Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Scarred, but smarter.

25 Apr


The Braves have found two surefire ways to avoid a loss during this young season: play the Padres, or get rained out. The latter was what they implemented tonight. That, coupled with yesterday’s off day, has granted Braves fans two straight calendar days without a loss. We are getting spoiled.

The Braves will make up this game in September and attempt to kick off this series against the Mets tomorrow night. They have now made more trips to New York this season than they have to Atlanta, and it’s the end of April. One day, this month will end, and the Braves will get to play some games in Atlanta. Novel idea, I know. Until then, enjoy New York fellas.

23 Apr

Phillies 5, Braves 2

It looked as if the Braves were going to lose another close ballgame to the Phillies, but the Braves bullpen took care of that silly notion, as 3 consecutive Phillie home runs in the bottom of the 8th helped turn a 1-1 pitchers duel into a 5-1 Phillies lead.  Cesar Hernandez, Aaron Altherr, and Odubel Herrera did the honors for the Phillies; Hernandez and Altherr off of Arodys Vizcaino, and Herrera off of Ian Krol.

The aforementioned pitchers duel featured Mike Foltynewicz for the Braves and Zach Eflin for the Phillies.  Foltynewicz was terrific, going 7 innings and allowing only 4 hits, 2 walks, and 1 earned run, while notching 9 strikeouts.  The Phillies played a bit of a Sunday lineup, but Folty passed the eye test, with good command and effectiveness of both his curveball and changeup.  Eflin was even better, (unadjusted for Barveness) allowing only 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 earned run in his 7 innings.

Matt Kemp plied his useful skill in the 7th for the Braves first run.  The Braves scratched across another run in the 9th and actually had 2 subsequent shots with the bases loaded, but the the hole was too deep, and ultimately the Braves lost to the Eflin Phillies 5-2.

The Braves are now 6-12, have lost 6 in a row, and have a 2-9 record on the road.  Beginning on Tuesday against the Mets there are 6 more road games to endure before returning to SunTrust Park.  If the road woes don’t turn around this week, it will be interesting to see the effect on the long awaited SunTrust revenue boom, if the Braves drop so far out as to depress even the greatest optimists before the home schedule even begins in earnest.

The funniest thing I ever heard about Philadelphia:  “Philadelphia, known as ‘The City of Brotherly Love’ ever since Benjamin Franklin invented sarcasm in 1767, is the largest city in Pennsylvania and a suburb of New York.” – Mac Thomason.

Welcome to Philadelphia game thread: July 5, Braves at Phillies

23 Apr

‘For now they kill me with a living death’ Braves 3 Phillies 4

A little over the top but, dear me, PLEASE. Just when we thought we had taken advantage of some crazy errors and base running by the Phils in the eighth and ninth and had then been rescued from the brink of yet another one run loss by  Phillips’ 2 out homer to tie…and Dansby had bump started and scored the go ahead run in the top of the tenth…and JJ had runners on but with two vital outs in the bottom of that innings…a double was laced off the right field wall to score the tying and winning runs. Yeah, done that.

So no more narrative, it’s redundant . Instead some thoughts on individuals, there is plenty to like.

GARCIA …great outing, much his best, pretty much perfect for 5 but then tired and left things up in the 6th when i thought Snit was slow to take him out. Even so we were still tied going into the 7th, 2-2. That was hardly a typical performance you would expect from a number five starter. Good for him.

ENDER…how strange this game is…2 for his last 23 or something, seemingly out of confidence again after his earlier heroics at STF…he has looked these last few nights like he did at the beginning of last year…but then, when he broke out, he sustained it and had a terrific second half, no streaks there. He is so important as lead off for us – Freddie’s solo home runs really infuriate. Ender is a plus plus asset for us,may he refind his touch and soon.

ADONIS…I’m biased, i like him but, sure, if and when we can get a leftie up from Gwinnet then a platoon, sure. His defense has greatly improved after a shaky start, I like him because he hits the ball hard, to all fields. With men on base i shudder too, just a little more elevation please. Picture perfect play with Flowers tonight on the caught stealing at 3rd.

