Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Scarred, but smarter.

28 May

Giants 7, Braves 1

R.A. Dickey ate 6 more innings.  They were not delicious.

The Giants picked up 7 runs in the first 3 innings to take the series 2 games to 1.  Dickey allowed 6 hits and walked 5 in the first 2+ innings, and 6 of the runs were earned.  Johnny Cueto and 3 relievers held the Braves to 7 hits, 3 by Matt Kemp.

I’m going to say something that may be considered heretical:  I’ve never believed in “hibernation mode.” It’s perfectly natural for a team to go many innings without scoring a run, no matter how many runs they score early on.  In fact, it’s the nature of the game. Having said that, the Giants went into hibernation mode.  A sacrifice fly by Cueto in the 3rd marked the first of 18 consecutive outs the Giants made to close out the game.  Matt Wisler recorded the final 6 of those, 1 by strikeout.

The series loss marks the first lost series since the 2 game sweep in Houston, May 9 and 10.  The Braves have a 10 and 7 record over this stretch, and maintain a 1/2 game lead over the 3rd place Mets, who play later on ESPN because New York.  Keep hooooooooooope! alive.

The Braves try again on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anywhere-There-Might-Not-Be-Dodgers-Fans, 9:07 pm Eastern time.

The funniest thing I ever heard about San Francisco:  “Buster Posey was safe.” – some umpire.  (Note: full disclosure, this is NOT the funniest thing I ever heard about San Francisco.)

28 May

Braves 3 Giants6…’There is some corner of a foreign field’

No Saturday Night high jinks tonight. Instead, an appropriate requiem.

Not a game to quicken the pulse, as some losses can still be, but rather a total dirge until a brief offensive flurry at the end. It was an effort to stay awake and another to dream up the bon mot to describe it. You can lose games by margins as great or greater than this and still feel stimulated and entertained. Tonight, as a Braves fan, you could not. And it was essentially the contrast between the two starting pitchers that picked them up – and dropped us down- and set the tone for the whole encounter.

Their young oddly named kid, Ty Blach, had pitched 600 innings in the minors before getting up(anyone have any idea of our leading MiLB pitcher in that category? It would be interesting to know.) Once up he seems to be doing well with a recent victory over the Cubs to his credit. More importantly he exudes a aura of enthusiasm about what he is doing.

Our guy not so. Folty doesn’t suck, he sulks. And it’s about time he grew up in that department, win or lose. As early as the second he had given up a 2 run homer to Hundley and here we go again, A classic meatball in the fourth made it 4-0. But, more than that, was his body language. He needs to stop it, his teammates need sit him down.

Searching for the the few positives in the game…

Tyler Flowers…amazing guy who has proved us all wrong…2 more hits, .357, uses the whole field. I would call him the consummate professional, his bearing, his attitude. The prototypical non-Folty.
Rio Ruiz…nice opposite field power off a good leftie but, come on, the left fielder totally screwed it up and you’re on 2nd?! Is he slow, i dunno.Shouldn’t be with that age on him.

Similarly, on the bases, Neck on first, Kemp doubles into the very far reaches of the RF corner, hits the wall, Markakis stopped at third. That wasn’t Bryce Harper playing right field. As a team we appear to have totally stopped stealing bases. It makes it that much more difficult to put pressure on the pitcher, we need to restart, we had three speedsters out there tonight.

I thought Jackson and Freeman pitched a good inning , Sam hit 96. Kroll, no..
Dansby for all his struggles continues to show great speed and gusto around the bases. Let’s start him when he gets on, Ender too.

That’s about it. Did you go to bed early?!

‘ The sun going down on we.’

27 May

Braves 2, Giants Zip

You’d have to say the most significant thing about last night’s game was the start delivered Jaime Garcia. Jaime went 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 5, giving up only 4 hits with 2 walks. He was consistently sharp throughout, around the plate and down in the zone. 59 of his 82 pitches were strikes. Garcia’s ERA is now down to 3.58. Skeptics have pointed out that his peripherals have not been as good as his results so far, but this start was excellent by any measure.

Matt Cain was just about as good for the Giants. Cain and Garcia were two of the best starters in the league in the first years of this decade. Although both have fallen on hard times the last few years, they both pitched like it was 2011. The Braves offense only managed 7 hits against Cain in 7 innings, but in the fateful 7th, the Braves scored both runs of the game on a single play.

