Houston 12 Atlanta 3

ESPN.com – MLB – Recap

As you might have expected, the Braves’ season ended — not formally, but essentially — with Chris Reitma on the mound. The Braves trailed 4-2 after six innings. Jaret Wright wasn’t too effective, but he didn’t kill them. Gryboski got a couple of outs in the sixth, after Wright had allowed a second solo homer to Beltran.

The Braves had scored both their runs on solo homers off of Oswalt in the fourth, one by Furcal, one by Estrada. If they’d just gotten a little better distribution of their hits, they might have been winning. It likely wouldn’t have mattered, because Bobby went to Reitsma in the seventh.

He actually had two out, a runner on second. Single. Throwing error on Drew gets the runner to third. Single. Homer. It’s 8-2, and it’s over. Just to rub it in, Bobby brings in Martin to pitch to Berkman and Kent again, and they get another run. The inning might never have ended except that Kent, being the punk that he is, tried to take an extra base and Andruw threw him out. Cruz gave up three runs in the eighth to make it look really ugly.

The Braves had nine hits and four walks, continuing their string of leaving lots of runners on base. It would be the story of the series save for the horrifically bad pitching by most of the staff. Smoltz, Gryboski, Hampton, and Alfonseca pitched well. The rest were pretty terrible, though Byrd’s runs weren’t all his fault. Reitsma and Martin should be banned from baseball, or at least tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

If you want good news, Andruw hit .526 for the series. (He had a hit and a walk today, but grounded into a DP after everything was decided.) If you believe in such things, maybe that’s a breakthrough, but he has weeks like this all the time. I will probably write this season’s postmortem later this week.

26 thoughts on “Houston 12 Atlanta 3”

  1. I’m just thrilled that Andruw had a good series (aside from the double plays and badly timed strikeouts), and that John Smoltz was able to set the all-time postseason wins record before… well, before tonight.

  2. It’s hard to win a series when you have 2 starters leave early from injuries. We went into the playoffs a mess of injuries and pitching problems against the hottest team in baseball. Hardly a surprise.

  3. I, for one, am proud of how the Braves did this season. They were given up for dead by a lot of people, including my brother-in-law, who owes me $100 for the Braves winning the division. The Phillies overspent and under delivered, and the Marlins were too cheap to keep the reason for them even getting to the playoffs (Pudge). Glavine had another subpar year, which should have been much better save for the pathetic team he played for, and Maddux got his 1st and 300th win as a Cub, with a lot of Braves wins in between.

    What should we Braves fans be ashamed of? Nothing at all. Bobby and co. took a rag tag bunch of washed-up middle relievers, starters and more than a few good rookies, and made something of them. They are winners. Houston played a great game tonight despite who their manager is. They did exactly what they should have with that lineup. The series with the Cardinals will be best of seven each game winner decided by who gets to 20 runs first. Both teams pitching, for the most part, is overrated. My money is on Boston with Schilling and Pedro starting 5 of the game collectively.

    The offseason will be very interesting. Will Smoltz move back into the rotation (probably not)? Will Millwood come back home where he belongs, for less than $10 million? Will we say goodbye to Ortiz? Probably. Will we trade for Randy Johnson in the off-season? Probably not, but we should. Oh well, see you next post-season, cause that’s where the Braves will be.

  4. For once I am glad that ESPN Singapore chose not to air the game; the computer version was painful enough….Yes, the Braves had a great season, but it did not have to have such a profoundly ugly ending.

  5. I agree, the Braves had a good season. Yet they break my heart every postseason. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Losin three game five’s at home three years in a row. Just awful and embarrassing.

  6. What I found particulary frustrating watching this game is that Bobby seemed to manage the pitching like this was an ordinary game during the course of the season. Wright’s control was off all night – constantly behind in the count and throwing strikes up in the zone. I kept waiting for him to be yanked earlier, but it didn’t happen. And then he puts in Reitsma, who has not been effective in a very long time, in what was still a winnable game (and then not pulling him immediately when it was clear he wasn’t fooling anybody). And then he puts in Martin in a situation where he has shown that he can’t deliver. It was maddening.

    What the Braves management team has accomplished is truly amazing. But as time goes on, I am becoming convinced that the Braves don’t have a winning approach to postseason play. They stubbornly stick to patterns established during the regular season even when those patterns aren’t effective (although Bobby did juggle the batting order a little). It makes sense over the course of a long season to have a consistent approach and work through the inevitable rough spots. But in the playoffs it’s adapt or die, and the Braves die far too often.

