So the series is turned around now. The Braves go to Houston now, and they have to win once to bring the series back to Atlanta. Of course, they'd rather finish it off in two games. That won't be easy. The Astros are not going to go away. And they still have someone as talented Roy Oswalt to throw out there.
In a way, they remind me of the Braves teams I pitched for. Bobby Cox would run Smoltzie, Greg Maddux and me out there in a short series. We always felt we had a pretty good chance because we usually had an advantage in starting pitching.
The Astros have the same kind of depth in their rotation. They throw Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, and they still have Oswalt to throw at you. That's what made McCann's home run so important. It turned the series around. They beat Roger in a game they absolutely had to win. That home run made it possible.
It was a little touch and go after the Astros scored against John in the first. I wasn't sure how John was feeling. We hadn't talked in a while. And I saw him throw two sliders and a curve to Craig Biggio to start the game. He struck him out, but it made me wonder. It was odd for a guy who's been under Leo Mazzone's tutelage for so long to go out there and not try to establish his fastball right away. I've seen John pitch a lot of big games, and especially in the postseason go out and give them 94 and 95 mph from the get-go.
Once I saw him come back in the second and third and shut them down, I was pretty sure John was OK. But if you're a Braves fan, knowing John hasn't been 100 percent, and you see him throwing sliders to the first batter and giving up a run in the first, you're squirming.
You know who Roger is, and even though he hasn't been great in the Division Series, you know he's capable of shutting down any team. Then McCann takes him out, and everything is different. There's no better scenario for the so-called Baby Braves to come from behind. If you grab a lead and hold it -- even in a big game -- it's a little ho-hum. But winning like they did, coming on the heels of what happened in the first game -- a lopsided loss -- it picks them up. And that one of the kid does it ... that's a serious boost. It takes some of the pressure off Chipper and Andruw Jones.
I asked some of the guys I know there, and they tell me that the kids -- like McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Ryan Langerhans -- are good kids. I think the best thing you can say about a young player is that he "gets it." It's about respecting the game, showing respect for your teammates, playing the game right. David Wright, with us, he gets it, no doubt. And they tell me the Braves kids get it.
So you're happy to see them do well. And those young guys were saying what's happened to the Braves in the postseason doesn't apply to them. When he hit that home run, it made what they'd been saying more believable.
That home run had some effect on Roger, too. It's one of those, 'that's not supposed to happen" moments. You identify the guys you're not going to let beat you -- probably Chipper and Andruw. You tell yourself you're going to force someone else to do it. And when someone else actually does do it, you're taken aback. That's natural. You have to regroup.
The game wasn't over at that point, of course. The Astros showed a lot of offense in Game 1. But Chipper's play on Biggio finished it. They score a run on that, and now it's a three-run game and you're still in the top of the lineup. But Chipper makes that play and they get off the field with a four-run lead.
Smoltzie punched the air, and he doesn't do that very often.
But it's the playoffs.