FREDDIE…he’s a rock, on base four times tonight. Three were walks though, we need Kemp to get going to stop that. And a couple on in front please.

KEMP…there’s not much subtlety as to how they are pitching him – away, away, away.(When he had his hot start did he ever hit hard to right field?) The one time when a breaking pitch to the outside broke back over the plate was the first time i remember him hitting a solid line drive, to CF for a single.

NECK…nothing tonight but he has been a rock lately. Was anyone else surprised though that he made seemingly no real effort to catch the line drive to his left that won the game, gave up on it? Or was the camera angle deceptive, reducing the lateral distance between him and the ball?

PHILLIPS… Well, how many of us were quite wrong in this department. Lovely tying homer. He is making solid contact. Comic cuts incident defensively late in the game when first he and then Dansby could not get the ball out of their gloves to make an easy out. Back to back, successive plays.

FLOWERS…total respect for this guy…pending some future phenom arrival he is a major asset to this club in his all round play. Even throwing out base runners, the throw to third tonight to Adonis was perfect. I bet it surprised you as much as it did me. He is another rock in our line up.

DANSBY…Some smiles in the dugout tonight with Freddie after a line drive deep to the wall in RCF had been brilliantly caught to thwart him yet again. And then he scored the go ahead run in the 10th. He is coming round, can you imagine the pressure, what it feels like to be carrying the Number Two tag while you endure a horrible April. The smiles, his very much included, made my day.

BULLPEN…For a change the bats didn’t lose the game tonight, the Pen did. The three usual suspects were all just a tad ugly , not their usual metronomic selves, but they got away with it until JJ allowed two on with two out and then left an outside pitch up. Short and sweet.


PLAY OF THE NIGHT, the HaHa Department.

By our esteemed opponents who, generally, have fielded brilliantly.Dansby on first, late, one out, ground ball to second baseman. He had the choice for the sure out at first.

But, suddenly, mirabile dictu, he saw what he took to be his short stop streaking to cover third from what would be an outrageous attempt by Dansby to continue to third. So he threw a bullet across the infield to third base, perfect throw. But no one was there.

Except the grateful Dansby, a few seconds later,  as the errant throw to nobody ricocheted away off the fence.

We needed that memory, to fight the numb ending.

22 Apr

Philadelphia 4, Atlanta 3

In a battle of pitch to contact starters, the Phillies’ Jeremy Hellickson “outduelled” the Braves’ Bartolo Colon last night as Atlanta droppred its fourth straight contest to fall to 6-10 on the year.

Colon allowed 11 hits and four runs in his sven innings of work, while Hellickson allowed Atlanta 2 runs on three hits – Adonis Garcia singling after an Ender Inciarte double in the 4th, and a Freddie Freeman no-doubter solo shot in the 6th. Garcia then led off the 9th with a solo shot off Phils closer Hector Neris through a rain shower. Then after a 24 minute weather delay, the Braves made it interesting with two out – with a Nick Markakis single followed by a Brandon Phillips single. However, Tyler Flowers was unable to seal the deal, striking out after a long battle.

Jamie Garcia, with his more hits allowed than innings pitched goes tonight, looking to get back on the winning side.

20 Apr

The Nationals Are Stupid Meanyheads.

We’re probably not going to beat these teams consistently. Or… inconsistently. The Nationals, who must delenda, added onto their already stacked roster by taking a big chunk out of their farm, and they’re in supreme “win now” mode with Bryce Harper heading to New York soon. They should be beat us.

Julio Teheran couldn’t find the zone, and when he did, the ball was hit very hard by Bryce Harper. Whatever. He’s a good pitcher, and Bryce Harper is a great hitter. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

Tip your cap. They’re a good squad, and they should be.

19 Apr

No Longer Perfect at SunTrust

The Braves started 5-0 at Turner Field twenty years ago, but only 4-0 at SunTrust this year. This proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Turner Field was clearly the superior ballpark of the two. Now we know.

The Nationals rolled into town and looked at the Braves’ modest winning streak, laughed, scoffed and said, “that’s cute; why don’t you try playing ball with the big boys?” The Braves tried, and failed. Ah, San Diego, when can we see you again?

