You know I’m a great admirer of Bobby’s. But I honestly have no clue what he was doing in the sixth inning of today’s game, and it may have cost the Braves the game, the series, and the season.
John Thomson started, but faced only two batters and a couple of pitches to the third before leaving with that muscle injury. Byrd came in, and got lucky when a hard grounder hit a baserunner. He gave up a two-run homer in the third to Beltran, but was okay until the fifth, and the score was tied at 2. My feeling is that when you have an emergency pitcher going, any time from the fifth on in you have to be prepared to give him the quick hook. Byrd got two outs in the fifth, but one was a drive that Thomas made a great play on near the track. Byrd then gave up a walk, a double, and a single to make it 4-2, and Gryboski finished the inning. I’m certainly not a fan of Gryboski, but Bobby should have had him ready sooner, and certainly had Byrd out after the double that gave the Astros the lead.
Then the sixth. Alfonseca, who as I’ve said has been the Braves’ best reliever and had been perfect in the series, allowed a single and a walk. But the Astros had a runner gunned down at the plate on a fielder’s choice to Furcal, and it was still 4-2, still a ballgame, with two out. And Bobby brought in Tom Martin to face Berkman. Berkman’s worse from the right side, but he doesn’t usually get to face guys like Martin. Single, 5-2. And then Bobby leaves Martin in to face Kent, who walks, and Ensberg, who doubles in two to make it 7-2, effectively ending the game and forcing the Braves into a situation where they need to beat Clemens and Oswalt just to extend the season. Reitsma finally comes in and ends the inning, only to allow an insurance run in the seventh.
Andruw had a great day, 3-4 with a double and a homer (a three-run job to make the game a little closer at the end and force Lidge to pitch) and two runs scored. He’s been great all series, and is now hitting .500, but the guys at the front — Giles, Drew, and Chipper — haven’t been holding up their end. Chipper did walk and score in front of Andruw, but is hitless for the series. Estrada hit a solo homer for the only run that didn’t involve Andruw.
It all lies in the shaky hands of Russ Ortiz and the hope that Clemens will be ineffective on three day’s rest. That’s a lot to ask for. 80 percent chance of an Astros series victory, most likely outcome Astros in four.