ATLANTA -- This has been a magical season for Don Baylor and the Colorado Rockies. In helping the Rockies become the fastest expansion team ever to make the postseason, Baylor is considered one of the leading contenders for National League Manager of the Year.
But Baylor has taken a great deal of criticism from the Denver media for the moves he has made in his team's divisional series against the Atlanta Braves, especially having to use a pitcher to pinch-hit in Colorado's 5-4 defeat in Game 1.
Baylor was forced to use reliever Lance Painter to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth. Painter struck out on four pitches. Though a few columnists have been on his case, Baylor's counterpart, Bobby Cox, came to his defense.
"All he tried to do is win a ballgame," said Cox. "You can't fault a guy for shooting his bullets, and that's exactly what he did. If I were in his predicament, I'd be carrying 12 or 13 pitchers."
It would be a little more understandable if it had been one of those extra-inning marathons they've had in Cleveland or New York, but in a nine-inning game?
Baylor's problem has been the health of his pitching staff, especially his overworked bullpen. Baylor said last night that Darren Holmes has been pitching the past three weeks with a badly pulled hamstring. Holmes, who had a 6-1 record and 14 saves during the regular season, has pitched only one inning in the first two games.
"He's never turned the ball down," said Baylor.
Though Baylor was on a California Angels team that blew a two-games-to-none lead in a best-of-five series during the 1982 playoffs against the Milwaukee Brewers, he didn't sound overly confident about the Rockies repeating the trick.
"We know the odds are against us here."
Veteran right-hander Bret Saberhagen is scheduled to pitch tonight should the Rockies extend the series to Game 4.
"The fat lady may be warming up to sing, but she's not singing yet," Saberhagen said.
Some in Denver attribute Saberhagen's most recent injury -- inflammation of his right shoulder -- to a 116-pitch performance during a game here in August. The temperature that day measured 120 degrees on the field.
But Saberhagen said, "I came out of that game fine. It was the day after in Cincinnati. The first pitch I threw [warming up] I felt something in my shoulder explode."