Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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30 Jul

Phillies 476 Braves… Who Cares (by Smitty)

The Phillies killed the Braves. No one really cares about that. The big news is the two most immovable players in all of baseball were traded for each other.

All of you know the Hector Olivera saga. He was once a great Cuban talent who fell prey to the injury bug. Once he became eligible to play in the Major Leagues, there was a great bidding war. In the end, injuries, off the field issues and lack of ability will put in on the biggest busts of all time list. The Padres have reportedly already designated him for assignment.

In return the Braves pick up Matt Kemp and $10-12 million. He is under contract through 2019 and still has quite a bit of pop. However, he has an OBP of .285 and can play the outfield about as well as I can. I imagine if he can hit well over the next month, the Braves may be able to parlay him to an AL team needing a DH. The Braves have a giant gap on the left side of their defense now.

This is a good move for the Braves both on and off the field. Kemp gives Freeman some protection and if he can find his form, he probably can be moved for something. I highly doubt he is on the team next year though.

Olivera may be done as a professional baseball player in America.

28 Jul

Braves 9, Twins 7: The Pursuit to the Bottom

Well, that was unexpected. It was really great to see the top half of the Braves offense perform last night. Jace Peterson and Gordon Beckham set the table consistently, and Freddie Freeman, who is busting out of his slump big time, went 4-4 and plated four of the first seven runs himself. While the top half supplied the bulk of the damage, this was a top-to-bottom offense ‘€œoutburst’€ for a team that simply doesn’€™t have many of them. Five guys in all had two hits apiece, with Human Outs AJ Pierzynski and Erick Aybar not providing much at the bottom of the order. The lefty-right-lefty combo of Peterson, Beckham, and Freeman seems to be working together well.

Sadly, Mike Foltynewicz did not have it. His fastball was straight as a board, his emotions ran high at times, and he gave up 12 hits en route to getting chased in the sixth. His control was great in that he had no walks, but he’€™s got to learn to pitch when he doesn’€™t have electrifying stuff. He’€™s a classic young power pitcher: brilliant, dominant high-strikeout performances and outings where he gets rocked out of the stadium.

But with the depth of the bullpen, a bad starting pitching performance gives some guys an opportunity to showcase both trade and future value. Trade candidates Ian Krol and Jim Johnson both did their jobs, with Krol getting the lone lefty he was brought in to face, and Johnson registered two strike outs to get a save. Chris Withrow and Mauricio Cabrera both pitched scoreless outings, with the letter recording three strike outs in an inning and a third. Cabrera is only 22, absolutely huge, and his strike outs are finally coming around. After recording only one strike out in his first five innings, he has had 11 strike outs in 8 2/3 innings in his last 7 games.

But the big news is the Braves turned two players who had been unemployed 9 weeks ago into what MLB Pipeline says is now our #9 prospect: Travis Demeritte. He played second base for the USA in the Futures Game, and he’€™s got big power from the right side. The Braves plan to use him all over the field to find the best fit, and based on his age, they should be able to figure something out if he can continue to hit.

27 Jul

NATS UPDATE (by bledsoe)

Time to take time off from our misery and hope to enjoy other’s miseries. In this case, Washington’s.

I expected the Nats to play somewhat better this year, largely because for the first time in three years, the media hype had subsided and expectations, which had been “World Series or bust,” were lowered to realistic levels. And they have. But, after tearing it up for the first half of the season, the Nats may have discovered that they could very well still be — the Nats.

So, what’s the frequency, Kenneth?

  • Stephen Strasburg has figured it out. Yeah, he’s gotten great run support. But he has finally maybe put behind the “I got a boo-boo” fragile mentality aside.  I have to say, the starts I’ve seen, he’s been lights out.  Almost every hitter starts out 0-2. With Scherzer, they make as good a 1-2 as exists in the NL. With Kershaw hurt, he’s likely to win the Cy.
     
  • Bryce Harper hasn’t. The league responded to his MVP year by just refusing to pitch to him. He was unintentionally intentionally walked for two months (the Cubs walked him 7 times. Not in a series. In a game.) Bryce took it in stride for a while, dutifully taking his base. Then, either boredom or immaturity took over, and they got in his head, and he started to try to hit 7-run home runs every time. He’s now hitting a mere .240, although with 20 taters. He’s completely lost at the plate. The strategy of using the kid’s own arrogance against him is working.
     