Which brings me to the most satisfying thing about the game. In the top of the 7th, the Braves had runners on first and second with two outs and the pitcher spot up. Garcia had pitched really well at that point with a very low pitch count, but this may be the one opportunity to break through in a scoreless game. Do you pinch hit? In almost every game so far this year, the first pinch hitter off the bench has been Emilio Bonifacio, no matter how high the leverage. You all know the results: Bonifacio is one of the three or four worst hitters in the league—and I’m including pitchers. If Snit had gone to Emilio in that situation, I would have broken my television. Really, you have to empathize with Snitker there. What do you do? Bonifacio has an OPS of .391 (WTF?!!) So I guess you then turn your attention to Danny Santana. His OPS as a Brave is .312! Jace was on the bench, but as much as I like Jace, his numbers are pretty awful (OPS .571). So Snitker let Garcia hit for himself.

Result: Base hit to left! Flowers lumbered home from second, the throw to the plate hit him and trickled up the first base line. Swanson, as is his wont, hustled all the way and scored from first. Good call, Snit.

One of the odd things about Garcia hitting for himself is that Snitker took him out in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and a runner on, and still only at 82 pitches. Reminiscent of the way Fredi would let a pitcher hit for himself and then quickly give him the hook. (Was there a Braves Journal term for that?) I used to complain about that then. With this bench, you’ve gotta be happy any time the pitcher hits for himself.

The 2017 version of O’Ventbrel (Ravizson? Ramcainoson? Sorry—we’ll have to come up something better than that) finished the shutout without giving up a hit. Seriously, those three at the backend of the pen are not in the same category as the legendary trio from 2011, but they have been really good.

Not much to talk about on offense. Tyler Flowers had two more hits and scored the winning run. Fun fact: The Braves’ catchers have together accumulated 1.7 WAR Flowers 1.0, Suzuki .7). Buster Posey is having a terrific year, but the Braves’ catchers WAR of 1.7 is better than the Giants’ catcher WAR of 1.6 (Posey 1.9, Hundley -3).

This Braves’ team has been good enough to play at least .500 ball on offense, and the bullpen, especially the back three, have been quite good. The big question mark has been the starting pitching. We’ve now had a couple of very good starts in a row from Julio and Jaime. Folty has been the best starter by most measures. He goes tonight with a chance to reclaim the team starter ERA lead from Garcia.

25 May

Pittsburgh Pirates > Josh Collmenter’s Tomahawks

Interesting game. Julio Teheran, overall, made some adjustments to his control and saw a strong outing: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K’s. An error by Jace Peterson, filling in at short, led to an inning continuing and a 3 run homer (all runs were considered unearned). But considering the Jekyll and Hyde routine that JT had been under between his home and road starts, a strong start at home is encouraging.

The good thing about this season is that any modest deficit is not insurmountable. Down 3-0, the Braves scored 4 runs in the 6th on 5 hits to take the lead. For the day, Ender Inciarte, Brandon Phillips, Matt Kemp, and Rio Ruiz all had 2 hits, and they had a total of 12 hits and no home runs. This team can score runs without hitting the long ball, and that’s also encouraging.

But after throwing the equivalent of two straight no-hitters (54 batters retired without giving up a hit), the bullpen unit ran out of luck. Jason Motte, Ian Krol, and Luke Jackson bridged the gap to the ninth, but Jose Ramirez, filling in for Jim Johnson and/or Arodys Vizcaino, gave up 2 runs to blow the save. Josh Collmenter, in the worst relief outing since the infamous John Smoltz debacle at Shea Stadium, gave up 7 runs in 1 inning, including back-to-back-to-back home runs.

For his troubles, Josh Collmenter was DFA’ed and Matt Wisler was re-called. Collmenter had 3 starts last year and looked mostly good, and he also had a good April where he averaged almost 2 innings per outing. But in May, he was pretty much a one-inning guy, and he absolutely imploded. Unfortunate.

24 May

Pirates 5, Braves 6

I might have to forgive Matt Adams for being a Cardinal. Three games into his Braves career, he’s already becoming a bit of a folk hero. If he keeps this up, he’ll start encroaching onto Brooks Conrad territory.

This game had a bit of everything in it. Lots of hits, a few runs, a Braves bullpen that faltered for the first time in a long time, a rain delay that lasted longer than many games do, two blown saves, and a walkoff hit in the wee hours of the morning.

