Braves Look Backs: 2010 NLDS Game 2

It didn’t take long for a seemingly hopeless situation to become a memorable win for the 2010 Atlanta Braves in this episode Braves look backs.

(*if you’re needing a baseball fix, the whole game can be found here).

That’s the way their NLDS was against the San Francisco Giants, still the only postseason series in MLB history where every game was decided by one run. It didn’t look like game two would fall into that category when the Braves trailed 4-1 after seven innings, but they rallied to force extra innings before Rick Ankiel homered deep into McCovey Cove. 

Ankiel’s blast is the lasting image of two game two, but so much had to go right for the Braves to even get in position to win the game. Most of that got lost in a series filled with tight plays and sudden changes, but there were a lot of huge moments in game two that led the Braves to their first playoff win in five years. Here are nine things you may not remember about that night at AT&T Park

Braves Look Backs: San Francisco’s bullpen was virtually unhittable 

Remember when I said it was a seemingly hopeless situation for the Braves? That might be understating it. Tim Lincecum fired a complete game shutout in game one, and Matt Cain kept the Braves quiet into the seventh inning the next night. 

By the time Atlanta’s bats finally got to start an inning against a San Francisco reliever, they were six outs away from heading to Turner Field down 0-2. And that bullpen the Braves had to find three runs off of was coming off of a September for the ages. 

The Giants’ bullpen pitched 82 innings in September, and allowed just nine earned runs. And six of those came in one rough game at Coors Field. Away from Coors? Three earned runs in 76 innings for a 0.36 ERA. And at AT&T Park, where the Braves had to score three? One run in 42 ⅔ innings for a September ERA of 0.21. 

Those numbers don’t even seem possible, but that’s the mountain the Braves had to climb in the final two innings. They needed a miracle. 


Braves Look Backs: The Giants did provide one big break in the eighth 

The eighth got off to a promising start for Atlanta thanks to back-to-back singles from Derrek Lee and Brian McCann, putting runners on the corners with nobody out for Melky Cabrera

In all too typical Melky fashion, he hit a soft roller to the left side. It was slow enough to score Lee from third, but Cabrera looked like he would be out at first with a strong throw across the diamond. 

But Pablo Sandoval couldn’t deliver that strong throw, as he delivered one just wide of first base. It was enough to pull Aubrey Huff off the bag, and Cabrera—carrying the trying run—reached base on what should’ve been a groundout.

It was always going to take a little bit of luck for the Braves to find a way through a bullpen that good, and Sandoval provided it at the crucial moment.


Braves Look Backs: Atlanta’s first run also came off an error

It was Lee and McCann teaming up in the sixth to get the Braves their first run of the series, as they knocked back-to-back singles just as they would in the eighth. But Lee’s single turned into a double when Pat Burrell made a mistake in left.

Lee was already pulling up to stop after rounding first, but Burrell dropped the ball as he was going up to throw it back into the infield, giving Lee just enough time to hustle into second. 

McCann knocked him in on the next pitch, and the comeback was on.


Pat Burrell’s error also helped Atlanta in another way

Beyond getting the Braves a run, the error in left also got Burrell out of the lineup for the rest of the night. 

Burrell was by far the most dangerous hitter on either side through the first 15 innings of the series. He was the only man with multiple extra base hits, and his three-run home run in the first inning is what put the Braves in the early hole. 

But Burrell was never a strong fielder, and that error was enough for Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Burrell hit a double in the bottom of the sixth, and then Nate Schierholtz entered the game as a pinch runner and stayed in as a defensive replacement. Schiertholtz posed much less of a threat at the plate, and that proved to be true as he was 0-for-2 in his at-bats. 

Would Bochy have taken his hottest hitter out of the lineup for defense without the error? It’s possible. The Giants did have a lead to protect, and there wasn’t much of a reason to think their usually impenetrable bullpen was crack. But after his mishap in left, the decision was made.


Atlanta’s bullpen was stellar

While the Giants only had to get the bullpen involved from the eighth inning on, it was a different story for the Braves. Tommy Hanson only made it through four innings, allowing four runs in his time. 

It was 4-0 Giants when Mike Dunn took the ball to start the fifth for Atlanta, and what followed was a parade of fantastic relief work for the Braves. It’s probably the most forgotten part of this game, just how much good work Atlanta’s relief corps did while the offense pulled the four runs back.

