Atlanta 6, Pittsburgh 5 – MLB – Recap – Pirates at Braves – 06/08/2003

I would say Javy Lopez was rejuvenated, but he was never this good in the first place. He hit two more homers, including a two-run shot to give the Braves their first lead in the sixth. His 18 homers put him first on the team and third in the league. He’s slugging .736, which would lead the majors if he had enough plate appearances. Andruw homered for the second day in a row, and Furcal set a career high with his ninth homer. Don’t look now, but the Braves lead the majors with 98 homers. The NL record for team homers is 249; the Braves are on pace to hit 260. But it’s way too early to be talking about that.

Russ Ortiz had another shaky outing, four runs on five hits and four walks, only two strikeouts. He was getting ahead of the hitters for the most part but couldn’t finish them off. He left with runners at second and third and one out, but Trey Hodges got out of the situation with only one run scoring, then got the win when the Braves rallied behind Andruw’s and Javy’s homers.

After Hodges pitched the seventh, the Braves led 6-4 and only had to get through one inning to get to Smoltz. Surely Bobby wouldn’t — OH NO, HERE HE COMES! Yes, it’s Boom-Boom Bobby Hernandez, on to “set up” for Smoltz. He got ex-Brave Randall Simon (the Pirates also had Kenny Lofton and Reggie Sanders in the lineup) leading off. But then double, walk, single, it’s 6-5 with runners at the corners, one out. Bobby finally went and got Boom-Boom, but even with a day off tomorrow didn’t bring in Smoltz, probably because the pitcher’s spot was due up third and Bobby’s forgotten how to do a double switch again.

In comes Gryboski, wild pitch but Blanco (in for “defense”, or because Javy was hit in the arm by a foul ball early in the game) kept it in front of him. Second and third, walk. Bases loaded. Surely Smoltz would pitch now! Nope, Ray King, who allows a scorcher to Lofton that luckily was right at Furcal who catches it and trots to second for the DP. And then Smoltz got the “save” even though the real action was in the eighth. Sigh.

Anyway, this year’s Road Trip Of Death starts Tuesday. Three in Oakland, three in Seattle, three in Philadelphia.

9 thoughts on “Atlanta 6, Pittsburgh 5”

  1. In a recent Baseball Primer thread, someone referred to this research regarding what situations most call for your top relief pitcher(s).

    Let’s review Bobby’s choices:

    PITTSBURGH 8TH (score 6-4, ATL)
    -R Hernandez relieved T Hodges.
    LOW Leverage situation, not an unreasonable choice.
    -R Simon flied out to left center.
    Still LOW leverage…
    -R Sanders doubled to right.
    MEDIUM leverage
    -J Wilson walked.
    HIGH leverage
    -A Nunez singled to left center, R Sanders scored, J Wilson to third.
    -K Young hit for J Beimel.
    Now with the lead cut to 1, runners at 1st and 3rd and only one out we are in one of the VERY few VERY-HIGH leverage situations. So, of course, it’s time for…
    -K Gryboski relieved R Hernandez.
    Uh oh…
    -A Nunez to second on wild pitch by K Gryboski.
    Still VERY-HIGH leverage, and oh what an encouraging start!
    -C Wilson walked.
    Still VERY-HIGH leverage, so naturally it’s time to turn to…
    -R King relieved K Gryboski.
    Oh. Does Bobby have money on the Pirates or something?
    -K Lofton lined into double play, to shortstop, A Nunez doubled off second.
    Phew. Well, all’s well that ends well, I guess.

    Naturally, Smoltz was out there to start the 9th inning with the bases empty in a MEDIUM leverage situation.

    Now, I know it’s just one tool and I’ll admit I would have just as soon seen Smoltz out there at the top of the 8th, even though it was a LOW leverage situation. But it was really agonizing to listen to troubled reliever after troubled reliever come in and hear that Smoltz wasn’t even warming up!

    Using Smoltz (and the rest of the bullpen this way) seems like it’s going to bite Bobby and the rest of the team someday soon!


  2. These are my best guesses at the pitching matchups for the upcoming two series (the first two games are confirmed, the other four are assuming both teams follow their current rotations):

    Tues., at Oakland ? Maddux vs. Hudson
    Wed., at Oakland ? Ramirez vs. Halama
    Thurs., at Oakland ? Reynolds vs. Zito
    Fri., at Seattle ? Ortiz vs. Moyer
    Sat., at Seattle ? Hodges/Bong/Hampton vs. Garcia
    Sun., at Seattle ? Maddux vs. Meche

    My question is, who do the Braves DH and who should they DH? I assume that it will be Matt Franco against the righties and Julio Franco against the lefties (or Fick as the DH with one of those at first base). But notice also that Maddux pitches twice on this West Coast trip, meaning Blanco will catch twice.

    That means two games without Javy, only the hottest hitter in the majors. Assuming Bobby will not let Javy catch Maddux, this might be a good time to call up Johnny Estrada so that Javy can DH.

    But the Braves can’t do that because they would have to send down (A) Bragg (the only backup center fielder), (B) Matt Franco (who’s probably out of options) or (C) DeRosa (who is the only backup middle infielder) or a relief pitcher (which they can’t/won’t do because Hampton is hurt but not on the DL). So what we’ll get instead is a lineup lacking the team’s hottest hitter for two games against two of the best pitching staffs in the majors.

  3. CORRECTION: The Oakland starter for the second game should be Lilly, not Halama. They’re both lefties, however.

  4. You don’t need to bring up Estrada. If Blanco did go down, all you would need to do is conduct a double switch, putting Javy behind the plate, and by doing so, take away the DH. It rarely happens, though it did a couple of years ago with the Braves.

  5. You’re right, Tommy, they’ve always had that option, but I seem to remember Keith Lockhart DHing a lot in the past (a practice that, thankfully, will not continue).

  6. I looked it up on Retrosheet, and here are the Braves’ DHs from 2002: Sheffield 4 games (with Bragg in RF), Bragg 2 games, Julio Franco 2 games (with Matt at first), Andruw Jones 1 game (with Bragg in CF). I don’t recall if any of those players were nursing injuries at the time (maybe Sheffield was), but you’ll see that Javy didn’t DH in any of the games, even when Blanco was catching.

    Granted, Javy wasn’t hitting last year like he is this year (and Bragg is a whole lot worse), but my gut feeling is that Fick will be the DH this year. Maybe I’m wrong.

  7. Bobby moved Andruw into the field for defense in the game he DH’d last year.

  8. Well shut my mouth! Javy is DHing with Blanco behind the plate. So much for that discussion.

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