R.A. Dickey started the game on short rest, but gave his team a solid effort over six innings. He gave up solo runs in the 1st, 3rd, and 6th innings and left trailing 3-1. That was, quite frankly, fairly impressive, considering he gave up 11 hits and 3 walks in those six innings. He managed to wriggle out of jam after jam and keep his team in the ballgame. The Braves picked up their second run in the bottom of the 6th on Matt Adams‘ second home run in a Braves uniform to inch closer, and Dickey might have come out again to start the 7th, but rain forced the game into a delay. When play resumed three hours and twelve minutes later, both starting pitchers were ancient history.

Kurt Suzuki got the Braves on the board in the 4th inning when he singled to drive home Matt Adams, who had led off the inning with a double. Suzuki finished the game going 3-for-4 to raise his average to .266. The Braves catchers have literally been something else this year.

The 7th inning finally got started around 1 am, and Sam Freeman was the first Brave out of the bullpen. With two outs, he allowed a single to Alen Hanson, breaking the streak of 56 consecutive batters the bullpen had faced without allowing a hit. I never would have guessed this motley crew would have set that franchise record this year. By the time the bottom of the 7th rolled around, the Braves bats were the only thing still awake in the city of Atlanta. They put up two runs on three hits, with RBI singles by Brandon Phillips and Matt Kemp, to take a 4-3 lead.

Jim Johnson tried to preserve that lead and nail down the save in the 9th, but he gave up a bases-loaded single to Jordy Mercer, surrendering the lead and ending the Braves bullpen’s scoreless streak at 23 innings. The Braves entered the bottom of the 9th down by one again, but the offense decided they hadn’t stuck around the ballpark for over six hours to just lose. To the great delight of the 87 fans who were still in attendance, Nick Markakis doubled with two outs to score Ender Inciarte and tie the game. After an intentional walk to Kemp, Matt Adams decided the game had gone on quite long enough, far too long for extra innings, and he hit a ball down the left field line that would have been an easy double under normal circumstances. Markakis jogged home to give the Braves the walkoff win.

As blazon noted in the previous thread, Tony Watson, the Pirates closer, who entered last night 10-for-11 in save opportunities, is a tough LHP, and all three of the Braves hits in the 9th that won the game came from lefties. What an amazing, and unlikely, victory.

Both teams had fifteen hits on the evening, and five Braves collected multiple hits. Inciarte followed up his 5-for-5 performance on Monday with a 3-for-4 game Tuesday. He refuses to let Matt Adams, who has gone 5-for-13 with 3 runs and 4 RBI in a Braves uniform, have all the fun.
The Braves are only three games under .500 now, and in sole possession of 2nd place in the division. While any ranking in the NL East is pretty unimpressive this year, it is a head scratching mystery as to how the Braves have managed to get where they are.

These two teams square off again tonight, same bat time, same bat channel. With a noon start tomorrow and a short night last night, I am sure everyone is hoping for a fast contest tonight. Jome Julio will toe the rubber for the Bravos. Viewer discretion is advised.

Natspos delenda est.

23 May

Kwajalein: Braves 5, Pirates of the Monongahela 2

Why Kwajalein? A good start leading to a clear victory, never seriously in doubt, but not overwhelming except as a combined forces operation. At Kwajalein Air Corps bombardment, Naval bombardment, the lessons learned from Tarawa, an “island skipping” campaign, and a little experience led to a significant victory.

The good defense of having Gerrit Cole pitching did not stop the Braves post Freddie Freeman offense from pushing from island to island. The shelling started in the 3rd inning with the Pirates getting 1. Without a bad throw from Dansby Swanson, they probably don’t get that. Bottom half came the answer. First a double by the Lieutenant. Then, a popped up bunt by Mike Foltenewicz. Then Ender Inciarte poked one past 3rd that hit the cut out on the stands and he was thrown out trying to stretch out a double, but Swanson scored. Then, the 16 inch guns of the fleet opened up. As the 16 or so bags of powder went off, Brandon Phillips hit one into left center about 15 rows up. So, a lead.

In the fifth it extended to 5 to 1 with the big blow being a 2 out 2 run homer from the recently acquired Matt Adams.

Folty was pretty good through 5. In the 6th, he started wobbling. After Folty gave up 1 more, Jason Motte came in with no outs and runners on the corners. Strike out (after falling behind 3 – 0), strike out, ground out. A real hero.