In total, six different relievers combined for seven innings of shutout work, allowing just five hits and one walk. Peter Moylan got a big strikeout with a runner in scoring position in the sixth, Jonny Venters got two huge outs with runners on the corners in the seventh, and of course Kyle Farnsworth induced a 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded in the 10th. 

The four runs the offense put up gave the Braves a chance, but they would’ve been a footnote in this game’s history without the seven brilliant innings from the bullpen. 


Troy Glaus only entered the game in the 10th, and he called his shot

The aforementioned double play Farnsworth induced in the 10th was by far the most important play of this game for the Braves, even more than Ankiel’s home run. Glaus fielded the ground ball off the bat of Buster Posey, and he fired it to Omar Infante at second in time for him to make the turn to Lee at first. 

But Glaus didn’t even start the game. He didn’t play in game one either, meaning his first action of the series was checking in as a defensive replacement for Brooks Conrad in the 10th. Glaus checked in for Conrad at third, sliding Infante over from third to second. 

And when Atlanta’s infield gathered for a meeting on the mound with the bases loaded in the 10th, Glaus knew what he was doing. 

We’ll never know exactly what Glaus says here, but it appears he is pointing at Infante (off camera) telling him that he would go to second if there was an opportunity for a double play. On the broadcast, Bob Brenly had an idea of what Glaus said. 

“On a slow hit ball I’m going to go home, on a hard hit ball I’m coming to second base,” Brenly said of the Glaus conversation on TBS. “No hesitation whatsoever on the part of Troy Glaus.”

Glaus could’ve tried to come home and turn a 5-2-3 double play when he got the ball, but he knew he wanted to go around the horn. 

And as far as we can tell, he made sure Infante knew it too. 


Brian McCann may have saved the game seconds before that

The 1-1 pitch from Farnsworth to Posey saved the game for the Braves. The 0-1 pitch almost lost it for them. 

Farnsworth bounced a slider into the left handed batter’s box, and McCann got down to make a great block. Brenly—a former catcher—again had high praise for the Atlanta defense.

“That hard slider over in the left handed batter’s box, where hitters have been digging toe holds all night long, it’s very busted up, torn up right now,” he said on the terrain. “Nice job by McCann to stay in front of that one.”

McCann gave Farnsworth a second life in the inning, and he immediately returned the favor. 


Bobby Cox watched almost the entire game in the clubhouse 

Never one to shy away from arguing a close call, Cox completed the final game he would ever “manage” away from Atlanta the only way he could. With an ejection. 

The skipper was tossed after arguing a close call at first base in the top of the second, as Alex Gonzalez was called out on a play that wasn’t reviewable in 2010. 

Some of it was carryover frustration from the night before, when the only run of the game was scored after Posey was called safe on a stolen base attempt that looked like the wrong call. 

But whatever it was, the last win of Cox’s managerial career was actually handled by bench coach Chino Cadahia for almost 10 full innings. 


Alex Gonzalez tied the game after badly missing on the same pitch just before

Pretty much the only big play in this game I haven’t covered was the game-tying double by Gonzalez in the eighth, so let’s uncover one tidbit about that at-bat to wrap this up.

Brian Wilson ripped a fastball past him on the first pitch of the critical at-bat. It was 98 MPH up in the zone, and Gonzalez was way late on it. As he did all night, Brenly offered another insightful comment after the shoddy swing to start the at-bat.

“He’s going to have to turn it up a little bit if he wants to catch up with that 98 MPH fastball up around the letters,” Brenly said. 

A few seconds later, Wilson threw almost identical pitch. 97 MPH and up around the letters. 

But Gonzalez caught up to this one. He smoked it into the gap to even up the game, and set up the opportunity for the Braves to even up the series.

And End.

Thanks for reading this episode of Braves Look Backs at an historic game for the Braves. If you. enjoyed this, take a look at other look backs including this one on the 1995 World Series.

35 thoughts on “Braves Look Backs: 2010 NLDS Game 2”

  1. JC’d

    Tfloyd:

    I’d hesitate to say never—the world has so recently reminded us that our expectations for the future can be so rapidly upended.

    But the game would have to change a lot to make a 30 game winner possible. Current understanding of the health benefits of limits on pitch counts in a start and innings in a season would have to change radically. I don’t think either management or players have a desire to risk an ace’s health that way.

