As soon as I saw Brad Mills pull Wallace and send in Pedro Worthless Feliz to face Billy Wagner, who had just given up the tying run with a sac-fly to (of course) Chris Johnson in a 2-1 game, I said – we just lost this effing game.
WHY, WHY????? does Mills do unbelieveably STUPID stuff like this??? WHY????? Wallace hits leftys BETTER than rightys and he ALWAYS HAS!!! Better BA, higher slugging. If Mills is really truly incapable of looking at elementary numbers, such as Wallace’s career splits AND Feliz’ stats this year, he should just hang it up.
Of course in the top of the 10th, Feliz makes a crucial error with Ankiel at first – he misses an easy pickoff throw (he isn’t any good with the glove any more), Ankiel goes to second, and he throws the first of TWO intentional walks in the same inning. The ending wasn’t nice, of course, as Fulchino throws a straight FB right down the exact middle of the plate and it is deposited into the stands for a granny – second one he’s given up this year.
Obsession with leftyrighty matchups even when not indicated is Mills’ great failing – that and his obsession with insisting on using his WORST pinch hitter in critical situations.
The gane started out badly for Wandy – he gave up a double to the gap to Melky Cabrera to start the first, then Castro didn’t block a blockable ball and so Melky went to 3rd on a passed ball, then scored on a groundout. This looked even worse when Hanson, who had 3 working pitches and was hardly throwing ANY pitches outside the strike zone, went through the lineup 3 up 3 down. I thought fer SHER we were gonna get no hit.
And Wandy was just as about as unhittable – went through the 2nd, 3rd and 4th inning on 28 pitches with a great FB and a absolutely WICKED curve. He’s been absolutely ACE since Castro started catching him. Seriously. He’s had 9 starts (including this one) and 8 of 9 QS, giving up 0 ER 3 times, 1 ER four times, 3 ER once and 5 ER once. He’s throwin 60.1 innings, almost 7 IP/GS: 46 H, 11 BB, 59 K, 4 HR, 16 R/12 ER: ERA 1.79, WHIP 0.94, K:BB is 5.36; 8.85 K/9; 1.6 BB/9.
Now I know that Castro is not exactly hitting (makes JR look like Mike Piazza) but whatever he did to get Wandy’s curve to start curvin – or maybe to get more pitches called as strikes, it’s been a bit long to call it coincidence, I’m all for it.
Bourn broke up the nono int he 4th (whew) by beating out an IF single to the pitcher (just barely), then with Kepp batting, on the 1st pitch, he stole second. And Ross is a GOOD fielding catcher. On the 3rd pitch, Hanson picked him off second (too big a lead) and there was a rundown – And instead of the 3 IF doing the rundown, Hanson took the last throw and dropped the ball, allowing Michael to be caught stealing but safe at second on an E1. On the VERY NEXT PITCH, he took off for 3rd and just barely beat the tag. Conrad and Cox argued, but even the replay showed that Michael’s foot hit the bag juuuuuust before the tag hit his leg. Maybe payback for the call on Pence last night? Anyway, speaking of Pence, he hit an tying RBI single to left and Bourn trotted home. Unfortunately, Clank, CJ (who was hitting 5th???!!! WOW!!!!) and Wallace didn’t do anything.
Wandy was sailing through the 5th, 2 out, and Conrad beat out one of those IF dribblers to third (NOT bad fielding by CJ who, by the way, made 3 difficult plays) and then suddenly, Wandy lost all feel for the strike zone. It wasn’t the ump. He walked Ankiel on 5 pitches – and Ankiel fouled off what looked like a ball – and Ankiel has never gotten a hit off Wandy. Then, with the pitcher up, Wandy STILL couldn’t get the ball over and with a 2 ball count, Castro trotted out and told Wandy – just throw one down the freaking middle, hunh? So he did, and then the next pitch, Hansen hit one of those high chops that goes down the line, landed just inside the line midway down and Conrad cruised in.
I don’t know how, but Wandy threw 5 curveballs to Infante and got him swinging.
So I figured – there goes the ballgame, because really, Hanson looked pretty much unhittable. Then Bourn grounded out and Kepp hit a long fly ball to the LF bullpen – too bad it wasn’t like 30′ further to the left and Pence hit a hangong slider – bout the only one of those Hanson threw all night – and hit it to the top of the wall in right, but unfortunately, lowe enough for Melky to reach up and catch it – too bad it wasn’t 5′ higher.
Wandy gave up 1 double to right center in the 6th and one double down the RF line into the corner in the 7th, but didn’t walk anyone else or give up more runs. Actually, after the 6th, I thought Wandy would be done and was VERY concerned that Mills didn’t have anyone warming up – what was he gonna do it Wandy had gotten 2 runners on on the first 2 pitches? Let more runs score?
The Astros hadn’t sniffed a base since Pence’s single in the 4th and 10 hitters had gone up and 10 hitters had gone down, 3 of them on the first pitch. Then CJ walked – and this makes the 24th straight game he has reached base, but Wallace and Sanchez stranded him.
