Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Thanks to Mac's family, is back.

19 Apr

Braves 6, Mets 0

ESPN Box Score

Alright, this Aaron Harang thing beats the hell out of me. First, let’s talk about the game, and then let’s talk about him, because he’s basically the single biggest reason that this injury-ravaged team is in first place.

I know the score says 6-0, but it was a nailbiter for the first two hours until the offense woke up against the LOLMets bullpen. Jon Niese was on the bump, and he’s one of those semi-anonymous Mets pitchers who have a knack for keeping us off-balance. He’s got a career 3.48 ERA against us and Dillon Gee has a career 2.95 ERA against us. I hate those guys. Anyway, he killed us last night; 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. The Braves got two of those hits in the second inning, when a Jupton single and Gattis walk set up an RBI double by Chris Johnson. And then the offense took a power nap.

But in the end, Aaron Harang didn’t need the help. He currently leads the major leagues in ERA at 0.70 and is tied for the lead in wins with 3. His one loss of the year came on April 8, when he gave up two hits and one run in six innings to the Mets while the Mets shut out the Braves behind Bartolo Colon. Harang hasn’t pitched anything close to a bad start all year; he’s given up just nine hits in 25 2/3 innings, seven of singles and two doubles. Basically, he’s got a big box of smoke, mirrors, and 89-mile an hour fastballs, and he hasn’t given up much of anything even resembling hard contact all year. For example, last night was the second time in four starts, along with his first start on April 2, that he took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning.

That said, it probably shouldn’t have been a no-hit bid. In the second-inning, with two outs already on the board, Travis d’Arnaud was called out at first on a bang-bang play; the replays showed that he looked safe, but Lucas Duda foolishly tried to make it to third on the play and was tagged out on the attempt. Terry Collins decided not to challenge the call at first because the inning would have ended anyway, but as JJSchiller pointed out last night, that could have altered a lot of Fredi’s subsequent strategy with Harang.

In particular, the sixth inning. He needed just 72 pitches to get through the first five innings, with three strikeouts and two walks. Then, in the sixth inning, he threw 26 pitches and walked two men before striking out Curtis Granderson to preserve the one-run lead. He was at 98 pitches. The Braves had an extremely slim one-run lead and an apparently tiring starter who had just walked two men in the inning and four overall in the game. But he was credited with having allowed zero hits.

So in the very next half-inning, when the dreaded Niese was finally lifted for Carlos Torres, Chris Johnson immediately hit a double, Ryan Doumit productive-outed him to third, and the pitcher’s spot was up with a man on third and one out. And Fredi left Harang in to bat for himself. Harang feebly struck out, and Simmons grounded out, and the inning was over. Had D’Arnaud been credited with a single in the second, there’s almost no way that Harang bats for himself in the seventh, and the Braves likely would have ended the inning with a 2-0 lead instead of a 1-0 lead.

The bottom of the seventh was even more nervewracking, after Harang got two quick outs on his first three pitches. Then he walked D’Arnaud, and after that he managed to walk Ruben Tejada, a hitter so bad that the Mets spent most of the offseason trying to figure out who could play shortstop for the team other than him, and I had dread visions of Alex Wood walking Ryan Howard. Thankfully IWOTM, and Harang managed to strike out the next batter, and he departed with a corpulent line of 7 innings, no hits, 5 K, 6 BB, 121 pitches, only 70 of them for strikes.

Then the Braves scored five runs off the Mets pen in the 8th and 9th and Avilan and Walden struck out three guys in the next two innings and came within an 8th-inning David Wright single of a combined no-hitter and everything was pretty much moot.

Okay, so what the hell is going on here? He’s basically a three-pitch pitcher, throwing a ton of four-seamers and two-seamers and a lot of sliders, with the occasional show-me curveball or changeup. As Ryan noted, Harang has cut back on the curveballs and changes in favor of more fastballs — and pitch mix is one place where a pitching coach can have a definite effect on a pitcher. The stats suggest it was a good idea to junk the change, because the win value has been hugely negative. And it’s also very possible that he’ll do a better job of repeating his mechanics by focusing on three pitches than he did in previous years when he threw four or five pitches frequently.

