Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Thanks to Mac's family, is back.

28 May

Dodgers Wild, Braves Not Swept (AKA Uribe 3, Callaspo 0)

Before the game even started, the Braves and Dodgers wrapped up the ongoing drama that an on-again, off-again trade brings. Atlanta bribed Alberto Callaspo gave Alberto Callaspo a $100,000 stipend to waive his no-trade clause, and shipped him to the other dugout in exchange for Juan Uribe and Chris Withrow, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and therefore fits the Braves MO quite nicely. The Braves also included Ian Thomas, Juan Jamie, and Eric Stults, in the package, the latter of whom was immediately DFAed.

After that drama was finally wrapped up, the two teams then engaged in a good, old-fashioned pitchers duel, made possible through the dominance of Alex Wood and incompetence of the Braves offense who let a not-so-sharp Zack Greinke make it through six innings in decent shape. To add to the intrigue and show how much these two rivals are on the same page following that trade, both teams both a batted Peterson, Jace and Joc, leadoff, and assigned an A.J. to handle the catching duties.

In the 1st, the good guys loaded the bases with one out on a hit and two walks, but strikeouts to The New Juan and A.J. Pierzynski ended the threat. That inning Grinkie threw 32 pitches but the Braves had nothing to show for it.

In the 2nd, Andrelton Simmons picked up a base hit, but Alex Wood bunted into a double play to end the inning and once again Greinke got out of it. The Braves finally got on the board in the 3rd, when Cameron Maybin hit a 3-2 fastball out of the park for the Braves first home run in their last 10 games. That would be all the damage Atlanta could muster against Greinke, but, fortunately enough, Wood was sharp and kept the Braves within striking distance.

The lone run Wood gave up came in the 4th, and it probably should never have scored. Jimmy Rollins led off the inning with a ground ball between 3rd base and shortstop, and Simmons appeared to be on track to snag it and gun him out. The New Juan, however, not accustomed to playing next to such greatness, tried to dive and deflected the ball away from Simmons. The play was initially ruled an error, but later that was reversed to a base hit. Two outs later Rollins scored on a ground ball that went just under Peterson’s glove.

Coming off a missed start due to illness, Alex Wood’s final line was an impressive 7 IP, 7H, 1R, 6K, and rumor has it the Braves are now trying to find a way for Julio Teheran to contract the stomach bug that plagued Wood last week.

The Braves managed to rally in the 8th to reward Wood with a win. Simmons led the inning off with a single, and Todd Cunningham followed with a walk. Peterson grounded to shortstop, but beat the rap to first to leave runners at the corners with one out. Maybin hit a fly ball to center, but it wasn’t deep enough to score the run, and it looked as though the Braves were going to squander another prime scoring opportunity. Then the Dodgers bestowed a gift, and threw ball four to Freddie Freeman to the backstop and the Braves took the lead on some good old-fashioned ABE baseball.

They built on that lead when Nick Markakis followed that with a ground rule double. In a rather ironic move, the Dodgers then intentionally walked Juan Uribe, the guy who was expendable enough to them earlier in the day that they traded him for the Braves dregs. Maybe they were trying to give a mental boost for their fans, something that would allow them to be able to boast “€œwe’€™re good enough that we can afford to get rid of guys even we’€™re scared of.” But the move worked, as A.J. grounded out to end the inning with the bases loaded.

Jim Johnson made it through the 8th without any problems, picking up two strikeouts along the way. Jason Grilli came on to nail down the save, but the Dodgers would not be denied their sweep quietly. He got Justin Turner for the first out, then gave up a home run followed by a single. He then got the other A.J. for the second out, which brought up the pinch-hitting Callaspo, and Braves fan steeled themselves for the worst, because when ex-Braves have the chance to beat their old team this season, they do. Fortunately, Callaspo had not been gone from the Braves clubhouse long enough for that memo to reach him, and, following ball three down the middle of the plate to run the count full, he hit a fly ball to centerfield that Maybin had no problem tracking down to end the game and secure a 3-2 victory.

In a series that was split, then, Juan Uribe won all three games while Alberto Callaspo lost all three. That is pretty tough to do.

The Braves are now back to .500 and head to San Fransisco to take on the World Champs for a four-game set. For this bunch, taking one out of three in Dodger Stadium is actually a pretty good accomplishment, and helped them improve to 5-12 this season against teams with a record that is over .500. But let’s overlook that little tidbit and bask in the glow of a victory for awhile.

27 May

Dodgers 8, Rented Braves 0 (by coop)

My sorry-ass Braves lost big time to the Dodgers and fell below .500 one more time again. There was great news, bad news and even a little good news, if you take comfort in small things.