Mike Foltynewicz drew the short straw and had to pitch against Max Scherzer, admittedly a hard assignment on the best of days. Folty actually pitched pretty well, faltering only in the 5th when he gave up three hits and a walk, good for two Nationals runs. Over the rest of the seven innings he pitched, he scattered only two hits and three walks, and looked pretty dominant out there. If that Folty can show up more often than not, he’ll be fun to watch for years to come.

Eric O’Flaherty relieved him in the 8th, and he gave up two doubles and a run in 2/3 of an inning before Luke Jackson came on to finish the inning. Jackson then pitched the 9th in perfect fashion to hold the Nationals to only three runs on the evening, a feat that is to be lauded.

The problem lay not with the Atlanta pitching, then, but with the offense having to face Mad Max. They could do pretty much nothing against him over his seven innings, scraping together only two hits and striking out seven times. They finally broke through against the Nationals bullpen in the 9th, when Freddie Freeman and Brandon Phillips collected singles off of Blake Treinen and Tyler Flowers walked to load the bases. A walk to Kurt Suzuki forced the lone Braves run in, before Shawn Kelley entered the fray and quickly got the final two outs to end the threat and the game.

And that was that, a 3-1 loss against the Nationals at home against their ace. It could have been much worse, and the Braves would have been hard pressed to make it much better. Toss that one in the loss column and hope for a better result tonight as Julio Teheran faces off against Joe Ross in his season debut. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Braves can win a few against Washington this year.

Nationals delenda est.

18 Apr

The kid comes through and the operation becomes complete: Braves 5, Padres 4

We have discovered that the San Diego Padres are a very much not good team. Have we discovered that the Braves might be good? Probably not, but I think it is fair to say that they meet the Gus Czinski standard: “We don’t suck.”

Frequently, an endeavor meets a critical moment. A point when success can be complete, or struggle can continue. Eventually, we got to that point last night; but first, the preliminaries.
Jaime Garcia started off rough with 3 straight hits, then rocked along nicely until the 7th. Jose Ramirez took over and finished that one.

The hitter of the night overall was the big cheese, the one in charge. You know him as Freddie Freeman, but I will call him Major John Howard. Major Howard hit 2 home runs and 2 doubles. At end of 7, Braves 3, Padres 2.

Then Arodys Vizcaino had an uncharacteristic appearance. After 2 strikeouts, he kind of had a meltdown. So, we can compare him to Wally Parr. Clearing the fixed gun emplacement, but then pushing the electric trigger, causing a shell to fire, and hitting a nearby hospital. Arodys then gave up walk, home run (which put the Padres in front by a run), his own throwing error (on a tough play) and another walk. Luke Jackson came in and finished the inning up.

Major Howard came back to tie it in the bottom of the 8th. His second home run. Brian Snitker went with Jim Johnson in the “non save situation” and he was good.

So, in the bottom of the 9th, Adonis Garcia out, Kurt Suzuki single, Anthony Recker out. Not exactly the start of a rally. D’Arnaud had come in to run for Suzuki. then Emiliano Bonifacio hit a double (who knew?). The Padres walked the ever dangerous slugger Ender Inciarte to load the bases. Now, “the kid” faced his challenge (Dansby Swanson). In this moment, did the kid show the fortitude of Sergeant Charles “Wagger” Thornton. One of 5 P(rojector), I(nfantry), A(nti), T(ank) guns was operational after the gliders crash landed just after midnight on June 6, 1944. Thornton was assigned the task of taking that forward to prevent a tank counterattack. A PIAT was effective against a tank according to the “book” at 100 yards, but no fool who had ever used one would trust it at more than 50 yards. And, within a few minutes of Thornton hiding behind the low stone wall at the front of the Café Gondree, what probably were some old French model tanks (Thorton said it was a German Mark IV) turned toward the bridges. Thornton would get one shot. So, at 50 yards, he hit the lead tank. It exploded over and over for in excess of an hour. The remaining tanks pulled back to wait for reinforcements. Steven Ambrose has called this “the most important shot, in the most important engagement, in the most important battle, in the most important war, in the history of the world.”

