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Notes: Cox shakes up order10/10/2004 1:15 PM ET
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Unlike the Atlanta fans, Braves manager Bobby Cox was able to do something about his frustration that stemmed from the fact that the middle of his lineup has struggled during the first three games of the National League Division Series against the Astros.
Cox opted to adjust his lineup for Sunday afternoon's Game 4, flip-flopping J.D. Drew and Marcus Giles in the batting order and allowing Eli Marrero the opportunity to play against right-hander Roger Clemens.
"We're just trying to do something a little bit different," said Cox, whose team needs to win the final two games of this NLDS to advance. "We've had some guys struggling a little bit with the lumber."
Struggling is a kind word, when you consider that Giles, Drew, and Chipper Jones combined for just four singles, including two of the infield variety, and one RBI in 38 at-bats during the series' first three games.
The only time Drew and Jones have been on base at the same time came during Saturday's eighth inning, when they both scored on Andruw Jones' three-run homer.
"I was telling Smoltzie [Braves closer John Smoltz] that my final two at-bats [on Saturday] I finally felt like I was supposed to have a bat in my hand," Chipper said. "It's amazing how foreign the bat feels in my hands during the season."
Although Jones was 3-for-29 in the Division Series dating back to last year coming into Game 4, Cox kept him in the cleanup spot. But he moved Drew, who he considers to be a natural No. 3 hitter, up to the Giles' customary second spot in the batting order for the first time this year.
"We thought maybe we'd jiggle it around a little bit and see what happens," Cox said. "It's worth a good try here."
Drew, who often hit second during his days in St. Louis, had just two infield singles in his first 12 at-bats of this series. Entering Sunday's game he had a .175 (7-for-40) career batting average in NLDS play.
Cox said his decision to play Marrero, who usually only starts against left-handed pitchers, was made even before Charles Thomas was drilled on the right kneed with a Brandon Backe pitch on Saturday. The swelling on Thomas' knee subsided by Sunday and he was available for pinch-hitting or pinch-running duties.
"I had my mind made up after yesterday's game to give Eli a shot with that short porch in left field," Cox said. "Maybe he can flip a couple up in there."
Jones connected for a single to lead off the second inning of Game 4 on Sunday, snapping his postseason hitless streak.
Thomson update: When John Thomson strained his left oblique muscle at Wrigley Field on Oct. 2, Drew indicated that, from his experience, the injury could last a few days or a few months. Unfortunately for the hurler, it appears his situation will be closer to the latter.
Thomson, who said he felt three or four pops in his left side after he threw his fourth pitch on Saturday, is out for the remainder of the postseason. The Braves' medical staff has told him it might be two months before the discomfort ceases.
After Saturday's game, Thomson asked team physician Dr. Joe Chandler if he might have attempted to come back from the injury too soon. Chandler told him that with this type of injury, he might have experienced the same type of result if he had waited two or three weeks before attempting to pitch again.
Alfonseca finally dented: Antonio Alfonseca has been one the Braves' most reliable relievers for most of the past two months. But the right-handed reliever wasn't able to escape the three-run sixth inning that the Astros compiled on Saturday without being charged with an earned run for the first time in his postseason career.
After Alfonseca exited with two outs and two runners on base, Tom Martin was unable to retire any of the three batters he faced, ending Alfonseca's scoreless steak.
Alfonseca, who made three scoreless appearances in both the 1997 World Series for the Marlins and 2003 NLCS for the Cubs, still has an outstanding 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 career postseason innings.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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