The two fastballs have virtually the same velocity and release point, but a different break. He also pitches inside, but then again, he did that last year too.

I think that a lot of his success boils down to this: 1) he repeats his mechanics very well, as shown by the consistency in release point; 2) his mix of four-seamers and two- seamers, with similar velocity but different movement, keeps hitters off balance; and 3) he does a good job of hiding the ball until delivery, making it harder for the hitters to pick up his pitches. He also is playing in front of a better team than he has in a while.

That said, he also has a .143 BABIP and a 0.0 HR/FB% and a 90.5% strand rate, and those things typically won’t last. (Especially the home run rate: Harang has a 25.4% groundball rate this year, and a 37.9% groundball rate for his career. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, second in baseball so far this year. Fly ball pitchers give up the occasional tater.) Obviously, screaming “Regression” is neither all that fun nor all that interesting — nor, as we learned with Chris Johnson last year, necessarily all that accurate. Still, it is unlikely that Aaron Harang will end the season with Mariano Rivera’s career postseason ERA.

THAT SAID, Harang was signed to give us a bridge to the three rostered starters who weren’t ready for Opening Day, Ervin Santana, Mike Minor, and Gavin Floyd, and all he’s done is be the best pitcher in baseball. Aaron Harang’s 2014 season is the whole damn reason to be a baseball fan. Absolutely unbelievable.

18 Apr

WHY I HATE THE NATS (second in a continuing series, by Bledsoe) Game Thread

One of Our Beloved Founder’s first ventures onto the national stage was early in Braves Journal when he invented the Bad Announcer Tournament, or as he dubbed it, the “Road from Bristol.” It started with Mac’s annoyance with the ESPN zoomates in general but Stu Whatzhisname in particular. So he decided he would make a 64 man tournament bracket to select, by popular vote, head to head, the worst announcer on ESPN. It got picked up by someone on ESPN radio, who clearly did have a sense of humor, and Mac was interviewed on their show. Anyhoo, Stuart Scott won in a walk.

It was so successful and so popular that he started another one for non-ESPN announcers. The final came down to Tim McCarver vs. Hawk Harrelson. In an upset that caused accusations of cheating, bribery, and stupidity, Hawk Harrelson was declared the worst sports announcer in the world. (Ten years later, I am still upset about this: Ken Harrelson couldn’t carry Tim McCarver’s cliché bag. Seriously, it was fixed. Seriously.)

I wish Mac were still around and could run another one, because I’ve got the leadpipe cinch winner: F.P. Santangelo, the Nats’ color guy. And he is Reason Number Two why I learned to hate the Nats.

Where do I possibly begin to tell the story of How Bad? Shall I compare thee to a winter’s night?

  1. The owners are easy to hate.
  2. F.P. Santangelo is the biggest homer of all time.

Johnny Most called from the afterlife, F.P., and he said you might want to take it down a couple of notches.

The Nats are blessed with an abundance of homers. Not only F.P., but his play by play partner, Bob Carpenter, blow so much smoke up the Nats’ derrieres that the Surgeon General ought to warn somebody. Tom Boswell, the highly regarded Washington Post baseball writer, is one of the worst offenders. I like Boz, but his decades spent writing about baseball, in a town without baseball, only to one day have a real team to write about has, I fear, caused him to lose his mind.

For years, in spring training, as the Nats would run out the usual suspects, another sad group of Double-A players and cast-off dregs they had recruited from their recliners, Boswell would write the following column: “This year will be different. No longer do we have to rely on the shaky rotation with [dead-armed pitcher] and [minor league player washout]; now the skipper can call on [obese guy cut by Royals] and [different and older dead-armed pitcher].”

The next year, he’d write the exact same column, only explaining how the Nats had cagily replaced the guys he’d raved about just last year with new, equally pathetic horseflesh no-names that no other team wanted. His predictions of imminent glory became so routine and over the top that even the other Post sportswriters started poking fun at him.

