Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

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01 Aug

Dodgers 2, Braves 1 (By Kyle B.)

I wish Vin Scully would narrate my life. During Wednesday’s broadcast he effortlessly told the tale of the 1914 “Miracle Braves” without interrupting the flow of the play-by-play, reminding me for the thousandth time why he is the greatest of all time. Due to the unbalanced schedule, our encounters with Mr. Scully are few and far between, but they are easily the best part of any West Coast road trip. I’m glad he’ll be back for year number sixty-six next season.

After blowing a lead in game one and losing in extra frames on Wednesday, the Braves found themselves attempting to salvage the series with the Dodgers against Clayton Kershaw. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, Clayton Kershaw is good at baseball. The Braves countered with their own ace, Julio Teheran. Atlanta found themselves entering play 1.5 games back of the Nationals in the NL East, while the Dodgers held a three game lead over the Giants in the West.

The Dodgers got on the board in the bottom of a first when Adrian Gonzales followed up a Yasiel Puig walk with a booming double. Puig made the score 2-0 Dodgers with a solo shot in the bottom of the third.

The Braves were able to scatter hits against Kershaw, but never managed to threaten in the early innings. Atlanta wasted a scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth when B.J. Upton was thrown out trying to steal second after he overslid the bag. Freddie Freeman, of course, follow up with a single with no ducks on the pond. In the fifth, leadoff singles by Evan Gattis and Ryan Doumit were also wasted thanks to a 5-4 double play by Andrelton Simmons. The Braves collected five hits through the first five innings, but none were for extra bases.

Atlanta managed to plate a single run in the top of the ninth on a Justin Upton single, but the final score saw the Dodgers on top 2-1. Kershaw went the distance, striking out nine without a walk, and giving up nine hits.

Ignore the final score for a moment, and appreciate that Teheran was exceptional. Over an eight inning complete game performance, he struck out 9 and walked 3, while allowing only five hits. His off-speed pitches were devastating. Thanks to his offense and a few mistakes, he was hung with the loss.

I’ll leave the Trade Deadline analysis to our esteemed commenters. Since the Braves weren’t going to make a splash, I wasn’t too invested in the trade talk this year. The Braves landed lefty James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio from the Cubs to gear up for a post-season run, and our friend Martin Prado is now in pinstripes. From my understanding, Oakland and Detroit acquired all of the pitchers. All of them.

Up next are trips to San Diego and a two game series (?) in Seattle, before a weekend showdown at home against Washington on August 8-10. Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night.

31 Jul

Braves 2, Dodgers…I don’t want to talk about it

ESPN Box Score

After working a 12-hour day today, I came home to feverishly scrub my house for six hours in anticipation of my lease expiring tomorrow and my wanting my security deposit back. As much as I normally hate west coast games, I was glad for this one, since my plan was that having the Braves on would help keep me awake and distracted from the menial tasks I was finishing up. Neither Alex Wood nor Zack Greinke disappointed me in my goal. Both of them pitched gems, and tomorrow’s anticipated matchup between Julio Teheran and Clayton Kershaw has a lot to live up to after this one.

If you’re a fan of offense and don’t like pitchers’ duels, the most exciting thing that happened for the first seven innings of tonight’s game was the report/notice the Giants’ releasing Dan Uggla got, only to have it retracted a few hours later, sparking another bout of speculation and comments by paid analysts and social media analysts. If he doesn’t end up getting released with the Giants adding someone at the trade deadline, this “news” is not going to do anything at all for his confidence.

Both pitchers blinked in the 2nd inning, when Greinke gave up a double to Evan Gattis and an RBI single to Andrelton Simmons and Alex Wood gave the run right back with a home run to none other than Matt Kemp, who is rapidly becoming quite the annoyance. After that they traded scoreless frame after scoreless frame through the top of the eighth. Wood pitched into and out of a little trouble, but looked sharp and got key strikeouts when he needed them.

Wood successfully held Yasiel Puig in check, and Puig expressed his displeasure by failing to run to first not once but twice after hitting popups to the right side. As much as I love great defense, I was kind of hoping the Braves would make an error on those so that his immaturity would be thrust more prominently into the spotlight. One of the first rules to baseball is to run to first after you hit the ball into fair territory, no matter where it’s hit—it’s not rocket science.

While Alex Wood was earning accolades from Braves fans for his performance, BJ Upton was most decidedly not. BJ collected the golden sombrero, miring him in a stretch of seven strikeouts over eight plate appearances. All the warm fuzzies he managed to create in the first inning of Tuesday’s game when he manufactured a run with his speed and beat out Puig’s throw are most decidedly gone.

