Just reading the boxscore, you’d think it was a fun and exciting game. Game decided by one run, Braves rallied in the 8th and had the tying run on third in the 9th.
But it was not an enjoyable game to watch. In fact, it was pretty unpleasant. Thirty something degrees with snow falling made me squirm, even in the warmth of my living room watching on TV. And listening to Chip and Joe is generally more irritating than enjoyable.
The on field action had a lot more bad than good. We got the bad version of Mike Foltynewicz. He just wasn’t crisp; he did not command the fastball; his slider was unreliable; he wasn’t missing bats; and as a result of all of that he could not complete four innings. And his facial expressions and body language exhibited frustration with the umpire’s calls throughout—after we heard all spring about his maturity and new attitude about dealing with adversity. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, though. Napoleon’s vaunted Grand Armee stuggled in similar conditions in the Russian Campaign.
Even with all his troubles, Folty only gave up two runs (could have been a lot worse!). In the fourth, EOF, of all people, got us out of a bases loaded jam created by Folty. Maybe there is some life left in that tortured left arm of his. I doubt it, but I’m willing to give him a few more opportunities to prove definitively he no longer belongs in the big leagues. I realize that I am sentimental about the O’Flaherty of 201-2012. Now that was a great relief pitcher.
The rest of the bullpen was pretty bleh, or worse. Long man Josh Collmenter proved why he was never a candidate for the rotation—and why he was released outright last year by the Dbacks—when he gave up back to back solo jacks in the 5th. Other than that he looked pretty good. Chaz Roe was ineffective as usual in the 7th, when the Bucs scored their fifth and final run, although to be fair his defense betrayed him. More on that below.
Our offense, Matt Kemp continues to look like a right handed Babe Ruth (albeit perhaps slimmer than the Bambino at the same age). That’s very good. He left the game, however, with an injured hamstring, which apparently happened when he made a sliding catch (I’m not making this up!). If his injury is at all serious, that is very, very bad. Cakes is the only other hitter who is producing so far. He had two more doubles and is slugging .500. Kemp is slugging 1.125. No other starter has an OPS so far of .600, except Freddie, and his barely so.
The moribund Braves bats rallied in the 8th. Brandon Phillips had a clutch hit to drive in two runs to bring the Bravos within a run. That’s good. Especially since he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the 4th and struck out with runners on second and third in the 6th. That was excruciating. After Brandon’s hit in the 8th, it looked like the Greek Demigod had singled up the middle, but the Pirates keystone combo turned that into one of the prettiest double plays you’ll ever want to see, ending the rally. Look for a video of that one.
Speaking of double plays and Brandon Phillips, the Pirates only scored that run off Roe in the 7th because the Braves failed to turn a dp on a routine grounder to short. It sure looked like Phillips was slow to get to the bag and then slow to make the turn. But who am I to judge? As I said, it was cold as hell.
So what have we learned from these first four games about the Braves likely fortunes in 2017? NOTHING! It’s only four games, y’all. 158 to go—let’s keep an open mind.
Oh, one other piece of news this week. As you’ve heard, it looks like Ryan Howard will be a pinch hitter for the Braves in a few weeks. You may not think that is so good, considering that his batting average was below .200 last year, but he did hit 25 home runs last year in 362 plate appearances. More importantly, he’s not Emilio Bonifacio, who so far is our first pinch hit option. Honestly, I’d rather see Dwight Schrute or Kevin Malone in that situation than Mr. Good Face.
A brief personal note, I’m a long time faithful reader of Braves Journal, but a new commenter. No other sports site in my opinion approaches the quality and consistency of the comments on this site (low bar, I know, but I mean it). I’m honored this year to help out by doing weekly recaps. Y’all are loyal fans, but I’d venture that no one on this site or anywhere else has been an Atlanta Braves longer than I have. I was nine years old and living in Atlanta when they announced the Milwaukee team was moving to Atlanta. I’ve been hooked ever since.
If you are likewise addicted to following this frustrating team, you may want to know of the weekly Braves podcast that my son and I do. It’s called the Channel 17 Podcast, and you can find it here.