But no one can touch F.P in the bootlicking department. To him, every Nats scrub is just this far away from becoming an All-Star, if he can just fix this one little issue. Every game F.P. sees a Nat make a play (usually, a routine play that every big leaguer should make, like making a throw from the hole or running down a liner in the gap) and declares it the most amazing play he’s ever seen. EVERY GAME. Heck, sometimes he sees the most amazing play he’s ever seen SEVERAL TIMES IN THE SAME GAME. It must be nice to be so full of childlike wonder at the world.

The tonguebath never ceases. All last year he described the Nats infield of Zimmerman, Desmond, Rendon/Espinosa and LaRoche as “the Gold Glove infield.” Must have said it 200 times — no exaggerating. All the while, the Nats were literally leading the National League in infield errors. Don’t try pointing this out to F.P. Like Bluto Blutarsky, he’s on a roll.

Any misplay that occurs in the game, any error, or any baserunner against the Nats is due to a single cause: the umpires are cheating. Which deserves its own night, and I will explore at length in the next chapter.

The promotion of routine plays, even routine outs, to epic levels of hysteria is a favorite of Bob Carpenter, the play by play guy, as well. A medium deep fly ball, 25 feet shy of the warning track, becomes, inevitably, “He JUST missed hitting that ball out of here.” Or “a home run in any other park.” I am waiting for one of them to blame global warming or the Coriolis effect for holding up a flyball that Harper hits.

The adrenaline rush that these guys pump out on a routine can of corn to left sounds like they are auditioning for a Mountain Dew commercial voiceover. The major flaw in this approach is that this ain’t radio: the viewers of course see the play being described, and notice that the “near home run” required Justin Upton to walk in six steps for the catch. But that’s doesn’t stop these toadies. It’s like they did their training at Pravda.

It ain’t over yet. More vitriol to come.

17 Apr

Phillies 1 Braves 0 ‘he’s going to go right at you’ – leaves one up.

No Gattis – shame…in this Park on this day the exception should not prove the rule.  Good to see Jason gets a reprieve.

Andrelton, slow across, surely not?   Freddie the leaping salmon.  Alex, 2 hits but saucy…hope he’s around for ever, attitude.

You get the impression with Simmonds the batter that he operates in the fourth dimension, one of his own creation – the regular playing surface disdained he tries to land the ball somewhere across another one, twenty five feet up in the air.

Alex strikes out the side – on the mound before the first pitch,he was cap off, head bowed…in these instances you can’t help wondering who/Who is being addressed  and whether the propitiatory stance stems from a position of strength or weakness...Lord, thank you for my unhittable fastball or Please, where has my control gone?

Freddie leaves a couple, we have been spoiled.   Scoreless after three.

Uggla strikes out – he’s a dead ringer for the spooky Billy Bob in Tuesday’s sensational premier on FX of Fargo, Coen brothers and all…what boggles the mind was the formal assurance up front that the events that followed actually happened and they name a time and a place…we are truly a strange lot and maybe our baseball fetishes are not that idiotic after all…

3 double plays in the bank…don’t know how to look it up but would hazard a guess that  fewer ground balls are being hit Andrelton’s way this season..SSS or something slightly sinister?  (Alliteration in the sixth degree – (seventh) (eighth ) )

Scoreless through six.. Wood 5 hits, c.72 pitches… we execute a pick off play perfectly… surely Burnett needs a sleep?   our BABIP today .000, seemingly…  Breaking News – our short stop strikes out…

CJ…another fine play and throw for third out…we talk more nonsense about this player than any other on the roster…he’s regressing a good deal more slowly than those who would delight in the correctness of their woeful projections…use your eyes…

Bastardo for Burnett…( in the fifties my parents bought a 1932 Rolls Royce whose original owner was formally named in the papers that went with it as ‘James Bastard Smith’ – apparently back in those days if you were one you had to be named one, charming)… Laird stranded after one out double.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh Philly bunts  Brown to second, their first batter of the day to reach scoring position…he better not score(he does)…pick off play at second, CLOSE!!  can you appeal a play like that, why not?  Howard walks, 2 out, 2 on, pinch runner…Alex leaves one up, Brown scores..Alex at 100 pitches… inning over, pity about that one bad pitch to Revere…

Top of the ninth…Pimplebum (plagiarist!) …don’t care who’s up, want to see Gattis…Freddie, no depth…Justin K’s from 3-0 count…CJ K’s to end the game, he’s clearly regressing…  where was Gattis??

