ATLANTA -- Paul Bako took the ultimate power nap Friday afternoon.
|Bako executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt in the fourth inning.
A travel-worn Bako arrived at Turner Field about five hours before the start of Game 3 between the Braves and Astros. The Braves catcher had just returned to Atlanta after spending Wednesday evening and most of Thursday with his wife, Laurie, in Lafayette, Louisiana.
After Laurie had gone into labor during Wednesday's Game 2, Paul made the 3 1/2-hour drive from Houston to be with her in Lafayette. But when he arrived, the doctors had opted to medicate Laurie and stop her contractions because the future Will Bako's lungs weren't quite fully developed.
So, the Bakos returned to their home and Paul left the bed-ridden Laurie at 4 a.m. on Friday to begin a two-hour drive to New Orleans where he had a scheduled flight to Atlanta. When he arrived, he found a quiet spot in the Braves clubhouse and caught up on some lost sleep.
The ensuing nap definitely proved powerful as Bako had the game of his life after he awoke. He provided a two-run homer, executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt, doubled, and provided excellent work behind the plate as the Braves completed their sweep of the Astros with a 6-2 victory.
Bako, who primarily served as Greg Maddux's designated catcher most of the past two seasons, played for the Astros during the 1999 season and was traded by the team just two weeks into the 2001 season. That small amount of time with the club paid dividends on Friday.
"Playing for (Larry) Dierker , I know he doesn't like to pitch around the eighth hitter," Bako said. "So, I knew I was going to get something to hit."
Bako's comments were in reference to the fact that Dierker opted to pitch to Bako with two outs in the second, first base open and John Burkett on deck. Dierker's decision backfired as Bako, who had never recorded a hit in four previous postseason games, hit a towering 403 ft. fly ball over the right field wall to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.
While his first two RBIs of a three-RBI afternoon traveled a respectable distance, Bako's final RBI of the day traveled a significantly shorter distance. In the fourth inning with one out and Andruw Jones on third, Bako successfully laid down a bunt while an in motion Jones raced toward the plate with the Braves third run of the afternoon.
"Being mostly a bench guy, you've got to be able to do a lot of the little things like bunt," Bako said. "It's just not something I've been asked to do hitting eighth a whole lot."
Much of what Bako is doing now is new for him. Javy Lopez suffered a high left ankle sprain on Sept. 30 and since then Bako has filled in admirably. Bako, who hit just .212 in the regular season, finished the 2001 campaign with seven hits in his final 14 at-bats.
"These last couple weeks I've gotten to play more consistently and it has helped," Bako said. "It's easier going up there knowing you have three or four at-bats every night."
After the game, Bako called Laurie and she said, "you did awesome."
"She was talking about baseball and I wanted to talk about her and the baby," Bako said.
But now that he knows that she and the baby are fine, Bako's dreams are sure to be a little sweeter than the ones he may have had during his ultimate power nap.
Mark Bowman is the site reporter for AtlantaBraves.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org