Live from Game 4: After a restless night, Cox pulls Conrad

Still thinking optimistic thoughts, this man. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Still thinking sunny thoughts, this man. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

He said he’d sleep on it, but he didn’t. Addressing the media Monday afternoon, Bobby Cox looked all of his 69 years — plus  40.

“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” Cox said. “We came within one pitch of winning a huge ballgame, and we let it slip away.”

And now it was a new day, and the first thing he had to address after coming to work was the hot-button issue of Brooks Conrad, who had made three errors in Sunday’s Game 3. It was clear from Cox’s words of the night before — “I’ll have to sleep on it,” he’d said — that the Braves’ manager had essentially made his decision, but still he had to tell Conrad.

Said Cox: “I talked to Brooksy at length this morning. And you know, he needs a day off. He needs to get away from it for a day … This shouldn’t happen to anybody in the game of baseball, but it’s happened to Brooksy and he needs a day off. I told him to hold his head high and maybe pinch-hit and win a game for us.

“You know, he was our defensive replacement all year long — at second and third. We couldn’t wait to get him into games. So it’s an unusual thing that’s happened.”

Also this: “It’s always tough to talk about a subject like that. I just … you know, the fans have have really had his back all season long, and I’d like to see them continue that. He needs that help right now.”

Beyond Conrad, there was the lineup issue. The Braves had generated five earned runs in the first 29 innings of the Division Series, only one of them off a Giants’ starting pitcher. For Game 4, Matt Diaz moved to second in the order and Jason Heyward, 0-for-12 in the NLDS, was dropped to sixth. And Troy Glaus, about to make his first start as an Atlanta Braves’ third baseman, would hit seventh.

“Just trying to switch the lineup,” Cox said. “We got shut out in Game 1, and yesterday we were shut out until the eighth inning. Try to get Matty up front and maybe he can get on base three or four times, see what happens. Maybe Jason can drive somebody in from down there as well.”

With so much in flux, Cox managed to overlook the figurative elephant in the room: That Game 4 might be his final game as manager. Had the possibility of a shining career ending on this Monday in October crossed his mind? “It hasn’t,” Cox said, and he laughed. “That’s the first time it’s been brought up.”

Such is the cruelty of postseason play. Eight days before, his Braves had borne Cox aloft after clinching the wild card after they won the regular season’s final game and the San Diego Padres lost theirs. Twenty hours before, Cox’s team had come within one strike of taking a 2-1 series lead on San Francisco. But here it was, big and bold as life: An elimination game for the team managed by the man who has known 16 October runs.

He had made a deft move to help give his team the Game 3 lead: Announcing Glaus as a pinch-hitter for Rick Ankiel and then switching to Eric Hinske when Giants manager Bruce Bochy removed starter Jonathan Sanchez for reliever Sergio Romo. Hinske promptly delivered only the third pinch-hit postseason home run to lift a trailing team into the lead. (The first two: Kirk Gibson off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series and — whoops — Ed Sprague’s blast off Jeff Reardon in Game 2 of the 1992 World Series against Cox’s Braves.)

But Game 3 of this Division Series won’t be remembered for the great move Cox made. (Did we mention that postseason baseball can be cruel?) It will be remembered for his decision to use Mike Dunn, as opposed to Craig Kimbrel, against Aubrey Huff with two outs in the ninth, and for his refusal to pull Conrad for a late-inning defensive replacement.

As jarring as the loss was, Cox wasn’t thinking negative thoughts. “Trying to plan a trip for tomorrow,” he said, looking forward to a Game 5 in San Francisco. Even on short rest, the world’s most optimistic man was primed to keep going.

And with that, the floor is open for questions, comments and rosy forecasts of Braves domination. I’ll be here all game, and I’d appreciate it very much if you’d join me. (Results not guaranteed.)

2,101 comments Add your comment

para brave

October 11th, 2010
5:50 pm

Will Frampton

October 11th, 2010
5:55 pm

Not first … but as close as I’ve ever come. GO BRAVES! As my old HS teacher says about them this year … “the audacity of hope!”

CSpin

October 11th, 2010
5:55 pm

Last post of the last day of the last game of bobby’s last season…

jacob cordell

October 11th, 2010
5:56 pm

Fourth!!!Any kudos for that mark?

Erin

October 11th, 2010
5:57 pm

Heard from a friend at the game that Conrad was warming up in the outfield and got some nice cheers and some encouraging words from Braves fans. Nice touch! Would be poetic for him to pinch hit and win the game tonight.

Belinda

October 11th, 2010
5:57 pm

I’ll be here.

Will Frampton

October 11th, 2010
6:00 pm

Couple of things Mark … have you noticed how Troy Glaus looked during fielding practice at third? How are his throws to first? And — does it feel like a morgue in the Braves locker room yet, or is the energy good?

Game Cock

October 11th, 2010
6:01 pm

I feel for RawDog. We wouldn’t be here without several of his timely hits this season. Kinda makes my bad day at the office look really, really lame.