We won the squeaker last night and the melodrama two nights before…so grant them this…                    do we have to?


‘But O how bitter thing it is

To look into happiness through another man’s eyes.’         W.S.












16 Apr

Gattis 1, Phillies Teheraned

ESPN Box Score

In a classic pitchers’ duel on a cold, windy night in Philadelphia, Julio Teheran had himself a ballgame. He threw a 3-hit shutout, did not walk anyone, and pitched like he was trying to make you forget the Braves don’t have an “Ace”. For some strange reason, the native Colombian excels in cold weather.

For the first seven innings Teheran was in complete command, giving up only an infield hit in the 5th to, of all people, the speedster Ryan Howard. He was not quite as dominant in the 8th and 9th, allowing a hit in each frame, but he managed to outduel Cliff Lee, who in very Cliff Lee-like form also went the distance. Anyone who can do that is very impressive. The ninth got downright tense, when it looked like Chase Utley might draw a walk with Jimmy Rollins already on base and Ryan Howard on deck, but Teheran wiggled out of it, retiring Utley on a groundout to preserve the win. What may be even more impressive is that Teheran shutout the Phillies despite a tight strike zone that seemed to get even tighter in the last innings.

Unfortunately for Evan Gattis, he chose to have his best game of the season on a night that his pitcher overshadowed him. He went 4-for-4, including a 4th inning homer he muscled out of the park over a strong wind that had been killing fly balls all night. He accounted for the only run of the evening. I think El Oso really likes hitting in Philly.

Although Lee went the distance, he was not very dominant. The Braves managed 11 hits against him, but could not do anything with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base for the evening. I know they were facing Cliff Lee tonight, but they really need to get better at cashing in on some of these scoring opportunities. They struck out 13 times tonight, but that is what they do against Lee.

Regression was back from his mysterious benching, demoted to seventh in the lineup. He went 3-for-4 with a couple of quintessential Regression-like hits to right field. Dan Uggla picked up another hit tonight and a couple of his outs were hit hard, and BJ Upton hit a single and miraculously drew a walk off of Lee, a rare feat indeed for a Brave. Positive signs continue for both of our resident Mendoza Line dodgers.

The Phillies conducted a Nationals-esque play in the third inning, when BJ attempted to swipe second. Lee had him picked off, but inexplicably no one covered second base. Howard threw to Jimmy Rollins, who was standing six feet away from the bag, while BJ slid in safely. The play had no bearing on the final score, but it was still odd to see a NL East rival botch yet another fundamental play.

The series wraps up tomorrow afternoon when Alex Wood takes on A. J. Burnett in a 1:05 pm start.

In honor of the previous post by Bledsoe, which was both brilliant and convincing, I may take a page out of Cato the Elder’s book and end all of my recaps this year with this, regardless of our opponent:

Natspo(s) delenda est.

16 Apr

WHY I HATE THE NATS (first in a continuing series, by Bledsoe) Game Thread

Ed. note: This was originally scheduled for tomorrow’s off day. But with last night’s rainout, I wanted to put up a new thread as quickly as possible, so I moved up the publication schedule. Even though we’re still facing the Phillies, I completely agree with Bledsoe’s take on the absolute best team to dislike right now.

Sure, it was fun to hate the Mets. Who doesn’t hate New York and all its inmates? What team would admit to living, appropriately enough, in “Flushing”? What else needs flushing? Indeed, my first tears as a Braves fan were shed in 1969, when the Miracle Mets swept us in the first ever National League Championship series, 3 games to none. (Yes, kiddies. One best of five series, then the World Series. A simpler time.) But now, they’re just sad. They kept both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, for rillies.

Still, we Israelites who lived through the Forty Years in the Wilderness remember that the Braves’ mortal enemies cannot be some team invented in 1962 as a sop to those fans of the two teams who abandoned Sewertown for California at the first opportunity. We’re the oldest sports franchise in America, for the love of Mike! No, the Hector to our Achilles, the Red Skull to our Captain America, the Boyd Crowder to our Raylan, all wore Dodger blue.