That ended the story because after the terrible stories of Bataan and Wake Island, the relief corps has really turned it around.

21 May

Nationals 3, Braves 2

The Braves stranglehold on 2nd place in the NL East remains at 1/2 game.

Stephen Strasburg went 7 2/3 strong innings to help the Nationals salvage a game from the 3 game series.  Strasburg gave up 5 hits and a walk, and struck out 11.  Dansby Swanson’s 2 run double in the 8th chased him; Koda Glover finished up from there.

Strasburg’s work overshadowed an excellent performance from Jaime Garcia, who unlike Strasburg, managed to finish his 8th inning. Garcia gave up 7 hits, walked none, and struck out 8. A Daniel Murphy home run in the 2nd, and 2 unearned runs in the 3rd doomed Garcia, those unearned runs centering around a dropped fly ball by Nick Markakis.

The Braves have still played 5 more games on the road than at home, and Pittsburgh comes to town Monday to start a 4 game set.

Natspos delenda est.

The funniest thing I ever heard about Washington (paraphrased from memory):  “The NBA Washington Bullets announced today that they are changing their name.  They no longer want a name associated with gun violence.  So from this day forward the team will be known as:  ‘The Bullets’.” – David Letterman

20 May

Weight Watching BRAVES 5 Neurotic Shrieking NATS 2

Well, we had prayed for 5 innings from him…and we nearly got it…Bartolo had it back tonight, we feared it had gone for good, his control…he gave Scherzer all he could handle and some and he opened the fifth ahead 3-0 by virtue of a 2 run homer early from Rio Ruiz and a solo shot from Matt Kemp in the 4th (Matt Kemp – hands up all you naysayers who couldn’t have been more wrong about him if you tried.) Matt BTW contributes a full half of our 50 pound weight loss this year – see below for the other.

A defensive miscue blew 2 from our lead with only one out. Snit had to warm Kroll up in a hurry and brought him in to face Harper and Zimmerman. Pop Up/K (Chief!). Great Stuff, Harper squealed in loud frustration, all 35,000 must have heard him.

So, Bartolo, we salute you. Here’s a song custom made for your performance today, describing an activity you perfected as we watched in amazement.

Who are these guys? Bart will know, he was only about 28 when this cut was made. Ain’t Mick pretty.

To resume. It then became very important we strike out etc SAP with our one run lead in the bottom of the fifth with thundercloud, rain and reputed ice on the way. We did just that, the game is official, so now we pray for lightning which is clearly dangerous.. As of now -8.05 EST as i write – that is still the case and we are watching the Smoltz and Glavine AARP review for the fourteenth time. Somebody, please.

O Dear. Players have reemerged at 8.08, mea culpa. The Weather Gods have shunned us. Later.

 

top 6   Motte pitching..Murphy pop up, walked Rendon, Wieters, great catch by Jace bouncing off the net in foul territory like a fat tuna trying to escape the catch. Taylor popped up also for third out , good job Motte, will Snit risk him in the 7th? Our 3 musketeers were perfect last night.

bottom 6…Trienen pitching…we  get first and third, 1 out, Dansby lashes a perfect DP grounder to short, Murphy bobbles the relay, we score a 4th run.Ruiz makes the final out with a deep drive to the wall in left center, impressive. Leave him there. But i’ll miss Camargo’s throws.  4-2 Braves

Top 7…it’s Ramirez…3 up, 3 down…again…fabulous bare handed play by BP to get Turner.

Bottom 7…Boner shocked us all with a beautifully lashed line drive to Right Center, robbed by a terrific diving catch from Taylor. BP singled with 2 out. Nick s/o.

Top 8.. Vizcaino..we seem to be deja vuing last night…but we were lucky, he had velocity but nothing like the control of last night…1,2,3 of the big 3 but Zimmerman hit his first pitch to the base of the CF wall.

Bottom 8…Dansby walks after another Flowers homer. What about our catchers!! We are outplaying all 29 teams by a mile. Braves 5 -2. Almost there. JJ, our man.

Top 9   9.30…BRAVES WIN!! 6 back of the Nats, at this rate we should be leading the division this time next week.

