Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Scarred, but smarter.

23 Jun

Braves 12, Giants 11

Ho hum. Another routine win.

The Braves scored 12 runs on 16 hits—4 of them dingers—and they managed to eke out a one run win that went down to the wire in the 9th. Jaime Garcia had his second consecutive lousy start, giving up 6 runs (on 7 hits and 3 walks) in 4 1/3. His pitches were consistently up in the zone, which does not work for him. Thanks to an 8 run explosion by the Braves in the 5th, they took a six run lead into the 8th, which is when it got interesting. Ian Krol did his usual, giving up 3 in the 8th, which included a home run by the lefty Brandon Belt. And Jim Johnson had yet another poor 9th, giving up 2 more runs on a couple of hits and a walk. Fortunately, he got Pence to ground out and end the game with the tying run on second.

To be fair to the pitchers in the 8th and 9th, the defense was once again cringe worthy. Last night’s implosion didn’t match the epic fail of Tuesday’s 8th inning disaster—but it came close. An error by Lane Adams in the 8th contributed to the 3 run Giant inning, and Danny Santana made one of the worst defensive plays of the season in the 9th that very nearly cost the game. It was one of those “mental” errors that doesn’t count as an “E” in the scorebook, but it reminded me of a fielding play I used to see when I coached TBall: “Wow, I managed to field the ball, but there are baserunners moving all over the diamond, and I don’t know what to do with it!”

By the way, Adams, L., was in left and Santana was at second because our aging starters at those positions, Kemp and Phillips, both left the game in the middle innings with tight groin and/or hamstring muscles.

What’s up with this team? Your Atlanta Braves have won 5 of 6 and 7 of 10, they’ve won 3 straight series, they’ve only lost 1 of the 6 series they’ve played in June (with one split against the Phillies). Their record since June 2 is 12-8, for a cool .600 winning percentage. And thanks to a woeful division, they remain in second place.

But are they really any good? They are certainly scoring runs. Remember this time a year ago when the Braves had not just the worst offense in baseball, but one of the worst in the history of baseball? Now that Danby is hitting (he’s had a very good June) and Camargo has taken over at third, they’re getting solid performances up and down the lineup. The bench has actually been productive the past few weeks. They are getting career best performances from Flowers and Matt Adams, and Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips are hitting like it’s 2011. Did you realize our first baseman Fratt Fremadams is on pace for 60 home runs?

Still, the pitchers are not nearly good enough for the team to be truly competitive. We know what a bust Colon has been, and Dickey hasn’t done much to show he has any trade value. Garcia was the one veteran Coppy brought in who was performing, but he may be turning into a pumpkin just in time to ruin what trade value he has. Even Jim Johnson’s stock is rapidly declining.

On the other hand, several of the veteran hitters (Kemp, Phillips, Matt Adams, Flowers, Markakis) are performing well enough to be attractive targets. But it is precisely their performance that has the Braves playing at a pretty good pace and has some of the fans dreaming of making a run for a playoff spot. Coppy and the FO are going to have some very interesting decisions to make in the next month.

Tonight the Braves and Folty take on the Central division-leading Brewers, once again in Coors Field East.

22 Jun

Braves 5, Giants 3

That was worth staying up for. I consumed way too much baseball last night. I watched the first four innings of the high-A affiliate being drubbed by the Yankees’ affiliate (10-1 after I left), then came home to watch these guys.

Sean Newcomb has had a terrific start to his career. After a minor league career that was heavy on both strike outs and walks, he’s pitched like a different pitcher since arriving in Atlanta. In 18 1/3 innings, he has 13 strike outs and 7 walks (1 intentional). Walks are still a problem (and his lower strike out rate), but his 1.04 WHIP in those innings and 1.96 ERA will do just fine. More importantly, he looks very polished. He works quickly, confidently, and smoothly. He doesn’t seem to get rattled on the mound, and if you had to give it an eye test, he just looks like a major league starting pitcher. I would assume his leash is going to allow him to pitch the entire season in Atlanta, even if he encounters a lot of struggles. His line for tonight: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K. I think we have a graduated prospect.

