Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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24 Aug

Braves 7, D-Backs 4

Just when it seemed like all hope was lost, Matt Kemp came through in the 8th with a bases-clearing double to help the Braves earn one of those “W” things that have become rather rare in recent weeks. Kemp’s late heroics helped to mask the fact that the Braves stranded an alarming number of runners over the first seven innings and appeared to be running headlong toward yet another defeat.

After the Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Rob Whalen couldn’t make it out of the 3rd. He was pulled after giving up four runs, and the Braves found themselves in a two-run deficit. They were able to get one of those runs back the following inning, but the stranding runners tactics the offense fell into kept the game at 4-3 for awhile.

Kemp’s double in the 8th finally broke the offensive frustrations on the night and put the Braves on top, and a Dansby Swanson sac fly in the 9th provided a little icing on the cake and allowed the Braves to emerge victorious by a 7-4 score.

A huge shoutout goes to the Braves bullpen, who allowed only three hits in 6.1 innings and held the D-Backs scoreless to keep the Braves in the game. Jose Ramirez and Mauricio Cabrera both struck out the side in their inning of work, and Ramirez was rewarded for his efforts with the win.

The Braves have mastered the whole “keep ourselves in the game” attitude, but with rallies that fall just short of being able to be called comebacks. This was one of those pleasant Blind Squirrel/Nut games, where they were able to complete the comeback and actually emerge victorious. It’s nice they’re able to mix things up a bit, every now and then.

23 Aug

A Million Ways to Die in the West: Braves 8, Poisonous Snakes 9

[Our movie reference is to a comedy. For such we must search because the drama is too negative to endure. We just try to laugh it off. Also, all of the cliches work. And, the title reminds us that this team has found MANY ways to lose, so this is one more.]

If “the Johns” really didn’t have the first draft pick in the next amateur draft as part of the plan, they really aren’t executing on the plan very well. Because the only legitimate contender to become the anointed worst team in Major League Baseball just lost ground in “the race to 1-1” last night.

Basically, Folty (Mike Foltynewicz) Foltied. Pretty good at times, not as good at times. He has shown he is a Major League caliber starter. Now if he can continue to improve command and control, he could make a “Randy Johnson type” leap. But at least this starting pitcher deserves to be on a Major League roster, even for a pretty good team. So, Braves have 2 of those.

Freddie Freeman turned around a cortisone shot awfully fast. Turned around 2 pitches into homeruns awfully quick. Both talent AND effort. Amazing.

The coffin nails were pounded in by a hammer known as Arodys Vizcaino. Either he is hurt or he is awfully off in “rustiness.”

This team only has 6 more chances to die in the West this year. I am expecting 4 or more.

21 Aug

BRAVES WIN IN EXTRAS ON JACE’S WALKOFF. STORY TO FOLLOW. (by coop)

Johnny B’s Washington Nationals took on Snit’s boys today at the Ted. Game went to extras. Braves won in ten, 7-6. Braves winning streak hits one. It’s a miracle. Arizona awaits our surging warriors as perhaps our chief competitor for the 2017 number one draft pick.

The Braves shuffled their defensive alignment to end the home stand. Jace Peterson in center and Nick Markakis at first played well defensively. Though they won, the Nats did not, committing five errors. Every time the Braves played themselves out of the game, the Washingtonians played them back in. It was clown baseball, bro.

Joel De La Cruz cruised through two, then barfed it up in the third. Gio Gonzalez started the uprising with a single. The Braves were obviously trying to slow down Trea Turner by putting the Nats pitcher on base in front of him. Turner walked, Danny Espinosa got plunked, and the bases were loaded for Daniel Murphy with no outs. Murphy plated Gonzalez when his grounder to second forced Espinosa. Murphy beat the double play try at first, so the league’s leading hitter and potential MVP got to trot home as the Nats Clown Prince Bryce Harper belted a massive three run home run to right. Washington led 4-0. Jace Peterson kept it that close by running through the centerfield wall to rob Chris Heisey of extra bases and stanch all bleeding save his own.