Braves fan from Connecticut

October 11th, 2010
6:01 pm

What kills me, Mark, is the National Media’s take on this…completely overlooking the fact that the Braves would simply not be in the playoffs were it not for Conrad’s late innings heroics. It’s a cruel irony but it’s the truth…also, with regard to your other article, I don’t think this is as bad as the ‘96 Leyritz game…nothing will be as bad as ATL choking that title (and chance at all time greatness) away to the Yankees…

nique

October 11th, 2010
6:01 pm

Any idea why Hinske isn’t in the lineup?

UGASlobberknocker

October 11th, 2010
6:06 pm

I like the move of Heyward to 6th, but the bottom line is no one is hitting, no matter their spot

mexican brave

October 11th, 2010
6:06 pm

i like the lineup..a shake-up was really needed and bobby has given it to us…hey guys, we’re just 1 game behind in the series…and we’re playing at home tonight!!! let’s give as much support as we can for this team!!! come on braves nationnnn!!! let’s fight them giants!!!

Lowcountry Brave

October 11th, 2010
6:07 pm

I love the lineup change. It may not be a long-term lineup, but the guys need a spark and sometimes the smallest thing helps. I feel good about tonight; my prediction: Braves 7, Giants 3.

And Mark, I just put a Damballah voodoo curse on the Giants, so that should help.

GO BRAVOS!

ward

October 11th, 2010
6:08 pm

let;s go Braves…. Let;s go Braves. Please bats in the line up wake up!!!!! It wasn;t conrads fault. It was the lack of poor hitting, and thier hitting coach. Go!!!! Braves!!! I Love You!!!!!

jwitz

October 11th, 2010
6:08 pm

Brooksy needs to collect splinter tonite..

Daniel

October 11th, 2010
6:08 pm

Mark, not really a question, but a request:

Despite Conrad’s hellish day yesterday, I’m still a fan. I wouldn’t wish his experience yesterday on anybody. I’m not going to forget things like his Grand Slam against the Reds because of a few errors. If you talk to him, tell him at at least one fan has his back no matter what.

ward

October 11th, 2010
6:11 pm

Lte;s all focus on tonight, and put yesterdays game behin new gameand new begining. I;ll still be here, and still standing! Go……. Braves!!!!!!!!!!!

Mitchell

October 11th, 2010
6:12 pm

My post just got eaten up.

What’s that about?

Am I not allowed to call Terry Pendleton out for being a blight on the profession of batting coach?

Raleigh Dog

October 11th, 2010
6:12 pm

Connecticut got it just right!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 11th, 2010
6:12 pm

The world’s most optimistic man? That would be somebody other than Bobby Cox. Otherwise, he would have trusted his closer last night. When you interview him, Mark, are you interviewing him as a lefty or a righty? It matters, you know.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 11th, 2010
6:13 pm

Filtered again! No way to treat a little dog. Especially a Temp.

Mitchell

October 11th, 2010
6:13 pm

Braves fan from Connecticut,

They showed all his highlights on MLB Network not too long ago and were supportive of him.

It was very classy.

ward

October 11th, 2010
6:13 pm

Put yesterday behind us, a new night.Which means a new begining. Go!!!! Brraves!!!!!

deja vu

October 11th, 2010
6:14 pm

I sure would rather have Hinske up 4 or 5 times tonite instead of 1…Bobby?

rilo

October 11th, 2010
6:14 pm

I agree….Hinske should be in the lineup… If we’re worrying about defense…uhhh…I think that’s gone out the window…It’s clear we need power. Or, at least someone who can get the ball past the pitcher. With this CY Young award winning pitcher tonight (Bumgardner) we will need some big hitters. Hope you’re picking up the sarcasm…

bass stringerfish

October 11th, 2010
6:15 pm

Mark. I’m sitting in salt lake city’s airport. You tell Conrad he’s my guy too. Always will be.

Saint Richt

October 11th, 2010
6:15 pm

How appropriate…………Bobby’s last game, he will see a familiar site……….an opposing team celebrating a postseason win on the Braves’ home field………..bye bye Bobby, please take lack of accountability and mediocrity with you…………

ward

October 11th, 2010
6:15 pm

I;M Still standing, and will be here to the end…. Go!!! Braves!!! i love this game!!!!!

Doug

October 11th, 2010
6:18 pm

Mark,

My sources at the Ted tell me the patrons in left field gave Brooks a standing ovation during BP. I would love to see him get a big hit off the bench tonight.

mattyc

October 11th, 2010
6:18 pm

Hope Conrad comes in and gets game winning hit tonight! Then ppl who have bashed him will eat crow!

Innocent Bystander

October 11th, 2010
6:19 pm

An elimination game for the team managed by the man who has known 16 October runs.

No way we have scored 16 runs in October. (Cue the rim shot)

rilo

October 11th, 2010
6:19 pm

I wish Heyward had been batting 7th all year. It would have taken the pressure off and He’s been a liability in that spot for most of the year. I like the lineup shakeup…still want Hinske in there

Saint Richt

October 11th, 2010
6:21 pm

Hey Bobby: Is Greg Norton available to pinch hit tonight? Charlie Liebrant ready to pitch in extra innings?