  • Daniel Murphy wishes he had figured this out at 25. The batting adjustment he made at the end of the season last year that spurred his Superman performance in the playoffs continues. He’s leading the league in BA, and he’s a clear candidate for NL MVP. In a lineup of mostly stiffs, he’s carried the team by himself, with some help from…
     
  • Wilson Ramos, who can now see. Last year, he was a human out. He had Lasik in the offseason, and he’s OPSing .953. He’s the best catcher in the league right now in his walk year.
     
  • Danny Espinosa is playing very good SS and is STILL not a switchhitter (OPS RH is 100 points higher than LH). Don’t take my word for it – take a look at this debacle, when he can’t even connect with a piñata from the left side. Seriously, if he bats RH, he’s a better than average SS in the league, and he won’t be because his ego won’t let him admit he can’t switch hit.
     
  • Ben Revere, their big offseason acquisition, was supposed to be the tablesetter they have been lacking for years. He hurt his oblique on the very first swing he took on Opening Day. Since his return, he has absolutely stunk (.216/.262/.302).
     
  • Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth, the big money veterans, continue to decline into below replacement level players, but must be played because they are making $15 and $21 mil, respectively.
     
  • Jonathan Papelbon continues to bring joy. The trade that Mike Rizzo made to bring in a Closer™ because Drew Storen wasn’t a Closer™ grows more disastrous every day. Papelbon blew the last two games in epic fashion, and given the Cubs’€™ acquisition of Aroldis Chapman, the Nats will surely go out and try to find a new Closer™. Should be fun – they’ve got a lot of coveted prospects who they’ve stoutly resisted trading. Their hand may be forced.
     

There’s a lot of déjà vu going on here, as the Marlins and Mets continue to draw closer to the Nats and the Nats’ collective collar seems to grow tighter each week. Could we see the late season collapse that is the hallmark of teams managed by Dusty Baker? Let’s hope so – we need something as a distraction.

26 Jul

Twins: 0, Blind Squirrel: Nut

Our old friend, #SmellBaseball, toed the rubber for the Twins tonight, and pitched a beauty. He struck out five and gave up seven hits, and ended up throwing under 100 pitches in his complete game effort. An Adonis Garcia home run in the 2nd and a Jace Peterson GIDP to score A.J. Pierzynski in the 3rd were the only things that marred his night.

Astonishingly enough, the Braves were able to top Santana with a Harrell/Cabrera/Cervenka/Withrow/Johnson combination. They combined to throw 142 pitches, but shut the Twins out and limited them to five hits.

It was a feat you wouldn’t have predicted based on the Braves recent work, but, sometimes, even the blind squirrel finds the nut. And, really, if you think about it, nobody can lose every single game, not even the 2016 Atlanta Braves, try as they may. And they really do seem to be trying. There may come a day when victories are no longer scarce and winning baseball in Atlanta is expected again…but it is not this day. This day we [almost always] lose.

24 Jul

Wait ’til next year (by coop)

Wait ’til next year, or maybe the year after.

This game ended early. The Braves threatened in the first but ran themselves out of any scoring opportunity. Then Nolan Arenado ended it.

He had help. A single and a walk and one pitch to Arenado netted three runs. We could have called the game then, but the Rockies face a tough road trip and insisted on kicking our Brave Butts while we’re down. Ten batters hit in the first, even though Colorado managed only one more run off Tyrell Jenkins. Throwing 40 pitches in the first is never a good thing.

Tyler Chatwood tried to get us back in the game, walking everyone who’d let him; but AJP couldn’t bloop one over Trevor Story, Tyrell couldn’t get a bunt down and Jace Peterson struck out in a truly forgettable at bat. It took Chatwood right at half a hundred pitches to get through two innings, but zeroes were all the Braves put up. Pitiful.