  2. sansho1:

    Maybe if you paired a reliever used as an opener with a knuckleballer coming in behind him and used them in tandem 55-60 games a season, you might be able to pull it off. Not sure how often pitcher #2 in these arrangements is involved in the decision though.

  3. It will be easy enough to revive 30 game winners. Just get rid of the 5 inning starter rule. It never made much sense anyway… nor, for that matter, does a formulaic “win” attribution. My preference would be to give the win for whatever pitcher on the winning side had the highest WPA in the game, but that has a number of problems, not necessarily among them that Chip won’t know who to call the winning pitcher; I can just imagine the effect that change would have on Joe Simpson.

    Note that a lot of winning pitchers under this rule would be people who otherwise would have gotten holds and saves… that’s a feature, not a bug.

  4. Baseball discussion: What’s your opinion on how to best utilize 13 pitchers?

    A). 5 starters, 8 relievers
    B). 6 starters, 7 relievers
    C). Piggyback starters (state idea in reply)

  5. @4,

    Depends on who your pitchers are. If I have the Braves I am might tempted to do this.
    3 regular starters. Say, Soroka, Folty, and Fried. Maybe Hamels later.

    2 piggy back starters. Newcombe and Wright; Felix and ?. The piggy backers go 3 and 5. That way, you give the rest of the pen a rest every 2 to 3 games. So, you get almost no possibility of “back to back to back.”

    5 more mostly 1 inning types. At least 1 lefthanded, but nobody has a bad platoon disadvantage.

  6. The problem is to divvy up 1458 innings without giving too many to the guys that suck. In a normal pitching staff you have 2 plus starters, 1 league average guy and a couple guys with various shades of suckatude. In the bullpen you have 2-3 plus guys, 2-3 average guys and then the suck. Minimizing the damage from the suck traditionally has involved giving your top 3 starters about 600-650 innings, your top 5-6 relievers 350 or so while hoping for reasonable damage from the rest.

    The traditional model no longer applies! Only 1/3 of the teams in baseball had one guy throw 200+ innings last year and top relievers are working less as well. What to do? The opener, for one. By giving a specialist the first few batters of the game you let one of your sucky starters face the lower part of the order 3 times while limiting the top of the order to 2 looks at him. This turns a sucky starter into an average guy who gives fewer innings than you really want.

    Another try is similar in that you piggyback 2 non-horse starters and ask each to go exactly 2 times through the order, allowing them to air it out a bit more as well. This approach takes 2 sub average guys and turns them into a decent #2.

    The downside to these strategies is the number of roster spots on a team. One of the strategic changes I foresaw coming into 2020 was a proliferation of openers as teams used 13 relievers full time — and it’s hard to use 8 relievers effectively and keep them all fresh. Making that last guy in the pen your opener 2 or 3 days in 5 would allow a more “traditional” pen usage otherwise AND allow your 4th and 5th starters to thrive.

    So, to answer Ryan’s question: 3 traditional starters; 2 starters paired with an opener; fireman; 2 set-up guys (ideally R/L); 3 generic 1-2 inning guys; 1 long man who needs to be able to go 3-4 when needed.

  7. A piggybacking scenario for a short season (3-4 innings each) in which I’m betting rosters get expanded to 28: 15 pitchers, 13 position players:
    1. Soroka and Newk
    2. Fried and Felix
    3. Hamels and Folty
    4. Wright and Touki

    Relievers: Smith, Melancon, Greene, Jackson, O’Day, Martin, Matzek

    Also, if MLB only plays about 1/2 season, there needs to be reconsideration for what a”win” entails. Seeing as there’ll be no way for starting pitchers to stretch out, 3-4 innings of work should suffice for a win.

    Thoughts?

  8. We have a new poll over on the side and it’ll have a few follow-ups. Please try to vote.

  9. I answered Yes to the poll, with the proviso that no stat is completely useless. I do think that knowing nothing else, the fact that one pitcher has more wins than another tells you nothing about which pitcher is better, but knowing nothing literally means not even knowing the teams they play for. For two pitchers on the same team, both starters, win totals are bound to have some informative content.

  10. Alan, thanks for the great work on a thrilling game for of one of my favorite Braves teams. The drama of making it back to the playoffs after a four year drought, with a chance to win one more for Bobby, was compelling. I was at each of the next two back in ATL, and the crowd was as raucous as I’ve ever seen them. The team had been coming back all year, and the fans came to expect it.

