Posted: Wednesday October 26, 2005 4:35AM; Updated: Thursday October 27, 2005 3:26AM
Tom Verducci will answer select questions from SI.com users in his Baseball Mailbag.
But, hey, enough about the hitting. What about the game the manager of the Astros had? You know your team can't hit, but what did you do when Chris Burke reached third base with one out in the ninth inning? Nothing. No squeeze play. Not with Craig Biggio batting and then not with Willy Taveras batting -- both of whom are excellent bunters. If you are having so much trouble getting a run home with a hit, if you are really so "ticked off" waiting for a hit, why not make something happen with a squeeze attempt?
Where was the manager in the fifth inning when Roy Oswalt was allowed to throw a career-high 46 pitches and blow a 4-0 lead? Not once did the manager even come out of the dugout to give the pitcher a breather. Not once did he get the pitcher out of the inning as batter after batter reached base.
Where was the manager in the 13th inning, when Jose Vizcaino led off with a walk? Instead of advancing the runner to second with one out and the heart of his lineup coming up, Garner took the bunt off after the first pitch to Biggio and let Biggio swing away. Biggio struck out.
And where was the manager in the 14th inning, when, after the home run, he allowed a very shaky Ezequiel Astacio to go single, single, walk, walk -- pushing across a huge insurance run? Astacio faced seven batters and retired one of them, and that on a bullet of a grounder snared by third baseman Morgan Ensberg. Only when the game went to 7-5 did Garner get Astacio out of there.
Where was the manager in Game 1, when he stubbornly let Jeff Bagwell, a guy who had not started a game since May, into his starting lineup on more sentimental reasons than practical ones? What about letting Mike Lamb, a .179 hitter against lefties, whiff against lefty Neal Cotts in the eighth inning of that game, in what stands as the most crucial at-bat of the series? What about letting mop-up man Russ Springer pitch the ninth inning of that game, allowing another huge tack-on run, instead of the much more reliable and rested Dan Wheeler? What about not getting the ball that Jermaine Dye fouled off in Game 2 -- it was ruled a hit-by-pitch -- and insisting on getting a conference of umpires to rethink the call by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson?
Funny, but Garner mentioned nothing about the manager in his postgame rant. Silly me. I thought ballclubs won as a team and lost as a team. I thought a team that just invested more time and effort in a losing cause than any team in the history of the World Series and now stands on the brink of elimination could at least count on the support of the person who makes out the lineup card and runs the game.
But now I know: It had nothing to do with the manager. The manager wants you to know it was all the hitters' fault. The manager wants you to know that he is really ticked off.