GREAT NEWS: Ken Rosenthal reported that Alberto Callaspo reversed his decision to veto his trade to the Dodgers for Juan Uribe. Ken Rosenthal never lies, and he is never mistaken. Therefore, pending Bud’s boy’s approval, the deal is done. The only drama remaining is what pieces are leaving the Braves and which is coming with Uribe.

BAD NEWS: Julio Teheran turned into Trevor Cahill in the fourth inning, allowing six runs on six hits and two walks. It would have been seven runs, but Andrelton Simmons’s relay to Christian Bethancourt turned that run into the second out.

GOOD NEWS: I saved this for last, because today could be better. Today we only have to face Zack Greinke.

Clayton Kershaw did not no hit the Braves. Neck broke up the no-no leading off the fifth, and Simba followed an out later with a liner to left.

Neither Pedro Ciriaco nor Bethancourt could drive the run in, however; and Julio and all doubt left when Adrian Gonzalez hit a two run home run in the bottom of the fifth. Gonzalez’s blast also sent me to bed; and the final score of this debacle can be gleaned from the box score Wednesday morning at whichever site you prefer.

At least the Braves didn’t lose by 30.

26 May

One Night in Chavez: Braves 3, Moneypits 6

L. A., sun will be setting.
Late whooping, the Braves will be getting.
Williams Perez, the southern gent,
taking the Dodgers to task in his stint.

Innings roll, Braves were really in it.
One down, inning 4, Pedro Ciriaco ties it.
Inning 5, Freddie Freeman plates a lead.
Through 6, the pitching tandem’s “like a mighty machine.”

It’s Shakytown, or Weird World,
Or SoCal, or, or, “OH, NO!”

One night in Chavez saw the A Braves tumble,
Into the game came a new Brave Nick Masset,
Three left the yard and the earthquakes rumble,
We weren’t so lucky to be in L. A.
The 8th inning surely ruined our day.

This town’s really like none other,
Certainly this bullpen’s such an awful mother.

It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity,
To lose in such a “Hollywood” city.

Whaddya mean,
This is one crowded, polluted, stinking town.

Alberto Callaspo might be moving,
Can he bring back bullpen grooving?

On Vine, you’re talking to a tourist.
Where’s the passion for a baseball purist?
We got kicked right in the assline, sunshine.

One night in Chavez saw the A Braves tumble,
This bullpen sucks and it needs a stopper,
After a whipping we know we’re humble,
We weren’t so lucky to be in L. A.
The 8th inning surely ruined our day.

24 May

Braves 2, Brewers 1 (by coop)

Mike Foltynewicz and the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson hooked up in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. If you like fastballs, this was the game for you.

Folty was awesome, Nelson threw a lot more pitches but matched our boy goose egg for goose egg until the bottom of the sixth, when we managed to plate two.

Cameron Maybin singled to start our sixth. Freddie walked for the second time, and Neck also worked Nelson for a walk. AJP’s liner turned into a force at second; but instead of turning the play on Freeman at second, the Brewers tried to double up AJP at first. AJP beat the throw, and Freddie, who had been dead meat, moved to third. Andrelton ripped a single to left to score Freddie with what would be the winning run.

Folty started the eighth and would have completed it had Maybin not misplayed a wind-blown fly ball, allowing the Brewers run to score. Luis Avilan relieved Folty and struck out Gerardo Parra to end the eighth.

Jason Grilli dominated the ninth, striking out the side but providing a little drama with a two out walk.

Folty went 7-2/3, struck out seven, walked one, plunked one and was charged with a tainted earned run. The end result: your Atlanta Braves have a winning record far deeper into the season than most of us dreamed possible.

Go west, young men, and conquer.

24 May

Braves 3, Brewers 2 (11 innings; recapped by spike)

Well, that was as nice a day for a ballgame as you could ever ask for. An “€˜excuse me” ish double from Carlos Gomez opened the game, and an “I meant that” single from suddenly hot Ryan Braun put Shelby Miller in a first-inning hole, that doubled when Martin Maldonado drove in Aramis Ramirez in the fourth.

But the home boys decided to employ one of my favorite strategies, getting three doubles out of the bottom of the fifth to tie. Miller himself, along with Cameron Maybin and Cameron Freeman bellying up. The sides traded punches after that, but nothing came across for a long time thereafter, which was just fine.

The sangria was going down mighty easy in the early evening, and strumming a flattop on the porch to the rhythm of the play by play is a fine way to watch the world go around.

The Brewers tried to get something going with two puts off Jason Grilli, but anther nifty play by Andrelton Simmons cut down Sardinas after he got a little aggressive rounding first. So, on we went.

