You have to hand it to the Braves players. Despite heroic efforts by the manager to lose the game, they managed, barely, to pull this one out and salvage at least one win in the series. Fredi’s utter contempt for what wins in baseball began with his version of Bobby‘s Sunday Surrender lineup. He did start Brian McCann — with no off-day tomorrow and a lefty going, so if you’re ever going to rest him, it’s now — but decided to give a start, at first base, to Joe Mather, who has about as much business in the major leagues as he does leading an expedition to the headwaters of the Amazon. Somehow, it worked out, and no doubt Fredi will inform us that he is a super-genius and should never be criticized or questioned.
Anyway, Derek Löwenbräu started, and after staggering out to the mound gave up two singles and two doubles to four of the first five hitters — the only guy he got was Albert Pujols on a strikeout, go figure — to be down 3-0 before the average fan, or the starting pitcher, had finished his first beer. Pujols singled in a run to make it 4-0 in the fifth, but Alex Gonzalez — the unquestionable hero of the game in my eyes — made a great play to start a GIDP to get out of the inning and keep it in reach. Not that we expected a comeback.
But Gonzalez hit a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the inning, scoring McCann, to make it 4-2. Then Mather somehow walked, and McLouth singled. Fredi, wondering how he could screw this up, decided to send up Brandon Hicks to pinch-hit. Hicks managed to get what is, quite likely, his only major league hit, a single to left-center, to score Mather, but Prado hit into a double play.
Scott Linebrink tried to put the game out of reach by loading the bases with none out in the sixth, but the Braves turned the rarely-seen 5-2-3 GIDP to relieve most of the pressure. A desperate Fredi then brought in George Sherrill to pitch to the opposing pitcher (the second time this year this has happened), knowing that he had a tired bullpen and was shorthanded. Sherrill got the out. Eric O’Flaherty, consummate professional, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.
Dan Uggla, who maybe will wake up now that it’s not April, doubled off the top of the wall in center, the second “How did that not get out” for the Braves in as many days. After not getting down another one of Fredi’s ridiculous bunts, Gonzalez reached on a rare Pujols error, scoring Uggla. Mather failed yet again to execute a sacrifice and AAG was erased on a fielder’s choice, and McLouth flew out. Eric Hinske pinch-hit and hit a terrible little flare that hit in no-man’s-land, and it was first-and-third, and Prado made up some for his GIDP with a single to give the Braves the lead. Heyward hit a hard grounder right at Pujols to end it.
Fredi sent out Cory Gearrin to pitch the eighth; with Kimbrel supposedly not supposed to pitch, I guess that was the right call unless you want to try for a two-inning save by Jonny Venters, which is what I would have done. Matt Holliday immediately hit a double, and after going to third on a groundout (wow, no bunt!) scored on a sac fly when Heyward made a terrible throw. Venters had no problems at all in the ninth, two grounders and a strikeout. AAG popped up to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but Ryan Theriot, playing short for mysterious LaRussian reasons, dropped it. Mather actually got the bunt down, which doesn’t make it any less stupid. McLouth walked, and Brooks Conrad hit another terrible little flare to right-center to score Gonzalez. Fredi may lodge a protest.