Last night brought only one game, with Madison Bumgarner and the Giants looking to advance to the NLCS while Derek Lowe and the Braves attempted to force game 5. Both starters had fantastic outings, with the Giants eventually grabbing a 3-2 win and setting up a series against the Phillies.
The Braves were able to manufacture a run early against Bumgarner, which looked like it might be pivotal in this pitcher’s duel. With no outs in the bottom of the 3rd, Omar Infante lined a single into left. Matt Diaz then beat out a grounder for an infield single, moving Infante to second. Derrek Lee then flied out to right, allowing Infante to move up to third. Brian McCann hit a sac fly to right to score Infante, but Bumgarner would get out of the inning with no more damage.
Lowe continued to roll, backing up his 1-0 lead by no-hitting the Giants through 5. However, in the 6th, Cody Ross bombed a one-out solo home run to tie the game at 1-1. In the bottom of the inning, the Braves answered back, with Brian McCann raking a solo jack to put Atlanta back up by 1.
In the 7th, Derek Lowe induced a groundout from Freddy Sanchez to lead off the inning but then got himself into some hot water. Lowe walked Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey followed up with an infield single. After a long discussion with Bobby Cox, Lowe convinced his manager to give him another batter, but this decision backfired as Lowe walked Pat Burrell to load the bases. Peter Moylan came in and induced a groundout from Juan Uribe, but Alex Gonzalez’s throw pulled Infante off the bag to keep the bases loaded. Johnny Venters came in and struck out Aaron Rowand for the second out, but Ross came through again with an RBI single into left field. Pat Burrell was thrown out at home trying to score from second, but the Giants were up 3-2.
That would be the final score, as the Giants move on to the NLCS and Bobby Cox hangs up his spikes after a long and extremely successful career in Atlanta. Cox took a curtain call after the game and was applauded by members of both teams and the 44,532 fans in the stands at Turner Field. In Cox and Cito Gaston, MLB has lost two of its most senior and most respected managers in 2010. They’ll be missed.
Now, inside the numbers:
Giants vs. Braves
WPA Leader: Cody Ross (.289)
The Giants’ midseason acquisition has been largely overlooked, but Ross came up huge for San Francisco in this game. He was at the plate for two of the Giants’ three runs and produced both the second and fourth most important plays of the game, with his solo shot in the 6th (.180 WPA) and his two-out, bases loaded single in the 7th (.126 WPA) to put the Giants ahead for good.
Brian McCann’s home run to give the Braves back the lead after Ross left the park in the top half of the inning barely outpaced Ross’ shot, carrying a .182 WPA. This game was extremely close, and was decided by several high-leverage plays. Uribe’s groundout and Gonzalez’s error had a WPA of .177, as the situation scored a 5.20 LI. Ross’ single was in a 4.92 LI situation. The Braves, however, were not able to come through in their high-leverage at-bats. Brian Wilson walked two in the ninth after getting the first out of the inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Omar Infante was given a shot in a 7.10 LI situation, but struck out swinging. Melky Cabrera came up for the Braves’ last chance, but in a 6.44 LI at-bat, grounded out to third to end the Braves’ season.
Omar Infante’s -.189 WPA was the worst total for this game. Infante went 1 for 5 with two strikeouts. Alex Gonzalez was at -.061, but his error drops him further. However, I don’t think you can count all the WPA scored from that play against him, as it would have been nearly impossible for Infante to turn the double play even if Gonzalez’s throw was right on the money. Assuming they only would have gotten Pat Burrell at second, Huff’s run still would have scored to tie the game. Of course, Rowand’s strikeout would have ended the inning and the threat had the Braves gotten the out, but that’s not something you can necessarily lay entirely on Gonzalez.
Check back tomorrow for a recap of tonight's game 5 between the Rays and Rangers. Starting Thursday, we'll be doing previews for the AL and NL Championship Series.