Finally, in the 11th, Alberto Callaspo drew a one-out walk and Simmons backed it up with an infield hit. Eric Young Jr. hit a double play ball that the covering pitcher converted into a fielders choice. Jace Peterson was up to the challenge and hit the first pitch from Brandon Kintzler into the gap for the game winner. Just delightful.

.500 isn’t so bad – at least you win every other day.

23 May

Brewers 11

Eric Stults and Trevor Cahill delenda est.

22 May

Braves 10 (!), Brewers 1

Well, that was thorough. Matt Garza and Julio Teheran both basically cruised through six innings. And then the wonderful terrific 7th inning happened. This was the sequence:

Single, run scores.
(Will Smith relieves Matt Garza.)
(Smith ejected for use of a foreign substance. Neal Cotts relieves.)
Single, run scores.
Single, two runs score.
Single, run scores.
Double, run scores.
Man safe on error, run scores.
Fly out.
Ground out.

I’m not certain that the Brewers lost because Will Smith got ejected — he came in with two on and a run in, and promptly plunked the only batter he faced — but the floodgates opened as soon as he left, and for that, Fredi deserves all due praise.

The game ball goes to Cameron Maybin, who had a walk, a single, two RBI, three runs scored, and a pivotal put-out of Gerardo Parra, who was trying to advance to second on a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. It limited the damage and helped Teheran get out of the inning with only one run scored.

I think Mac would have loved this season, but one of the things he would have loved best was getting Maybin as a throw-in in the B.J. Upton trade. He’s exactly the kind of guy that Mac loved: a center fielder with speed, power and defense who clearly needed a trade of scenery and who was worth basically nothing to the team that got rid of him. And for us he’s probably been the MVP of the last month.

20 May

A Literary Affair: Rays 1, Braves 2

While many sports fans in the Atlanta area kept at least one eye on the game going on in Philips Arena, there was another game going on in the city at the ballpark that turned out to be a good one. That is, naturally, what we expected with the hometown heroes throwing rookies making their first big league start (in the only one-game doubleheader in history) and entering the game with a combined 15.00+ ERA out of the bullpen.

Williams Perez, both of them, may have a flair of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in them and turn out to be aptly named. In their first appearance out of the bullpen this season, Hyde reached the mound first, but Jekyll won out for their second, two scoreless innings, appearance. Tonight, Hyde once again made a quick exit out of the gate and made an appearance in the first inning, but they managed to limit the damage to a single Rays run on a sacrifice fly.

After that the Williamses settled down for a couple of innings, and wiggled out of trouble in both the 4th and 5th to keep the Rays off the board. In the 4th they got a beautiful 3-6-1 double play to get out of a two-on, one-out situation, and in the 5th they struck out the side to strand two on base. Apparently, league rules allow both Jekyll and Hyde to be on the mound at the same time, and sometimes they even swap roles between pitches. The current arrangement keeps opposing hitters constantly guessing, which may work to the Braves advantage. When Jekyll is out there his stuff looks pretty darn good, and his effort tonight is certainly to be applauded.

The Braves offense managed to score just enough runs to squeeze a victory out of tonight and split the series. In the third, Andrelton Simmons doubled to lead off the inning and tied the game on an Alberto Callaspo single with two outs in the inning. Freddie Freeman then struck out with runners on the corners to end that threat and keep the Braves starting pitchers from earning the win. Freeman redeemed himself in the 6th when he doubled and moved to third on a Nick Markakis single. Todd Cunningham, who shockingly went hitless on the night, nevertheless managed to contribute to the win with a chopper to short to score Freeman.

That was all the Braves would get, but that was all that they needed. After Perez exited the game, Luis Avilan, Brandon Cunniff, Jim Johnson, and Jason Grilli combined to mystify the Rays hitters and preserve the win. The extreme Jekyll/Hyde tendencies the Braves bullpen has shown this year probably made Perez feel very at home down there.

Early in the game, during a discussion on the Astros being 1st in the American League in homers and 1st in strikeouts, while holding a 6 game lead in the west, Tom Glavine commented, “€œwell, strikeouts don’€™t matter.” An awkward silence followed, during which I imagine Chip and Joe were scrambling madly to hand Glavine an autographed, hardback copy of The Official 2015 Braves Season Talking Points (written by The Three Johns with a special foreword by Bobby Cox) that they keep within arm’s reach for every broadcast. For the rest of the broadcast, you could almost hear Glavine muttering in Orwellian style, “home runs bad, small ball good…”

In addition to Glavine, the broadcast hosted other former Braves tonight, too. Javy Lopez joined them for an inning on his bobblehead night, and looked as though he could have switched places with A. J. Pierzynski without any problem. Chris Hammond, whom I had forgotten even existed, also appeared for a half inning. His presence sent me on a trip down memory lane, to that incredible 2002 Braves bullpen and Hammond’s own remarkable story of being out of pro ball for four years before coming back and posting a 0.95 ERA over 76 innings in his age 36 season. Braves fans were so spoiled that year. What a bullpen that was.

