10/07/2002 00:27 am ET
Rettenmund: Braves are in trouble
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.
A day like this is why baseball is so unpredictable. The underdogs can win games like this. You can't control any of it.
Livan Hernandez threw as I thought he would. He didn't throw any strikes. He walked you before he'd throw a strike. He flips it out there and then all of a sudden he gets one call early on and guys start swinging. How about the 59-mile-an-hour curveball? Gary Sheffield can't hit that. That's the one thing Sheffield can't do. If you want to lob a slow ball to him, he can't hit it. It's a velocity thing. You have to throw a curveball or a changeup to get it that slow. You can strike him out on that. It's tough for him, but it's tough for a lot of hitters.
Livan Hernandez is dangerous against a good team and a bad team will kill him. I knew that would be a tough matchup, but I was really shocked that Glavine got hammered.
I feel bad for Glavine, though. He's trying to pitch both sides of the plate now because for years he pitched away and then the umpires stopped calling it. Today the umpire didn't call it. And when he threw to the inside of the plate, they got hits off of him. Benito Santiago hasn't had a base on balls in what seems like seven years, but Glavine can't throw him strikes on the inside, and so he walks in a run. Most pitchers can't control both sides of the plate. They got some cheap hits, but that's baseball.
One thing the Giants are doing really bad, and I can't figure it out, they're pitching Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez breaking balls outside and over the plate. Those are three guys you have to pitch inside and hard. My best friend is an advance scout and I'm going to call him tomorrow about that.
How about Rafael Furcal? How about that one-handed bunt? We worked on that. For some guys, you can bunt a ball better with one hand than you can with two. The bottom hand drops the barrel and messes you up, gets you to pop up. When you bunt it one-handed, it's going to deaden the ball. That was a heck of a bunt, a heck of a play. The first one he was out, the second one I don't know.
It's going to be interesting Monday with Kevin Millwood and Russ Ortiz going. If the Braves lose that sucker, wow. They've got everything going for them, but they're in trouble. Ortiz has the best slider in baseball right now. For the Braves to win, they're going to have to get their pitches somehow.
For the Giants to win, they've got to get Millwood down in the strike zone. You'll see a lot of pitches that are chest high and out of the strike zone. One thing about Millwood is he won't beat himself. He can throw 150 pitches tomorrow and he won't tire out. Millwood is their best pitcher. Bobby Cox has got to win that game or lose that game with Millwood. But I'll tell you what, he might go with John Smoltz for more than one inning.
Barry Bonds is going to have to have a big day. In all the playoffs, has he ever had a big day? It's his game tomorrow. Usually it happens like that, because I'll tell you what, he's the best hitter ever in baseball. If he's going to get Millwood he's got to get him early. Millwood can't walk guys. If he puts a couple guys on and Bonds come up, he'll put him on. If Bonds hurts them, they won't pitch to him again the rest of the day.
Dusty Baker had a break today with Hernandez going as long as he did. He'll use the whole staff since everybody's available. That is going to be it. If the Braves lose, it will be earth-shattering because they spent a lot of money. It wouldn't be earth-shattering for Dusty, because he could get another job if he had to.
Bobby Cox might retire on that one if he lost. That is the year they have to do it. This is the best team they've had. And now I'm not sure they can win a World Series, because their pitching is breaking down like the Yankees. Can you say now that Glavine can win a World Series game?
I know I said the Braves were the team to go all the way, but in a one-game situation I'm going to pick the Giants. And I do it because Bonds has to dominate a game.
Merv Rettenmund's analysis appears as told to Jason Beck, a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.