Monday, October 11, 2010

NLDS Game 4: Giants at Braves

File photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Derek Lowe faces Madison Bumgarner and tries to keep the Braves' season alive.
Let's answer everyone's biggest question first: No, Brooks Conrad is not in the Braves' lineup tonight. And really, after last night's three-error performance, how could Bobby Cox put Conrad back out there? So Omar Infante moves back to second base and Troy Glaus comes off the bench to play third base. The only problem: While Glaus has 1,337 games of experience at third, he's been there only nine combined times the last two seasons. Not exactly a huge upgrade defensively.

In order to stave off elimination and force a Game 5 Wednesday night in San Francisco, Atlanta will have to play solid defense while also getting a strong start from Derek Lowe, who returns on three days' rest. Lowe has done this five times previously (going 3-1 with a 4.40 ERA) so he's comfortable with the challenge. Whether he delivers, we'll have to wait and see.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy would have brought Tim Lincecum back on short rest had his team trailed the series. But since San Francisco leads 2-1, Bochy instead is going with rookie left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who isn't too shabby himself (1.18 ERA over his last six starts). And if the Braves pull this one out, the Giants will still have Lincecum ready to go for the decisive Game 5...

Where: Turner Field
Gametime: 7:37 p.m.
TV: TBS Radio: WTNT-570 AM
Weather: Clear, 75 degrees
CF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
1B Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
LF Pat Burrell
SS Juan Uribe
3B Mike Fontenot
RF Cody Ross
P Madison Bumgarner

2B Omar Infante
LF Matt Diaz
1B Derrek Lee
C Brian McCann
SS Alex Gonzalez
RF Jason Heyward
3B Troy Glaus
CF Rick Ankiel
P Derek Lowe
8:28 p.m. -- Three innings down and the Braves have taken a 1-0 lead. Could've been worse, but Madison Bumgarner did a pretty good job limiting the damage there in the bottom of the third. Derek Lowe, meanwhile, is cruising, having retired all nine batters faced. His trademark sinker is in top form. The question is how long he can keep it going while pitching on short rest. Watch to see if the sinker starts rising a bit in the strike zone over the next couple innings. If it does, his night might not last so long. If he can keep it down, though, look out.

8:49 p.m. -- Yeah, Lowe's sinker remains nasty, as does his slider. He just cruised through the fifth inning on six pitches, getting two groundballs and a strikeout. He hasn't allowed a hit through five and has faced the minimum. Braves still lead 1-0.

9:20 p.m. -- The no-hitter ended in dramatic fashion, with Cody Ross belting a hanging slider from Lowe into the left-field bleachers with one out in the top of the sixth. That tied the game 1-1 and sucked the life out of Turner Field. But then Brian McCann re-energized the place by belting a pitch from Bumgarner over the right-field fence in the bottom of the sixth. That puts the Braves back on top, 2-1.

9:25 p.m. -- Far be it for more to second-guess a guy who has won 2,500 games as a big-league manager ... but I'm going to anyway. Sorry, Bobby, but that was the wrong move to let Lowe convince you he should stay in the game after putting two on with one out in the seventh and Pat Burrell at the plate. His pitch count was at 96. He was clearly starting to fade. He was pitching on three days' rest. Did you not see the sweat pouring down his face? So now Lowe has walked Burrell on five pitches, loading the bases and forcing Cox to turn to Peter Moylan to get Juan Uribe out and prevent the tying run from scoring.

9:37 p.m. -- And the Giants take advantage. Moylan got Uribe to hit a grounder to the left side of the infield, but deep enough in the hole that Alex Gonzalez had to slide to pick up the ball. That threw the shortstop off enough that his throw to second was a tad high and just enough pull Omar Infante off the bag. That brought the tying run home and left the bases loaded. Lefty Jonny Venters came in and got Aaron Rowand to strike out on a terrible pitch in the dirt, but Cody Ross delivered again, singling to left to bring the go-ahead run home. Might have brought two runs home if not for a fantastic throw to the plate by Matt Diaz and a great job by McCann to hang on and withstand a collision with Pat Burrell. Regardless, the Giants now lead 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, with Santiago Casilla now in to pitch for San Francisco.

10:09 p.m. -- Big-time performance in the eighth from the Giants bullpen, first from Casilla, then from lefty specialist Javier Lopez, who just made Jason Heyward look silly to end the inning. San Francisco now three outs away from closing out the series, though those are still three really tough outs for Brian Wilson to get in the ninth. Hang on.

10:19 p.m. -- OK, here we go. Bottom of the ninth. Giants up 3-2. Brian Wilson coming in for the save. Bottom of the order due up for Atlanta, with Brooks Conrad set to lead off as a pinch-hitter. Talk about a chance at redemption.

10:33 p.m. -- The Giants win the ... well, not the pennant. The Giants win the Division Series! The Giants win the Division Series! What a tense bottom of the ninth there, with Wilson putting two men on via walks, then battling back to strike out Melky Cabrera and get Omar Infante to ground out to third to end the game. Giants win 3-2 and win the series 3-1. What a series -- every game decided by one run, every game going right down to the wire. Fantastic stuff. And now we get the pitching matchup of the year: Lincecum vs. Halladay in Game 1 of the NLCS Saturday night in Philly. Sorry to see Bobby Cox's career end like that, but a very classy move of the Giants to all stand along the dugout rail and salute the Braves' retiring manager. Good stuff all around.


JaneB said...

For Bobby's sake, and for Brooks, I hope they hold the lead. Loved your updates during Brooks' fateful missteps...Whichever team comes through I just don't see how they beat Philadelphia.

Doc said...

For Nats fans it might be noted that lefty M. Bumgarner was taken by the Braves in the '07 Draft, a few selections past Ross Detweiler.

natsfan1a said...

That was a great game, and a great series. I also thought it was classy for the Giants to salute Cox. It wasn't only the guys in the dugout, as those who were on the field stopped their celebration to do the same.

Richard said...

Adding to Doc's comment above re the 2007 draft, commentators are noting that Heyward was drafted 14th that year. And in 2008 the Nationals drafted Arron Crow with the 9th pick. In 2006 it was the still-mired-in-AA Marrero. Throw in Strasburg's unfortunate injury and the highly unknown prospects of Harper and the Nationals' record in the draft is, well, not so good.

Dave said...

Seriously? You're going to attribute Strasburg's injury to a bad draft?

Yes, I'm as bummed as anybody about the Nats' season this year, but I think that's a bit of a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the number of posts here have dropped off significantly since the end of the season. I think this shows the DC fans are not fans of the sport but only fans of the hometown team...sad!

yankish2 said...

Tonight's Lee/Price duel should have every baseball fan glued to the tele. I wonder if Mark will be blogging?

Sec3MySofa said...

anon at 12:14 -- doesn't mean we aren't reading. we just limit our pointless diatribes and finger-wagging to in-season Nats topics.

Richard said...

Dave, the point of course was not that Stephen's injury was the Nats' fault but that the Nats are both inept and unlucky re the first round of the draft, but mostly inept. On the positive side, though, their full 2010 draft looks good, and it may be the first one over which Mike Rizzo has fully presided.

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