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Friday, October 15, 2004

Astros: The Morning After 

This series should be tied. Period. As good as St. Louis is -- and they might be the best I've seen in a long time -- this series should be tied.

From the eleven men left on base to the invitation-to-all-second-guessers decision to pithc Dan Miceli in the 8th, instead of Brad Lidge, to pinch-hitting Eric Bruntlett to bunt in the 6th... they all add up to an 0-2 deficit in the NLCS.

I can almost see Garner's logic with Miceli. But the more I think about it, the more I think how pointless a move it was. Look at it this way:

Bottom Eight... you bring in Lidge to face Pujols-Rolen-Edmonds.

Top Nine... you get to send Beltran-Bagwell-Berkman to the plate.

Now maybe Lidge gives up a jack like Miceli did. Maybe he gets them in order and the Killer B's go quietly the next inning, and St. Louis gets to Lidge in the bottom of the 9th.

"Maybe" is something that you have to live with in the postseason. And I don't think you can let "maybe" dissuade you from taking a chance, considering that taking a chance is what got you to this point in the first place. Plus maybe he sits them down in order, like he did twice in the last week of the season, and Beltran opens the 9th with a home run.

With the heart of your order coming up, it makes no sense to hope that St. Louis doesn't score on Miceli, and then hope that the offense gets you a lead for Lidge. Lidge is probably going to have to pitch two innings anyway, so to ensure that you get a chance to hit with the game still tied, followed by a decent enough chance to protect a lead, the only option that even makes sense there is pitching Lidge in the 8th.

The other managerial decision that baffles me still is using Bruntlett to bunt. Why? Adam Everett and Roy Oswalt are both much better choices in that situation. Either of those guys most likely gets down the sacrifice, leaving two men in scoring position for Biggio. I know that Bidge struck out swinging, but with guys on second and third, he probably approaches the at-bat differently. At the very least I bet he produces a sac-fly.

Managerial blunders or not, the Astros simply left too many men on base to win. A team like St. Louis does not continually give you opportunities, and when theyget their own, they take advantage.

What now? I think this series is still winnable for Houston. I expected an 0-2 hole heading back to Minute Maid. Now we throw Roger and Roy in the two most important games in the last 16 years of the franchise, and frankly, this is why we signed Roger, for this situation. He's the hammer. He has to put this club on his shoulders and carry them in Game Three. If he can do that, and Roy can follow suit on Sunday, then who knows what can happen?

I know the stats -- teams that lose the first two games of an LCS win XX% of the time (don't know the number, but it's low). How many of those teams had a six-time Cy Young recipient and a 20-game winner starting those next two games. None, I would guess. This series is headed back to Busch, folks. The only question is if we're arriving up 3-2 or down 2-3.


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