This Cubs series sure wasn't pretty, but we did what we needed to do by winning two of four. Roy couldn't preserve a 3-run lead, but we scored three in the sixth to go up 6-4 and Lidge held on for his 42nd save. The Phillies won in Washington about an hour before we finished off the Cubs... they got into the clubhouse just in time to see Bruntlett catch a liner off Jose Macias to end it.
Next up: Atlanta. For the fifth time in nine years, we'll take on the Braves in the NLDS. This was more of a one-sided rivalry until last year, when we finally won our first postseason series. We don't start the series until Wednesday, which is great for our pitchers to rest up. Especially Lidge, who's worked our last five games (with a day off Thursday). Here's the schedule:
Game 1 at Atlanta: Wednesday 4 p.m. ET: Pettitte vs. Hudson
Game 2 at Atlanta: Thursday 8 p.m. ET: Clemens vs. Smoltz
Game 3 at Houston: Saturday 1 p.m. ET: Oswalt vs. Sosa
The Braves lost their last four games of the season and finished only one game better than us. Their team is in many ways similar to ours: Great pitching, good power in the middle of the order, but clear holes in the lineup. Their front four of Furcal, Giles, Chipper and Andruw are tough to match, but beyond that, Francouer, LaRoche/Franco, Estrada/McCann and Langerhans/Johnson/Hollandsworth isn't fantastic.
It's the same with us: Berkman, Ensberg, Biggio and (I hope) Lane are going to have to carry our team. Lamb could surprise some folks, but I don't expect a whole lot out of Everett or Ausmus. Speaking of which, Ausmus was finally moved up to the seventh spot today. 'Bout freakin' time. I'm not a huge fan of changing our lineup so drastcially in the last week of the season, but this needed to happen. Ausmus' OBP is over .350, so he has a much better chance at driving home an run than Everett, whose offense is, shall we say, poop.
Biggio has batted leadoff for the past five games. I'm not crazy about the switch, since Taveras's ability to get on base with infield hits dimishes quickly if Biggio's on base. Sure, he'll never GIDP, but he absolutely cannot move a runner over without creating an out. Of course, with our Big Three on the mound, runs will come at a premium. Still, both Bidge andWilly ended with OBPs under .325. That's not pretty.
Speaking of Bidge, we agreed to a one-year, $4 million extension after the win today. Good move. Looks like we have $60 million invested in Pettitte, Oswalt, Berkman and Bagwell next year, and after raises to Ensberg, Lidge, Wheeler, Everett, Taveras, Backe... not to mention a possible monstrous one-year contract for Clemens, it could be an expensive year for Drayton.
But right now we gotta focus on these Braves. Pettitte gave up three earned in seven innings at Turner Field back in May, his only start against the Braves. Clemens went seven scoreless way back in April. In that game, Hudson pitched nine innings of shutout ball and we lost it 1-0 in the 12th. Ouch.
We'll have more previews Tuesday and a recap of the other playoff games. Right now, I'm picking the Cardinals, Yankees and Red Sox. Boring, I know. But how can you pick against Boston? And how can you pick against the Yankees? And the Cards? Come one...