Fans have a lot of questions about Sunday's game, and rightfully so. The Braves squandered a chance to win Game Three and be in position to win the series Monday night.
But a lack of offense and pitiful defense did the Braves in; not to mention a few managerial decisions that are certainly getting second-guessed today.
Let's look at a few issues.
1. Could the Braves have started someone else at second base, instead of Brooks Conrad?
Well, they could have had Troy Glaus play third and move Omar Infante back to second base, which is where Infante played until Conrad made errors at third base. But Glaus' mobility is horrible, and as an Atlanta scout said Saturday, "They'd bunt on Troy all day long if he were over there."
But, with the offense struggling so much against the Giants pitching staff, wouldn't it have been worth it to sacrifice some defense for the potential production that Glaus could have had in the lineup? And heck, could he have been much worse than Conrad was at second base Sunday?
The Braves saw Glaus at third base late Friday in Game Two, and the first batter for the Giants, Edgar Renteria, bunted a ball down the third base line. Renteria was safe, as there was no way Glaus could throw him out. That didn't give manager Bobby Cox any confidence to insert Glaus in at third, even after he made a nice throw to start a double-play in that same inning.
2. Could Cox have taken Conrad out after Conrad had made the first two errors Sunday?
Yes, Cox could have done that, and in hindsight probably should have. It became sad to watch Conrad. He was getting a chilly reception from the fans, who would cheer loudly when every other Braves player was announced. And you could just tell people were praying nothing would be hit toward Conrad.
So after Conrad made the first two errors, perhaps Cox should have taken him out. He would have never done it to make it seem like he was punishing Conrad; that's just not something Cox would do - not matter how bad the situation might be in a game.
But it is the playoffs, and you have to have the players out on the field that would give you the best chance to win. It's arguable, after watching Conrad made seven errors in six and a half games, that he wasn't the best player to have in the game in the late innings. But he was in there, and when the ball off the bat of Buster Posey rolled to Conrad in the ninth inning, everyone gasped. Then it went through his legs to let the winning run score.
Glaus could have been put in at third, with Infante moving over to second - just like they did late in Game Two. Or they could have put Diory Hernandez in the game at second. But they didn't, and it proved costly.
3. Should Conrad have even gone after the ball in short right field that was his second error and allowed the first run to score?
No, Conrad shouldn't have gone after that ball. Jason Heyward was running in, and with Mike Fontenot at third base, Heyward would have had a better chance to throw Fontenot out. Conrad would have had to catch the ball and then spin around to throw toward home plate, while Heyward would have had the momentum going toward home.
Heyward should have perhaps simply called Conrad off, so he could have made the catch and then the throw. But it wasn't like Cox was going to be Buttermaker from the Bad News Bears and ask Heyward to be Kelly Leak and catch everything hit close to him.
4. Did Brooks Conrad become Atlanta's version of Bill Buckner with his awful game Sunday?
Unfortunately, yes he did. Conrad will long be remembered for this horrible game. It's a shame, since he's helped the Braves win some games this season. But three errors, along with a popup in a bunt situation that drew a ton of boos, will be something fans will associate with Conrad forever.
5. Should Cox have taken Craig Kimbrel out with two on and two out in the ninth inning?
Well, if Mike Dunn had gotten the final out, this wouldn't come up. But he gave up a hit to Aubrey Huff and the Giants tied the game. We all know how Cox is with his righty-lefty match-ups, but the weird thing is the lefty hitting Huff is not that much worse against lefties than he is against right-handers.
This season Huff actually did better against left-handers (.296 batting average) than he did against right-handers (.287). In his career, Huff has hit .286 against right-handed pitchers and .275 against lefties. So it's not like Cox looked at the stats and saw a player that was drastically worse against southpaws.
But this is what Cox does as a manager - he went with the match-up and preferred the lefty Dunn to face the lefty Huff.
With Kimbrel having such dominating stuff, though, was that really necessary? Sure, Kimbrel had walked Travis Ishikawa with one out. Then he struck out Andres Torres before giving up a single to Freddy Sanchez. That put runners on first and second with two outs, and when Sanchez was up the Braves were a strike away from winning the game.
Kimbrel is the closer of the future, and if he weren't a rookie, perhaps Cox would have given him a longer leash. But Cox is without his closer, Billy Wagner, and he said before Game Three he would probably use pitchers in match-ups instead of having an outright closer.
So that's the decision Cox made to bring in Dunn, who gave up the single to Huff that tied the game.
Again, this is a decision you could debate all day long, but there were a ton of people that were shaking their heads when Cox decided to pull Kimbrel, even before Dunn would come in and give up the game-tying hit.
6. Why did Cox take Peter Moylan out and replace him with Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth inning?
Good question. Not sure. It wasn't Moylan's fault that Conrad made the error that allowed the Giants to take the lead. It really didn't matter, but it seemed like Cox over managed just a bit.
7. Did the Braves miss Billy Wagner in the ninth inning?
Sure. If Wagner had not been injured Friday night, he would have been in the ninth inning, instead of Kimbrel and the others. Maybe the Giants still would have come back, but you would have felt better with the veteran Wagner out there instead of two rookies like Kimbrel and Dunn.
8. What has happened to Jason Heyward?
The rookie looks a bit tired. He's 0-12 in the series with seven strikeouts. He has not been a factor at all, and if the Braves have any hopes of evening this series Monday, Heyward must come through.
9. Can the offense wake up in time to save the season?
Not sure. The offense is hitting just .165 (17-103) in the three games so far. They've also struck out 37 times in the three games. We knew with Chipper Jones and then Martin Prado gone the Braves might have some issues, but this is ridiculous.
10. How can the Braves win Monday night?
Score runs. Forget the three errors by Conrad. If the Braves had done anything significant off San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez, they would have won the game and not worried about poor defense. But the offense has got to come through against lefty Madison Bumgarner. They've got to generate some offense and score some runs to give Derek Lowe some support. Chances are Lowe will have a good outing, but it will mean nothing if the Braves don't score any runs.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Atlanta Baseball Show. Shanks writes a weekly column for The Macon Telegraph. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
10 questions about Sunday's Game Three
Atlanta Dugout Top Stories
Dustin Peterson's improvement continuesWho has likely been the player of the year in the Braves' farm system? Most likely Dustin Peterson in Mississippi.
Adonis Garcia giving Atlanta options at 3BBill Shanks has some impressive numbers on Adonis Garcia, who is giving the Braves options for third base for the future.
Braves get two prospects for CervenkaThe Braves have added two more young players with the trade of reliever Hunter Cervenka to Miami.
Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accidentMarlins ace killed in boating accident.
ScoutSunday at 6:55 AM