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Tuesday, October 25

Editor's note: The longest game in World Series history left David Schoenfield and Eric Neel with plenty to second guess.

David Schoenfield: Eric, my head started spinning around the top of 11th with all the second guessing to do off this crazy, wild, unpredictable, beautiful game. Let's take them in chronological order.

Item: Roy Oswalt is left in for nine baserunners, five runs and 46 pitches in one inning.

Eric Neel: You have a problem with that, I take it ...

David: Did I forget to change my calendar? Is this June 25 and Garner was saving his bullpen for the big weekend series against the Brewers? He got lucky that Oswalt got out of the bases-loaded jam to escape an ever bigger inning, but he didn't have his bullpen warming until the NINTH BASERUNNER OF THE INNING.

Eric Neel: I can actually see what Garner's doing there. If they fall behind by 2, maybe he yanks Roy, but even after all that nicking and cutting, they were only down one. And Jon Garland had looked vulnerable.

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Item: Astros down by a run, Brad Ausmus walks to lead off the bottom of the seventh off Garland. Adam Everett bunts him over, but Jeff Bagwell pops out and Craig Biggio whiffs. Was the bunt the right move?

Eric: If I've got a lead and I'm looking to tack one on, I like the bunt. If I'm down, and I have two Hall of Famers coming up after Everett, I let him hit.

David: I'm wondering if Garland is tiring. He just walked Ausmus for goodness sakes. I'm going to give Everett a chance to hit, or at least draw a walk and see if we can score two and grab the lead rather than play for the tie.

Item: Morgan Ensberg walks with two outs in the eighth. Neal Cotts comes in and walks Mike Lamb. Ozzie then brings in Dustin Hermanson to face Jason Lane. Hermanson over Bobby Jenks? Discuss.

Eric: Here's its one big advantage: It reinforces the "Ozzie? He crazy-man!" feeling, it makes Garner wonder whether Ozzie challenging him to a cage match might be next, it makes it hard for anyone in Chicago grey to, you know, "dig in."

David: Well, that's all nice, but is Ozzie trying to prove he's smarter than Garner or win a World Series? Hermanson hadn't pitched in 23 days. Myself, I actually leave in Cotts, who held righties to a .155 average this year. He's no situational lefty. He fans Lane and then you bring in Jenks in the ninth to close it.

Eric: That's some good, sound baseball thinking right there, D. That works when you're working in a vacuum. Ozzie is playing under the bad moon of 1919; he can't be satisfied with your so-called "strategy."

David: I'm right; you're wrong. After all, Hermanson gave up the game-tying double. Next item ...

Item: El Duque comes on in the ninth in a double switch, but good-luck charm A.J. Pierzynski is the man switched out of the game.

Eric: This is the hidden cost of the El Duque move. A.J.'s been the JuJu King for the White Sox. If you take him out, you better be ready to replace him with Steve Perry behind the plate.

David: Well, we didn't see any strikeouts where the batter ran to first and was ruled safe after A.J. left the game, so I think you're right about the JuJu stuff, although never, ever discount the fact that El Duque has enough JuJu in his blood to make up for four A.J. Pierzynskis.

Item: Bottom of ninth, El Duque pitching. Chris Burke walks, advances to second on El Duque's pickoff error and steals third. Biggio walks. Willy Taveras up with one out. He whiffs, and White Sox escape the inning. Should they have squeezed with Tavares?

Eric: El Duque is a master of prestidigitation out there. If you're Garner, not only are you worried that your guy won't get good wood on the ball, you're also worried that maybe he'll be embarrassed to the point of thumb-sucking and rocking like so many diapered Mazzones.

David: I don't know anything about diapers, but I do know that I have to agree with you here. You can't squeeze because even if -- as happened -- Taveras strikes out, at least you give Lance Berkman or Ensberg a chance to win it. A failed squeeze and those guys might not come up with the winning run on third.

Eric: Right. A strikeout is bad, but a pop-up double play is dagger-to-the-heart bad.

Item: Astros leave two on in the eighth, three on in the ninth, two in the 10th and two in the 11th. They drew eight walks and were hit by a pitch in those four innings and scored just one run. Aren't walks good?

Eric: Walks good, anxious at-bats (see Biggio, Bagwell, Ausmus ... nice pop-out on the Orlando Palmeiro steal attempt, Brad) are bad. As the game wore on, the Astros' hitters looked like they were going heads-up with history, with their organizational habit and fear of failing when it matters most.

David: The at-bat that ticked me off the most was the one before Ausmus' fly out. Luis Vizcaino comes in, making his first appearance of the entire postseason, and Lane swings at his first pitch and pops out to the catcher. I know the thinking is, "He's going to throw a fastball right down the middle here, so jump on it." But I think you show a little restraint, make Vizcaino, who isn't exactly Eck-like with his control, throw a couple strikes, maybe give Palmeiro a chance to steal second. (That said, criticizing Lane is a bit unfair, since he was the only Astro to get a hit after the fourth inning.)

Item: Top of the 14th inning, tie game. You've pinch-hit for Chad Qualls. Do you bring in rookie Ezequiel Astacio -- he of the 5.67 ERA, .301 opponents' batting average against, and .584 slugging percentage allowed this season, or ...

Eric: I bring in the one and only Roger Clemens. He only pitched two innings in Game 1. There may be no Game 5. And at 43, there may be no more Roger in '06. If you go down with Ezequiel Astacio on the hill, and maybe the greatest pitcher of all time in your back pocket, you're just not trying hard enough. What will they do in Game 5? What will they do in Game 6? Who cares. They can't count on there being Games 5 and 6. They have this moment. Right now. They have to tap into some irrationality to have any hope of surviving. There is precedent: Think Bob Turley making appearances in Games 5, 6, and 7 of the 1958 Series, think Orel Hershiser doing everything but selling programs in the 1988 playoffs, think Roger himself relieving in the 18-inning affair against Atlanta just a couple weeks back. And if he's hurt, if this is it for him, if his hammy is about to go splat once and for all, then he goes down slinging, and you sleep at night knowing you, and he, did everything you could.

David: Rocket's an interesting choice, but I think there was an even better option, considering Roger may have been at a PTA meeting instead of the ballpark during the game Brandon Backe, completely and fully rested. Look, Astacio can't pitch; sorry, but that's the truth; he's terrible. He shouldn't even be on the playoff roster. Backe is supposed to go in Game 4? Well, isn't winning Game 3 more important than worrying about who starts Game 4? Of course it is. Here's why: 20 times a team has rallied from down 2 games to 0 to win the World Series; but never has a rallied from three games down (and only the 2004 Red Sox have ever done it any playoff series). So you have to win Game 3.

You cannot, under any circumstance, unless it's at least the 21st inning, use Ezequiel Astacio in this game. If Backe pitches, your chance of winning goes up dramatically, and maybe you can still start Backe in Game 4 if he only goes an inning or two, or Wandy Rodriguez, or maybe even Roger Clemens. If you win Game 3 and lose Game 4, at least you still have Clemens, Pettitte and Oswalt in 5, 6 and 7.

Eric: I'd pitch Koby Clemens before I'd put this thing on Ezequiel ...

David: So the Astros have gone down in this World Series with Wandy Rodriguez, Chad Qualls and Ezequiel Astacio. Nice job, Phil.

Eric: Well, they've gone down with that, and with an epic failure to turn gift walks into runs. Maybe it was the roof being open ...

David: Hell of a game, though. This may be the most epic four-game sweep in World Series history.

Previous Second Guesses
Oct. 23: Puzzling use of Lidge

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?