Mark Bradley

October 11th, 2010
6:21 pm

DOB reports that Brooks Conrad got a huge ovation from fans when he took the field for batting practice. And he tipped his cap to them.

Daniel

October 11th, 2010
6:21 pm

Let me also say this. No matter the result of this series, I’m more proud of this team than I have been of any Braves team in over a decade. They worked their asses off to get where they are, and kept on doing it when the big guys got hurt. They also provided one of the most fun regular seasons I can ever remember of any Braves team. Even if they don’t make it further than they are, I’ll wear my Wild Card shirt with pride and always remember what a hell of a Summer 2010 was for the Braves.

Brookhaven Braves fan

October 11th, 2010
6:21 pm

Conrad has contributed so much to this team before and after Chipper’s injury…it is so unfortunate for him to have such a bad game at the absolute worst time. He’s a good player. I hope he can get it out of his head and continuing being a good player. I wish some fans would have a little longer term view of a player’s value. Just one opinion.

Saint Richt

October 11th, 2010
6:23 pm

Awwwwww, how sweet. Only in Atlanta would the goat get an ovation…..no wonder we are a poor to mediocre sports town and this is why we have tolerated Bobby Cox for 20 years.

Braves fan from Connecticut

October 11th, 2010
6:24 pm

Mitchell, I didn’t catch that on MLB but that’s great that they showed Conrad’s highlights. I should have been more specific: on my drive in this morning, i was listening to Mike & Mike on ESPN radio and Mike (Greenburg) was lamenting how bad it must be for Conrad etc…completely missing (or not knowing) how Conrad won so many games for us…just killed me that they were treating this story in a vacuum…they did the same thing with the Falcons later on, talking about Jake Delhomme’s interceptions…did they see Biermann’s play?? They made it seem like Jake was sitting back in the pocket and tossing picks…ATL’s defense made that play happen…God I hate ESPN…

Mark Bradley

October 11th, 2010
6:24 pm

Very belated kudos, para braves.

Rod

October 11th, 2010
6:27 pm

ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez said Troy Gluas air mailed several throws to first base in pregame warmups. Hitting two photographers and airmailed one throw in the stands.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, ajc sports editor, Brian Mininger, Tyler Volz ♠ ♣ ♥ ♦, DUECE and others. DUECE said: RT @youngcapstar “@MarkBradleyAJC: Bobby Cox pulls Brooks Conrad. #braves http://bit.ly/aULaLE” ~thank god… [...]

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 11th, 2010
6:29 pm

I guess Conrad and I can draw some parallels. I was a temp and got pulled for an inbred, simple-minded, 3-eared dog with a white a$$. Conrad was a temp and got pulled for Glaus. Uga VIII and Glaus both have bad knees. Conrad and I will always be remembered for an a$$ painting.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 11th, 2010
6:30 pm

OK MARK B you have to break the CURSE.
you have to have:
2 Hotdogs
4 full Beers
3 spanks on the bare butt
That will brake the Curse from yeaterdays Line Score of 2R 4H 3E.

Lucas

October 11th, 2010
6:30 pm

Was it ever asked to McCann or Kimbrel why they didn’t stick with the fastball to Sanchez? I mean he swung at 2 not even in the zone to get down 0-2 right off the bat..

Here all season

October 11th, 2010
6:33 pm

Conrad those of us who have watched faithfully all year know what you have done and what you are made of. Stuff happens and in baseball a lot of happens. Be clutch off the bench. We are behind you all the way.

Joe,

October 11th, 2010
6:34 pm

You, know if i was Wagner, this could be the last game of his career, Take some motrin, and play ball… Same for Chipper, give me a break, these prima donnas are supposed to play hurt… Look at Mantle, Mays, Marris and all the old timers… they played with broken fingers, pulled groins, torn muscles… Man this is the PLAYOFFS…..SUCK IT UP AND PLAY BALL…

Rod

October 11th, 2010
6:35 pm

If we win this game Bobby Cox will have Conrad start game 5 at second base. Cox said Brookie needs a day off.

JD

October 11th, 2010
6:35 pm

What is wrong with cheering him for what he did to get us here? Everyone on the team is responsible for where we are. What about the others that did not hit in this game or the other games this year? Get over it. Go Braves, Go Conrad, Go Cox, Injuries have basically destroyed a good team…We are fortunate to be where we are.

mattyc

October 11th, 2010
6:36 pm

oh well, we all know we dont have a team capable of competing with the phillies or yankees! At the end of the day we all just wanted Bobby back to the playoffs, we got that! Enjoy it! We have a bright future and the hiring of Gonzalez will only continue the momemtum for the future!

Dr Henry/Augusta

October 11th, 2010
6:37 pm

I love this team! However, my nerves won’t take much watching it tonite…I don’t have a dog in the Brett Favre / NYJets game so that’s where I’ll be mostly