The eighth inning made things interesting, when Jordan Walden came on and got two quick outs before issuing a walk to, who else, Matt Kemp. Two-out walks always come back to bite, and this one proved to be no exception. A single moved Kemp to second and then Juan Uribe, whom I really have begun to hold an intense dislike for, drove him home. Andrelton Simmons made a great diving play to get to the ball, but he couldn’t get Kemp at home and then he kept rubbing his shoulder and causing great concern among those Braves fans who were still awake at that late hour. If that does cause some lingering problems, our upcoming impossible schedule looks that much worse. He was checked out by the trainers and stayed in the game, so hopefully he’s okay.

When all hope seemed lost, Justin Upton led off the ninth with a home run to re-tie the game, and if a west coast game isn’t great enough, extra inning west coast games are even better. David Hale looked sharp in the ninth, but back-to-back singles to begin the 10th with a wild pitch sandwiched in between sent him home the loser as Matt Kemp, fricking Matt Kemp, hit the walk off since clearly scoring the Dodgers other two runs was not enough for him.

In order to not be swept by the Dodgers we have to beat Kershaw Thursday night. That is really not a position you ever want to see your team in, but we’re Braves fans, and this is what we’ve come to expect from the team we all know (and sometimes love but always root for).

Natspo(s) delenda est.

30 Jul

Dodgers 8, Braves 4

Well, THAT sucked. I watched most of the game and wish I hadn’t. It was unbearably long. The two teams threw 350 pitches between them, and the 9-inning game lasted three hours and 46 minutes without a rain delay, which meant that the West Coast game ended around 2 am. And with Big Handsome against the 34-year old version of Josh Beckett, nothing about this game was going to win a beauty contest.

It started out well enough. Beckett simply didn’t have it: he threw 105 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, only 60 of them strikes, walking four men and giving up nine hits and four runs. But then the Dodgers brought in the immortal Jamey Wright — he may literally be immortal, because I don’t know what else could possibly explain the fact that he’s still in baseball — and he lulled the bats into a permanent nap. Harang let the Dodgers tie the game after six innings of his usual high-wire act, and then Anthony Varvaro brought his gasoline can, and Matt Kemp hit the second of two two-run homers to put the game out of reach.

Hating the Dodgers is natural and proper.

28 Jul

Bears 2, Religious people need not apply

A Monday afternoon affair. Well not really as torrid as one of those, not that I would really know, I just know they are always called torrid. I saw a snippet here and there on GameDay. Otherwise, like Sergeant Schulz, “I know nothing.” I can’t tell you if they “looked good” or if the pitch “looked like a strike.” So, this is much like a term paper. Relying on other sources for info and stringing it together.

Ervin Santana took the hill again for our side. He is now in “good Ervin” mode. Maybe we won’t see “bad Ervin” again. If we don’t, we might play postseason ball. If we do see “bad Ervin” again, we probably won’t play postseason ball this year. This team should be renamed “Apollo 13″ as in “no remaining margin for error.”

The Braves once again faced that towering giant of legend, Jason Lane. When last we faced Mr. Lane he looked like and up and coming outfielder for the Astros in 2005. He was up, but he was going, rather than coming. Which means he did not have the more pleasurable experience. Now, he returned from AAA as a starting pitcher for his first major league start. And, as all are seemingly wont to do since the mid 90′s, he obviously held the Braves lineup in check.

But, Ervin was smelling. 8 IP, 102 pitches, 11 K’s. Yes, “good Ervin” showed up.

And finally, after 7 innings of predominant offensive futility and no runs, Evan Gattis stepped up to the plate again. El Oso Blanco Grande, el Salvador por los Bravos (my Spanish isn’t too good, but you get the gist). Line drive home run. That’s one.

A lot of hub bub behind that leading to one out and LaStella pinch hitting for Gosselin with the bases loaded (it worked, but why do you walk Jordan Schafer intentionally to load the bases). Yes, it worked for the other guys. 1 to 0 after 7.

Bottom of 8, Justin Upton walks. And again, with Upton now on second, the mighty bear steps up. single, 2 to 0.

Craig Kimbrel finished it strong.

It is on to Los Angeles (also Spanish, I get that). So does El Oso Blanco devour the denizens of Chavez Ravine? Tune in next time.

27 Jul

Braves 8 Padres 3. They Were Chopping in New York

There was a baseball game played in Atlanta today. However, all Braves fans’s hearts, minds, thoughts and attention was in a little town in New York. As you know, today was induction day. (Here is the Box Score)

Growing up in the south you gravitate towards your closest SEC team and the Atlanta Braves. I was fortunate enough to have been 10 years old in 1991 when the Braves went from worst to first and started this great stretch of baseball.

In late August of 1991, my then step father and I went to see the Braves take on the Phillies at the old Fulton County Stadium. At the time, while I loved David Justice, Dale Murphy was still my favorite player. That would change by the end of the day.

