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Sunday, October 23

Editor's note: David Schoenfield and Rob Neyer found some things to second guess in the second game of the Fall Classic.

David Schoenfield: We may think 2005 will go down as the Postseason of the Blown Call, and there's no doubt Jeff Nelson awarding first base to Jermaine Dye will give the newspaper writers and talking heads something to discuss loudly for the next two days, but Game 2 of the World Series came down to one ill-fated decision:

Yes, in the Astros' most important plate appearance of the season, with the bases juiced in the seventh inning and two outs and the White Sox' best hitter, Paul Konerko, digging into the soggy dirt, Phil Garner left his best relief pitcher, Brad Lidge, in the bullpen.

This isn't a mid-June game against the Rockies where you save your closer for the ninth inning. This is Game 2 of the World Series, your biggest game of the season, the most important moment yet in the history of the franchise, grasping to a 4-2 lead and hoping to even up this World Series ... and instead of Lidge, a guy who fanned 102 guys in 70 2/3 innings, you bring in Chad Qualls, who while a solid big leaguer, isn't exactly going to confuse us for Brad Lidge.

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Garner was waiting for the ninth inning for Lidge, I suppose, and as so often happens, he didn't get there with the lead, or it least it appears he won't as I type this in the bottom of the eighth.

I really get tired of talking about this, don't you, Rob?

Rob Neyer: Well, yes. I didn't read Second Guessing this morning, but my Second Guess after Game 1 was the same as your Second Guess during -- we're in the top of the ninth, as I write this -- Game 2. I first started railing about this after Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, when the Yankees lost a 13-inning game and their best pitcher never got into the #@%& game. The Astros never scored another run in Game 1, so not using Lidge didn't hurt them. But tonight ... HOLD THE PHONE. The Astros just tied the game on what stands, for the moment at least, as perhaps the biggest hit in franchise history. Is there any point, right now, in second-guessing Garner's non-use of Lidge? Or do we now figure that if Garner had used Lidge in the seventh, this game might already be over?

David: I suppose Garner looks like a genius now (wink, wink), since he'll have a rested Lidge for the ninth inning and the 10th if it goes there and maybe even the 11th since Lidge hasn't pitched since last Monday. Of course, if Garner had used Lidge against Konerko, then it's likely we wouldn't have had these great ninth-inning dramatics, which while not so good for White Sox fans are plenty good for us baseball fans. By the way, I have to second guess Scott Podsednik's arm, because he picked up the ball -- in SHALLOW left field -- before Chris Burke had touched third base. How did he not throw Burke out?

Rob: Podsednik's not in there for his arm, obviously. Do the White Sox have anybody on the bench who might have been placed in left field for defensive purposes? I'm trying to think of the guys on the roster, but the White Sox seem to use the same lineup in every single game & I can't even recall the name of their backup catcher.

David: You wouldn't take out Podsednik out for defense since he's such a great flycatcher, but I still can't believe Burke beat that out. He had to have made the greatest turn around third base in World Series history -- and kudos to third-base coach Doug Mansolino for the gutsy call to wave him home. And give Garner credit for using Jose Vizcaino instead of Mike Lamb, since he obviously wanted Vizcaino vs. Jenks instead of Lamb vs. Cot--

David: You've got to be kidding me!! ... I guess Podsednik was in there for his bat ... wow, this ended up being a true World Series classic game.

Rob: I'm sorry to keep hammering on this, because in the end it's the players who make plays or don't, and some things -- Podsednik hitting his second postseason home run after going six months without one -- simply defy analysis, let alone explanation. But now I'm going back to the last game of the NLCS, when Garner didn't use Lidge to protect a four-run lead in the ninth inning. It seemed to me then -- and at that point I second-guessed, which means tonight it's first-guessing -- that if Lidge weren't used against the Cardinals, it might, just might leave a kernel of doubt in his head.

I'm not saying that's why Podsednik hit the home run. It's probably not. As I said, what happened tonight defies analysis. But Phil Garner simply hasn't employed Brad Lidge in a way that makes sense to me. He should have pitched the ninth inning of Game 6 against the Cardinals, he should have pitched the eighth inning of Game 1 against the White Sox, and he should have pitched in the seventh inning of Game 2 against the White Sox. Garner's done a fantastic job since taking over in July of 2004. But if the Astros don't make some sort of miraculous comeback, I'll hold Garner at least partly accountable.

Previous Second Guesses
Oct. 22: Questionable moves by Garner

Oct. 19: Lidge needed some closure

Oct. 17: Fear and loathing in Houston

Oct. 16: What was Pujols thinking?

Oct. 15: Sweet Lou in the booth?

Oct. 14: Go with Garland or the 'pen?

Oct. 13: Why pitch Lidge two innings?

Oct. 12: So who's REALLY to blame?

Oct. 11: Ozzie ball backfires on White Sox

Oct. 10: $203 million down the drain

Oct. 9: 'Chris Burke Game' is an all-timer

Oct. 8: Braves' bullpen stinks it up

Oct. 7: Unit left in too long

Oct. 6: Jumpin' on the White Sox bandwagon

Oct. 5: Why leave Wang in the game?

Oct. 4: Colon over Lackey ... say what?