Atlanta 6, Chicago 4

ESPN.com – MLB – Recap – Braves at Cubs – 10/04/2003

Let me hear you say “Whew!”

The game, for the first time in this series, was a game of longballs, and that’s the Braves’ game. Chipper Jones and Eric Karros both hit two homers. Luckily for the Braves, Chipper’s were both two-run shots (one from the left side, one from the right) while Karros’ were both solo efforts. That’s the difference in the game right there.

Or the difference was about five feet. Sammy Sosa hit a long fly ball to center field with two out and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth. But Andruw caught it on the edge of the warning track. I’ve heard some criticism of the Braves for pitching to Sosa with first base open, but it was undoubtedly the right call, and would have been even if Sosa homered. You simply don’t walk the tying run to face a hitter like Moises Alou, who not only is a veteran hitter with power but also went 3-4 on the day and is hitting .500 in the series.

John Smoltz was the pitcher in the ninth, entering up 6-3 but then allowing back to back doubles (Chipper should have caught the first one) to start the inning. He got out of it by striking out Kenny Lofton (couldn’t happen to a nicer guy) and getting Grudzielanek to popup, then the Sosa fly out.

Russ Ortiz started and walked the tightrope for five innings. He didn’t get out of the sixth, though winding up giving up two runs. The middle relief did yeoman work, four pitchers combining for three innings. The key situation was the sixth, when after Ortiz allowed Karros’ first homer to cut it to 4-2 then walked the next batter, Bobby brought in Ray King, of all people. And King got a righthanded pinch-hitter to ground into a double play. Gryboski got the last out of the inning, Wright was dominant in the seventh, Cunnane allowed Karros’ second homer in the eighth. Kent Mercker apparently is unavailable and Boom-Boom Bobby was up in the bullpen twice.

After Robert Fick’s antiheroics last night, Julio Franco started at first base for the Braves and hit sixth. Gary Sheffield missed the game with a bruised hand after being hit last night, and Darren Bragg started in right and hit eighth. Julio was huge, going 3-4 with a walk, scoring the Braves’ first run and setting up their fourth. Bragg, predictably, was 0-5 but did drive in that first run with a groundout.

Fick got into the game to pinch-hit in the seventh and tried a really dirty trick to try to get on base. Fick bunted to the pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, who dove for the ball and made a great play to throw Fick out. Fick, however, stuck his hand up and slapped Karros’ arm in a truly Hrbekian attempt to steal a baserunner. The umpires didn’t fall for it. Karros’ arm appeared to be hurt, but he stayed in the game and hit another homer. Farnsworth, however, left with a strained knee and the Braves got two runs off of Mark Guthrie, a lefty specialist asked to pitch to a bunch of switch-hitters and righties because the Cubs didn’t have any real relievers left but Joe Borowski. I have to think Farnsworth’s availability tomorrow is in question.

The Marlins won their series (the Giants deserved to lose after some of the worst mental baseball I’ve ever seen in postseason) and get to rest. Mike Hampton will pitch against Kerry Wood tomorrow night in Turner Field. I have to work, but be there, huh? Don’t let the Cubs fans take over our house again.

Speaking of Cubs fans, the silence after Chipper’s first homer, which turned a tie into a 3-1 Braves lead, was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.

18 thoughts on “Atlanta 6, Chicago 4”

  1. That fan across Waveland in the rooftop seats who FOX featured in the pre-game show can shove that fake tomahawk where the sun don’t shine.

  2. From a Cub fan’s perspective, that was a great post, except for the part about the Cubbie fans oing silent on Chipper’s first homer.

    Been a Cub fan forever, but since they most always have sucked, I’m a closet Braves fan too, having grown up a couple hours from ATL and having seen a ton of games at Fulton County…

    This has turned out to be a great series, and while I hope Wood can perform against Hampton tomorrow, I’ll tell you that I’ll be pulling for the Braves if they knock the Cubs out.

