Work in Sports
Sanders' misplay a microcosm of Braves' series
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
ATLANTA -- Reggie Sanders broke back at the crack of the bat, his baseball instincts immediately taking over. But like too many other things in this confounding first-round nightmare for the Atlanta Braves, nothing went right after that.
The ball sliced over Sanders' head, the St. Louis Cardinals jumped to a 4-1 lead and then coasted to a way-too-easy 7-1 victory Saturday and a way-too-easy three-game sweep in the National League Division Series.
"Oh, yeah. That was a ball I should've caught," Sanders admitted, echoing the thoughts of just about everyone else at Turner Field. "I think I just got a bad angle on it."
Sanders' fifth-inning blunder wasn't the only screw-up by the Braves, who were charged officially with only one error, third baseman Chipper Jones' bobble of a ground ball in the second inning.
But Sanders' misplay may have been the most egregious. And it certainly fit the theme of the brief series for the Braves, who gave away six runs in a bungling first inning in Game 1 and flailed away to the last out Saturday.
"Our gloves went cold at the wrong time. Our bats went cold at the wrong time," Sanders said. "It was a tough go all the way around."
Then, on a 3-2 pitch from Kevin Millwood, the lefty Edmonds sent a line drive to left.
Sanders raced back and toward center field, but the ball sliced toward the foul line and actually ended up bouncing behind him. It was very similar to a ball that Edmonds hit toward Sanders in Game 2. Sanders ran past that one, too, and it hit the wall.
Saturday's shot, scored a double, sent Renteria home with the Cards' fourth run. The Braves didn't so much as get a hit the rest of the way, putting only two baserunners on board, both on walks.
To make matters worse for Sanders, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox pulled him in a double-switch immediately after the play, putting Bobby Bonilla in left in a move, ostensibly, to get more offense. Before leaving, Sanders handed off his sunglasses to Bonilla and told him about the low-laying sun, shining right into the faces of the left fielders.
"The sun was pretty bad," Sanders said, though he refused to use that as an excuse.
In the three-game sweep, the Braves were outscored 24-10, had a 7.92 ERA and committed five errors.
They hit only .189 and never led any of the three games after a full inning.
After the game in their eerily quiet clubhouse, Jones talked about what has made the Braves so good over the past decade. They have made nine straight postseasons and have been in five World Series, he said, mainly because of good pitching, good defense and timely hitting.
"This team is fine," Jones said, "as long as we stick to the formula."
In this postseason, it seems, none of that went right for the Braves.