I’m not sure, though, that we have a closer. After Arodys Vizcaino allowed a run following a cheap triple by Denard Span, Jim Johnson blew his fifth save in 18 chances by giving up a home run to Hunter “.658 OPS” Pence. Jim Johnson would be a fine setup man, but I don’t think a playoff team is giving him the ball in the 9th regularly. But encouraging notes are that Sam Freeman and Luke Jackson both pitched well in relief. Jackson and Freeman both have upper 90’s fastballs, and we’re a long ways away from pitching Cody Martin or Edwin Jackson in these spots.

Did you know, though, that the Braves are third in all MLB in OPS in close and late situations? Yeah, these guys rake to a team .842 OPS when it counts. This team finds a way to stay in just about every game that a starting pitcher doesn’t ruin before it starts. Good on these guys.

21 Jun

Giants 6, Braves 3

The Braves and Julio Teheran were rolling merrily along, until suddenly they weren’t. An 8th inning reality check brought them plummeting back to earth, and gave the Giants a lead they would not relinquish.

The Braves offense squeezed out two runs in the 3rd inning to give Julio a slim lead, and he was in command for seven innings, allowing only three Giants hits and no runs. Just as a victory was looking possible, the Barve bug struck and put an end to that dream.

If you should get a major leaguer out two times in an inning and fail to do so both times, there is an unwritten rule that he is guaranteed to score. It’s also a good indication that the other team will put a crooked number up on the board, and that is just what Hunter Pence and the Giants did in the 8th. Pence reached on an infield hit to lead off the inning when Johan Camargo could not field his grounder cleanly, and made it to 2nd when Dansby Swanson bobbled what should have been a double play. What should have been bases cleared, two outs for Julio thus turned into two on, no outs, and the writing was on the wall. An Austin Slater home run put the Giants up and gave them a lead they held on to. For good measure, they tacked two more runs on that inning with some assistance from two Braves throwing errors, and a final run on in the 9th. Bad defense is contagious with this Atlanta team.

The Braves offense threatened a bit in the bottom of the 8th, when they had the go-ahead run at the plate with men on 2nd and 3rd, one out. The Barve bug was still biting bad, though, and they couldn’t capitalize on the situation.

The first 7 innings of the game were brilliant. If we could just strike the final two form the record book, this would have been quite the satisfactory win. It’s a shame we can’t do that.

Natspos delenda est. And the Giants too, for that matter. They have become a rather annoying team.

20 Jun

Defenders of the Pas de Calais: Braves 9, Giants 0

The Giants’ experience last night, in a small way over a much shorter time, was quite the same as the experience of the defenders of the Pas de Calais. The Giants put out a good defense (Johnny Cueto compared to the Atlantic Wall). They defended well for the most part (a radar station raided at Bruneval and some air raids compared to trailing 2 to 0, as in significant, but not conclusive). And then, after a long time (7 innings compared to a couple of years), in a short time (less than an inning compared to 6 weeks) they were overwhelmed and overrun.

R. A. Dickey brought the good knuckleball. In the first, 2 fairly well hit balls had it 1st and third with no outs. After that, Dickey shut them down. 8 strikeouts and no walks in 7 innings. Only question was should Snit have sent him back out for inning 8 (he was at 86 or so pitches).

Johan Camargo and Ender Inciarte got us 1 in the 3rd to make it 1 to nothing. Call that Bruneval. Then Matt Adams made like the 8th Air Force during “P – 51 week” and obliterated the building known as the Chop House from the air. Thus it stayed for quite a while.

After the Braves slugged through the hedgerow country for inning after inning, the breakout happened in inning 8. The rapid infusion of 7 runs was kind of like the British advance from the Seine to Brussels and Antwerp in 7 or so days. Just as that advance rendered irrelevant the defenders of the Pas de Calais, so were the Giants chances of victory eliminated.

18 Jun

Braves 5, Marlins 4. A Prospect Looks at Fifty.

The Braves hopes for taking the rubber game of the 3 game series were almost broken in the 8th as Jose Ramirez left a 4 – 2 lead unprotected, courtesy of a two run homer by Marcell Ozuna. However, Brandon Phillips came through in the 9th with his 2nd walk off hit in as many days, clinching the Braves 2nd straight series victory.  Johan Camargo singled and scored the game winner, and was key in a 4 run 7th inning, with a pinch single RBI and subsequent run scored.