Tomorrow’s Thursday and the Braves are, amazingly, actually NOT off. They welcome the Brewers to town, and Julio Teheran will face off against Matt Garza to kick off a four-game set between the clubs.

20 May

Rays 5, Braves 3

Dear Barves,

Let me start by saying that I still love you, and I always will. You were my first true love, and I will always hold you in a dear and special place in my heart. You’ll always be the one that helped shape and build me. That said, baby, I think we need to talk.

Look, it’s not you; it’s me, okay? I’ve just grown away a little over the years, right? I’m just not the same goofy teenage kid that fell so fast and quick for you and your sparkly day-glo charms 30 years ago. I mean, people grow apart over time, right? It’s natural, right?

Look, I’ll always remember the first awkward advances and stop and start joys of those early days. It was the 80s. All the other kids were mocking you. But I saw something there, baby. I saw something inside you, a potential… And then, pow! Oh my god, how you blossomed in the college years. You so hit the mark, love. Everything I saw in you in high school just exploding out of the cocoon like a butterfly. God, the passion of those years…

Sigh. Look. That sort of thing can’t last forever, can it? I mean, we’ve been together for damned near 30 years now. You have to expect a little give and take at this point, don’t you? I understand that this is going to hurt and be difficult for you, but you have to understand that it was coming, right? Right? A man changes over three decades, baby! Sigh. Like I said, it’s not you…

Well, you know, it’s kind of you too. I mean, you have to admit, you’ve not precisely kept yourself together the last few years, right? Hey. There’s no need to get angry and yell. Facts are facts, baby. And fact is, you’ve let yourself go a little. Maybe a little more than a little, if we’re being honest. And now your off on this weird Nick Markakis/AJ Pierzynski thing these days… Right, I can sort of understand the new adoptees. I like that Peterson kid well enough myself. Either of them; whatever; it doesn’t matter which one, okay? And that Miller boy sure seems to be doing well under your wing. But… AJ Pierzynski?! I just don’t know.

I’m not sure I have it in me to raise yet another passle of youngin’s at this age, babe. If that’s what you need, fine. But I don’t know that that’s my path right now. We did really well with Hoss. I mean, really well. And we tried our best with the French exchange kid and his roommate. And hell, even Jason is off at college now – out of state, against our best advice. But he’s working at it. I think we did okay there too. And no one can blame either of us for the accidents with Kris and Bran and Mike. Those things happen with active kids, baby. But I’m just not sure I can go through another round of it, right? I mean, really, we’re going to try to rehab that Maybin kid from two counties over now?! Honestly, I had no idea who Williams Perez was until he showed up at the house last week!

Look, what I’m saying is I need a little space. There’s no need to shout or cry. I just need some space, right.

Yes, dammit. I’m seeing someone else. The Hawks, okay! I’m seeing the Hawks. Look, stop cursing and yelling. Call it a “crisis” if you like. Whatever. If you’re honest about it, you’ll admit they’re a little more well built than you these days anyway. A man has needs, dammit.

17 May

Braves 6, Marlins 0

ESPN Box Score

Shelby Miller had a no-hitter going until there were two outs in the ninth inning, and the Braves got a five-run second inning. So, no, the ballgame wasn’t particularly close. In a three-game sweep, the Braves outscored PURE EVIL 16-6, and it may have been the best three-game stretch of starting pitching all season. To wit:

Teheran 5/15 5.2 9 2 1 1 5
Wood 5/16 7 7 2 1 2 1
Miller 5/17 9 2 0 0 1 4

The only earned run given up by either Julio Teheran or Alex Wood was a leadoff home run to Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the third inning — same spot, both games — and Miller obviously didn’t give up a blessed thing. Both Teheran and Wood are still serving up too many home runs, but it was a good sign that both managed to avoid a big inning. Notably, the Marlins never scored more than a single run in any inning of the series.

The Marlins believed that they could contend for the playoffs this year, and things have not remotely gone according to plan. They’re 16-22, and the Braves are the single biggest reason for the season’s disappointment, as the Braves have swept them twice at home in the first two months of the season, going 7-2 against the Marlins overall. The Marlins were so disappointed by this latest loss that they announced the firing of manager Mike Redmond immediately after the game.

This was the second complete-game shutout of fewer than 100 pitches in Shelby Miller’s last three starts. He is really, really good.

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