Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Thanks to Mac's family, bravesjournal.com is back.

29 Aug

Braves 5, Pure Evil 2

ESPN Box Score

Justin Upton continued his stealth campaign for MVP, with a two run homer and Jason Heyward continued to play well, and Craig Kimbrel continued to do Kraken-type things.

In other news, The Progeny came home from college to attend a funeral for our church’s youth pastor (cancer, so not an unexpected event) and I don’t have a whole lot of time to do a good recap. Hug your kids, and take some time to express your appreciation for the folks that should be told.

Let’s make it two tomorrow.

28 Aug

Braves 6, Mets 1 (By Kyle B.)

The Braves entered play Thursday night in Flushing looking to cap a ten game road trip with a series win against the Mets. At game time, the Braves found themselves 6.5 games back of the Nationals for the top spot in the NL East, and deadlocked with the Pirates at 1.5 games back for the final Wild Card spot. The Cardinals and Giants would meet in the play-in game if the standings hold.

Coming off his best start of the season (and likely his career) against the Reds, the Braves turned to Mike Minor to help end the trip on a high note. The Mets countered with their own lefty, “Jawbreaker” Jon Niese.

After playing tight affairs in the first two games of the series, I was hoping for a Braves blow out before heading back to Atlanta. In the top of the second, Minor helped himself by notching an RBI single which scored Andrelton Simmons, giving the Braves a 1-0 advantage. Things stayed relatively quiet until the top of the eighth when the Braves staked a 3-0 lead thanks to an Emilio Bonifacio triple and a Freddie Freeman RBI single.

In between, Minor was brilliant and his renaissance continued. His final line: seven innings pitched with five strikeouts against no walks. The lone run came on an Eric Campbell single which scored Travis d’Arnaud. On the offensive side, Minor went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.

Ryan Doumit joined the baseball team, crushing a two-run pinch hit home run in the top of the ninth for his first hit in the month of August. Bonifacio also added an RBI single in the ninth which scored Jason Heyward. The final score saw the Braves victorious, 6-1, totaling thirteen hits on the night. David Carpenter and Anthony Varvaro pitched scoreless frames in relief.

Up next is an important home series against the Marlins, who have been steadily in the Braves rear-view mirror since the All-Star Break. I’m not against sweeping the Fish. Let fury have the hour.

27 Aug

Braves 3, Mets 2

ESPN Box Score

A Julio Teheran v. Zack Wheeler matchup lived up to its billing, and the early innings sped right along while, as Don Sutton put it, both were pitching as if they were double parked.

Jason Heyward led off the game with a home run to left off Wheeler (I find it a little weird that both New York teams have a Z. Wheeler this year, the only two such players in MLB history. I know that’s completely irrelevant, but when the Braves aren’t giving you much on the field to keep you interested, you have to get creative.)

In the second, Wilmer Flores tied the game with a home run of his own. The Braves, however, wasted no time in taking the lead back the following inning, when Phil Gosselin singled, Freddie Freeman doubled, and Justin Upton grounded out to score Gosselin for a 2-1 lead. El Oso then hit a grounder to short, which Ruben Tejada failed to catch, allowing Freeman to cross with the Braves third run.

After giving up the homer, Teheran kept the Mets hitless through the 6th, allowing only a walk to mar his consecutive batters retired streak. He left in the 7th with one out and two on, and David Carpenter finished the inning without incident.

Jordan Walden pitched the 8th and made things interesting, giving up a hit, a walk, and a hit to allow the Mets to get within one run. A double play later, Andrelton Simmons saved the game with one of the best plays of his career. My thought process went “Dang! Tied game. Wait, wow, Simba got to that ball. Woah, he’s going to throw the ball. He…he…HE GOT THE OUT!!”

In the 9th, Craig Kimbrel didn’t want to make things too easy, allowing a hit and then falling behind 3-0 on the next hitter before walking him. A sacrifice bunt later, Gosselin got Eric Campbell out at the plate easily after the latter went on contact against a drawn in Braves infield. A popup later, Simba’s play had officially saved the game, and the Braves are once again tied with the Pirates a game out of a playoff spot. If the Braves grab a wildcard spot by one game this year, I think we can safely point to Andrelton as the reason why they made it. Seriously, if you didn’t see it, here’s the link one more time. You really don’t want to miss that one.