Tyrell got ’em out without incident in the second, although he did walk his fourth Rockie in two innings, also not a good idea in Coors Field. Chatwood only walked one in the third, so Jenkins and his fellow clowns only trailed four-zip heading into the bottom of the frame.

Jenkins issued his fifth walk and gave up a double but no runs in the third, and the futile Braves offense again failed miserably. How in the heck they couldn’t score against Chatwood is a mystery. I mean, he walked Erick Aybad twice — TWICE! — in four innings.

DJ LeMahieu homered to lead off the Rockies fourth. Arenado followed with a double, and Story poked his fourth home run of the series. That kid can play. Rockies 7, Braves 0, Tyrell gone.

Joel De La Cruz restored order, getting the five batters he faced without incident. The horse was stolen, but play continued. In the fifth Chatwood sandwiched
Freddie Freeman’s second strikeout between his seventh and eighth walks. Again the Bozos didn’t score. Through five, Chatwood allowed only a single — Freddie didn’t strike out that at bat — and walked eight.

The Braves did score. Two runs were less than enough, but nobody got hurt. That’s something. Erick Aybar got two hits and two walks in his perfect day. That’s something else.

Final score was 7-2, as our Braves continue their march to the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. Big series with our closest competitors begins Tuesday. Come on, Braves: let’s get swept by the Twinkies.

24 Jul

The Dandy Deke / That old love Story…Rockies 8 Braves 4

We sorta know the way these games go lately. A decent start, a run or two. We give up a couple but our man is pitching decently against a vastly superior line up . A 47 minute rain delay. We even take a one run lead on the restart which is nice but, even better, we hold it going into the sixth. Wisler could get the win for Pete’s sake. And then.

The barrage began slowly, inexorably as we tried to go through that daunting middle order. There was a walk, the second one to score to this point and then the floodgates opened and Wisler departed with only one out. On came Kroll who was pathetic and didn’t look bothered by it. Walked two of the three he faced. Five runs had scored when Cabrera came on and comprehensively flattened the detritus. Something  we can do that they can’t.

Midst this carnage of an innings though, there came a jewel. To brighten, lighten the load of what now was  surely heading for another loss. A deke, a veritable deke. By a Brave, our man Ender who we all know never makes a mistake going back on a ball.

Well, he did.  Apparently. He looked to misjudge where a deep line drive was settling, stopped whilie it went over his head and rebounded back to him off the wall. Let me admit, likely with no company here, he fooled me. But not Uncle Joe who gleefully replayed it thus showing a base runner similarly fooled who failed to advance another base. Watching it over, now enlightened, was a joy, special. If he could only hit.

Braves threatened in the top of the eighth but could only score one run when they had brought the tying run to the plate with just one out. Story rubbed it in with yet another homer in the bottom of the innings, 5 Rbi’s. This off JJ who gave a passable imitation of a right handed Kroll regarding quality and interest.

The game ended, appropriately, with Story starting a double play.

Sic transit euphoria. The ones that we do lead, latish, we somehow know won’t end well. Why? Well, we all know why.

But that deke will live in the memory.

 

23 Jul

Colorado 4, Atlanta 3

Well, this game was a perfect example of why you can’t have your best starter leave after four
innings and expect to win.

The Braves jumped out to a 1-0 lead, when Freddie Freeman tripled and scored on a Nick Markakos
single that looks like a line drive in my box score at least.

Julio Teheran pitched four innings of shutout ball, but left after the first pitch of the fifth, when Mark
Reynolds hit a little dribbler in No Man’s Land between the mound, third, and short. Jukio lunged for
the ball, but missed. After summoning the trainer, Julio took one practice pitch and left the game.
Reports indicate he has some tightness in his right lat. He is currently listed as day-to-day.

Joel De La Cruz came on to relieve Julio, and managed to escape the fifth without further damage,
thanks to a pick off of Reynolds, the second of the game for Atlanta, with Teheran nabbing Charlie
Blackmon in the first. However, a lead off walk to DJ LeMahieu was follwed by a Nolan Arrenado
homer. That brought in Dario Alvarez, who surrended a Coors Field bloop single because Ender
Inciarte is only human and couldn’t run it down, follwed by a Trevor Story jack. And, that was all
Colorado starter John Gray needed.