    I agree 100% with what you had to say about Fick’s punk-ass play against EK… and knowing Wood, he’d drill his ass tomorrow if Cox starts him. Considering how well the ancient(!) Julio Franco played today, though, it seems unlikely that Fick would start.

    Good luck to you guys tomorrow – I HOPE you’ll need it!

  3. Two questions: it said Fick had a “profanity-laced explanation” for that play, which I have not seen. Does anyone know what exactly he said? Has it been on SportsCenter or ESPN News or anything?

    Also, Mac, what do you mean about Kenny Lofton and how striking out couldn’t happen to a nicer guy? A lot of Braves fans don’t like him, and I don’t remember what he did to tick off so many people. Enlighten me?

  4. I gotta admire the Cub fans, they were cheering hard even when the team was down the last half of the game. The only thing missing from the stands was Ferris Bueller. Gotta respect the Florida team too, they played their guts out.

    What’s the deal with Smoltz? His hand hurt? Looked like he might have strained it on one of his pitches.

  5. Rob,
    I can’t speak for all Braves fans, of course, but for me, it started in the ’95 WS. He just always seemed to be on base, then stealing bases, and scoring the Indians’ only runs against us (between him and Belle, the Indians would have been shut out in the ’95 series–yes, I’m exaggerating). Then he’s traded to the Braves in ’97. I’m jazzed because I remember the havoc he wreaked against us. And he stunk that year. I know that he was hurt and all the rest, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth (figuratively of course). And then he comes back to the NL, and it seems like he overall is not that great (doesn’t stink, was a good pickup for Cubs after they lose Patterson for year, etc etc), but we can’t get him out when his team is playing the Braves.
    I know it’s not entirely rational (and I feel like I should be able to better express it), but sometimes being a fan doesn’t exactly have to be.
    For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about Reggie Sanders.
    And I agree with Andrew too.

  6. What’s the history on Hampton when starting on 3-days-rest? Kerry Wood is a brave-killer, but can he handle the pressure again? Getting to him and playing good defense is the key tomorrow night.

  7. It’s sold out (well the Master says “1 – best available is unavailable” on phone and internet) and I have to work, but at night so I’ll try to go over there and see what’s up.

    Nobody wants to speculate on Smoltz ? Mac? Or is it a jinx thing?

    My dad is loving Jaret Wright though so he’s not stressing it as much as I am.

    I was listening to WSB and muting the TV and Skip’s (it was Skip right?) call on Sosa (yelling “Swung and there’s a drive”) was totally scary, being a second or so ahead of the picture. but it didn’t look like a good swing and Sosa only did a half assed hop, and when they cut to the outfield Andrew was camped.

  8. Mac — Actually, your disdain for Lofton is well-founded. When he went back to the Indians after one year in Atlanta, one of the reasons he cited for leaving was because the Braves wouldn’t let him play loud rap music in the clubhouse before and after games. I’ve disliked him ever since.

    And Lofton didn’t exactly have a bad year with the Braves, he just didn’t steal many bases because he was hurt (27, I think, when he was routinely stealing 50-plus in those days).

    But look on the bright side, letting Lofton go freed up Andruw to become a defensive legend in center. Of course, trading for him in the first place cost the Braves David Justice … damn!

    By the way, very impressed to see the Braves get up off the deck tonight. I believe this is the first time Atlanta has won to force a winner-take-all postseason game since Game 6 of the 1996 NLCS against St. Louis (they lost Game 4 against SF last year). Even if they lose tomorrow, at least they went down swinging this time.

    One more thing, I read an AP wire story where Sheffield says he’s 50/50 for Game 5 … whatever that means.

  9. I don’t think Smoltz will be available tomorrow, but I’m willing to be surprised. The question is if he’s got damage or just some sort of obstruction in there. Heck, he could be better tomorrow, who knows?

    I just watch Andruw. He had his glove ready, I knew it was in play. That can fool you, if you watch Chipper instead.