  7. Let’s face it, Houston was by far the better team in this series. They led almost the entire series. They could easily have and probably should have swept the Braves. Of course, as usual, the middle of the Braves order disappeared. What does it say that Johnny Estrada had more home runs than Chipper Jones?

    Although in the past, I have defended Time Warner to some extent, it’s now becoming clear to me that this team will never advance as long as the suits are in charge. One of the largest (albeit most poorly run) corporations in the world left us a team with a rag-tag pitching staff composed of journeyman (who for the most part did a great job) facing one Hall of Famer and another very good pitcher. Poor middle relief all year. No help to replace injured players. On Sunday, the Time Warner Braves were reduced to having Dwayne Wise, a career minor leaguer, pinch hit against Roger Clemens in a key situation.

    Schuerholz does a great job keeping this team competitive in spite of the fact that Time Warner has no interest in winning. The complaints about the paper losses the Braves accrue ring false when you consider the value of the programming the Braves provide to TBS and the revenue it brings in. Maybe the Braves lose money, but the corporation benefits. (Otherwise, TW should have a fiduciary duty to sell the team.)

    An aggressive organization might have gone out and packaged some players for a Randy Johnson so we wouldn’t have been stuck with a Jared Wright in the biggest game of the season. Maybe if the organization showed some aggressiveness, the fans would be more aggressive in showing up. But it’s never going to happen.

  8. The problem is that during the regular season, if we played five consecutive games against Houston, we would win 3 out of 5 on most occasions because while we have no dominant pitcher, we have 4 to 5 very solid starters. The thing that has always irritated me about the playoffs and the Division series especially is that it in no way mirrors the regular season. The time off between games and urgency of playoff format allows the Astros to have their 2 Cy Young candidates start 4 of the 5 games. Something that you would never see during the regular season. Essentially, winning your division doesn’t mean any type of true advantage in the playoffs. While MLB would never let this happen I would like to see either 5 consecutive games with no off days or give the team with the better record a 4-1 home/away schedule.

  9. The Braves had the lowest ERA in MLB and put up decent offensive stats. They won 96 games. The players just didn’t get done in the playoffs what they did during the regular season.

  10. What I found particulary frustrating watching this game is that Bobby seemed to manage the pitching like this was an ordinary game during the course of the season.

    Well, let’s ask ourselves why. I read somewhere that Cox said on the radio that Hampton wasn’t available for this game; I’m guessing he couldn’t take his knee out for back to back games. Alfonseca had been worked very hard. Gryboski got out there, but likely wasn’t available for multiple innings because he too had been worked very hard. SMoltz was maybe available for one inning, but even that would have been a stretch the way he pitched in game 4.

    So Bobby had to decide – do I leave in Jaret without his best stuff, or do I go to the back end of the bullpen? I think that’s why Wright was in so long – because Bobby knew that a day after riding the bullpen hard to salvage a must-win game, he had little left in the bullpen. And that’s why we saw Reitsma out there, and Martin, and we got to see Cruz demonstrate why Cox might have been justified in having little faith in him.

    This series worked the bullpen hard via injuries and ineffectiveness. By game 5, Bobby had to work with only what he had left.

  11. I’m very interested in what you have to say for the season recap, Mac. Particularly, we need to figure out what to make of Drew, the left fielders, and LaRoche, and go from there in determining what should be done next year.

    I would love to see Jurries and Langerhans on the roster next season as backup outfielder/corner infielders (although I’ve heard Jurries’ defense is brutal), Marte starting in AAA, Drew back, Chipper at 3rd, and someone new in left field. Ahh, the hot stove; how soon do pitchers and catchers report?

  12. CJ is absolutely right. The Braves, during their amazing run, have been built for the regular season. Deep, deep pitching and, in recent years, no true star pitchers. Thus, in the playoffs, with short “home stands” and extra off days, teams with one or two exceptional starting pitchers (such as the Astros this season and the D-backs a couple of years ago) are in the best position to succeed. The Braves formula will win division titles but come up short in the post-season, especially now that budgetary constraints make the acquisition of a stud stating pitcher or two by Atlanta unlikely, if not impossible.
    I don’t think that I’d trade those 13 straight division championships and thrilling regular seasons for one or two more World Series titles as the wild card. Braves fans have much to be happy about. At least we have the opportunity every year to be frustrated in October.
    Perhaps CJ’s proposal that there be no off days in the divisional series to better reflect the relative strengths of the teams should be pushed. “Seven games in seven days–A true test of baseball machismo!”–might be something Bud and his advertisers could adopt.