See, chilluns, when the divisions were created, we was assigned by Bowie Kuhn to the National League WEST. Not St. Louis (longitude 90 11” 52” W); not Chicago(longitude 87° 39′ 0” W): no, they got to stay in the NL East, to continue their storied rivalry with the Montreal Alouettes or something. No, it was us (84 22’ 23” W), along with Cincinnati, Houston, SF, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Houston and San Diego were chronic doormats. Cincy featured the Big Red Machine teams, then fell off until the late 80s.

But the team we couldn’t beat, year in, year out, was the bleeping Dodgers. They just had our number, winning the division in ‘81, ‘83, ‘85, ‘88. The inability to beat the Dodgers led pretty much directly to Joe Torre getting fired even after the 1982 division crown. In ‘83 we finished second in the division, three games out, at 88-74: we went 7-11 against the Dodgers. In ’84 we again finished second in the division at (gulp) 80-82; we went 6-12 against the Dodgers. Many of those games were lost in bizarre, Buckneresque and/or soul-killing ways. Still hate ‘em, but it’s hard to maintain this ancient feud when they’re in a different division and we play them but six games a year. No, we seem to have a new nemesis arising – The Washington Nationals.

I live in the DC area, and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the Natspos moved here. The Nation’s Capital, 30 years without a team! I had been snorting the methadone of the American League with an hour long drive to Baltimore, trading my birthright for a mess of pottage, selling my virtue, meekly and cheaply, to the abomination of the DH and AL coach-pitch baseball.

I immediately bought a partial season plan and vowed that I would always root for the Nationals except when they played against America’s Team. I was there on opening night at RFK and every opening day thereafter for years. Now, almost a decade later, I openly and unabashedly root against them, day in and day out.

How did this happen? How did this lovable bunch of French-Canadian AAA players vault into the white-hot furnace of my contempt? Why, ‘tis charity to show.

I intend to conduct this essay along three major headings, to wit:

  1. The owners are easy to hate.
  2. The announcers are simply abominable.
  3. The players are surprisingly hate-friendly.

Today, let us address the Lerners.

Washington already has the most despicable living sports owner in the person of Daniel Snyder. The Lerners seem to realize this, and have exploited the fact that Danny Boy’s numerous and varied offenses give them plenty of cover to be miserly, fan-abusive, and in general poor citizens, with little chance of anyone really paying attention: everyone is too busy watching Danny make an ass of himself.

The Lerners are local boys made good, who made a fortune in developing real estate in the Washington area. They are perhaps most known for development of Tysons Corner in the 1970s, a huge mall/office/retail complex in Fairfax County and the template for almost all malls since. They are reputed to be the richest owners in baseball: truly a rags to riches sort of story.

They were awarded the franchise by MLB over several other groups. (The price, low by any real reasonable standard, was fixed by MLB.) They were also awarded a state of the art facility, paid for entirely by the District of Columbia ( for which they pay rent to the District).

What did they do immediately upon getting this unbelievably sweetheart deal? Why, they refused to pay the stadium rent, of course. They claimed that the stadium wasn’t “finished,” citing such things as unpainted restrooms and 47,000 other punchlist items (the 47,000 number is real, according to the Lerners themselves). They threatened to sue the city for $100,000 a day for liquidated damages because of these issues.

Clearly, the stadium must have looked like the Roman Colosseum, or Chernobyl, right? Rubble and exposed asbestos, right? The stadium couldn’t possibly be opened up for fans, or used for baseball, right? Just kidding – you know the answer. At the exact same time, the Nationals had already played 50-60 games in the $611 million, taxpayer funded, gorgeous, state of the art stadium. Did the Lerners offer to refund a portion of the money to me, who had paid $55 a ticket and $9 for a beer, and had to live through the horror that is an unpainted bathroom? You know the answer. They pocketed every red cent. Me? I still wake up at night in a PTSD nightmare sweat, trying desperately to forget the trauma of the bare, gray concrete wall above the urinal.