Well, our Thornton didn’t do anything quite that important, but his walk off single was a big step forward for him and his club.

16 Apr

Braves 9, Padres 2

Win, win, win.  

Skip Caray’s wink at the notion that winning can ever become tiresome is something Braves fans from both Skip’s era and today can appreciate, and a 4 game winning streak surely has some Braves fans headed for a tipping point on the traditional Hope/Doom binary.However, a quick look at the Padre roster, and Braves fans especially will quickly recognize where the Padres are on the rebuilding curve, at least at the Major League level.

Today, Brandon Phillips and Tyler Flowers went a combined 5 for 7 with 5 RBI’s, and Ender Inciarte hit his 4th home run in 4 games. Bartolo Colon was dominant on the mound, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 run in 7 innings.On the negative side, Flowers left with a hamstring injury in the 7th and is listed as day-to-day.

The question of the day is: are the Braves the team that was no-hit for 4 innings today by Trevor freaking Cahill, or the team that scored 9 runs in their last 4 at-bats?Why not both?It’s the nature of the sport, and today’s game can serve as a metaphor for the season to date.After a 1 and 6 start, the Braves are now at 5 and 6 and (it’s never too early to say) just 1 1/2 games out of first. 

The Braves have played some good teams and some bad, some road games and some home, faced all grades of pitchers, and will be repeating this process for about 24 more weeks.The long slog continues Monday as the Braves go for the 4 game sweep.

Funniest thing I ever heard about San Diego: I would post the funniest thing I ever heard about San Diego, but I was advised to stay classy.

15 Apr

back to back to back Braves 4….nuckled Padres 2 (by blazon)

Two hours and fifteen minutes sufficed to settle this mellow contest on Jackie Robinson Day. Courtesy of Fox the first innings was played in the ether – when they did deign to let us in their regional guys from SD manned the booth and were a pleasant surprise. Justin Kutchner did play by play, Preston Wilson color. They scored on two points – they said a lot of pleasant things about the Braves without condescension – their required tributes to Robinson were many and spotted throughout the game and Wilson, as one who directly benefited, was moving. Amusingly, he also had a story or two about Smoltz in their new broadcasting roles.

When we were finally permitted to view our game and not Cleveland’s, Dickey, who’d had an easy first so they said, promptly gave up back to back homers. We stayed behind 0/2 till the third when Dansby and Neck both had RBI singles to tie. Gatsby, as he is called in these parts, had horrible AB’s last night ballooning everything up weakly but his single here was to right field and hit low with power and authority. Neck continues to impress at the plate. So it was 2/2 going into the 4th.

In the bottom of the fourth we left 2 on. But the top of the innings was enlivened by the Dickey kick to propel a bunt foul. Not a nudge with the side of his foot but a full blooded kick – memory did not serve up another such from the past. In the top of the fifth, Dickey continuing to pitch tenaciously, it was the Padres’ turn to leave two runners on.

In the bottom of the fifth an event occurred which might well have gone viral around the world, an inch or two either way. Freddie had singled and was likely sent on his way to second in a hit and run. As he barrelled in towards the bag, his left leg was fully stretched out to the side and threatening. Cue our friend Erick Aybar who arrived there from a 45 degree angle with his legs splayed wide, wide open –  Freddie’s left foot, most certainly not willfully, slid between both guides and was heading straight toward Hallelujah City when, with a masterful display of control and compassion, impact was shepherded off to the more friendly side regions. They ended up tangled flat on the bag, each in the other’s arms, much smiles and sighs of relief, all round you might think. No Hibar here.

The top of the 6th started with Hedges, 2/31 coming in, he who had homered earlier, now hit a double but he too was wasted. Come the bottom half, lo and behold, it was our favorite whipping boys who went back to back out of the park. Phillips first at 447 feet to straight center, Garcia his preferred route to right center bouncing off and over the substantial brick wall added to increase the degree of difficulty .

