Smoltz shuts us down.
Clemens wasn't his usual dominant self tonight, giving up five runs in five innings and taking the loss against the Braves. It was simply a reverse of yesterday's game: The Braves got the big hits when they needed them, and turned it into a blowout late. Just like we tok advantage of Hudson's wildness on Wednesday, the Braves hitters today took advantage of Rocket's lack of speed on his fastball.
Offensively, we couldn't get anything going against Smoltz. After three singles led to a run in the first inning, we didn't threaten again. Smoltz did a great job shutting down our weaker hitters: Palmeiro, Everett and Ausmus went a combined 0-for-11. It was just an ugly game.
But you know what? It's okay.
We're going home with a split, which is really what most of us wanted anyway. We can win the series by taking two at home, where our 53-28 record was tied for tops in the NL (tied with... Atlanta!). Despite all this talk about Sosa's supposed "electric" stuff, you have to give us the advantage with Oswalt going tomorrow at home. Clemens said even he was excited to get back to Houston for postseason baseball, where the crowd was phenomenal last year.
So... a travel day tomorrow while we refocus our efforts against Jorge Sosa. Sosa has had an incredible run as a starter, but he's allowed a ton of baserunners: 122 hits and 64 walks in 134 innings. Lefties crush him, so let's get Lamb in there on Friday instead of Palmeiro.
A few other notes: Bottom second, Astro lead 1-0. Two on, two out, 2-0 count to the Braves' eight-hitter, catcher Brian McCann. Why not intentionallty walk him? I know this isn't Clemens's style, but this is the postseason. With Smoltz on deck, there's no way they score any runs. I know it's easy to second-guess, but this move would have made a lot of sense. (By the way, I totally did call for the intentional walk as soon as the count went 2-0... I'm just saying...)
Also, I was very impressed with Clemens' demeanor during his post-game interview. He shouldered the blame for his mistakes and praised the other team for taking advantage of them. It didn't appear that his hamstring was bothering him all that much. Which is good, we'll need him later.
I'm still not certain who Garner will start in Game 4. I think if we lose Game 3, we almost have to start Pettitte in Game 4 and Clemens again in Game 5. But if we win Game 3, we should probably go with Backe. We'll have to play it by ear.
By the way, can the White Sox be stopped?