The Braves scored 12 runs on 16 hits—4 of them dingers—and they managed to eke out a one run win that went down to the wire in the 9th. Jaime Garcia had his second consecutive lousy start, giving up 6 runs (on 7 hits and 3 walks) in 4 1/3. His pitches were consistently up in the zone, which does not work for him. Thanks to an 8 run explosion by the Braves in the 5th, they took a six run lead into the 8th, which is when it got interesting. Ian Krol did his usual, giving up 3 in the 8th, which included a home run by the lefty Brandon Belt. And Jim Johnson had yet another poor 9th, giving up 2 more runs on a couple of hits and a walk. Fortunately, he got Pence to ground out and end the game with the tying run on second.
To be fair to the pitchers in the 8th and 9th, the defense was once again cringe worthy. Last night’s implosion didn’t match the epic fail of Tuesday’s 8th inning disaster—but it came close. An error by Lane Adams in the 8th contributed to the 3 run Giant inning, and Danny Santana made one of the worst defensive plays of the season in the 9th that very nearly cost the game. It was one of those “mental” errors that doesn’t count as an “E” in the scorebook, but it reminded me of a fielding play I used to see when I coached TBall: “Wow, I managed to field the ball, but there are baserunners moving all over the diamond, and I don’t know what to do with it!”
By the way, Adams, L., was in left and Santana was at second because our aging starters at those positions, Kemp and Phillips, both left the game in the middle innings with tight groin and/or hamstring muscles.
What’s up with this team? Your Atlanta Braves have won 5 of 6 and 7 of 10, they’ve won 3 straight series, they’ve only lost 1 of the 6 series they’ve played in June (with one split against the Phillies). Their record since June 2 is 12-8, for a cool .600 winning percentage. And thanks to a woeful division, they remain in second place.
But are they really any good? They are certainly scoring runs. Remember this time a year ago when the Braves had not just the worst offense in baseball, but one of the worst in the history of baseball? Now that Danby is hitting (he’s had a very good June) and Camargo has taken over at third, they’re getting solid performances up and down the lineup. The bench has actually been productive the past few weeks. They are getting career best performances from Flowers and Matt Adams, and Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips are hitting like it’s 2011. Did you realize our first baseman Fratt Fremadams is on pace for 60 home runs?
Still, the pitchers are not nearly good enough for the team to be truly competitive. We know what a bust Colon has been, and Dickey hasn’t done much to show he has any trade value. Garcia was the one veteran Coppy brought in who was performing, but he may be turning into a pumpkin just in time to ruin what trade value he has. Even Jim Johnson’s stock is rapidly declining.
On the other hand, several of the veteran hitters (Kemp, Phillips, Matt Adams, Flowers, Markakis) are performing well enough to be attractive targets. But it is precisely their performance that has the Braves playing at a pretty good pace and has some of the fans dreaming of making a run for a playoff spot. Coppy and the FO are going to have some very interesting decisions to make in the next month.
Tonight the Braves and Folty take on the Central division-leading Brewers, once again in Coors Field East.