  13. we’ll be there again next year. hopefuly Reitsma won’t be on the roster and we might be able to pull it out.. why didn’t bobby bring in BYRD before fagget (reitsma) or alfonseca.. im not blaming it on bobby though.. astros were in better shape even though the cards are going to kill them… I hope bobby gets his manager of the year award this year.

  14. Sigh. The Astros of all teams.
    What a great year though. I loved watching this band of over achievers. I guess a couple of things are evident.
    1. The unbalanced schedule can mask a multitude of weaknesses, especially when the teams that were picked to win it all didn’t have the resiliency of this Braves team.
    2. It really sucks to have to play the hot team going into the playoffs. Just ask the Cubs. The Marlins were hot and went all the way. The Astros came in hot having clawed their way back into contention while we had peaked in late August. I think that the Cards win the NL but only because the Astros had to shoot their wad to get by a suprisingly game Braves team.
    3. You have get some career years. If someone had told me that Jaret Wright would be our top pitcher, that JD Drew would play more than 100 games and fulfill his vast promise or that Johnny Estrada would be one of the NLs best catchers, I would have laughed him off of the planet.
    4. You have to be lucky. The Phils and Marlins sucked bad enough and long enough to let us stay within striking distance. Thus when Chip, Andruw, Hampton, Ortiz and Byrd started playing the way they were supposed to the Braves were able to pull away.

    I too am curious about the off season. Its going to be fun talking about it here.

  15. Deep, deep pitching and, in recent years, no true star pitchers.

    I guess it depends how recent you get. Until 2002, the Braves were still running tom Glavine and Greg Maddux out there, both sporting sub-3 ERAs. Such a criticism might hold water for 2003 and 2004, but not remotely for the preceding 12 years.

    You know why the Braves have lost the last few years, though? Because star players who played well all year sucked in the playoffs. Gary Sheffield sucked for two years, followed by suckage from JD Drew this year. Chipper Jones hasn’t posted an OPS over .800 in a postseason series since facing the Astros in the first round in 2001. Tom Glavine utterly imploed vs. San Fran his last postseason here. Marcus Giles this year. Andruw Jones most years up until this year. Russ Ortiz the last two years. jaret Wright this year.

    Look at what the Astros did this series. Have the Braves ever had a series where all the guys who were supposed to hit actually did so?

    The truth is this – the Braves have been built well enough to succeed in the postseason just about every year of their run. We didn’t lose last year because we “weren’t built for the postseason.” We lost last year because Sheff and the Joneses simply stopped hitting. The roster has been there, but the individual players haven’t done the job.

  16. Why do Braves fans not go to the ballgame?

    It’s hard to root for these guys. Look, I’m being harsh, I know. But all this self-congratulating after losing…”

    “We gave it a good run,” center fielder Andruw Jones said. “But it’s not a success. When you get to the playoffs, everybody wants to go back to the World Series and win championships.”

    Sounds devastated, doesn’t he? Might as well said, “Gee, shucks, didn’t make it this year.”

    Speaking of which: “It’s a disappointing way to end our improbable season,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. But, “I think most of the guys in here should be very proud… It happens sometimes…”

    Awe, phewy. Just dumb luck I guess.

    “Make it perfectly clear — this has absolutely nothing to do with the past 12 years,” said Smoltz, the only Braves player who’s been
    with the team during the entire division-title run. “Nobody [on this team] deserves to have that [stigma] on their shoulders. . . .”

    How do you figure? This has everything to do with the last 12 years. Do you think one player on the current roster wasn’t aware of the 500lbs gorilla on their back?

    “Say what you will, but there were two better teams in this division than us, and this [Houston] team was better than us. Had we won this series, nobody would have expected we could win two games against St. Louis,” Said Smoltz.

    Great, well when you put it that way, why should I have any expectation at all? Why should I ever show up to the ballpark, if you’re really as bad as you seem to think you are?

    “We did the impossible all year and really felt like we were going to win this game,” closer John Smoltz said.