  10. Six weeks ago I never would guess I’d be saying this: If Smoltz can’t go today, I’m rooting for Jaret Wright to close. Don’t know if he’s got the fortitude for that job, but he’s sure looked good against the Cubbies. Hope we get a chance to find that out.

    Put DeRosa in right field if Gary can’t go!

  11. Ken,
    I don’t question Wright’s fortitude. I question his stuff. If he pitches as well as he has his last few times out, he’d be a great emergency closer. As for pressure, he has started a WS Game 7 (and pitched well) and come back from injury. I’d guess those are two of the most stressful things to do in pitching.

    FWIW, I think we’re seeing what could become legendary heroics from Smoltz. He clearly isn’t right. I agree that the question is how bad the elbow damage is. In any case, I’d love to see him close it out tonight. I have a feeling if he does that, he’ll continue to blow out the elbow throughout the remainder of the playoffs in a fitting symbolic end to the Braves run.

  12. Just a hunch, but I get the feeling we’re seeing the last days of John Smoltz. He is in obvious pain. I get the feeling that he’s airing it out all the same, not caring if he’s doing more damage, just so he can help his team. If I’m right, it’s one of the more courageous performances I’ve ever seen.

    In other news, I totally bench Fick today, and would have done it even if Franco was 0-5 yesterday. Aside from his play being horsesh*t, which Bobby hates, having him in the lineup risks a beanball exchange today, and I don’t think Hampton is the sort of guy who could keep focus with that sort of thing floating around.

  13. Not to mention, Craig, that going into a beanball war against Kerry Wood with Mike Hampton on your side is sheer folly.

    Actually, I think no beanball wars erupt. It is Game 5, of course. However, should Fick emerge in a lineup opposite the Cubs next year, he shouldn’t dig in.

    Nor, actually, should any of the Braves.

    I can understand a heat of the moment response. You desperately want to get on base, there is the guys glove etc. However, it was still pretty dirty.

    I’d go with Franco even without the dirty play of Fick. Fick hasn’t hit at all of late and Franco is going okay.

    And I agree completely with your thoughts on Smoltz. You say better than I what I was trying to say earlier. I just have this vision of Smoltz collecting 4 or 5 more saves and closing out the Series in his last efforts. I hate to see him in pain and would be sad at the end of a great career but wouldn’t that be a cool way to go out, if, indeed, that is what is happening?

  14. I’ve scoured the net looking for reports on his [Smotlz] condition. I don’t even know if he could physically “bull” through any more saves if he needed to. I’ve listened to him in interviews over the last couple of weeks and he’s taking a very philosophical approach to these games- recognizing and acknowledging that this is the end of a dynasty (and maybe even a career). As soon as the season ends will learn the “full” extent of damage to his arm. I’m not holding out much hope…I think the injury was ALWAYS serious and the reports that the MRI didn’t detect any structural damage was a load of crap. Smoltz is an absolute amazing player and I hope the team picks it up for him and guts it out partially on his behalf. Glavine can write books about being Mr. Atlanta or whatever, but at the end of a decade this is the ONE guy who really represents the franchise.

    Ed

  15. I don’t know that we even should be _hoping_ to see Smoltz pitch any more in this series. Aside from teh fact that he’s hurt, and as admirably gutty as his performances have been – I am in awe of what he’s done this week – the fact is, he’s now allowed runs in his last three outings, and has just not looked right.

    Put another way, hwo secure would you feel with Smoltz in a one run game today?

    I’m not saying any of the others are all that better, but this is a guy who in his last three gams has two blown saves, and another game where the ying run came to the plate, and the opponents hit three balls to the warning track (although Chipper should have had that one).

    It’s brutal, and even inspiring, he’s giving it his all and then some more. But he also scares the hell out of me now.

    Oh, and I hate Lofton too. And while I admire his OBP from his Brave season, he undid a lot fo that by getting caught stealing all the time. I thought some of the injury talk was altogether too convenient at the time. And his defense had some entertaining pahts to fly balls, and kept Andruw out of CF when he was at his best.

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