Last night’s game was pretty much a repeat of Thursday night’s game, except that the Yasiel Puig homer was a solo shot instead of a grand slam. Other than that, pretty much the same script: great job by both starting pitchers, while the Braves couldn’t manage to string together enough singles to put together anything that might really constitute a threat.
The good things: B.J. Upton hit a bunch of balls hard and generally appears to have a good approach at the plate. His timing is on, his batting eye is good, and he’s spitting at a lot of the pitches that he should be spitting at. Jason Heyward hit an opposite-field double in the top of the 10th that looked like the outfielder might be able to cut it off, but he hit it so damn hard that it rolled to the wall.
Of course, that inning ended when CB Bucknor did what he does and blew a call at first base, when Justin Upton hit a swinging bunt and beat the throw to first — but that’s not how Bucknor saw it, so inning over. As it was, Justin’s only hit in the game was an infield single in the 8th. His timing is worse than his brother’s right now, but in the end, I’m not too worried about either of them.
Jordan Walden entered in an especially tricky spot in the 8th, with a man on second and one out, and managed to get out of it. With two outs in that inning, Fredi called for an intentional walk to Yasiel Puig, and that seemed like the right call to me: whatever you want to call it, either he’s a hot hand or he’s just got our number, that guy scares the bejeezus out of me. Walden got the guy who came after him. Inning over.
Avilan pitched well too. The game ended when Anthony Varvaro came in and gave up two singles and two wild pitches.
Unfortunately, the game exposed one of Evan Gattis’s weaknesses that he’s been hiding in plain view: he isn’t a very good receiver. He was charged with one passed ball in the 8th, but the two Varvaro wild pitches could have been stopped by a better receiver. (I’m not saying that Laird could have, but a Molina brother certainly could.)
As it is, Gattis’s great offense is certainly worth his iffier defense, but this game raises the question: does he need a defensive caddy in late and close situations? Fredi pulled Chris Johnson for Ramiro Pena in the 8th inning with the game tied 1-1, and Johnson made the decision easier by booting an easy ball in the 1st inning.
It would be great if Evan could play all nine innings every game he starts, but it raises questions: if he’s catching someone with a good breaking ball, would he shy away from calling for a ball in the dirt? Would the pitcher have the confidence to pitch a low ball to him with a man on base? Will the Braves trust him to be in those situations?
I doubt the Braves will make any immediate changes after one disappointing west coast game. But the questions have been decisively raised.