The Braves counterpunched with a three spot in the bottom of the frame. Leadoff man du jour Dansby Swanson walked, and Adonis Garcia lined a single to right center to send the hope for the future to third. Our slugging first baseman doubled off the wall in left center to score both runners. Nick took third on Danny Espinosa’s second error of the day, the first a bobble of a bad hop grounder and this one a throw the Nats catcher couldn’t handle. As Chip said, you can’t spell Espinosa without an “E”. Our current most obvious waste of roster space Gordon Beckham singled to score Markakis with our third run; and all of a sudden, we’ve got a game again, down a run at 4-3;. Hope is rekindled.

De la Cruz pitched into the sixth, then self-immolated, dousing hope’s flame. After retiring the leadoff man, Joel walked Zimmerman and gave up a well-struck home run to Chris Heisey. The game stood at 6-3 when Gonzalez’ second single of the game sent Joel to the showers. It has now been 755 games since a Braves starter has pitched into the seventh.

The Braves closed to 6-4 when Anthony Recker doubled and eventually scored on Murphy’s throwing error. Then Matt Kemp’s eighth inning homer on a hanging curve cut the deficit to 6-5. That hopeful spark still flickered. Jeff Francoeur fed hope’s flame with a dribbler up the middle; and Nats reliever Yusmeiro Alberto Petit misplayed Recker’s attempted sacrifice bunt, firing the ball into the stands. With runners at second and third and nobody out, the Nats intentionally walked the bases to pitch to Gordon Beckham. The skies opened and play was suspended, as a new Nats hurler climbed the bump.

Rain doesn’t last forever, but there’re puddles in front of Bryce. Beck comes through with a game- tying GIDP. We’ve got the go-ahead at third. Ender’s up, but the Washington Miscreants walk him intentionally. Is the future now?

Not yet. I saw Ted Williams make an out once. It was a long time ago. Past’s not future, and future’s not yet. Dansby makes contact. He also makes an out. Some days the story doesn’t write itself. Sometimes you’ve got to report the facts.

Jim Johnson on the bump. Anthony Rendon lifts a can of corn to Ender. Two more miles, Jim. The merely mortal Trea Turner’s next. Turner’s mortal, and he’s up to no good. Blue’s in cahoots with him. The ump’s plate’s the size of a matchbox. Jim gets an out on strike five.

One more. Gotta Have an “E” approaches the dish, works Jim to deuces, then full. Sixth pitch’s fouled to the home plate seats. The seventh follows, but the eighth gains a swing and a miss. And a miss. Strike three gets past Recker to the screen, and Easy “E” scampers to first. Ubiquitous Murphy. Again.

Got him! Swing and a miss! Go get ’em, boys. You got a plane to catch.

Not yet. We may play forever. An occasional runner gets on but is stranded. Finally, with two outs in the bottom of the tenth, Jace Peterson! Jace! Have a great flight, my children.

Defense wins game, Uncle Joe Simpson says, and even the mighty Nationals are challenged to overcome five errors. Defense rocks, but a walk off home run’s pretty cool too. Great game, Jace.

20 Aug

Mutatis Mutandis… Change but it’s still Braves 9 Nats 11

‘The necessary changes having been made’ – they were certainly necessary in our case but not too much seems to have changed. One awful pitched innings spoiled an otherwise stirring performance tonight.  Young Braves pitchers, shuffle them as you will, continue to show their fragility. In this instance a promising early 3-1 lead vaporized in the fourth when the ever talented and loyally promoted Tyrell Jenkins melted down in the 4th and left giving up 9 runs, all earned. He had taken the place of many others, themselves up and down, changes galore.

(Change can sometimes hit the absurd note. This week the Spanish La Liga, ever image conscious, warned clubs that in any home televised game  that they failed to manage a 75% seat occupancy they would be fined, fine doubled if less than 50% occupied. To help they offered to have TV cameramen  not show any large vacant seat areas and, when even that was not enough, to supply tarpaulins to cover the offending blocks. Seriously. Now that’s change. Will it work? As farce, maybe.) Tori Kelly seems  a safer bet for our lonely acres, 42,000 here tonight.