Surely, given a new stadium for which they weren’t paying rent and a sweetheart price tag on the franchise, the Lerners must have opened their wallets wide to put a good product on the field? Hee-hee. You’re catching on. After getting the team in mid-2006, they slashed payroll – I mean slashed – from $63 million in 2006 to $37 million in 2007. That’s right – they authorized half of what MLB was paying in salary. Their rosters were replete with AA players, has-beens and never-wases, your Nook Logans, Delmon Youngs, and Odalis Perezes.

They are cheap, and they are cutthroat. They couldn’t sign their 2008 No. 1 pick, Aaron Crow, who went back in the draft rather than continue to negotiate with them. (The Crow family complained that the Lerners refused to negotiate with their agent, instead trying to bypass him and negotiate with Crow’s inexperienced dad.) After they fired Manny Acta as manager, they hired Jim Riggleman, paying him less than any manager in baseball and less than the minimum player salary. He quit in mid-season in disgust when they wouldn’t negotiate with him at all about an extension and raise. His replacement was Davey Johnson, and he was already under contract as a front-office consultant to the Nationals, i.e., free.

After hiring Stan Kasten away from the Braves in an effort to appear professional and committed to success, they so hamstrung and hampered his every effort to improve the team that he bolted the minute his contract was up to find better and less penurious owners (he’s now president and part owner of the Dodgers).

After several years of this nonsense, paying $50 a ticket to the Slumlords for the privilege of watching a barely AAA-level ballclub, I had had enough. I gave up my season plans, and now only go when the Braves come to town. Sure, now they’ve opened up their dusty and cobwebbed wallet to sign Werth, Strasburg, and Harper, and resign Zimmerman (2014 payroll is $114 million, tenth in MLB). In fact, they’ve significantly overpaid for these players: they had to, because nobody wanted to come here, their reputation as stewards of the franchise and the stench it put on the team was so bad.

In my view, the Lerners signed these contracts only at gunpoint, when they had already driven off Kasten, the one guy in their organization who had the respect of the league, and the franchise was on the verge of establishing a permanent reputation as one of the armpits of baseball, the Place You Pray You Don’t Get Traded To.

They’ll never really eclipse Angelos as the worst current owner in baseball; Steinbrenner and Marge Schott are dead. But their contempt for their paying customers and their employee-eating habits have made it awfully fun to root against them and their team, and cheer when Boras swindles them again and again. The fact that I am pulling for Scott Boras, Lucifer himself, in any situation should give you an idea of what I think of them.

15 Apr

Braves 9, Phillies 6 (by JonathanF)

Citizens Bank Park giveth and Citizens Bank Park taketh away.

Santana was, again, great. Six solid innings of work. 11 Ks with 2 walks. He made one bad pitch to Ryan Howard. These things happen. But he left after 6 innings with a one run lead, courtesy of an Evan Gattis CitiBank special… A 2 run homer to the first row in right field. (ESPN lists it at 362 feet… that’s an infield fly in the playoffs.) Before that, the Braves played as if they were trying to recapitulate my high school experience… they kept getting to third base where they were abruptly stopped. One of those excursions ended in a Nats-esque baserunning play which saw Heyward caught in a rundown between third and home followed by Freddy thrown out trying to get to second during the rundown. I blame Dascenzo even though he had nothing to do with it. He was in the neighborhood… good enough for me.

So it’s 2-1 in the seventh, time to settle down to see a bullpen battle, waiting for the inevitable pop fly home run that makes this park so irritating.

The Braves struck first in the eighth, courtesy of BJ Rosenberg, who skipped his Passover seder last night with disastrous consequences. Three batters faced… three dingers: Oso-Owlo-Gloveo (Gattis-Uggla-Simmons). All of them were homers in the Polo Grounds, so the stupid dimensions of the field were not implicated.

At this point, Rosenberg departed, unfortunately. One might think that a 5-1 lead would be good enough, but we got the bad Avilanche. A Gwynn-ette walk, a Rollins single, and a Dark Lord single loaded the bases with no one out for Howard. Briefly recovering his poise, Avilan strikes out Howard. Then came a killer blow: Ruiz Byrd hit a ball six inches outside the strike zone to right for a two run single. This brought up Domonic Brown, who Avilan faced because, unbeknownst to anybody, Kimbrel was unavailable (shoulder trouble?!?) — it was pretty much down to Pickles and letting Avilan do to Brown what he did to Howard. Fredi went with Avilan, and the three-run homer gave the Phillies the lead.

