If Wes Helms (starting against a lefty) has four hits, and comes up just the triple short of the cycle, you know the Braves are having a good day. They had a great day, actually, arguably their best of the season, scoring six runs in the first en route to a 10-0 win. In addition to Helms’ best game as a major leaguer, Damian Moss had perhaps his best, going seven innings and giving up only one hit. Perhaps more impressively, he had only three walks and needed only 96 pitches (58 strikes) to do it. He might have been able to go at least one more inning, but the Braves were so comfortable they let Albie Lopez go two innings with a ten-run lead rather than his customary one. He walked two, but kept the one-hitter intact.
Every Brave starter reached base; all but Chipper and Vinny had hits. Andruw had two, including a homer, and really does seem to be recovering his batting eye and stroke, even with two more strikeouts. Henry Blanco also homered, the big blow in the first inning; he’s hitting .194 for the season now, which is hardly what you want from your backup catcher, much less a starter. Javy Lopez might be back Friday, but if he isn’t the Braves will probably disable him and call up Steve Torrealba, who is on call in Richmond.
Seven of the Braves’ runs were scored with two out, by the way, including five in the six-run first. Gary Sheffield’s streak continues, with two hits today before giving way to Darren Bragg, probably just to get some rest… If anyone still cares, the Mets play the Expos tonight. New York is 13 out and Montreal 16 out, and under .500 after a five-game losing streak. The Mets’ best play of the year has done them little good. They’ve won eight of ten, and made up no ground, though the collapses in Montreal and Florida have at least gotten them into second, and nobody in the West is playing well so they’ve also gotten into the wildcard race — they’re fourth, four and a half behind the Dodgers.
The Braves got back to their winning ways, 5-3, in a game that to me shows some of the problems in the way pitchers are evaluated. In the first game of the series, the recap talked about how Greg Maddux lost for the first time since April; in this game, it talks about Tom Glavine passing Whitey Ford for 50th in all time wins. (Congratulations to Tommy, by the way.) But Maddux actually pitched better than Glavine. Greg went six innings, gave up only two runs (one of them questionable) and was generally sharp. Tom only went 5 1/3, leaving with two on and a run in in the sixth, both of the two runners on eventually scoring. Before the series, Glavine and Maddux were 1-2 in the league in ERA. Now they’re 2-1. But the Braves only scored one run on Monday and scored five on Tuesday, and so Glavine is the story.
The bullpen did its job, mostly. Kevin Gryboski didn’t, allowing a run to score, loading the bases, then getting ejected before recording an out. Honestly, it’s criminal that Tim Spooneybarger is going to be sent down and the increasingly Jose Cabreraesque Gryboski is staying. Hammond and Remlinger came on and were strong, and Smoltz was perfect in the ninth… Gary Sheffield’s streak of reaching base continued with a couple of singles; he drove in one and scored one. Chipper’s resurgence, in batting average and OBP anyway, continued with a hit and two walks, and every Braves starting position player reached base, though Lockhart only did on an intentional walk. Javy Lopez is still out with a shoulder injury (expected back Friday) but Henry Blanco had two hits and an RBI.
The Braves have a day game today, then a day off before hosting the Phillies. That three game series will be the last against the division for awhile, with the Braves playing against the Central and West until the end of August. It’s a pretty rough stretch, actually, with a trip to Arizona and Houston early in the month and a 12-game trip starting in Southern California then crossing over to Pittsburgh and Montreal at the end. But the Braves have a 12 1/2 game lead over the Mets, who will be playing essentially the same teams, so there shouldn’t be too much to worry about.