Mike Foltynewicz shut out the Marlins for 5 innings before surrendering a couple of runs in the 6th.  He did a good job escaping the inning only allowing 2 runs, needing to strike out A.J. Ellis and retire J.T. Riddle with the bases loaded to keep the Braves in the game, down 2 – 0.

Today marked Folty’s 50th Major League start, and coming into it, his career numbers as a starter include 273 IP, 303 H, 235 K, a 4.71 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP.  Throwing out his egregious 2015 first season in Atlanta, Folty seems to have leveled off as approximately the pitcher he was in 2016, where he posted 123 IP, 125 H, 111 K, 4.31 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.  Mike’s had a number of outstanding starts, but we are building enough data to begin to conclude that this is the pitcher he is going to be.

However, at age 25 there’s still plenty of season left to see if he can make those outstanding starts more consistently and get to the kind of end of season numbers that make championship rotations. Foltynewicz provides a reminder about rebuilding – the timeline doesn’t start when the prospects get here, it starts when they get here and produce.  It will be interesting to see how many seasons of adjustment it takes the next wave of prospects to begin to produce championship numbers at the Major League level.

The Braves have now clawed back into a tie for 2nd in the NL East, and San Francisco comes to town on Monday.

The 2nd funniest thing I ever heard about Miami: “Made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast.” – Jimmy Buffett.

17 Jun

Braves 8…Miami 7…There’s a Legend and There’s a Rumor.

Saturday Saturday…that’s alright…it’s America night tonight.

Traditional values won out at the end of this 4 hour thriller. Not for us the flash of the Fish…we hooked them remembering  the Old Days, the Old Ways. Far from the effeminate nonsense of Miami we look to the West for our inspiration. The National League West. Where men were men.

Take that train.


This was a see-saw game enlivened before it got underway by the surprise appearance of both teams in matching sky blue caps, letters/numbers/ wrist bands socks. Turns out that is the official color of the Prostate Cancer Prevention program and very pretty it looked too. (Annual PSA tests, guys, past a certain age – from one who knows).

We managed to put together a three run lead early thanks mainly to good work from Phillips and Adams, two names that would feature prominently throughout the game(Ender 0 for 6!). Garcia was pitching impeccably and always looked in command through the first four innings. He looks really good in this flow, you wonder why we don’t try and hang on to him. And then.

It went south, first with a 5 spot for them in the 5th and then 2 more in the sixth. Suddenly we were down 4, 7-3. Garcia was clearly laboring, what a contrast to what had gone before. His location was out, the pitches were up and he was hit hard. Surprisingly to me Snit let him start the sixth but it was deja vu and finally pulled him after 2 outs and 2 more runs about to be scored. So it seems that for Garcia there’s a very thick line in the sand somewhere in the mid innings. Yet, strangely, when he came out to pitch the fateful fifth he had thrown only 45 pitches, a great number considering who he was facing. When he was taken out though that had climbed to 91, 5 outs later. See saw.

Let’s talk about the offense, run down the order. Ender already tabulated, Brandon Phillips had a terrific game – 3 hits including the all important game winner in the tenth and a ringing double off the CF wall earlier. His production has been pretty phenomenal for us with the bat and he’s clearly a very positive factor with his teammates. So we call him a ‘piece’ and we send him on his way? Sad.

Matt Adams is amazing, plus his very real defensive improvement. We can’t let this guy get away when FF returns. What a hitter (lefties too!).  3 hits including two crucial late doubles one with a broken bat, opposite field home run earlier, 4 runs driven in. No piece here compadres, keep him, hardly rocket science. Some left, some first, terrific bench bat against both LH and RH pitching. And he’s getting better as he gets to play every day for now. Watch Freddie’s production respond to regular days off.

My Man Flowers, how reliable he is, he seems to produce day by day. When it matters. I Have the highest regard for his professionalism. Today, 3 runs scored, 2 hits including an important homer leading off our comeback in the sixth. Love his effort. And Camargo. After a series of appalling defensive plays in the last ten days and two awful at bats early in this game he finally listened to me and came up with two vital singles late. The second, leading off the tenth, was crucial to our victory. JT then put down the perfect bunt. 1 0ut, winning run on second. Ender fails. BP comes up and wins the game. The old values, the macho men. Irresistible!

