The Atlanta Braves were one out away from completing another storybook come from behind victory when things fell apart in the top of the ninth. Earlier, in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Gonzalez singled and Eric Hinske hit a pinch hit home run off of Sergio Romo to the Braves up by a score of 2-1. Hinke's homer was just the fourth Brave hit of the night but it came at such an opportune time.
Without closer Billy Wagner, Manager, Bobby Cox, went to rookie Craig Kimbrel to put the game away. He quickly earned two outs and it was apparent that Giants hitters were having a difficult time catching up to the youngster's fastball. With two outs and two strikes, Braves catcher, Brian McCann, called for a slider. This was a mistake. No one had been close to hitting the fastball. Put the guy away with the heat.
The pitch that was thrown was a slider and it came across the plate at 87 miles per hour, or approximately 10 miles per hour slower than the fastball. It was knocked for a base hit and with two runners on base Bobby Cox pulled Kimbrel from the game. I believe this was also a mistake. Did Bobby take Kimbrel out because he thought he would buckle under the pressure? So far, the rookie had faced four batters and he had been great. Yes, he had given up a hit and a walk, but not a run.
Mike Dunn would only face one batter, the Giants first baseman, Aubrey Huff. With two strikes, Huff was able to go to right field with a pitch on the outside corner and Jason Heyward's throw to the plate was not accurate enough to keep the Giants from tying the game.
With the score tied, and with Peter Moylan, the ground ball wizard, on the mound, it looked as if we might go to extra innings in the event the Braves couldn't score in the ninth. Moylan got his ground ball but it was a hot shot to second baseman, Brooks Conrad.
It had already been a rough night for Conrad before the ball came his way in the top of the ninth. Guilty of two errors in preceding innings, Conrad allowed the sharply hit ball to go between his legs and another Giant run was able to cross the plate. The "little man that could" was not able to on this night.
Brooks Conrad committed three errors. He would not have been out there to commit the errors in the first place had he not walloped several pinch hit home runs to tie or win games earlier in the season.
Remember that guy?
He is the guy who hit a grand slam home run to beat the Reds. That one game helped the Braves win the Wild Card by just one game. Brooks Conrad was guilty of helping the Braves lose an important game against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.
Much of Braves country wants Conrad out for the next game but that would be another mistake on top of mistakes that have already been made. Can't change anything in the past. No one feels worse about those errors than Brooks Conrad. He will have to live with them a lifetime.
Fortunately, the will not be such bitter memories if the Braves can come back and win two games; one at home and one on the road. To do this, the offense will have to wake up. The stats look good for the San Francisco starting pitchers, however, I do not believe they have been as good as the Braves have been bad. That's right. The Braves offense has been terrible and that is why the Giants pitchers have walked away with such wonderful statistics.
The Atlanta Braves are very capable of winning two games against the Giants. They must hit the ball and they must commit no errors of any type at any type. Atlanta has pitching that can get it done but they need help from the offense. Much of the Braves offense is injured but there are plenty of guys out there who can hit the baseball. Why can they muster no offense lately?
The Braves hitters are swinging at way too many bad pitches. Can they slow things down and jump on Giants pitching early? Perhaps it is simply a matter of the Atlanta players trying way too hard at the plate and even so in the field. They want to do it so bad for Bobby. Perhaps they are exerting too much adrenaline and it causing them to overreact? They simply need to relax and have fun. They are capable. They are a close knit group and if anyone can win, they can.