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Game 2 gets away from Astros10/07/2004 5:55 PM ET
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- From a fan's perspective, Thursday's game between the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves may be described as heart-stopping, nerve-wracking, exciting or gut-wrenching. For the Astros, the only word they could use was disappointing. Hoping to bring a two-game lead to Minute Maid Park this weekend, the Astros had to settle for a series split in Atlanta, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Braves in an 11-inning game that ended with a two-run homer by Rafael Furcal off Dan Miceli. "Obviously, when you win the first game, you'd like to win the second game, but that's not the case," Jeff Bagwell said. "That's not what happened. You take it for what it is. It's 1-1, and we're going home to our home park." By the time Furcal deposited Miceli's offering in the seats just below the near-empty upper deck in right field, two of the league's best closers -- if not the best -- were out of the game, and it was up to the next class of relievers to finish.
Manager Phil Garner raised some eyebrows when he brought in Brad Lidge in the seventh with Furcal on third and one out. Lidge, who was often called upon in the eighth this season, pitched in the seventh only one other time since taking over as the full-time closer in June. That game, coincidentally, was against the Braves, in a 6-5 loss at home on Aug. 5.But Garner felt a well-rested Lidge could shoulder the load, even if it meant keeping him to close the game out in the ninth. "We don't want to give this game away and save somebody for Saturday," Garner said. "This is very, very important. I feel like Lidge has been so good that you put him in there. "If you take a look at the game, the flow of the game, we really weren't putting a lot of offense on the board, either. So I felt like we better try to shut it down." Lidge caught some lucky breaks in his first inning of work.
Oswalt, who had thrown 88 pitches, said he wasn't tired when Garner lifted him for Lidge. But Garner felt confident he was making the right move by putting in the closer, who set a National League record with 157 strikeouts in relief during the regular season."We've seen him pitch a lot better," Garner said. "He's been, over the course of the last couple months, just lights out. They got to him a little bit today. They put some balls in play. He didn't get the strikes earlier in the count like he has been doing. But it did show he's been a little bit human, because he's pitched very, very well for us." Disappointed they're not leaving town with a 2-0 lead, the Astros' next goal is to make sure they win the Division Series at home and avoid a Game 5 in Atlanta. "Better teams need to rebound after getting beat," Jeff Kent said. "You are going to get beat. You're playing the best teams in baseball in the playoffs. You're going to have your good days. The playoffs mean one play, one pitch can determine the ballgame." "The thing that we have going is a great feeling coming home," Bagwell said. "We've won 18 straight there. Obviously, we feel pretty comfortable there. That's what we have to take going into Saturday's game." "It's disappointing we lost, but the big thing is we're going home and they get to come to our place," Oswalt said. "We've been playing pretty well there and hopefully we'll pick up where we left off when we left."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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