For want of a nail: the Braves stun the Giants and then the Giants stun them right back


For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

Or was that about second basemen?

Before I start in on the Brooks Conrad sturm und drang, allow me to say that no matter who wins this series, it has been a fantastic one.  Close. Exciting.  Filled with the unexpected.  That went for Friday’s game without question, but perhaps it went even more for tonight.

The Giants led most of the way behind a strong performance from Jonathan Sanchez.  Meanwhile, the only damage the Giants could do resulted from Jason Heyward slamming against the wall to give Mike Fontenot a triple, followed by a Brooks Conrad error that allowed Fontenot to score.

Well, at least he got that out of his system, right?

Flash forward to the eighth inning where pinch-hitter Eric Hinske hit a two-run homer.  It’s the kind of thing, combined with Rick Ankiel’s home run on Friday, that truly makes you marvel at the blinding star power the Braves are riding in this series. Frank Wren had put a call in to Francisco Cabrera to ask if he wanted to pinch hit and Cabrera turned him down because the gig was way too low-rent for him.  Hinske was dramatic enough, however, yelling and pumping his fist at one of the more improbable home runs in recent memory.  If the game could have ended right there, oh how memorable it would have been.

But with Billy Wagner at a field hospital someplace, no lead is a sure thing for the Braves.  After getting two outs and allowing one baserunner, Craig Kimbrel allowed a Freddy Sanchez single to center.  Bobby Cox — who is so damn trusting that he doesn’t even remove Brooks Conrad for a defensive replacement — doesn’t trust Kimbrel to get one more out and brings in Mike Dunn to face Aubrey Huff. Huff singled in the tying run.

What happened next was just so . . . appropriate.  Peter Moylan comes in and induces a grounder to second by Buster Posey.  That goes right through Brooks Conrad’s wickets. It was his third error of the game.  If Bobby Cox wishes to manage more than one more game in his career, it will be the last defensive chance Conrad ever receives.  Seriously, put Tim Hudson in at second base. It couldn’t be worse.

It was lost in rage-haze, but I’m told that the Braves eventually got the third out and then went down mostly quietly in the bottom of the ninth.  Game over: Giants win 3-2.

If they could take a man’s life for the thoughts that’s in his head . . .

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.