the catcher. And then Marcus struck out swinging. And the ball got away from the catcher during Drew’s at-bat. It looked like Furcal could score… But the ball rolled dead, Chavez picked it up, and Furcal was out by ten feet.
Smoltz came in to start the eighth, and got the Astros 1-2-3. Drew singled leading off the eighth, but was thrown out trying to steal. It looked like it might cost the Braves the game when Chipper walked, then Estrada singled. But LaRoche, maybe the Braves’ best hitter in the series, hit a long run-scoring double to tie it, one that just for a second looked like it would get out, but didn’t, and pinch-runner Betemit was held at third, and again the Braves couldn’t get the runner home with less than two out. And Bobby, bizarrely, ran for LaRoche even though he represented only an insurance run and there was no force in order.
Lidge pitched the ninth, too, and Smoltz led off the inning with a single. I mean, when your closer singles in a postseason game, you have to figure he’s going to score. Furcal bunted and beat the throw, but the umpire called him out anyway. Still, winning run at second, one out. Marcus grounded out to second, Smoltz to third… And Drew strikes out in Sheffieldian fashion.
Smoltz pitched the tenth, and walked two, but got out of it. (His final line: three innings, three strikeouts, the two walks, no hits.) The Astros came back with Dan Miceli, and went 1-2-3. The Braves had Alfonseca start the eleventh, and the Astros went 1-2-3.
Andruw struck out leading off the eleventh. Thomas singled, and Bobby sent up his last bench player, Marrero, to hit. Marrero popped up. Thomas stole second easily. All Furcal needed was a hit to the outfield, because Thomas would score on pretty much anything.
He hit it to the outfield, all right. Well, over the outfield. Series tied, 1-1. Furcal is now hitting .500 for the series.
I’m not prepared to offer a percentage yet. I need to think about it. I think that the Braves need to be favored here on in — the Astros are at home, but will start a weak pitcher Saturday and probably Sunday. On the other hand, Thomson’s and Ortiz’s flyball tendencies… I don’t know.