They actually ended up seeing a good ball game as well. It started promisingly Jenkins getting through the first undamaged and our hitters giving Scherzer some stick, Adonis doubling off the wall to score two and give us a lead.. In the frightful 8 run third Ramos made all three outs – how’s that for a change, when did that last ever happen?  At 9-3 Weber was the mop up choice and did a more than decent job. Daniel Murphy was red hot having just learned his lead in the batting title chase from LaMahieu was down to one point – he could be uncatchable now after a week of Braves pitching. What was a change in this area was 2 or 3 years back when a Braves hitter led this contest most of the season only to lose it late. He won no popularity contests  for it, either.

(Jose Peraza went 3 for 4 with a homer tonight against his former club, he’s now got over 100 ML AB’s, that’s a change)  Vizzy came on in our game after last night’s fiasco and managed to get through the 8th without cost. He’d already cost us last night’s game,  Jenkins this. Trea Turner got the 4th inning going for the Nats with a 3 run bomb but struck out twice. To know why he will become twice the player Swanson ever can be you don’t need stats – use your eyes. We await our Venezuelan salvation- bring him up in 2018, time enough, early, for a CHANGE!

Our hitters did not roll over, they came back just as they had done last night. We had picked up to 10/6 by the end of the 8th forcing Dusty back into his pen, repeatedly. Final was 11/9 Jace having doubled Freddie in, Chase following and driving home another 2. Drecker, the tying run, popped up.

Our record against the Nats this season is awful…lost 10 of last 11. In the first half of the season we couldn’t hit them worth a lick, this time around it’s been the pitching. One more tomorrow , DeLaCruz vs. Gio. Change? Nah. Please!

 

 

20 Aug

Acction, Action, Action! (Nats 7, Braves 6 Version)

Wow.

Lot’s of action all over the diamond last night, so let’s get to it.

I swear, lately it seems every time I turn on a Braves game, the first thing I see is Trea Turner
somewhere in scoring position. That’s getting old, especially when we’re playing Milwaukee…I think
it’s time for us to admit that he might be the second coming of The Dark Lord Himself – Chase Utley.
I’m going to put him on the Braves Journal Glossary Watch. Anyway, to the game.

DarkLord2, Electric Bugaloo led off with a double off Julio Teheran, who was returning from the DL
after recovering from a lat strain. Ben Revere sacrificed him to third and Bryce Harper scored him
with a ground out. 1-0.

In the third, the Braves conspired to pull off one of the prettiest decoy plays you’ll see. With one
out, DL2 singled (again), and Ben Revere flied to Matt Kemp. However, Gordon Beckham and Chase
d’Arnaud ran to cover second as if it was a ground ball DP, and Ender Inciarte charged a non-
exsistent single to center. Turner was so confused he started back toward forst, then switched back
to briefly head to second before finding the ball. He hustled back to first and was initially called safe,
but that call was overturned as replay showed him to be out by inches. If he had not been SO
confused by THREE different Braves pulling off TWO different dekes, he would’ve been safe.

Tanner Roark faced the minimum through five innings, helped by two, yes two, strike
em out, throw’em out double plays, with Tyler Flowers and Chase d’Arnaud standing like statues at
the plate as a borderline pitch was called strike three. The last DP was just a standard garden
variety 6-4-3.

And, on the night Andruw Jones was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame, Revere and Nick
Markakis were inspired to make home run saving catches on consecutive outs. Revere’s was
spectacular, as he robbed Freddie Freeman to end the bottom of the 4th, making a full speed,
parallel to the fence, leaping, sprawling grab to bring back a potential tying run. Neck’s was a little
more pedestrian, as he drifted back to the fence and took away a homer from Clint Robinson to
start the fifth.

Julio cou…wait a minute. Let’s go back to the Revere catch. Chip actually said that the catch might
have been the best he’s ever seen. That is blasphemous coming from a man who called three years
of Andrelton Simmons playing shortstop. But, it was Simba-esque. Here, judge for yourself.

[link=http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v26305439/phicin-revere-stretches-out-to-make-
phenomenal-grab]The Midnight Catch of Ben Revere[/link]

Anyway – Julio seemed to have been deflated by Revere’s Highway Robbery, and after Nick’s saving
catch, he walked Danny Espinosa, who stole second, and went to third on DL2’s infield single.
Revere drove Espinosa in with a single to right, and Turner scored when Harper blooped on off
Dansby Swanson’s glove. 3-0 Nats.