    The craziest thing about the Glaus DP is that he came in as a defensive replacement at third, having played the position a total of two innings all year! It was a gutsy decision to go to second rather than home; if they don’t turn two the game is over. In retrospect it was the right decision. At the time I was screaming “throw home!!”

  11. With the way the question was worded, JonathanF, an answer of “yes” would mean you’re saying the stat is useless. It’s a tough question to word since you’re simply trying to determine this baseline of if the stat is useless, not if it’s useful.

    It’s not useless. Definitely not. 9 pitchers have won 20 games in the last 5 years. You win 20 games, you’re a dude.

  12. The stat isn’t useless (so I voted no), but it’s getting less and less relevant as starter usage patterns evolve. If it is going to continue to have any meaning, the definition will have to also evolve.

  13. A starting pitcher being able to pitch deep into a game gives your team a much better shot at winning. He’s likely better than your 6th and 7th inning options anyway, you get to save those pitchers for another time, and you spin the chamber a few less times with the Bullpen Russian Roulette that results from going from pitcher to pitcher to pitcher. And if you pitch deep into games, your odds of picking up a decision increase significantly since the game is getting closer to being decided. And so if you stay in the game long enough to get a win, then odds are you provided your team with a significantly better shot at winning than if they went the other route of going to relievers.

    It’s a quantity stat, and quantity stats can be even more misleading than quality stats. And even quality stats can be misleading. It’s only when you can combine quantity and quality (like WAR) that you get an accurate snapshot of a player’s performance. But I don’t necessarily get the hate over the win; there are lots of quantity stats that are misleading. 13 players hit over 30 home runs last year and yet had lower than a .850 OPS. 14 players had 30 HRs last year and had less than a 3 WAR. Andrelton can get to 3 WAR just playing good shortstop, for crying out loud. But if you ask the average sabermetric egghead, he’d tell you that wins are significantly more meaningless than home runs. Why?

  14. @12: Sure, Rob, but mightn’t there well be pitchers much better than one of those 20 game winners who just happens to play on a bad team? Jacob deGrom was 11-8 last year., 10-9 the year before, and has never won more than 15 games. Julio Teheran was 10-11 last year. So, roughly equal, right? I rest my case.

  15. I feel like deGrom is noteworthy because he’s the exception, not the rule. It’s “news” that deGrom doesn’t rack up wins because good pitchers tend to rack up wins.

    Here are the top 10 wins leaders last year:

    1) Verlander
    2) Cole
    3) Eduardo Rodriguez (19 wins, 3.81 ERA, 203 IP; outlier)
    4) Greinke
    5) Strasburg
    6) Fried
    7) Marco Gonzalez
    t8) Daniel Hudson
    t8) Kershaw
    t8) Lynn
    t8) Morton

    That’s a list of very good pitchers.

    Cross-reference that with top 10 ERA leaders:

    1) Ryu
    2) deGrom
    3) Cole
    4) Verlander
    5) Soroka
    6) Flaherty
    7) Gray
    8) Scherzer
    9) Greinke
    10) Kershaw

    First noteworthy thing: 5 of the top 10 ERA leaders (6 of the top 11) appear in the top 11 of wins leaders. So there’s significant overlap. But this is also noteworthy: of the top 11 wins leaders, 6 pitched 200 IP. Of the top 11 ERA leaders, only 4 pitched over 200 IP. But how many people will point to ERA leadership as being more impressive when it’s quite possible that these guys wouldn’t hold up if they pitched 200+ innings? Do you think 22-year old Mike Soroka holds up the 5th-best ERA if he pitches another 25 IP? Does Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has never pitched 200 IP in his career, remain as the ERA leader if he has to go another 18 IP? If you needed to get the extra inning out of 15-20 of these guys’ starts, how many of them hit the wall?

    I’m belaboring the point I’ve made many, many times on here: it is the Grand Canyon between the pitchers that can go out and give you 5 innings vs. 6 or even 7 innings, and for many teams without elite offenses and pens, that’s the difference between winning a dozen extra games or not. It’s season-defining to have a couple-few pitchers who can pitch deep into games well enough to get positive decisions. And until innings per start becomes a widely-used stat, you have to look at wins as the next best metric for that.

