How in the world is this team still in first place? Is the NL East seriously that weak?
For the first time all season the Boston Red Sox have won three games in a row, and all three of those wins have come against the Braves. The problem is they haven’t dominated the Braves. The Braves have more self-destructed and the Red Sox had simply taken advantage of every single gift the Braves have given them.
The lone bright spot of this game: the Tommy La Stella Era has started for the Braves, and he already has more hits than it feels like our second basemen have had all season. He went back up the middle in the 5th and 7th to collect his first two big league hits. Not bad for a major league debut.
Gavin Floyd started for the Braves, and he gave up two runs, one “earned” and one “unearned”, although really the Braves handed the Red Sox both of them. However, Floyd wasn’t exactly effective, throwing over 20 pitches in every inning except the fourth, and he was pulled after five innings and 106 pitches.
The Red Sox scored their first run in the 2nd (the officially “unearned” one) after Ramiro Pena committed a throwing error to allow Jonny Gomes to reach safely, and Gomes came around to score on a double play. In the 3rd Xander Bogaerts hit a popup to shallow center, and BJ Upton and La Stella looked at each other while the ball dropped in between them and Bogaerts made it into second with a double. He then came around to score the “earned” run. Floyd certainly did not have his best stuff tonight, but he could have easily left the game without allowing any runs.
Of course, handing the Red Sox two runs doesn’t really matter when you fail to score any, since winning 0-0 games is slightly difficult.
Alex Wood relieved Floyd in the 6th, and he really did not look sharp. He gave up 5 hits and 2 runs in 2 2/3 innings, but, again, when you don’t score any runs, it really does not matter how many runs the other team scores.
The Braves offense collected nine hits, but coupled those with eleven strikeouts and utter futility when it actually mattered. Our best scoring chance came in the 7th, when a two-out BJ walk loaded the bases for Freddie Freeman. The Offense, however, grounded out to second and that was that.
Justin Upton should have had a homerun in the 6th, but Fenway ate the blast and he settled for a double and was naturally stranded at second. Getting hits with runners in scoring position is, after all, something Braves’ hitters obviously can’t be bothered with.
Tomorrow night is the last game of this split home/away four game series, and we are dangerously close to being swept by a last-place team who came into the series on a 10-game losing streak (a possibility kc predicted before the first game; it is sad to realize this team is so predictable). To avoid that, Mike Minor needs to not give up a half dozen solo home runs while he’s in the game.
On a somewhat related note, the Red Sox honored their 2004 World Series championship team on the field before the game tonight, and I realized just how much of a life I did not have as a teenager because I could still name every single member of that team that I saw. Still reeling from the throes of a Braves’ NLDS defeat against the Astros that year, I found the comeback those Red Sox had in the ALCS against the Yankees to be the tonic I needed. Every single friend I had at the time who liked baseball was a Yankees fan, and I loved that they were forced to share my misery that October. I had not realized that those eight straight games the Red Sox won that year to win it all had cemented that team so clearly in my mind, but seeing those guys tonight made me realize (1) 2004 was a long time ago. All of those players (except for David Ortiz, who still looks the exact same) looked so much older. It certainly put a decade into perspective. And (2) I was really spoiled to have become a Braves fan in an era where the real question in Spring Training was who would we face in the Division Series that year? There was some rumblings in 2004 that The Streak would have to end at some point, but those were still easily disregarded and the main focus was on how far into the playoffs we would make it, and not whether or not we would make it there. Last year’s ride to regain that division title was fun; I vote we start a new streak.