In the top of the sixth, Madison Younginer came in to throw gas on the fire. Anthony Rendon
singled, Robinson walked, and Espinosa’s grounder to Lt. Dans was called an infield hit, and
Robinson advanced to third when Dansby threw the ball past Freeman. After a Roark sacrifice
moving Espinosa to 2nd, Robinson scored on DL2’s grounder. 5-0 Nats.

Atlanta finally got off the mat with two out in the sixth. Jace Peterson walked after pinch hitting for
Younginer, and scored when Ender Inciarte homered. 5-2 Nats.

The Braves clawed closer in the 7th, when markakis hit a home run to right, his second dinger in the
last three games. 5-3, Nats. Unfortunately, the Braves gave it back in the next half inning, as Clint
Robinson scored on Beckham’s two out throwing error. 6-3.

But, the Braves rallied, with the Nats providing some sloppy defense of their own. Swanson led off
with a double off Matt Belisle, follwed by Jace reaching on Espinosa’s boot. Inciarte grounded to
Robinson at first, with Jace forced at second, Dansby scoring to make it 6-4. Jeff Francoeur then
follwed with a grounder to Anthony Rendon, who threw the ball into right field. Freddie then doubled
to left center on the first pitch to score Ender and Frenchy, and just like that it was tied, with
Freeman on second and one out. Kemp, however, popped out, and after Markakis was intentionally
walked, Tyler Flowers flied to right.

Jim Johnson came in to pitch the 9th, and after giving up a 1 out single to Wilson Ramos, and a
dribbler to third where Beckham’s only play was to first, Clint Robinson completed the quietest 2-3,
2 BB, game winning RBI night you will ever see. Mark Melancon came in to pitch the 9th, and gave
up a Dansby infield hit with one out, but nothing else.

19 Aug

Natspos 8, Barves -1,000

Last night was embarrassing. It was basically a classic April game, one where the score appears deceptively close for much of it despite the fact that you know in your bones — and the lollygagging stiffs with the A across their chest are frantically attempting to demonstrate with every shruggingly botched attempt — that are no more likely to win this game than to be cast in a remake of Damn Yankees.

I’m sure that someone somewhere has made an equally embarrassing drop of a fly ball than Matt Kemp did in left field last night — it may not even have been his worst play ever — but he basically overran the ball, put out his hand, looked away, and the ball literally clanked off his palm with two outs in the first inning. That was how the first two runs of the game scored.

And that was pretty much how Reynaldo Lopez won his second game in a week against Rob Whalen. Lopez isn’t a complete nobody, like the Phillies used to trot out every other week to dominate us (I still shudder when I think of the name “David Coggin“), he’s a top-100 pitching prospect. Ever since the Braves greeted him last weekend with a near-homer by Erick Aybar and an actual homer by Freddie Freeman in the first inning, Lopez has faced 53 Braves, given up eight hits, four walks, and two runs, and struck out 13. Lopez seems to have been able to make adjustments. Our bums couldn’t catch a cold.

And then there was the 8th inning. To wit:

(A. Vizcaino in to pitch)
J. Werth: Single to C (Ground Ball to Front of Home)
D. Murphy: Walk
B. Harper: Walk
A. Rendon: Hit by pitch; Werth Scores
(M. Cabrera replaces Vizcaino)
C. Robinson: Single; Murphy Scores
D. Espinosa: Walk; Harper Scores
(While Severino is batting): Passed ball; R. Scores
P. Severino: Reached on E4
W. Difo: Flyout
T. Turner: Sacrifice fly; Robinson scores
C. Heisey: Foul popfly

That’s five runs on three walks, a hit by pitch, a passed ball, and exactly one hit that cleared the infield. Since going 10-4 in a nice little mini-run of good play from July 26 to August 9, during which the Braves outscored their opponents 66-49, the Braves have now gone 1-7 over their last eight games, including their current five-game skid, and they have been outscored 28 to 53. It’s awfully hard to win when your opponents are doubling your tally every night.

Now, I didn’t want to do this. But the Braves leave me no choice.

18 Aug

Dansby

I did not watch this game, other than being fortunate to catch Dansby Swanson–yes, THE Dansby Swanson– €”first big league hit. The Braves lost, of course, but the real story was Dansby Swanson.

