There has been a Mark DeRosa sighting! After “failing” to get a bunt down (for some reason, neither Russ Ortiz, Greg Maddux, nor Mike Hampton was available, thereby forcing the Braves to use a position player off their short bench to bunt) Mark had to swing away. And swing away he did, hitting a two-run homer to break a 6-6 tie in the ninth.
Normally, that would do it, but John Smoltz proved his humanity, finally allowing a run and actually putting runners on the corners with nobody out before getting a popup and a spectacular DP from Furcal to end a wild game.
Needless to say, neither starting pitcher was around for the decision. Shane Reynolds allowed three runs in the first but settled down some after that. The Braves, trailing 3-0 then 4-1, struck for three runs in the fourth. Andruw hit a two-run homer, his first in a couple of weeks, to pull within one, and then Vinny, of all people, singled in Julio Franco to tie it. Gary Sheffield took over from there, singling in Furcal in the fifth to take a lead. When the Astros tied it in the sixth, Gary hit a homer to take the lead in the seventh. Gary finished the game 3-5, needing only the elusive triple for the cycle. The Astros re-tied it, setting the stage for DeRosa’s heroics. The Braves got eleven hits despite getting nothing from two of their best players; Giles and Chipper combined to go 0-8.
Time to play everyone’s favorite game, “What Was Bobby Thinking?”! This is a more complex question than usual, because Bobby was ejected in the second inning so it may be that the thinking in question was Leo Mazzone’s or Pat Corrales’. Anyway… Shane Reynolds had settled down somewhat after his shaky first inning, but he (a) still wasn’t great, (b) had thrown over ninety pitches entering the sixth, and (c) was facing Jeff Kent to lead off, and Kent had raked him for a single and double. In that situation, why didn’t the Braves at least have a reliever ready to go, if not start the inning? Reynolds immediately gave up a double to Kent and a single to Lance Berkman to tie the game. Berkman was out trying to stretch, but that was it for Reynolds.
None of the relievers really shined. Gryboski was hit on the wrist with a line drive to his first batter and was charged with a two-base error on a throw attempt, then left the game with a bruised wrist. Ray King finished the inning, but was lucky to escape unscathed after a single and wild pitch failed to plate the runner. Darren Holmes started the next inning and couldn’t get anyone out, and Roberto Hernandez (who wound up with the win) allowed one of two inherited runners to score, though he was strong in the eighth.
The Braves, currently tied for first with Montreal, two up on Philly, now head west to face the reeling Diamondbacks, who are without Randy Johnson and have Curt Schilling coming off a DL stint.