10/03/2002 11:49 pm ET
Rettenmund: Braves clicking
By Merv Rettenmund / Special to MLB.com
Merv Rettenmund has spent 36 years in baseball between his playing and coaching careers, including much of the past two decades as a hitting coach. Before spending this year with the Tigers, he worked as the Braves' hitting coach from 2000 to 2001 and watched the Giants close-up for the previous nine years as the Padres' hitting coach. As a hitter, he appeared in six postseasons, including world championships with the 1970 Orioles and 1975 Reds. He's providing his expertise to MLB.com for this year's NL Division Series between the Giants and Braves.
You're watching the world champions for 2002 if the Braves keep playing this way. You can't beat them like this. Most clubs can't compete with that. The only question mark is whether their pitching is good enough. They've got the leadoff hitter. The two hitter is outstanding. The middle of the lineup is outstanding and the bottom is good. Their defense is playing good, better than expected.
The Giants helped a little bit, too. They pitched the Braves awful. They kept the ball away. You can't do that to guys like Javy Lopez. You've got to have a great game plan to stop them. With Gary Sheffield in there, they're devastating. You can't get both him and Chipper Jones out. The two years I was there, Sheffield was what we were missing. We couldn't get that second guy. Without him, opponents could pitch the middle of our lineup the same way. Sheffield makes you change.
Tonight was a good example of how well Kevin Millwood is throwing this year. I watched Millwood for two years and he did not throw the ball well at all. He changed his delivery completely, he found his control and he is unstoppable when he's on. He can overpower you. Some guys will hit him. J.T. Snow looks like he did two years ago, hitting the ball the other way. I guess they saved Millwood for a possible Game 5. The way their bullpen is put together, they can afford to do that now. They couldn't always do that before.
Mark DeRosa is an underrated player. DeRosa is the type of guy that can get more soft hits than anyone in baseball. He can play all over the infield. He's a heck of a player and the type of player who would look great on another team.
Defensively, I liked the way both clubs played Sheffield and Barry Bonds. I like the Bonds shift. If he wants a base hit, just bunt a ball. But he's not up there to bunt. He's up there to blister the ball. I like those unusual defenses. Usually when you ask the manager to do them, they won't do it because they're afraid. The leadoff hitter in Florida for instance, Luis Castillo, when he's up there left-handed you'd love to have three guys on the left side so he can't slap the ball.
For San Francisco to take back this series, Jason Schmidt is going to have to throw a heck of a ballgame, because Greg Maddux is so good in clutch games. Schmidt is one of those guys who can overpower you and beat you with movement. He can go inside if he has to. He's been great against the Braves the past few years. But he's going to have to pitch them more carefully than Rueter did. With three straight games coming up and a long flight before the last one, you'd love for Schmidt to go a long way if you're Dusty Baker. If he wins, Livan Hernandez has thrown some great games against the Braves.
But again, if Atlanta plays like this I don't see anyone stopping them. They do too many things. The only team that would have a chance is Oakland. The first four pitchers for Oakland are capable of shutting you out and they could no-hit you. Oakland would be the team to beat them, no one else. I don't think the Yankees' pitching is going to hold up. They could kill the Yankees if Maddux and Tom Glavine pitch good and they hit like this.
Merv Rettenmund's column was told to Jason Beck, a reporter for MLB.com. This feature is not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.