I’ve been trying to figure out how the 2013 Braves team was one of my favorite teams ever (I seriously loved that team) while the 2014 team has become one of the hardest for me to root for (I started watching in 1995, so I have no clue what it was like to root for a 70s or 80s team…) I mean, Uggla is the only everyday player who is no longer here, and last year these guys were a lovable bunch. The pitching staff and bench are nearly completely different, but a team’s bench has little bearing on how interesting the team is, and the pitching staff has not been the problem. My affection for the team started to wane with all of the weirdness at the end of last season (no one catching Chipper’s ceremonial first pitch, the team not feeling united in the Division Series, etc.), was somewhat revived with the rash of extensions that happened in February, but has been sorely lacking since Medlen went down. I was also a pretty big fan of Hudson and EOF, but I wouldn’t have thought their absences would affect how I feel about the whole team. Even when the Braves were more middle of the road at the end of last decade, I never felt so uninspired watching a game. What a weird season this has been.

Pirates, Giants, and Cardinals delenda est.
Natspo(s) SEMPER delenda est.

27 Aug

Mets 3, IWOTB 2

We suck.

25 Aug

The Surging Braves Reach First Place (by AtlCrackers Fan)

Ed. note: to see the previous installment in the 1914 Braves saga, click here

On August 5, Boston had moved into the first division of the National League, but still remained 6 1/2 games behind mighty New York. Twenty days later, the Braves were tied for first.

The Standings Aug. 5.

W L Pct. GB
New York Giants 54 37 0.593 -
Chicago Cubs 52 44 0.542 4.5
St. Louis Cardinals 51 47 0.52 6.5
Boston Braves 47 45 0.511 7.5
Cincinnati Reds 46 50 0.479 10.5
Philadelphia Phillies 44 49 0.473 11
Brooklyn Dodgers 40 50 0.444 13.5
Pittsburgh Pirates 40 52 0.435 14.5

Over that 20 day stretch, the Braves went 13-4-1, including a 3 game sweep over the Giants in New York. Concluding a home stand on Aug 11 with a 13-inning scoreless tie, Boston would hit the road for a swing around the western end of the league.

The Braves made two more personnel moves. On Aug. 10, Boston purchased J.C. “Red” Smith from Brooklyn, inserting him into the lineup in place of light-hitting Charlie Deal. Smith grew up in Atlanta, played baseball at Auburn, and had tied fellow southern collegiate player Del Pratt for the Southern League batting title in 1911.

On Aug. 18 the Braves purchased outfielder Herbie Moran from Cincinnati. With Larry Gilbert on the shelf from an injury, and recently acquired Josh Devore hitting .188, Stallings continued trying to improve his offense.

It wasn’t easy going. During this stretch, Boston played 5 extra innings affairs (counting the tie) and two double headers (sweeping in Cincinnati and splitting in Pittsburgh). On Aug. 8, The Braves played their 2nd game of the season at Fenway Park instead of their home field, Boston’s South End Grounds.

Perhaps equally important, the Giants played poorly. The three losses to the Braves came amidst a 1-8 stretch, such that at the end of the day on Aug 5, Boston had claimed a virtual tie for the league’s lead. Starting July 5, Boston had gone 33-9 and made up 15 games in the standings.

The Standings thru August 25:

W L Pct. GB Change
New York Giants 59 48 0.551 - 5-11
Boston Braves 60 49 0.55 - 13-4
St. Louis Cardinals 62 53 0.539 1 11-6
Chicago Cubs 59 54 0.522 3 7-10
Cincinnati Reds 52 60 0.464 9.5 6-10
Philadelphia Phillies 51 59 0.464 9.5 7-10
Pittsburgh Pirates 51 59 0.464 9.5 11-7
Brooklyn Dodgers 49 61 0.445 11.5 9-11
24 Aug

Red Legs 5 Braves 3

ESPN BOX

At the start of every baseball season you figure you will win 54, lose 54 and the other 54 will decide your fate. Today was one of those 54 loses. The Reds put three on the board in the fourth and never looked back. The Braves tried to make it interesting in the ninth, but couldn’t get the tying run in.

