I came thisclose to making that “Umpires 1, Braves 0”.
Derek Lowe was brilliant, as he has been since the leaves started to turn. He picked up a loss because (a) the Braves couldn’t score at all, (b) they couldn’t field much either, and (c) the second base umpire was apparently watching another game.
In the fourth inning, Lowe allowed a leadoff single to Buster Posey. He struck out Pat Burrell, the next batter, and Posey took off. Brian McCann threw him out, but the umpire inexplicably called him safe.
Bill James defines a managerial blunder as being when a manager makes a decision that goes against “the book” and it doesn’t work. Bobby Cox made a classic managerial blunder tonight, and I have no idea what he was thinking. After Lowe got Juan Uribe for the second out of the inning, Bobby inexplicably called for an intentional walk of Pablo Sandoval, who has been awful all year. Not to set up the double play, because again there were two out. And not to get to the pitcher, because Sandoval was hitting seventh.
To get to Commando Cody Ross.
Okay, so he got the platoon advantage, because Sandoval is a switch-hitter. But the chances that Ross wouldn’t get a hit after that were, oh, I don’t know, 100 to 1. Lowe at least held him to a single, which Omar Infante at third base maybe should have knocked down to hold to the infield variety. Anyway, 1-0, and as I said at the point, ballgame.
Tim Lincecum struck out fourteen Braves on the way to a complete game shutout tonight, and the stories will all be about how he was great. He wasn’t. His velocity was down, and he was wild, both in and out of the zone. He didn’t know where the ball was going to go. But the Braves kept on swinging. Constantly. He struck out five Braves in a row after Omar led off the game with a double and Jason Heyward followed with a flyout. He struck out the last two of the game. Again, this is all on the Braves; he really wasn’t throwing hard. Their only other hit was a McCann double with one out in the seventh. Of course, he got moved up to third base, because that helps immensely.
I don’t want to blame the umpires too much. The home plate ump was pretty good, especially considering Lincecum’s wildness. And the fact is, Bobby wouldn’t have pulled Lowe when he did if it had been a shutout, and eventually Lowe would have given up a run — he had to pitch out of a couple of jams. The bullpen — Jonny Venters, who got out of Lowe’s last jam in the sixth and then struck out the side in the seventh in particular, but also Peter Moylan, Michael Dunn, and Craig Kimbrel — was stellar. If we could get to them with a lead, we’d be in great shape. But that would require scoring at least one run.