The Cubs got what they wanted: a close, low-scoring game with an ace pitcher keeping them in it, then a chance to break on top against a tiring starter and/or the bullpen. Russ Ortiz walked a tightrope for five innings, but fell off in the sixth. He almost caught himself. After loading the bases on three singles leading off the inning, Ortiz struck out pinch-hitter Randall Simon. He then got another ex-Brave, Paul Bako, to hit a potential 3-6-1 double play ball to first, but Robert Fick couldn’t pick the ball up and they wound up with only a 4-1 groundout and a tie game. Then Kerry Wood doubled home two. (Something I forgot to mention in the preview; both teams have outstanding hitting pitchers, the Cubs in particular.) Then Wood came home on a bloop single by another ex-Brave, Kenny Lofton.
All the Braves were able to do against Wood for the first seven was a solo homer by Marcus Giles in the third. But before that, they seemed to be working Wood pretty well, drawing a couple of walks and hitting some balls hard. After the homer, it looked like the Braves got homer-happy and were swinging away too much. For the next three innings, the Braves got only one baserunner, Vinny on a walk, and struck out five times.
They still had one more shot in the eighth. Suddenly they started working the count again and loaded the bases off Wood with one out. Then another ex-Brave, Mike Remlinger, came on and seemingly got out of it with a DP, but Chipper was called safe at first, scoring a run. (The replay sure looked like he was out, but it’s very hard to judge on those plays because you can’t actually see the ball hit the mitt.) Andruw walked to load the bases again, but Javy fell behind Kyle Farnsworth 0-2, then hit a hard grounder right to short. They got the tying run to the plate in the ninth against ex-Brave Number Five, Joe Borowski, but couldn’t get anything else.
Marcus left the game after tripping over first base in the sixth. He indicated that it’s just “bumps and bruises”. For some reason, Jesse Garcia came on, only to be pinch-hit for by DeRosa in the eighth… Julio Franco hit for the pitcher in the bottom of the ninth, against a righthander, with Bragg and Estrada on the bench. (Matt Franco was used in the eighth.) I don’t know why.
Obviously, the Braves need a win tonight. Down 1-0, the odds are about 2:1 against them. If they lose game two, it’s more like 8:1 or even 10:1. The good news is that the Cubs will send up Carlos Zambrano, who seems the pitcher the Braves match up best against and who seemed clearly tired down the stretch. The bad news is that Mike Hampton is the Braves pitcher, and he’s the guy the heavily righthanded Cubs match up best against.