Every starter minus Tommy LaStella struck out at least once (Regression twice.)

Don’t worry, the Braves have Monday off and will make their way to Flushing to play the Mets.

College football starts this week, so we have that going for us. I say the Vols go 6-6.

 

24 Aug

Reds 1, Braves 0

With corner fences of about 325 ft, not many 1 – 0 games are played in the Great American Ball Park. This was one of those few…

Ervin Santana (i love this guy) on the mound tonite against the Reds Mike Leake. Both looked great in a pitching duel that ended with only a single run. Santana allowed only 4 hits, the first of which was a single in the 3rd. The Reds would not
get another hit until the 6th when…of all things…Leake doubled to left. More on that later….

As good as Ervin was tonite, Mike Leake was better. He allowed only 2 hits. In fact, Leake was incredible… he threw darts all night, pitching 6 2/3 innings, 2 hits, 6 strikeouts.

Emilio Bonifacio started off the game with a single to right, but the Braves could only muster 3 hits, 3 BB in 29 at bats. 10 Braves KOs and there’s not much more to it. As Ervin said in the post game, “…in a game like this, almost anything can happen…”. Little did we know it would be Mike Leake who doubled and scored on a Brandon Phillips single in the 6th.

In the 7th Andrelton lead off with a double and finally….something good was going to happen. But… Andrelton was stranded at third after Freddie and Jupton KO’d. CJ and Gattis then walked and for a brief moment, we thought we had a chance. But alas, Tommy the Stellar was stellar no more and he ended the threat with a groundout.

With 2 outs in the 8th, Emilio doubled, but was stranded again as Andrelton struck out swinging.

Aroldis Chapman came on in the 9th and struck out the side with his 147 mph fastball. Rumor has it that Chapman was a journeyman pitcher bouncing around the Cuban league trying to work out a knuckleball when he decided he’d finally found an edge. He purchased a humanoid robot kit on Ebay for $39.99. Ultimately he decided to chew off his pitching arm and rebuilt it at his kitchen table with the help of his cousin Armenio, a budding physicist.

Tomorrow we go against the Reds again with the Harangatang up to lead us on to victory. We are 7 back of the Nats, but only 1 back of the Giants for the second wildcard spot. All games are really big at this point in the season.

23 Aug

Braves 3, Reds 1 (12 Innings)

ESPN Box Score

Mike Minor made his season debut last night, and what a debut it was. 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball, giving up only a little duck snort flare to Billy Hamilton which tied the game at 1 after a walk to Zack Cozart.

Huh? Minor has started 19 other games and has a 5-8 record? Suuuure…tell me another.

Well, the only issue with Minor wasn’t his propensity to give up the occasional solo homer, which was surprising considering that the game was played in the Reds’ Little League home field, but that he walked four, the last being the aforementioned Cozart. Minor was challenging the hitters, but Gerald Laird kept calling for 3-2 curveballs that Minor just couldn’t get over. Of course, nobody on the Reds was hitting the ball, so that’s like complaining that Giselle Bundchen is only 5′ 11″. Other than that, the Mike Minor of 2013 was definitely on the bump last night.

The Braves offense was hitting Reds starter Mat Latos hard, racking up 9 hits in his six innings of work, but couldn’t group the hits together in any useful way. The Braves used 3 singles by Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and Chris Johnson, and a Tommy La Stellaground out to plate a run in the third, but that was it until Justin Upton announced his presence with authority in the top of the 12th with a towering two run shot off Manny Parra. Craig Kimbrel finished up for his 38th save.

That’s two good starts in a row now for Minor, against Oakland and now this gem versus the Reds. If he’s rounding into 2013 form, the rotation should be solid for the stretch run.

21 Aug

Braves 8, Reds 0 (By Kyle B.)

The Braves continued their road trip with a stop at a little league field named Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. For those of you new to the Braves Journal Community, you’ll want to take a minute to read this and familiarize yourself with the virtues of the City of Cincinnati. I don’t have much to add to Mac’s legendary analysis, but I’ll just point out this happened near Cincinnati when I was in law school. I’m not saying it’s a sign, but it’s probably a sign.