In the 8th, lefty Jonny Venters and his 1.09 went out to the mound. I knew that Castro would be pulled against the most lethal lefty in the NL – heck, he isn’t hitting rightys, and was expecting to see Pedro the Suckage, but it was Bourgeois, who got to a 3-2 count before grounding out – and he had to swing, it would have been strike 3. Then pinch hitter Jason Michaels (what, no Feliz?) walked. So with 1 out, man on first, lefty Michael Bourn up facing the best lefty reliever in the NL, does Mills order the sac-bunt? No. WHY????? I mean, of ALL the times to deal with the lefty on lefty matchups, expecting Bourn to get a HIT is a bit much. So naturally, he Ks and then Kepp grounds out.
9th inning, Lyon comes in and pitches a quick, easy 1,2,3. Billy Wags comes out (and he has already blown 6 saves this year, in spite of his low ERA) and Pence running all out barely beats out an IF single. Gots to this for the boy – he goes ALL out. Then Clank hits a clean single to left and Pence, hustling all the way, beats the throw into 3rd. Just barely. Then CJ is up and he ties the game with a long sac-fly to right. If he can’t get a hit, he figures he can drive one in.
You talk about RBI machine? CJ has now had 81 AB with runners on, has had 35 hits and driven in 31 runs – and his OPS is 1.147. With RISP, he is 18 fer 43 with 26 RBI. He has a 1.47 OPS with RISP and 2 outs and is 10 fer 21. He drives in a run 42% of his chances. Which is unbelieveable and no I do NOT wanna hear how he can’t keep it up (even if it is, uh, unlikely.)
So it’s Clank on first (who did NOT tag up and move to second when Melky threw home – BAD heads down baserunning) and Wallace, who is 4 fer 8 against leftys so far, and has driven in 2 of his 4 runs vs 19 AB against rightys – this year at AAA, he had a .978 OPS in 119 AB vs leftys (.818 vs rightys); in 09, minor league career OPS vs leftys .940 (.843 vs rightys) and SLG .502 vs leftys (.481 vs righys) in 1240 PA – and that is NOT a small sample size.
So Mills STUPIDLY and I mean criminally stupidly benches a superior hitter in favor of the worst hitter on his bench, who naturally gets out as Carlos steals second, which took the Braves completely by surprise. And Sanchez grounds out. Sanchez, by the way, has gotten on base in all but 7 of 30 games here. Pretty good.
So Lyon, who threw 7 pitches in the 9th, goes back out to start the 10th. Good idea, he shouldn’t exactly be exhausted after 7 pitches and 5 minutes in the bullpen and 5 minutes of commercials.
Conrad flies out 1st pitch. But then Ankiel walks. Not good, because he’s FAST and he steals bases. So then Feliz does the SECOND thing to lose the game – he fails to catch a pickoff throw and Ankiel is on second. This is bad because Ankiel is fast enough to score on a single that leaves the infield. So, instead of concentrating on getting ONE out, the pinch hitter Hinske, Mills has them IBB him, hoping to get Infante to GIDP, I guess. But I really don’t like walking a guy when you have ALREADY walked someone – generally is not good. So of course, Infante doubles off the scoreboard and Ankiel trots home.
BIG meeting on the mound, Mills chatting.
So far, we have had a pitcher who gave up a long fly ball, a 3-2 walk, an IBB, a double smashed off the scoreboard, men on second and third, and what do we get?
an IBB to Melky Cabrera.
So far, we have THREE walks, 2 intentional, a single and a double. He has now thrown 23 pitches, 8 of which are strikes, 8 of which were deliberately thrown out of the zone.
Time to bring in someone else?
Heavens, no. Gonzales singles home a run. Bases loaded.
It’s now Braves 4 Astros 2.
NOW we bring in Fulchino to face pinch hitter lefty Brian McCann. 2 balls, then a FB, straight RIGHT down the middle and then 3 seconds later, 400′ into the stands. Poor Lyon is Francoed by 3 runs and all I can say is – gee, what a surprise.
It was time for a REAL righty lefty decision as the only guy Bobby Cox had left on the bench was McCann (niether Chipper nor lefty Heyward were available). So you could bring in Byrdak to face Diaz, who certainly hits leftys well – at a .918 OPS, or Fulchino to face McCann who hits rightys at a .898 clip. So the question is, right NOW, who do you think is the better pitcher? Rights have a .333 BAA Byrdak and leftys have a .313 BAA Fulchino (and I am just looking at this year’s stats because most all relievers not named Mariano are not particularly consistent from year to year)
I get the point, pick your poison.
And we got poisoned, all right. Funny that this particular series has focused so strongly on bad fielding and too many walks at a critical time leading to misfortune. A day off tomorrow, hopefully some media person will ask Brad Mills why in the name of GAWD he keeps platooning/pulling Brett Wallace against leftys. Then the Pirates come in for the weekend and we will have the debut of Nelson Figueroa, starter.
Jordan Lyles appears to be tiring, by the way. I’m glad they didn’t bring him up yet, he’s having enough trouble at AAA. And Douglas Arguello is sitting out at AA because his armn is hurting – we’ll see what happens with that.