My step father bought me a Braves baseball and an ink pen. We walked to an area where Francisco Cabrera was signing baseballs. There was this obnoxious adult yelling for Cabrera to sign something for him. Cabrera was joking around and kept passing him up. Eventually this guy went too far, bumped into me knocked me into the wall and I dropped my ball onto the field.

I heard this voice yell, “Hey man! Come on!” I looked up and Tom Glavine was picking my ball up (in the process of signing it) and handing it to Cabrera. He asked if I was okay. I nodded and said I was. He didn’t stay and sign for anyone else and soon the crowd was broken up.

At age 33, Glavine remains my all time favorite player.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox on the stage today gave me chills. But seeing a guy who was nice to me 23 years ago was special.

I still have the ball.

26 Jul

Braves 5, Padres 3 (by spike)

So, San Diego with a lineup of household names (of tango singers or spelling bee contestants, apparently) against the Braves ace, Confirmation bias be damned, it’s a familiar scenario. Patented Braves rally of runners on second and third, nobody out yielding one run, followed by a DP failing to score a runner from third with one out. Pads get three straight hits to take the lead.

Mise en tableaux –

6 blackberries
3 leaves basil
4 oz lemonade
1.5 – 3 oz whiskey (I prefer Rittenhouse rye)
1 oz simple syrup (optional)

Muddle (crush) fruit and basil. Add other ingredients, shake well and pour over ice. Pairs nicely with Imperial, Tecate or other Mexican lager. Lather, rinse, repeat, and start working on that flatpick arrangement of Deep River Blues.

And then, it didn’t happen, despite the Braves best efforts. Evan Gattis got caught after tying the score wandering off second, but Chris Johnson got away with a risky advance and a positively Coxian squeeze put the side ahead. Some comical defense and a much needed Freeman single proved decisive.

And now, as Dumbledore said, “Forgive my mawkishness, Harry – I’m an old man”. It’s HoF weekend for Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. The Braves are set to move to a fancy new home – although I would warn that Shelley’s dictum of “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” still apply. It’s been nearly 20 years since the magic of ’95. 20 years of high quality NL baseball on natural grass, as God intended yet the last few seasons have been neither fish nor fowl. I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical this summer, embracing the game nightly more tightly than usual of late. This is far from the most enjoyable Braves team. Still, after some reflection, the process is more useful than the end result. I like Braves baseball drifting from the AM radio on my front porch. And should it happen that one golden season might return and the hometown nine should rise to a feat that would put them in good company with their mighty ancestors, it will be just a condiment to go with a dish well made that I enjoy every summer.

26 Jul

San Diego 5, Drab City 2

http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=340725115 The box score, if you care.

I said it in the game thread, and it’s worth repeating now – This team is thoroughly, utterly, and completely mediocre. Since I’m still having trouble with the BBRef linking tool, I will recap the game without mentioning any names – although there are quite a few Braves who deserve to be called out. And not in the good call out way.

Anyway, the bottom of the 8th was a microcosm of the season as a whole, a brief flurry of activity, a false raising of hope, followed by the crushing of said hope. Last night felt like the turning point of the season. Back in the late 80s, the turning point usually came five minutes after the First Pitch of Opening Day when the first Rick Mahler meatball was ceremonially crushed into the stands. the second game when the first Zane Smith meatball was ceremonially crushed into the stands. I know we’re only 2.5 out and it’s a long season and yada yada, but it sure feels, after last night, that the Braves have peaked and are on the downslope. And with the August schedule looming, if we don’t sweep the rest of this series, it will be a disaster of Biblical proportions. You know, dogs and cats living together type stuff.

Anyway, I’ll email 500 quatloos to the first person to correctly suss the reference in the title line.

25 Jul

Marlins 3, Braves 2 (By Kyle B.)

On Thursday evening, the Braves turned the ball over to Aaron Harang in an effort to even the series against the Marlins ahead of next week’s significant West Coast road trip. Despite their inconsistent play since the All-Star Break, the Braves entered the contest only one game back of Washington (two in the loss column) for the lead in the NL East.

Winless against the Marlins since 2011, Harang was sharp early. For the Fish, Henderson Alvarez entered play with a sparkling 2.63 ERA, but was tagged for two runs in the second off Chris Johnson’s eighth home run of the year. (Spoiler: Hibernation Mode).
Harang escaped trouble in the fourth, but the tightrope act fell apart in the fifth as the Marlins tied the game at 2-2 on a RBI single by Adeiny Hechavarria and a RBI fielder’s choice by Christian Yelich.

