It was supposed to be Brian McCann‘s day off. But since every game McCann doesn’t start is a nailbiter, he wound up pinch-hitting. And sending the game into extra innings. Once Brian figured out that if he didn’t do something quick, his day off could easily turn into catching nine innings, he ended it.
Derek Lowe and Wandy Rodriguez were the starters in a traditional pitchers’ duel. Lowe only blinked once, a leadoff homer by Wallace in the seventh. But Rodriguez didn’t blink at all, throwing eight shutout innings and holding the Braves to five singles and two walks. They had a couple of chances, but couldn’t do anything with them.
The Astros blew some chances too. Of course, they got to face George Sherrill and Scott Proctor. Sherrill failed in his designated duty of pitching to the opposing starter, allowing a leadoff single to Wandy, then screwed up the inevitable bunt (the hot read among today’s skippers is Managing the Deadball Way by Fred Clarke) to make it first and second. Fredi brought in Proctor. They gave him a free out with another bunt, which Fredi countered with a free baserunner on an intentional walk, because why not, everybody comes to the park to see the managers. Carlos Lee (the Astros’ Uggla) popped up, then Wallace struck out swinging at ball four. Jonny Venters pitched the ninth without incident.
Rodriguez threw 113 pitches, so it was time to go to the bullpen. Uggla — predicably — led off the ninth with a groundout, the fourth of his five outs on the day. (He’s now hitting .196.) Hinske looked like he tied it up with a drive, but was robbed at the wall by Hunter Pence. McCann pinch-hit for David Ross, and tied it up with a homer to left center.
Eric O’Flaherty allowed a walk with two out in the tenth but that was all, plus his usual two strikeouts. McLouth walked to lead off the bottom of the inning, after which Fredi sent up Conrad to bunt. (The idea of not bunting being obviously insane, couldn’t he at least have used Hudson or Jurrjens?) Martin Prado flew out, and after a walk to Heyward (back in the lineup, 1-3 with two walks) Chipper took strike three looking.
With Craig Kimbrel unavailable, it was Cory Gearrin‘s turn. The leadoff man reached on a bunt single (the reason for all these bunts is perhaps that since we can’t field them, Fredi thinks it’s productive) followed by a stolen base and an intentional walk. Matt Downs, the next batter, tried to reach by sticking his arm into a pitch, but for once the umpire didn’t fall for it and he had to play fair, and struck out. Gearrin then walked the bases loaded, but got out of it with a double play.
Uggla’s fifth out of the day started the bottom of the eleventh. Hinske walked on four pitches, then McCann homered on a 1-0 pitch to end it.