He did not disappoint. His first at bat was a line out to center, second was a line drive single to right, he struck out in his third, and finished his night with a hard groundball single up the middle. He looked confident, comfortable, and polished for all of the hype and expectations being thrown on him. I’€™m very convinced we’€™ve got a big leaguer here.

The subplot was the lack of innings being pitched by starting pitchers. Mike Foltynewicz went 5, giving up 2 runs. He didn’€™t pitch poorly, but he threw 100 pitches in 5 innings, and like most other starting pitchers on this club, he’€™s putting much strain on the ‘€˜pen. In the last 5 games, we’ve seen the following IP from our pitchers: 5, 5 2/3, 4 2/3, 5, and 5 2/3. That puts too much pressure on a pen that is without Arodys Vizcaino, Chris Withrow, and Shae Simmons, and has traded two quality lefties in the past 3 weeks. The return of those guys and a solid long relief option would really help this team right now.

So Swanson went 2-4, and Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis provided home runs, but that was it from the offense.

Tyler Flowers was also activated from the DL, and he should be in the lineup full-time starting today. AJ Pierzsynki was DL’€™ed, and I would imagine we’€™ll count his remaining career PAs on one hand.

17 Aug

Aybar Delenda Erat

The Braves and Twins matched up last night in a battle between the bottom dwellers. The Braves tried to make a game of it at the end, but ultimately three runs were too much to overcome, even against the lowly Twins. The Twins then scored an insurance run in the 9th for a 4-2 lead, and an uneventful bottom of the 9th led to that being the final score.

Our old friend Ervin Santana shut the Braves down for seven innings and looked to be in control the whole time. The Braves put two on the board in the 8th inning once they got into the Twins bullpen, but could do no more.

Joel De La Cruz, meanwhile, was decent, pitching into the 6th inning and only allowing one run. The Braves had to use three relievers to get through the 8th inning, though, and their inability to hold the Twins scoreless made De La Cruz’s record fall to 0-6 on the year.

The Braves are now 4 games behind the Twins for the worst record in baseball, and do not seem to be interested in allowing anyone to challenge them for the title of the worst team. With the Braves sitting on 44 wins in the middle of August and having a history of poor September play, I can’t help but wonder—is this team going to get to 50 wins this season?

In a more exciting realm of Braves news, the future has arrived. Dansby Swanson will be making his major league debut tonight! His arrival was made possible by the departure of the one and only Erick Aybar (probably my least favorite Brave since Melky graced the team with his presence), who was traded to the Tigers for catcher Kade Scivicque and infielder Mike Aviles. I was at the game on Sunday, and the irony that he was the one who drove in the Braves lone run in the only game I’ll see in person this season was not lost on me. I wish him well in Detroit, but had I known that my seeing him in person would be the impetus that would get him out of a Braves uniform, I would have hitchhiked my way to Atlanta in May, gathering change I found on the ground along the way to buy a ticket. Lesson learned.

Since Ayber delenda erat, I need a new sign off. Any suggestions?

15 Aug

South Carolina Gamecocks Preview (by Hambone)

Are the good times really over?

The South Carolina Gamecocks come into 2016 with a new coach, angry-man defensive guru and former gator head man, Will Muschamp. This will be the first season in a decade without Steve Spurrier at the helm, and to rub salt in the wound, he’s recently announced that he will leave Columbia entirely and take an “ambassador” position with UF. While the initial response to the Muschamp hire was less than enthusiastic, many fans have come around and are at least outwardly expressing confidence that we have the right man for the job.

Even during consecutive 11-win seasons from 2011-2013, featuring offensive greats Alshon Jefferey, Marcus Lattimore, Bruce Ellington, and Connor Shaw, among other future pros, the foundation for success under Spurrier was the defense. The beginning of the end of the most successful era in school history came when D coordinator Ellis Johnson left the program to become head coach at Southern Miss after the 2011 season. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing left the following year, taking the same position at UF. Key players, such as Jadeveon Clowney, experienced sudden drop-offs in production, and the 2013 team featured a bad defense propped up by the best offense in school history. The defensive slide continued, becoming almost comical in 2014 and culminating in a 3- win season in 2015 capped off with a loss to the Citadel. Our window under Spurrier had shut, with only one SEC-east title to show.