Gray went 7 innings, and continued his dominance of Atlanta, striking out 8 while giving up just 1
walk and six hits. Jace Peterson hit a two run homer of his own in the 8th for the final margin.

22 Jul

Rockies 7, Bad Team is Bad

I didn’t watch this game and I’m not sorry. The Braves dropped their third game to the Rockies in less than a week — the Rockies, a franchise that hasn’t finished above .500 in six years and which recently traded Troy Tulowitzki for Jose Reyes. The Rockies are a bad, bad team. Over the last week, they’ve gone 3-1 against the Braves while outscoring them 22 to 9.

So, last night, in the game I didn’t watch, Mike Foltynewicz struggled with his control and the homer bug, Aybad committed a truly devastating interference that led to two “unearned” runs being charged to Mauricio Cabrera, and the bats were largely silent, other than a two-hit night from Ender Inciarte (his 15th multihit game in a Braves uniform) and a pinch-hit RBI double by Anthony Recker, who I’m ready to have as the starting catcher.

Here’s what happened on that interference call: there was a groundball single to left, and Aybar was moving toward it, then slowed his jog as it went past him, not realizing that he was directly in the basepath as a runner from second was heading towards home. So instead of that runner being called out on a nice throw by Jace Peterson (playing left field rather nicely but going 0-5 as the leadoff man), he was declared safe and the Rockies had a fourth out in the inning. Not only have his skills eroded; so, apparently, have his instincts.

Aybar delenda est.

20 Jul

Reds 6, Flying Idiots 3

The Braves are not good.

They lost today on the heels of starting pitcher Lucas Harrell, who is 31 years old. Ian Krol gave up 2 runs in relief, and surprisingly, Eric O’Flaherty actually pitched a scoreless inning. Good for that guy.

We actually hit a couple elusive home runs: both Freddie Freeman and Adonis Garcia went deep.

Whatever. We go to Colorado, where we’ll see Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, and Matt Wisler, in that order.

In other news, we’re seeing some trade movement in MLB. Per Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are sending Dan Vogelbach and some change for Mike Montgomery and some change. The Cubs have been willing to trade young hitters for relief pitching, which the Braves could provide.

The Indians are rumored to be in talks for Jonathan Lucroy. The Tribe lost their starting catcher, Yan Gomes, to injury, so they may go after Lucroy. I’m a little skeptical of the Braves being interested in a 30 year old catcher not signed past 2017, but we shall see.

Aybar delenda est.

19 Jul

Braves 5, Reds 4

Ah, Cincy, a southern city accidentally placed on the northern banks of the Ohio River, whose primary claims to fame are the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati and not being Cleveland. I hate baseball games there, since it can turn even a hitter without any pop whatsoever into Hank Aaron. It adds an extra layer of anxiety to a ballgame not found anywhere else this side of Philadelphia. Even after it’s over you don’t actually feel like it’s over. I can only say with 82% certainty the Braves won this game.

The two teams exchanged two-run innings in the bottom of the first and top of the second, and this game projected to be one of those bandbox games where a bajillion runs would score and the team that batted last would win. Suddenly, though, both Tyrell Jenkins and Cody Reed, whose combined ages just barely add up to A.J. Pierzynski‘s age (I kid, but he was in the big leagues when they were both 5, so it’s not that far off), settled down and gave their team six innings of pretty good ball. The Braves finally broke through again in the 7th when Gordon Beckham hit a two-run home run to put the Braves on top.

Jim Johnson tried to close the game out in the 9th and failed spectacularly, giving up the tying runs and four hits before being pulled with two outs in the inning. He is not the Johnson he was last year.

Although they were infused with new life, the Reds could not finish the job and allowed the Braves to plate the winning run in the 11th on a sacrifice fly. You can’t predict ball.

A win for Jenkins on the eve of his birthday would have been fun, but winning a game in Cincy in any fashion is nice. It would be nicer if these games actually mattered, but it is still nice nonetheless.

Aybar delenda est. Like, yesterday. Please. Someone. Anyone. We’re begging over here. And starting to get a little desperate. Aybar delenda est.

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