They know where the hammer is going to fall. Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Derek Bell--the Houston Astros’ Killer Bs--were six for 41 in the four games against the San Diego Padres after going two for 37 in the three-game division series sweep by the Atlanta Braves last year.
“Blame the Killer Bs if you want,” Biggio said of the division series victory by the Padres, “but Kevin Brown was awesome. He was the neutralizer. He was Superman against us. What do you want? What could we do?”
The Padres won each of Brown’s starts by a 2-1 score.
“I thought they might have pitched him every game against us, he was that dominant,” Biggio said.
The Astros, of course, had added to their lineup in the aftermath of the Atlanta sweep by acquiring Moises Alou and Carl Everett.
Bagwell made note of that when he said: “This is very disappointing. This is not 1997. This is a great club, and to go out like this is tough. It’s frustrating. The story of the series is our inability to get a key hit, but it’s not just the Killer Bs. As I’ve said before, this isn’t just about three guys. It’s about 25 guys.”
Added Biggio: “I guess you can say the stars were lined up against us. It hurts, but I hope the Padres go and kick the heck out of Atlanta. At least we could say we were beaten by the team that won the NL pennant.”
The championship series between the Padres and Braves starts Wednesday in Atlanta. Will San Diego bring Brown back again on three days rest?
“He’s our horse, but we don’t want to kill him,” Manager Bruce Bochy said. “There is a good chance Andy Ashby will go in the first game.”
Bochy said that he and pitching coach Dave Stewart will talk to Brown about it today.
“We’ve asked a lot of him to get us to the next series,” Stewart said of Brown. “I’m confident that if we go with Ash we’ll match up well, and I’m confident that if we go with Kevin we’ll match up well.”
General Manager Kevin Towers said the decision to use Brown on three days rest in Game 3 on Saturday night was a pivotal move.
“We not only won that game [to take a 2-1 series lead],” he said, “but it forced the Astros to pitch Randy Johnson [Sunday] away from the Astrodome. I’m not saying he’s any easier here, but at least he’s not on his home turf where he’s been so dominant and he doesn’t have the crowd going wild behind him.”
How evenly matched were the Padres and Astros this year? They played 13 times, with the Padres holding a 7-6 edge. Eight of the games were decided by one run.