I don’t believe in clutch hitters — that is, in players who consistently hit better in big situations. But sometimes players deliver big, unexpected hits, and you have to give them credit. Keith Lockhart doubled to drive in Darren Bragg, breaking a 3-3 tie in the top of the tenth inning. The Braves poured it on from there, scoring three more runs to go up 7-3, which was the final score. With Lockhart earning a reprieve — at least until he does something memorably awful or goes into one of his 1-20 slumps — and Albie Lopez on the DL, I don’t know who to pick on. Vinny Castilla, probably.
Jason Marquis pitched extremely well for six innings. But in the seventh, with a three-run lead, he gave up two solo homers and was lifted for Chris Hammond. Hammond pitched a good inning but then Bobby got fancy and pulled him for Kevin Gryboski, trying to get the righty against the righthanded hitting Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar homered to center to tie the game.
I was wondering at the time (no second guessing) why he went with Gryboski; with two out in the eighth, if he wanted a righthanded pitcher he really should have gone with Smoltz, who would only have had to pitch an inning and a third to get the save. As strong as Hammond looked, I think he should have been allowed to pitch to Nomar with no one on base. Gryboski is starting to remind me of Jose Cabrera, who was superb early last year, faded in the middle, and wound up all but unused in the last couple of months of the season. Like Cabrera, he’s a talented pitcher who hadn’t accomplished much with his old team, and who the Braves picked up (this time in a trade) when that team had no place for him. Gryboski hasn’t looked good in most of his early outings, and I wonder if he’s not falling into bad habits that Leo had knocked out of him.
The Expos lost their last two games (ever?) with the Blue Jays, and have fallen to eight and a half games out headed into a three-game series in Atlanta to start the week. The Marlins lost an extra-inning game to the Devil Rays and have fallen to ten out; the Mets play tonight… The Braves have the best record in the NL, a half game ahead of the Dodgers, who are playing now.