‘though you’ve got no reason to go there

and there ain’t a soul that you know there’


17 Jun

Miami 5, Atlanta 0

Atlanta ran into a buzzsaw last night as Dan Straily shut down the bats, and the Reincarnation Of Ryan HowardJustin Bour homered as Miami shut out Our Heroes 5-0. Christian Yelich added three RBIs to help lead to the final score.

Sean Newcomb followed up his impressive debut with a solid, but not spectacular start. He went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks. He had absolutely no help from the offense, because other than Ender Inciarte doubling to lead off the bottom of the 1st then being stranded at third after a groundout and two strikeouts, the Braves wouldn’t put another runner in scoring position for the rest of the game.

All in all, it was one of those games where the opposing starter was cruising and you never felt there was a chance after the first. But, Newcomb’s start does give one hope that he’s putting it together. Let’s get ’em tonight.

15 Jun

Braves 13, Nationals Bullpen Stinks

There are two things we definitely learned about the Nationals and Braves: the Braves can score runs with the best of them, and the Nationals bullpen is completely terrible. The Braves have not much room to talk as there have been glaring weaknesses with even some of the best Braves teams of the last two decades, but how does a contending team give this little care to its bullpen? But I’m not crying; the Braves took 2 of 3 in Washington from the division leaders.

But what is even more impressive is that the Braves produced 13 runs with only one long ball. Kurt Suzuki accounted for the lone home run, but 5 lineup regulars each had multi-hit games. Brandon Phillips had the first 4-hit game since Ender’s 5-hit game a week and a half ago. We were starting to get worried. Kevin Seitzer really deserves a lot of credit.

Good Julio showed up again, this time limiting his Nationals Park home run allowance to one. But a big point is that Julio got 9 groundball outs to just 3 fly outs, and when he can finally keep the ball down, he could get back on track. All told, he pitched 7 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 2 ER, and 3 K. 4 out of 5 and 5 out of 7 of his previous starts have been of the quality variety (though the other starts were real clunkers), so maybe he’s getting back on track as we speak.

On pace for 72 wins… your Atlanta Braves!

14 Jun

Nats 10, Braves 5


So much for capitalizing on the inspirational come-from-behind win on Monday. Let’s win the series tonight.

Natspos delenda est.

13 Jun

“The Benghazi Handicaps” : Braves 11, Nats 10

A see saw affair. Braves lead. Nats lead. Braves lead. Nats lead. Braves climb a little. Braves lead. Braves hold off Nats. Braves win.

One good pitcher that the Braves have frequently owned is Steven Strasburg. So, when you DO have his number (and get 3 runs in the first) you figure you have a good shot. Then, by the end of the second, you are down 4 to 3. Then, in the third, up 6 to 4. Mike Foltyneweicz just didn’t have it. He left trailing 7 to 6 and one more of his scored, obviously. Strasburg came out after 5 and the battle of the bullpens went to the Braves. The capping blow by Tyler Flowers with a 3 run homer in the top of the ninth to turn a one run deficit into a 2 run lead. Jim Johnson gave up a run but got the save.

Benghazi Handicaps is a term a British officer used to apply to the “Battle in the Western Desert.” The “western” part meant “west of Cairo and Alexandria.” Handicaps as in the horse races. When you look at a map of Egypt and Libya you will notice that the coastline gradually moves westward from Alexandria until just past Benghazi when it curves southward, then later westward. Just after the fall of France, Italian forces in Libya moved into Egypt as far as Sidi Barrani. The British were VERY outnumbered. While the Italians waited for supplies to catch up, the British attacked. The Italians retreated along the coastal road and railroad and the British sent a light weight motorized force diagonally across the desert to try to cut the Italians off. This took them to a place called El Agheila. For the next 2 years this was repeated over and over. Axis advances and utilizes the desert route to cut off British. Reverse. Reverse. Each time a side advanced, their supply and air support was strained and they couldn’t hold on defensively, let alone continue the offensive. This continued until The British Advance from El Alamein. That time, “Operation Torch” had taken most of French North Africa leaving Axis supply and support lines strained even more than the previous times.

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