Do the Astros have a curse? I think that the Astros might have a curse. The Curse of Joe Morgan?
The Braves started out today’s game scoring two runs in the top of the second. But then Ortiz allowed five runs in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by Biggio’s three-run homer. And the Astros looked like they might finally have won a postseason series.
But Ortiz, somehow, got through the next two innings without allowing a run. Gryboski pitched two scoreless innings. Then one of the Braves who’d actually shown up for the series, Adam LaRoche, hit a three-run homer off of Qualls (who’d relieved Clemens to start the inning), scoring a pair of Joneses, to tie the score.
Alfonseca allowed a hit and a walk, but this time Bobby let him pitch out of it in the bottom of the inning. Hampton came in to pitch the seventh and walked one, but that was it.
Lidge came in with one out and one on in the eighth. He got Andruw and LaRoche — no small task, in this series — but Garner once again screwed up. He didn’t double-switch, and Lidge was due up fifth in the next inning. And he’d already used up his better “other” relievers.
Sure enough, Smoltz started the eighth. (His spot in the order was safely far away.) He got the first two, but then allowed a pair of soft singles. And Lidge’s spot was due up. Garner pinch-hit, Smoltz got the pinch-hitter… And Russ Springer was the Astros’ pitcher.
He got Perez and Thomas, but hit Furcal. Rafael stole second, and Drew singled him in. (Bobby, as you can see, fiddled with the lineup, flipping Drew and Giles, and also Andruw and LaRoche.) 6-5 Braves. Springer got Marcus to end the inning.
Smoltz got Beltran leading off, but then allowed back-to-back singles to Bagwell and Berkman. Then Jeff Kent came to the plate, less than two out and the tying run at third… GIDP, 6-3, game over, we’re headed back to Atlanta for Game Five.
It’ll be a day game if the Dodgers extend their series tonight, a night game if the Cards win. Wright will face Oswalt, who will be on three day’s rest and warmed up in the pen yesterday. Both managers should be in an anyone-will-pitch mode, with Ortiz and Clemens the only likely holdouts. I don’t know who that favors. 55 percent chance of a Braves win, most likely scenario (there are only two, of course) Braves in five.