    There he goes again. Sort of a ‘we had no right to be here, so don’t get your panties all rolled up.’ That’s passion. That’s fire. That’s an excuse.

    Some kid last night said, “I think they were afraid to lose.” Maybe that’s exactly what a string of 12 years of losing does to a team. Even when the players change, the weight of it all never goes away. It sucks. I sure wish they’d of won.


  17. Not to be picky, but the only season from 1999-2002 (the last four in which Maddux and Glavine were both on the Braves) that they were “both sporting sub-3 ERAs” was 2002. In fact, if I remeber correctly, that was the only season of the last four that either of them had an ERA below 3.00.
    That being said, Colin has a good point regarding the lack of post-season production from Braves’ key personnel, especially hitters. However, that may be a function of the pitchers being faced. It seems that, until this season, the Braves (even in their best seasons) had more trouble against good power pitchers than you would have expected of a championship quality team. (I have no statistics to back that up; just memory and observations.)

  18. I agree with Doug about our postseason hitting failures having something to do with the pitchers faced, and I also think the converse is true – our postseason pitching failures have something to do with the hitters faced. Maddux, Glavine, etc. seemed to fare well all season against bad hitting teams that chased a lot of pitches off the plate. They never did so well in the playoffs when deep lineups with good, patient hitters made them actually throw strikes to get outs. Power pitchers are more successful in the postseason – you have to have a guy who can be dominant even against good hitting (see Smoltz, John). The Braves starting pitching is built for the regular season, not for October.

    As for Allen, so your theory is that only Boston, the Yankees and St. Louis should have fans at their games? You should show up, even if the Braves are really as bad as they say they are, because you’re a fan – that’s why I’ve been going to games since I was 7 years old and they lost 100 a year, and that’s why I’ll still be going if they win the World Series or 75 games. While i’m as frustrated as anybody, let’s try not to sound like a bunch of spoiled Yankees fans.

  19. Wow! The Braves got beat by the Astros and now they are considered a bunch of “losers.” No, Pittsburgh would be what you would call “losers.” Or maybe try Milwaukee or Colorado or Detroit or KC or some other team that can’t remember the last time they had a winning record. Those are “losers.” The Phillies are losers. They haven’t been to the postseason since I don’t know when. How about Montreal. Nobody wanted them for the past 2 years.

    We are very fortunate to be in a town that has had the run the Braves have had. 54,000 plus showed up yesterday to watch the Braves, win or lose. I’ll take these “losers” over any other team in the majors. At least I get to watch competitive baseball on a regular basis, which is more than I can say for many teams.

  20. I’m stating the obvious, but the quotes in the above post were made AFTER the game. They lost. They were disappointed. They sounded like it. If they said these things BEFORE the game, then the contention that they were somehow afraid to lose might make some sense. But expecting passion and fire after your season has just ended–what would that prove?

  21. Bwarrend, very well said. A lot of us have been fans since we fielded guys like Ken Oberkfell and Andres Thomas. I have some friends, a couple, that are big Reds fans. They took some time today to crack on me over last nights loss. I kind of feel sorry for them. While we complain about Time Warner the Reds ownership truly sucks. Their insults were tinged with envy. If they only had the same problem we do. A competitive team that year in and year out contends. A great organization that finds and nurtures new talent. Yeah, Bwarrend, when I look at the Reds future prospects I’ll take our post season problems any day.

  22. Not to be picky, but the only season from 1999-2002 (the last four in which Maddux and Glavine were both on the Braves) that they were “both sporting sub-3 ERAs” was 2002.

    Well, the general point was that if having a few domninant starters was truly the key to winning in the postseason, the Braves would have several world series rings. We ran Maddux and Glavine out there for the bulk of their Hall of Fame careers, supplemented with one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever in John Smoltz. Clearly it’s not just about starting pitching.

    Power pitchers are more successful in the postseason – you have to have a guy who can be dominant even against good hitting (see Smoltz, John). The Braves starting pitching is built for the regular season, not for October.

    Do you have any evidence for this other than raw hunch? The Braves, after all, had the aforementioned Smoltz in their rotation for the better part of a decade. So they had one dominant power pitcher. Greg Maddux has a better postseason ERA (3.02) than Randy Johnson (3.08), Pedro Martinez (3.10 before this postseason) and Roger Clemens (3.47 before this season). Now, granted, the latter two had to face a lot of DH hitters, but Maddux and RJ are comparable (RJ had a few AL series, Maddux faced the DH in more World Series), Of all of these guys, Maddux is the one whose postseason performance is closest to his regular season performance.

