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Mark Townsend

A handy Game 4 survival guide for the Atlanta Braves

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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In front of former president Jimmy Carter, the Atlanta Braves allowed a potential NLDS lead to slip through their grasp, bounce off their gloves and roll between their legs on Sunday night.

Now they enter this evening's Game 4 against Madison Bumgarner(notes) and the San Francisco Giants with their backs against the wall. It's win or stay home.

All those cliches.

With that in mind, I have put together a short list of survival tips that they may want to consider utilizing if they hope to return to San Francisco for Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Pull the plug on the Brooks Conrad(notes) experiment: There's no way around this one.

I can't be too hard on Conrad, though. I did tout him as a potential difference maker in this series. Four errors in three games and a poorly executed sacrifice bunt attempt were not the type of difference making I had in mind, however.

You can't blame Bobby Cox in the least for wanting Conrad's bat in the lineup. The experiment simply failed, and now it's time to move on. His value to the team all season was as a late-inning pinchhitter. That's obviously where he is most comfortable and most effectively used. Defensively, he should be nothing more than a last resort.

Pencil Glaus and his knees in at third. He can still field as his double-play in Game 3 showed and he could fill another need I'll list later. Move Omar Infante(notes) to second. Take your chances.

Get a baseball in play: Good things are far less likely to happen offensively if you're not putting pressure on the defense. To put pressure on the defense, you must put the ball in play. Not that the Giants do that a whole lot better, but they sure did it enough to gain a favorable result in Game 3.

Thirty-one swings and misses for Tim Lincecum(notes) in Game 1 was the most for any pitcher in 2010. The Braves improved their contact ratio slightly in Game 2 — a game they won — before striking out 11 times against Jonathan Sanchez(notes) on Sunday.

In total the Braves have struck out 37 times in the first three games of the series, which averages out to be once every three batters. If that doesn't improve today, we'll say good-bye to Bobby Cox.

Create a run: This goes without saying, but this is not a dynamic Atlanta Braves offense. In fact, Brian McCann's(notes) 77 RBI was the lowest team leading total for a playoff qualifier in the last 25 seasons.

When an opportunity to score arises, pull out all the stops. Put a guy in motion. That's what Bruce Bochy did in Game 1 with Buster Posey(notes). It may have taken a blown call for it to succeed, but the bottom line is he took a chance to create some offense, he caught a break, and the only run in the game was scored as a result.

Upgrade the No. 5 lineup spot: This could be another place where Troy Glaus(notes) fits in. They need the threat of something, anything, from the batter behind Brian McCann.

It's not coming from Alex Gonzalez(notes) (0-for-3). It's not coming from Melky Cabrera(notes) (0-for-5). And it didn't come from Matt Diaz(notes)/Nate McLouth (0-for-4) last night. It may not come from Glaus either, but there is really no where else to turn. David Justice is NOT walking through that door.

Anyone have anything to add to this list? Hit us up in the comments below.

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