  16. A few comments. Innings per start exists, whether it’s widely used or not. Wins are team-dependent in two huge ways — you can’t get wins if your team doesn’t score runs and you can’t get wins if your team squanders leads (deGrom.) Statistics that require ancillary statistics to make sense of them are not (to use a technical term) sufficient statistics: they do not efficiently encapsulize the data. There are few statistics that aren’t team dependent, of course; even FIP and DIPS equire some level of defensive competence. But the more ancillary statistics you need, the less valuable wins are as a stat.

    Ryan Yarbrough had 16 wins two years ago pitching less than 4 innings per game. Not that he’s a bad pitcher, but his stats belie your reason that the wins are an important stat.

    deGrom is far from the only exception. Chris Carpenter led the league with 237.1 innings in 2011 and garnered 11 wins. King Felix led the AL with 249.2 innings in 2010, and 13 wins, with similar results a year later, and the year after that. He is the deGrom of the AL, though now he is our exception. Corey Kluber, 2015: 222 innings, 9 wins.

    Great pitchers find their way to great teams and then run up wins. But to use the wins as a measure of their greatness has cause and effect reversed.

  17. One more thing… take two starting pitchers who have the same innings pitched and the same ERA (or any other standard measure of pitching prowess: FIP, WHIP, K/9, etc. ) What will wins tell you in addition to that?

  18. Rob convinced me last year after I wrote a “Times Through the Order “ post that Tampa’s opener strategy is probably the way to go rather than piggybacking. The “starting pitcher” who comes in after the opener won’t face the top of the order for the 3rd time until later in the game instead of the usual 5th or 6th inning.

    FWIW, the “starters” pitching later in to the game with the opener allows them to pick up more decisions.

  19. Hi everyone, some encouraging news are coming from Austria, which was also hit hard and similar to most other central European Countries, we are a couple of weeks ahead of the States in terms of timeline regarding COVID-19. Austria has been more aggressive than most other countries regarding social distancing. Now that the new infections are decreasing by a lot in Austria, the first stores are set to open again in a couple of weeks (April 14). Small stores first and other to follow in the following weeks.
    It will be mandatory to wear face masks at all times starting the re-opening of stores.
    Sports/events are not set to commence again until July at the earliest.

    This may give us some idea of a possible timeline.

  20. I feel like we’ve got good conversation here so I’m going to leave this thread up. If we get to lunchtime and conversation’s stalled, I’ll put up a new piece.

    Timo, that’s really good news! I’m holding out hope for baseball in August! FYI, we recorded a podcast last night. Should be available later today.

  21. ‪Latest #Braves @3FlagsFlying podcast is out! It was good to be back with @brentblackwell and @Kris_Willis!‬

    ‪https://soundcloud.com/user-390080810/18-the-2020-season-in-theory‬

  22. Two questions:

    1) Do you think there’s an interested party (MLBPA, owners, league) who would not want to play a season when all the other parties would? Would that party then be able to hold up the season?

    2) Is it any less of an achievement for the World Series winner this year if we only have a, say, 100 game regular season?

  23. I seriously can’t imagine anyone benefits from not playing games.

    As long as there is a way to play games where the public health community can sign off, I think that literally everyone benefits from baseball coming back, people making money, fans reconnecting with the teams.

    The key issue is that public health piece of it. What happens if we play a game — a normal day of baseball, 15 games, 750-800 players in action (depending on team roster size when we come back) — and a player gets sick the next day? At that point, MLB would come in for so much criticism and second-guessing that they almost would have no choice to cancel the rest of the season.

  24. I have to think that if there are fewer than 80 regular season games, it will feel like less of an achievement.

    But… was it less of an achievement when we won the World Series in 1995?

  25. Well, they still played 144 games in 1995, so it won’t be as few as we play this year.

    There was some fella saying on the Twitter machine that the agents won’t play their players be exposed to corona, and therefore the agents wouldn’t allow the season to occur. But of all the people involved in the sport at the highest levels, I think the agents have the least amount of influence. That’s why I didn’t really list them as a party to this. But I agree, everyone wants to play so long as a public health concern does not exist.

  26. I have no idea when or if the 2020 season will be played. I’m pretty sure, though, that if they do manage to play, the season will have fewer games than any in modern history. The world champion 1991 Dodgers played 110 total games in the two halves of that regular season (the Braves played 106 that year). No one now discounts that title because the season was so short.
    But if you end up with 81 or fewer regular season games, folks may not consider the WS champ legitimate. As for me, I won’t recognize the winner as legitimate world champs—unless it’s the Braves, and then of course I’ll argue with anyone who denigrates the title.

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