    Looking over the last decade of WS winners, precious few have ridden a power pitcher all the way. Arizona was in the rare position of having two, and Florida had Beckett. The Yankees won four series without anyone who was a truly dominant power starter (Clemens wasn’t his former dominant self those years), Anaheim sure didn’t have one. So Atlanta having Smoltz put them in a better position than some. And we still only won once in his ten years in the rotation.

    The Braves have typically lost on annoying stuff – bad fielding, bad baserunning, and big bats getting shut down. The pitching has typically been just fine, this series was the aberration. Well, an aberration except for the big bats getting shut down. Drew, Sheffield, Chipper, Andruw in teh past, Justice, Gant, Pendleton. It’s a loooooong tradition. Only McGriff has stood out.

  23. Don’t forget the horrible pinch-hitting performances. They’ve been a big problem. And relievers suddenly forgetting how to pitch killed them in 1992 and 1996.

    Look, I am probably going to spin this off into a post eventually, but the Braves, post-1998, haven’t really been all that impressive a team. They’ve been good, but they’ve lucked out in their choices of in-season opponents (Valentine’s Mets and Bowa’s Phillies — the baseball equivalents of beating France and Italy in wars) and they’ve had deep pitching staffs (which help in the regular season much more than in the playoffs, usually). When they had their worst year, they timed it in a down year for the whole division. They won a lot of games last year, but with a team that really did only one thing exceptionally well (hit home runs) that could be shut down by the right team, and you’ll likely find that right team sooner or later in the postseason.

    I look at the Braves, 1999-2004, and I don’t see a World Champion quality ballclub in there. (Well, the 1999 club would have been if Javy hadn’t gotten hurt; after that, they weren’t the same team.) The best comparison I can think of is the Dallas Cowboys of Tom Landry after their last Super Bowl win. They managed for many years to be a competitive team, in many ways still the team to beat in the NFC for years after 1977, but they weren’t worldbeaters. They were just the most consistent team in the conference for many years, never good enough to win it all. The Yankees of the early eighties were like that to a degree, though they couldn’t get to postseason because the bar was so much higher then.

    Now, not winning more than one World Series from 1991-1998, that’s another matter. They probably should have won in 1991 and 1993, and certainly should have in 1996. (Which was the great tragedy of modern baseball, more than the strike, really. If only they had beaten the Yankees that time, Steinbrenner probably would have fired Torre and destroyed the team after they lost the division and got beat in the ALDS in 1997, and we wouldn’t have had to put up with these guys ruining it for everyone else for so long.)

  24. [i]Power pitchers are more successful in the postseason – you have to have a guy who can be dominant even against good hitting (see Smoltz, John). The Braves starting pitching is built for the regular season, not for October.[/i]

    Following up on Colin’s response, a few pitchers with a decent number of fairly recent post season outings:

    David Wells, junk baller extrodinare. Regular season ERA 4.06 (through 2003), post season 3.18.

    El Duque, master of arm angles and changing speeds. Regular season ERA 4.04, post season 2.51.

    Jamie Moyer, who throws as hard as my four year old daughter, has a 4.07 ERA in regular campaigns, but 2.66 in post season games.

    Brad Radke, a changeup specialist, through this year has a 3.19 playoff ERA and 4.23 regular season number.

    A guy who threw spinners and slow balls to precise locations back when I was in college, Mike Boddicker managed a 2.51 ERA in the post season and 3.80 in the regular season.

    I don’t really have time or energy to do a comprehensive study, but it seems to me that there are at least as many counter examples of junk masters doing well in the playoffs. That we don’t have a classic flame thrower doesn’t seem like the problem that its been made out to be.

  25. Mac,
    Aren’t you saying in a nutshell that we are lucky in the regular season and damned unlucky in the post season? I alluded to this earlier. Lucky.
    Playing in the NL East with the dysfunctional Marlins and Phils as our main competition. Getting a couple of career years, resurrections and out of no wheres from several players this year.
    Drawing a Houston team that got hot to overtake the Cubs and the Giants for the WC. Going into a whole team slump just before the playoffs.

    Man you brought up 1996. Now I’ll be depressed for the remainder of the day.

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