 

And now for the Hart chat during the rain delay. John Hart said ‘you know’ sixty one times during his pitch – to Joe only- telling us about Matt Adams for Juan Yepez. And this is where our second 25 pound saving comes from. Part of the deal was the Cardinals had to produce the original WeightWatchers certificate confirming he had lost 25 lbs last winter. As far as i’m concerned it’s a great deal. Just remember, NEVER in the outfield. Matt will have fun in the Chop House, somewhere he already visited in April. But allow him no eating privileges . Or maybe 2 for one – one meal for every 2 homers deposited there… assign him to the other Matt.

Great win, guys. We’re hurting the Nats for pete’s sakes. Who woulda thunk it.

 

Bartolo. Paint it Black.

20 May

Rocky Balboa 7, Apollo Creed 4

Yo, Adrian! One night after being figuratively punched in the gut with the news of Freddie Freeman and his injured wrist, the Braves climbed off the canvas against their own personal Apollo Creed, the Natspos, and delivered a come from behind victory worthy of any Rocky movie.

The Bravos jumped out to an early lead, thanks to a 2 run Dansby Swanson homer in the bottom of the second, but some shoddy defense gave it all back and one more in the third, as Swanson and Jace Peterson committed errors, Dansby the mental kind, and Jace the kind that shows up in the box score, and the Braves fell behind 3-2.

Matt Kemp tied it right back up in the bottom of the frame with a solo shot, his 7th on the year, but R.A. Dickey gave up a solo shot to Daniel Murphy in the 4th – 4-3 Nats. But, Kurt Suzuki tied it up in the 5th, doubling in Nick Markakis. Spoiler Alert – More from those two later.

Both Dickey and Gio Gonzalez, who started for DC, threw a lot of pitches. Dickey 117 in 5 1/3 and Gio 116 in 5 2/3. This put the game in the hands of the bullpens. BIG advantage Braves. Jason Motte closed out the 6th getting both batters he faced. Jose Ramirez may have thrown the best inning of ball for the Braves all year getting Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Murphy out on 12 nasty pitches. Arodys Vizcaino was almost as impressive in a 1-2-3 8th.

In the bottom of the frame, the Braves delivered the knockout punch. With one out Brandon Phillips walked and stole second. Then Nick Markakis – you did remember that spoiler, right? – delivered the go ahead single after battling Enny Romero for 8 pitches. After Kemp lined out, Kurt Suzuki deposited one into the leftfield seats, and just like that it was 7-4 Braves.

However, unlike the Rocky movies, there was no final round drama, as Jim Johnson closed out the game with yet another 1-2-3 inning. Final tally for the Braves pen, 3 2/3 innings, no hits, no walks, 2 strikeouts (by Arodys). For the Nats – 2 1/3, 3 hits, 3 runs, all earned, and 4 walks.

All in all, it was a great game to watch, and the Braves showed some heart to step up and win this one. They may revert back to the club pug they were before, but for tonight, not only did they hang in with the champ, they won the fight.

18 May

Braves 8, Blue Jays 4

That was the most interesting game of the Braves rebuild, one would think. After the Braves gave the Blue Jays a drubbing for two games in Toronto, they came down to Atlanta to finish the job. The Braves jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead mostly because the Jays’ starter couldn’t throw a strike, but also because Nick Markakis hit a 2-run double, and Kurt Suzuki hit a 3-run homer. But some issues had been developing over the previous two games, and this is how things developed:

-The Braves had been beating the Jays like a drum for 2+ games.
-The Braves had been hit a total of 7 times in 3 games. None of them appeared intentional, but it was getting out of hand.
Freddie Freeman got nailed with an errant pitch on his left wrist. He immediately left the game, and as of the morning on Thursday, X-Rays have been inconclusive.
Kevin Pillar felt like Jason Motte quick-pitched him, and yelled something at him that caused the benches to clear. Some are speculated it was a homophobic slur.
Eric O’Flaherty gave up a home run to Jose Bautista, who bat flipped and slowly rounded the bases. Jace Peterson said something to him rounding first, Joey Bats hitched his step a little bit, and then was met at home plate by an angry Kurt Suzuki. Benches cleared again, and temperatures had certainly been risen to a point we hadn’t seen by the Braves since their encounter with the late Jose Fernandez in 2013.

There’s been lots of news articles, mostly stemming from a scoop by Peter Gammons, that the Braves are very frustrated, want to brawl, and even Eric O’Flaherty had a humorous quote about Joey Bats wanting to avoid what happened to him last year.

Let’s see if our prized possession Freddie isn’t significantly injured, and let’s see if the Braves decide to hold the Jays accountable to their inability to put the ball over the plate.

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