But we still had the top of the ninth, and Pimplebon was unavailable, too. So we saw the first save attempt by one Jacob Diekman. Diekman should also have attended a seder. BJ walked and was safe at second on a poor choice by the Dark Lord on a weak grounder from Freddy. A Jupton walk loaded the bases with no outs. Gattis struck out, but Uggla, realizing that a second home run in this game would raise his OPS ahead of Heyward, made a 4 run deposit in the Citizens Bank.

Carpenter was good enough to finish off the ninth with his first Braves save. Avilan pitched one inning, gave up 5 runs, and got the win. Just another day at the Bank.

14 Apr

Here Come the Whiz Kids! Game Thread

The Philadelphia Phillies won the National League pennant in 1950, which was a major achievement. Despite the franchise having existed since 1883, it was only the second first-place finish in team history, and it was the first time that the team made it to the World Series since 1915, when the Phillies lost 4-1 to the Red Sox. In 1950, they faced the Yankees.

Of course, they got swept.

On October 14, 1980, the Phillies won their first World Series game since October 8, 1915. A week later, the franchise took home their first World Series championship ever. They proceeded to win the National League Championship in 1983, 1993, 2008, and 2009, winning another championship in 2008.

This run of success appears to have convinced Ruben Amaro that he is a good general manager who makes good decisions about things.

13 Apr

Braves 10 Natspos 2

If the Natspos are the front runners to win the NL East, either the talking heads are dumb or the NL East is super weak.

I wanted to make my way down to the Ted to give Braves Journal readers the best possible recap of events. So here were my observations from my seats in left center field.

- BJ Upton is an underrated defender. Early in the game a Nat smoked a ball that looked to be a sure double. BJ came flying over and made a difficult play look easy. Not Andruw Jones easy, but still very good. BJ also appears to be coming around some with the bat.

-  Justin Upton is hotter than Atlanta asphalt in July. Why would you give this guy anything to hit ? I assume Matt Williams is just now thinking the same thing.

- Freddie Freeman’s home run was very impressive. The sound of the ball coming off his bat sounded like thunder. It was hit so high, I thought it might rain.

- The Natspos are a very poor fundamental team. They run into outs. They throw the ball all over the place. Good teams, like the Braves, will take advantage.

- Aaron Harang was in total control. So far he has been a great pick up.

- I thought the Braves “Home Town Hero” may have to come out and put a stop to this massacre.

- Andrelton Simmons’s field goal in the eight was cool. He really got a lot of leg and split the uprights over Bryce Harper’s head.

-If you haven’t heard Timothy Miller sing “God Bless America” in person, you are missing out.

Great weekend for the Braves. While it is only April, anytime you can sweep these guys is good. The bats are starting to pick up and the starting pitching has been awesome. I think we would have all signed up for this start a few weeks ago.

By the way, my unborn child is undefeated!

13 Apr

Braves 6, Nationals 3

ESPN Box Score

The Braves are not the only team getting hit by the injury bug. Ryan Zimmerman, who already has an arthritic shoulder, fractured his thumb while trying to slide to avoid a pickoff tag. He was out then, and now he’ll be out for another 4-6 weeks. Along with concussed center fielder Denard Span and catcher Wilson Ramos’s broken hamate bone, this is the third major injury to a major piece of their lineup.

(Also in the “oh no poor Nationals” file: They may have gotten screwed on at least three different calls last night. In the second inning, Angel Hernandez called Nate McLouth out on a sac bunt, and Matt Williams challenged. TV replays showed that he may probably arrived at the same time as the ball. But they didn’t overturn the call, so Williams was out of challenges — which cost him when Adam LaRoche caught a liner on the fly but the ump thought it hit the ground, so the Nats couldn’t double Heyward off of first base. Later, when Nate McLouth caught a ball then lost control of it while transferring it to his throwing hand, Angel Hernandez ruled it was no catch, and Williams couldn’t challenge that either. Angel makes tons of terrible calls, and will continue to do so in the era of video replay challenges. Fortunately, they went for us last night.)