Somewhere behind all this BTW are several shortish rows of fancy seats with what appears to be calligraphy on them – could not make out what was happening. What it most resembled, from a distance, was one of those mausoleums for the multitudes where the customers are boxed and slid in place in their coffins -0r an assembled North Korean cabinet meeting trying to figure who’s the next to go.. Glad to say in this case of course they were sitting happily outside in their seats, coke in hand. Could someone who has been there, or better still, sat there, please enlighten, what are these seats,why do they look so odd on the screen and what do they cost?

Relief was called up in the top of the seventh when their first two batters had reached, bizarrely, both sending Dickey sprawling as he tried unsuccessfully to field their hard hit grounders which bounced off him and away. He had done us proud. As did Suzuki, no pass balls. Ramirez came on and cleaned up emphatically. Funnily enough the aforesaid Wilson had just said Ramirez was not one of those who could get it to 95 when a 97 was posted. To his credit he called himself out and laughed. Self deprecation in this business brings welcome relief.

Just like last night the Braves bullpen performed like clockwork. Vizcaino in the eighth, JJ polishing off the ninth. Much maligned a week or two ago they now look solid from the right  and with Mauricio still to come.

It was a grand night all round. Three in a row, all the Robinson tributes, lots of laughs with Erick and Freddie, balls flying out of the Park. As our kids used to say, are we there yet?

15 Apr

Ender’s Game–Braves 5 Padres 2

Ok, I apologize. That’s a cheap, unoriginal, and not at all clever play on Inciarte’s unusual name.
But it really was his game. Ender will go down in history with the first hit, first run scored, and first home run at SunTrust Park. He also caught the first and last outs of the game. He was the main reason the Braves won the home opener (and avoided what would have been a pretty embarrassing defeat after all the hype and ceremony).

Julio pitched pretty well. He wasn’t sharp—he walked four and hit two more batters. But there weren’t many hard hit balls and he limited the damage. He could only go six innings because with all the wildness it took him 100 pitches to go that far. Fortunately for the Braves, the bullpen came through. Ramirez, Vizcaino, and Johnson each pitched a scoreless inning. (Did you realize that since that abysmal collapse in Pittsburgh last Sunday–when they blew a two run lead in the 8th and a one run lead in the 10th—the pen has strung together nine scoreless innings?)

I got a little PTSD flashback to the first two months of last season, when our Braves were historically awful. What does it say about the Padres that two of the players they started were Erick Aybar and Jhoulys Chacin? And wouldn’t you know that Chacin drove in Aybar for the Padres’ first run?

Let’s take this opportunity to survey where we are and what we know about the 2017 Braves team. What conclusions can we draw so far based on nine games? ALMOST NONE. We know the bench is one of the weakest you’ll ever see, but we knew that before opening day. Kemp’s injury has only made it more obvious. Adonis Garcia is not a major league caliber third baseman—but again no surprise. The bullpen may be a strength, but we’ll see.

There are three players in the lineup that we’re counting on for the next good Braves team: Freddie, Ender, and Swanson. So far, Freeman is showing that he may have taken it to the next level; he is one of the best offensive players in baseball. Of course we don’t expect Ender to be a power hitter, but you gotta like everything he does bring to the table. Dansby is off to a weak start, but he should come around. Teheran is a very good starting pitcher. His ERA in three games is under 1.00. He’s not that good, but he’s awfully dependable.

Two notes about the past and the future. As a Braves fan from way back, I always get sentimental when they honor the past greats. It was wonderful to see in the pregame ceremony Niekro, Murph, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, Cox, and especially Henry Aaron. He will always be the greatest Brave, and I got a little chill seeing him walk out and toss the first pitch. Great player and great man.

As to the future, last season for the first time in my life I paid more attention to the minor league box scores than to the big league games. I find I’m doing it again. I know There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, but Coppy has staked this team’s future on a version of that. His bet is that although no one pitcher can be counted on, if you have ten to fifteen great prospects, three or four may turn out to be top of the rotation starters. Just look at the starts already this season by Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, and Touki Toussaint (among several others). Hard not to get excited. I also know they are just as likely to lead to disappointment. Ah, such is baseball.

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