Aaron Harang would go seven innings and give up two earned runs, with five strikeouts against two walks to cap a terrific July. Jordan Walden chipped in a scoreless eighth inning. The contest remained 2-2 until the ninth, when Craig Kimbrel took the mound.

Things got weird. After striking out Garrett Jones for the first out of the inning, Kimbrel notched another strike out against Marcell Ozuna. The strikeout resulted in a wild pitch, and Ozuna took first. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting, Kimbrel threw another wild pitch to allow Ozuna to take second. Salty followed up with a single that scored Ozuna, and the ballgame ended 3-2 Marlins. That’s a terrible way to lose a baseball game.

Following Johnson’s homer in the second, the offense went full Hibernation Mode and never again reached home plate. The Braves ended the game with six hits, including three by Justin Upton.

With the Nationals idle, the Braves sit 1.5 games back in the East. Next, it’s a four game wrap-around series with the Padres (the Island of Misfit Braves) before the trip out West. Let’s win a few.

23 Jul

Marlins 1 Braves 6

ESPN Box Score

The All-Star break meant no Wednesday game to recap last week, which consequently left me with a lingering feeling all week that I had forgotten to do something. For the past few days I kept having to reassure myself that it was not Wednesday yet and that I did not have a recap to write. It’s nice to have a recap to do again; it’s even nicer to have a victory to report.

The Braves jumped out to five runs in the first two innings off of Nathan Eovaldi, and then Eovaldi sat down 10 Braves in a row. I don’t know if Eovaldi suddenly got a lot more effective or if the Braves just wanted to turn this game into a nutshell of their season, but both the Good Offense and the Bad Offense made an appearance tonight. They recorded six hits over the first 1 2/3 innings, capped by Freddie Freeman’s three-run home run, and then managed only two additional hits for the rest of the game, both of which came in the bottom of the 8th.

Fortunately, the Good Offense scored enough runs before disappearing and Ervin Santana pitched a great game, a combination that was enough to get the Braves back in the win column. Santana went 7.1 innings and gave up 1 run on six hits while recording 10 strikeouts. He left with two men on in the 8th inning, but Jordan Walden came on and struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee to end the threat.

In the bottom of the 8th, Jason Heyward singled, stole second and made it to third when the throw sailed into centerfield. He broke immediately for home when Regression hit a grounder to short, but Adeiny Hechavarria threw home and Jason looked like toast. However, he amazingly managed to avoid the tag and made it safely back to third. Mike Redmond got ejected after arguing Jason was out of the baseline, but replays showed he wasn’t. His athleticism led to the final Braves run when Gerald Laird singled him home.

Chasen Shreve pitched the 9th. He looked a little shaky and allowed a couple of base runners but managed to end the game unscathed with a strikeout of Reed Johnson.

The Defense and The Other Defense combined for a nifty play in the third inning to get Hechavarria out at second after his base hit took a funny hop in right field (Jason was charged with an error, but that will surely get reversed since the ball took a bad bounce before it got to him).

We have the chance to split the series tomorrow night before the San Diego Former Braves come into town.

Natspo(s) delenda est.

23 Jul

Marlins 6, Braves 5

Mike Minor is not right. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but last night was his second straight start of giving up six runs and the fourth time he’s given up at least that many in 15 starts. His ERA is zooming past 5.00. We thought he would be our ace, and he’s been our biggest liability. As someone pointed out, it’s spookily similar to his first half in 2012:

Date G IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA OPS BAbip Str StL StS LD
Apr 8 to Jun 30, 2012 15 85.7 7.6 4.0 1.9 6.20 0.843 0.290 61% 19% 8% 18%
May 2 to Jul 22, 2014 15 86.3 8.3 2.7 1.5 5.32 0.862 0.364 65% 18% 8% 33%

A couple of things stand out. He’s giving up a ridiculous number of line drives, and as a result his BABIP is ridiculously high. (Astonishingly, his homer rate was even higher in 2012 — that’s why his ERA was a run higher — but it’s still plenty high in 2014.) Now… BABIPs tend to come to earth. But even though we like to think of BABIP as being luck-driven, there’s more to it than that. Of all of the batted ball types, line drives are the ones that are likeliest to turn into hits. It isn’t bad luck that is allowing all of his opponents to square up the ball. He’s grooving a lot of pitches.

And it’s a shame, because the team showed a bit of life last night. After he gave up a first-inning run, the offense came back and made it 1-1. After he gave up three in the third, they got one to make it 4-2. After he gave up two in the fourth, the offense went into Hibernation Mode for four innings, but they finally struck back for three in the 8th, making it 6-5. It was inspiring to watch the offense show a little fight, a game after the bats all laid down meekly like lambs.

But it wasn’t enough, and it’s awfully hard to rely on your offense to bail out a starter who coughs up six runs in four innings.

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