The Cocks have some returning talent on defense that didn’t produce squat under the old regime. Marquavius Lewis (#1 ranked JUCO transfer coming into last season) and Shameik Blackshear (5 star DE) were disappointments. Look for us to make big strides on D under the new coaching staff. Ellis Johnson is returning, along with fellow 2015 Auburn assistants (and ace recruiters) Travaris Robertson and Lance Thompson. Muschamp has put emphasis on recruiting, something Spurrier notoriously hated, and will bring about a big shift in culture from Spurrier’s laid-back style.

But what about the offense? Muschamp swears he has learned from his mistakes at Florida. New O coordinator Kurt Roper was with Muschamp for his last year at Florida only, and the story is that there was simply not enough time in one year to turn the putrid UF offense around. After a stint with the Cleveland Browns, Roper comes to Columbia with plans to institute a tempo offense centered around our highest rated recruit, incoming true freshman Brandon McIlwain.

McIlwain is a two-sport phenom. He was the Gatorade high school football player of the year in Pennsylvania, as well as a highly regarded baseball prospect, rated by Baseball America as the 16th-best high school baseball prospect last year. Disappointingly, he was not able to earn much playing time on the Gamecock baseball team this past season as an early enrollee, as he split his time between baseball and spring football. The O-line and receiver corps are question marks. Expectations are low-moderate for this year’s team among fans, low-low among media (picked dead last in the east).

If we can go a full season without any O-linemen pancaking each other, it will go down as a success.

14 Aug

Nationals 9, Atlanta Braves 1

It’s hot, damn hot. Tanner Roark’s throwing strikes, but Ender Inciarte lines the sixth pitch through the box. Last night’s goat Erick Aybar lifts a can of corn to left. One out, one on for Hitman Freddie Freeman. His line drive to right chases Ender to third. Matt Kemp bounces weakly to the pitcher, who turns the play on Ender at the plate. Inciarte’s Aybad imitation is spot on as he’s an easy out at home. Now the inning’s success rests on Nick Markakis. His line drive reaches Ben Revere in center, and the Braves come up empty. Ender’s bonehead play didn’t matter, but there is no mistaking dumb.

Tyrell Jenkins climbs the hill, and Trea Turner rips his first pitch into the left field corner for two bases. Turner’s a player. Barring injury, he’s going to be something. Anthony Recker guns Ben Revere’s bunt down the first base line. Turner scores, and Revere moves to second. Bryce Harper doubles to left. It’s two-nothing Nats, and Tyrell’s still looking for out one. Soon to be wealthy beyond measure Wilson Ramos moves Harper to third with a bounce out, and Anthony Rendon brings Harper home with a fly ball to Ender. Three-nothing, but there are two outs. Clint Robinson continues the onslaught, lacing a single to right center. Mercifully Chris Heisey bounces to Erick Aybar, and the Braves get out of it with no further damage, down 3-zip.

In the Braves third, Ender hustles into second with a double, then barely avoids getting picked off. He looked out to me but stays alive to score later as the umps blow the call. The comeback begins, and it’s up to Tyrell to keep the Nats in check.

Tyrell’s rolling but stumbles in the fifth. Roark should have been an easy out number one but walks instead. Maybe the heat and running the bases will sap his stamina. Turner singles sharply to right. I want him to wear a Braves uniform. Revere hits a sharp ground ball to Chase, who turns a routine 5-4-3 double play into a force at third. Tyrell walks Harper to load the bases for Ramos, who delivers a sacrifice fly to Markakis is the right field corner. Rendon ends Braves faltering hope with a three run dinger to left. Tyrell’s gone, and so’s the game. Nats lead 7-1.

Nats added a meaningless eighth run in the seventh when Eric O’Flaherty played the clown and a ninth in the eighth when Ryan Weber threw a home run ball to Heisley, but they were just salt in the wound. The Braves never challenged in this game.

The better team won today. Roark pitched well. Jenkins had good moments but lost home plate in the fifth to eliminate all hope. FrEddie Picked up another couple of hits but hit into a double play when we still had a breath of a chance. After the fifth, the Braves wilted. Perhaps going home and the off day tomorrow will restore their vigor. At least Julio Teheran returns Friday. That’s good.

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