Conrad's pivotal error sets DS record
Braves infielder's fourth miscue of series allows go-ahead run
ATLANTA -- There were no excuses, Braves second baseman Brooks Conrad said on Sunday night. The sun didn't blind him on a missed pop fly. The critical ninth-inning grounder that lost the game didn't take a bad hop.Conrad made three errors to set a Division Series single-game record in the Braves' 3-2 loss to the Giants in Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field on Sunday. The last miscue was on a grounder that went through the wickets much like the one that scooted through Bill Buckner's legs to decide Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, when the Mets beat the Red Sox. During the ninth inning, Freddy Sanchez ended up scoring the winning run on what seemed like a routine two-out grounder hit by Buster Posey up the middle. The error was Conrad's fourth of the series, setting a Division Series record. Conrad's three on Sunday tied the overall single-game postseason record shared by 11 other players. "It's completely embarrassing," Conrad told a group of reporters afterward. "Once again, I felt like I let everybody down. I feel terrible. It's a whole lot to swallow. That last one, I tracked the whole way and tried to stay in front it, at least. It seemed to go right through me. [It was a] weird feeling, but no excuses. It was a terrible performance tonight.
"I'll do my best to get over it, but that's probably not going to happen for a long time, if ever," said Conrad."I wish I could just dig a hole and go sleep in there."
The Giants now lead the best-of-five series, 2-1, and can wrap up their first playoff series victory in eight years with a win on Monday night. If the Braves win, Game 5 is slated for Wednesday night back in San Francisco.Many of the Atlanta players seemed just as shell-shocked as their Boston counterparts 24 years ago. Eric Hinske had given the Braves what turned out to be a short-lived 2-1 lead with a two-run pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the eighth. Defeat was then snatched from the jaws of victory. "What do you say to the kid?" Braves first baseman Derrek Lee said. "There's nothing to say, and he probably doesn't want to hear it anyway. You just tell him we're behind him, that we've all been through terrible nights like this one. You just get over it and come back out there tomorrow." Manager Bobby Cox was noncommittal after the game when asked if Conrad, a 30-year-old San Diego native, would be in the lineup again on Monday. "I'll sleep on it," Cox said. Conrad has played regularly at second base because of season-ending injuries suffered by Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. When Jones blew out his knee this summer, Prado was moved from second base to third and was replaced up the middle by Omar Infante. When Prado injured his hip near the end of the season, Cox tried Conrad at third, and then flip-flopped him with Infante.
Bad news Brooks
It's not as if Cox has many choices. He could start a shaky Troy Glaus at third and move Infante back to second. His only other extra infielder on the active 25-man playoff roster is Diory Hernandez.Asked if there might be a change, left fielder Matt Diaz said: "That's up to Bobby, but probably not. Bobby is extremely loyal." It was a tough game right from the beginning for Conrad. His first error came on a Sanchez grounder in the first inning, while Andres Torres ran from first on contact. Conrad glanced at the runner and readied to flip to shortstop Alex Gonzalez covering second, but he bobbled the ball. By the time he threw to first, Sanchez was safe. Conrad also had an error on a Torres grounder in Game 1, a 1-0 Giants victory Thursday night at San Francisco's AT&T Park. "It was a chopper and I was going to flip it to second," Conrad said about his error in the first inning Sunday. "It's another one that just got caught in there. I just didn't make the plays. Stupid mistakes." During a crazy opening to the second inning, Conrad dropped a high pop fly hit by Cody Ross to short right field that allowed Mike Fontenot to score from third, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead. The ball was lifted into a patch of sunlight, which was concentrated in right as shadows crept across the field because of the late afternoon start.
Bad company for Brooks
Rookie sensation Jason Heyward appeared to have trouble with the sun on Fontenot's inning-opening triple. Heyward drifted on the ball as he faded toward the fence."I was following the play and thinking, 'Don't catch it,'" Fontenot said. "I just saw his glove and the ball go up in the air, and I kept running." At the instant of impact, the ball glanced above and beyond Heyward's glove as he slammed into the padding, his head taking a good shot. Heyward fell flat on the warning track, peering toward the infield as Cox and trainer Joe Porter trotted out to attend to him. After a delay of about five minutes, Heyward remained in the game. It's possible that a less shaken-up Heyward might have been able to track down Ross' pop fly, though it was slanting toward the line as both Heyward and Conrad converged on it. For his part, Conrad said the elements had nothing to do with the fact that the ball popped in and out of his glove. "I thought I had good position," Conrad said. "It just popped out on that one, too. I have no excuse on any of it. It was all terrible. There was nothing to read into it except I didn't make the play. This is getting pretty ridiculous here on my part. That's why I'm so embarrassed. The bottom line is that I've got to play better. I can play better than that, that's for sure. I feel like I've let our guys down. It's tough." Conrad broke a Division Series record held by six players. The most recent to make three errors in a series was Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius, who committed them in New York's five-game first-round victory over the A's in 2001. The most recent player to commit three errors in a postseason game was Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal in Game 5 of the 2008 NL Championship Series. The Dodgers lost that best-of-seven series in five games to the Phillies. Sanchez, Conrad's counterpart at second base for the Giants, said he certainly felt empathy for him. "You don't want to see that happen to anybody. Of course you feel for him," Sanchez said. "Errors are part of the game. We're all human."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.