“He’ll leave you in there maybe longer than he should… but he believes you’re gonna get out of it”
-Derek Lowe, on Braves manager Bobby Cox
Fateful words from Lowe, who talked his way into remaining in the game when Cox came out to pay him a visit on the mound in the seventh inning last night. Lowe had turned in a masterful and hitless six innings but had nothing left in the tank. A steady diet of breaking pitches to Pat Burrell, only one of the five could find the plate and suddenly the Giants had loaded the bases with one out, setting the table for Cody Ross’ game winning RBI single.
Would the Braves have won the game if Lowe had been pulled before facing Burrell? Probably not. But this was the way the Braves season came unraveled, and we’ll never know.
Defense was once again the story for Atlanta, as Alex Gonzalez turned in two errors. His errant throw from the knees in the top of the seventh, trying to do too much, pulled Omar Infante off the bag and opened the door for the Giants two runs to wrest away the lead.
Brooks Conrad? Wow, what a tough series. Until he does something great his name will be synonymous with failure. Just the name itself will need to be invoked to conjure thoughts of defensive disasters, no back story is needed. Sort of like TBS’ Dick Stockton’s comment about Cox leaving in Lowe one batter too long… “Shades of Grady Little.” So Conrad becomes like Roy Munson from the movie Kingpin. With Rick Ankiel’s majestic homer in game 2 perhaps you say one goat was put to rest and another was born in this series.
The struggles of Conrad and the Braves defense in general can’t help make you think how different things might have been if Martin Prado and Chipper Jones hadn’t been unavailable due to injury.
However you can only win with the players on the field, and one player on the field for the Braves failed to do anything offensively in the series. I’m talking about Jason Heyward. The rookie had an up and down campaign, nothing was more down than his dismal at bats in this NLDS. Cox should have moved him down in the order or even benched him. But as Lowe pointed out he sticks with his players….
But one aspect of Lowe’s comment troubles me. Doesn’t Cox also have a reliever in the pen itching to get an out when the starter gets pulled? Doesn’t he believe in all of his pitchers? Why would a starter automatically be given extra chances? Cox’s sentimental, personality-driven managerial style may work when you have the horses, but the Braves did not have the horses this time around. Cox should have known this and should have adjusted his philosophy.
But none of that takes anything away from Cox, who has left an indelible stamp on the game of baseball. He’s got a lot of heart and is one of the classic personalities of this game, a living connection to baseball history. He should have gotten ejected one last time and left the game to a thunderous ovation, but he didn’t consult me as to how best to end his career.
About the Author
Written by Mark Reichman