Due to Major League Baseball’s draconian blackout restrictions, I enjoyed this game with the company of Don, Jim, and Grandma on the radio side. I also played some Diablo III. No complaints. The Braves turned to their ace, Julio Teheran, to get the team back in the win column after exhibiting a master class in losing the previous night. Entering play, the Braves sat 1.5 games back of the Giants for the final Wild Card spot.

The slumping Reds countered with David Holmberg, a pitcher with 6.1 big league innings under his belt and a 11.37 career ERA. As ‘Rissa pointed out yesterday, Holmberg started the game with a 16.87 ERA for the 2014 campaign. At first pitch, I expected him to throw a perfect game.

In the second, the Braves got on the board with Andrelton Simmons’ second home run of the road trip. The shot came after a solid, seven pitch at-bat. In the top of the third, Holmberg predictably turned into a dumpster fire. After Heyward was awarded a single on appeal to lead off the inning, Phil Gosselin laid down a bunt single. Freddie Freeman followed with a walk to load the bases with nobody out, and Justin Upton extended his hit streak with a two run single. Chris Johnson doubled in a run in the next at-bat, and Evan Gattis made the game 5-0 with a sacrifice fly. This inning would also feature: an intentional walk to B.J. Upton (LoLoLoL) , a bean ball to Teheran, and a bases loaded walk to Heyward. Holmberg left the game with two outs in the 3rd and the Braves staking a 6-0 lead. To answer your question, yes, Holmberg managed to raise his ERA to 18.56.

At this point I spaced out a bit, but the Braves continued to add runs. The score was pushed to 7-0 on a Simmons fielder’s choice which scored Freeman. Justin Upton added another run in the fifth with a sacrifice fly. Unless it was a fever dream, Skip Schumaker pitched a scoreless inning in this game for Cincinnati. It was that kind of game.

Teheran was exceptional, going six innings while allowing four hits and no walks. With this performance, he dropped his ERA for the season below the 3.00 mark. James Russell pitched two shut-out innings, and the game was mopped up by Luis Avilan for a 8-0 Braves win.

With three more games against the struggling Reds, it would be nice to add a few more wins before heading to Flushing. Stay positive.

20 Aug

Braves 2, Pirates 3

ESPN Box Score

An auspicious beginning and a masterful Alex Wood start turned sour in a hurry and reminded us that the Braves are still the Braves. Honestly, that’s a bit of a relief—I had been growing worried that we’d lost them somehow.

A Jason Heyward walk in the first set a positive tone, and he came around to score on a Justin Upton single. In the top of the 6th the Braves had a great chance to pile more runs on, but they only got one out of a bases loaded, one out situation (who am I kidding, they actually got one! Are we already so far removed from last week that I am complaining about this?) Chris Johnson knocked in that run, but Freddie Freeman was thrown out by a mile also trying to score, and an Evan Gattis strikeout ended the inning.

Wood looked awesome until the 8th, having only given up three hits and faced one over the minimum. He gave up a leadoff walk to start the inning, though, and those always come back to haunt you. A ground rule double later he was out of the game. Jordan Walden relieved him and got a groundout to first for the first out and the first Pirate run of the game. Then the Pirates tied the game on a wild pitch, and Wood’s gem was wasted.

The 9th inning brought more heartache to a Braves team that has seen plenty of it in August (just keep repeating to yourself, “at least they are not the Rockies…at least they are not the Rockies…”) David Carpenter gave up a leadoff bloop and then recovered to get Andrew McCutchen to popup for the first out. Starling Marte followed with a shot to left-center, which bounced off of Justin Upton’s glove after neither he nor his brother bothered to call for the ball. B.J. nearly ran into him, and the Uptons’ inability to communicate left runners on second and third with one out. A sac fly later that was that.

The Braves did end up winning a series on the road, so that’s a marked improvement already over their last road trip. You can’t win them all, unless you’re the Nationals and then you can win them all unless you’re playing the Braves.

The Braves head to the bandbox in Cincinnati next, where they take on a lefty with a 16.87 ERA tomorrow night. The Braves have had decent success against lefties this season and counter with their ace, so I’d be shocked if the Reds don’t win 10-0 because that’s baseball.

Natspo(s) delenda est.

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