"Graffanino was processing 10 things at once. He was thinking he didn't get a good jump on the ball. He was thinking he should charge it. He was thinking he was distracted for a split second by Joe Crede, who motored past him as fast as he could to second base in hopes of breaking up what appeared to be a textbook double play."'I didn't get a good read on it,' Graffanino said. 'I tried to rush it, to get two. I just missed it.' "The ball slipped under his glove. It was the bottom of the fifth, with the Red Sox leading, 4-2, and he blew the play. Instead of getting out of the inning, suddenly there were runners at the corners, and still only one out. "You know by now what happened next. David Wells induced Scott Podsednik into a foul pop to third base, then hung a curveball to Tadahito Iguchi that the rookie tattooed 372 feet for a three-run homer. "The 4-2 Red Sox lead was now a 5-4 deficit. And Tony Graffanino, the surehanded, affable, reliable second baseman, was suddenly added to the list of Red Sox personnel who have made postseason blunders."
Meanwhile, in the National League, Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution neatly summarized the difficult challenge facing the Braves after a series-opening, 10-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Turner Field."The Astros rocked Tim Hudson and the bullpen in a 10-5 rout that dropped the Braves to 4-13 in their past 17 postseason home games, including four consecutive losses in division series openers. "They face a daunting task to end their run of division series disappointments. They must win three of the next four games to avoid a fourth consecutive division series loss, no small feat considering their next two are against Roger Clemens and 20-game winner Roy Oswalt." O'Brien was quick to point out, too, that the Braves' hard-earned home-field advantage has not been much of an advantage during recent playoff runs. "The series moves to Houston for Game 3 on Saturday and a potential Game 4 on Sunday, and would return to Atlanta if Game 5 is necessary Monday. The Braves have dropped three consecutive division series Game 5s at home." Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle summarized the Astros win while reminding readers of a pledge Astros owner Drayton McLayton made to his team prior to the season. "In a quiet corner of the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field, Astros owner Drayton McLane busily got to work Wednesday evening after his team won Game 1 of its Division Series. "Back in Spring Training, he vowed to clean his players' spikes after each game if they reached the postseason. "The gesture could not have been more appropriate after McLane's Astros received contributions from top to bottom while cleaning up, 10-5, against the Atlanta Braves to start the best-of-five series. "From Craig Biggio leading off and Morgan Ensberg getting five RBIs in the cleanup spot all the way down to lefthander Andy Pettitte, the Astros did the little things and the big ones, too. They sacrificed runners over, drove in runs with two outs, and took walks when Atlanta righthander Tim Hudson missed the strike zone." As the Cardinals attempt to take a 2-0 series lead over the Padres on Thursday afternoon, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Derrick Goold made note of Redbird southpaw starter Mark Mulder's daytime struggles. "'My few bad games happened to all be day games,' said Mulder, who with 16 wins had a fifth consecutive season of 15 or more wins, the longest active streak in the Majors. 'So, that's just the way it happened. That's the furthest thing from my mind.' "His way is not to worry, as he recently sported a T-shirt with the phrase "Whatever" on it. The lefty, acquired in an offseason trade with Oakland, has dismissed many such statistical rivets from his season. "He walked seven in his final start and talked about how he had good stuff but just couldn't get strikes. Whatever. The shortest outing of his career was his second-last start, a five-out humdinger in which he allowed seven earned runs. He was off. Whatever. "In 11 daytime starts this season, Mulder's earned-run average was 6.86, more than 4.5 runs worse than the 2.26 ERA in 21 night starts. Yet, the best game of his season was the 10-inning shutout of Houston, which was a 1:15 p.m. start. He kidded reporters for missing that his last win of the season was a daytime start, too. On the afternoon of Sept. 17, Mulder held the Cubs to one earned run in a win the Cardinals deemed their title-clincher." San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Bill Center profiled San Diego Game 2 starter Pedro Astacio, who will attempt to keep the Padres from the brink of elimination. "Astacio's strength is his ability not to feel the pressure. Not even pitching for four seasons in Colorado rattled Astacio. He is the Rockies' career leader in victories and one of the rare pitchers who has a winning record with the team. Even being sidelined for nearly two seasons after surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2003 didn't seem to bother him. "'I knew I would be better again,'" he said. "'I like to prepare, but I don't like to talk about how I will do. I will give it my best. I stay the same. I am very happy for myself that I came back after being away. "'What do I want to do? Pitch one game. And one more after that.'" Astacio said yesterday he remembers pitching his first Major League game for the Dodgers back in 1992. Not even then did he feel pressure, he said. "'Very much excitement,' said the pitcher who grew up idolizing Dominican players such as Alfredo Griffin and George Bell. 'I wanted to show everyone in the big leagues that I could pitch. I was excited and proud.' "Still is ... with a line of stubbornness. Astacio attacks hitters. "'That's the way I pitch,' he said. 'I feel comfortable. I believe in myself. There's no pressure.'
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.