In the meantime, the rest of the ballgame didn’t go well for the Nats. Alex Wood didn’t have much on his fastball and he was getting squeezed by home plate ump Larry Vanover all night. Take a look at this zone, and just look at how many green dots there are at the edges of the strike zone.

But Wood didn’t make it easier on himself, either. He gave up a leadoff home run to Anthony Rendon, the only run he would allow, but in every subsequent inning he allowed multiple baserunners. Fortunately, his breaking ball was working, and he went to it every time he needed to get out of a jam and usually managed to get a swinging strikeout — in five innings, he had eight strikeouts and three (umpire-assisted) walks. After the fifth inning, he was at 103 pitches, and that was that.

Fortunately, the bats woke up. Taylor Jordan is a fifth starter whose sinker had no sink last night. So he basically had two pitches, a decent changeup and a hanging fastball. The Braves probably should have tagged him a lot harder than they did. But they put up four runs on him in the first inning after Rendon’s homer, and that provided the entire margin of victory.

As it was, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla both had two hits and Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis all had three hits. Justin is heating up, and B.J. and Dan hit the ball hard. Heyward, Regression, and Simmons all went ohfer, but I’m not overly worried about that. It’s more important to get the Uptons going.

The last game is today at 1:30 and this will be the game thread for that one. We’ve already won the series, but it would be nice to break out the brooms. We’re currently tied with the Nats for the best record in the East, at 7-4 apiece, and it would be nice to break the tie and kick ‘em into second place where they belong.

12 Apr

Braves 7, Nationals 6

ESPN Box Score

It shouldn’t have been that close, but I’ll take a win against the Nats however we can get it. Julio Teheran had one of those nights where he just couldn’t put anyone away, so this went from a no-doubter to a nailbiter in a hurry, before the Braves managed to win it in extras. This game was a good illustration of the benefits of home field advantage.

Neither team got much out of the first three spots in the order: theirs (Span, Rendon, Werth) were 2-for-16, ours (Heyward, Bupton, Freeman) were 1-for-12 with two walks and a caught stealing. But Chris Johnson went 3-5, Justin Upton went 3-3, Evan Gattis threw in an RBI single, and Ramiro Pena struck the biggest blow, a three-run homer in the second inning that made it seem like this game was in the bag.

Teheran didn’t have it, though. He threw a lot of sliders but couldn’t get much bite on them, and he gave up 10 hits in six innings, including a three-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman, who both giveth and taketh away. That made up for Pena’s blast and knotted the score at 4-4. The Braves scored a run in the bottom half of the inning and the Nats evened it up in the top of the sixth; then they pushed ahead by a run in the 8th and we tied it up in the bottom half of the inning via a Jupton homer. That’s three homers in two games for him. He just might be heating up.

B.J. went hitless again, and if Mac were here he’d have put B.J. in the doghouse long before now. That said, he was on base twice. In the first inning he hit a ball to deep short and Desmond bobbled it. If he played it perfectly and threw a perfect throw to first, he might have gotten B.J. but I think there’s a chance it might have been an infield hit; however, the Atlanta scorekeeper saw it differently and called the bobble an error. He got himself erased on the basepaths as he got thrown out attempting to steal. It was a good throw and I don’t know whether it was ordered from the dugout, but it didn’t help. B.J. also drew a walk in the 7th, and at this point, I guess we just have to take what we can get. Yeah, I know.

His brother’s doing better, fortunately. The 10th inning started inauspiciously, as Bupton and Freeman both quickly made outs against Nats lefty Jerry Blevins, one of their offseason imports. Then Regression hit a single, and Fredi put on his thinking cap and pinch-ran for him with Schafer. (I’m not sure who would have played third if we had gotten to the 11th inning, since Pena was already in the game. I wonder whether Andrelton would have come in at short while Pena slid over to third.)

With two outs and a 2-2 count, Schafer took off on a hit-and-run, and Justin Upton blooped it into no-mans land. Jordan scampered all the way around from first to score, and because we were at home, that was the ballgame. F’in success, man.

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