Like you, I bet, I went to bed Wednesday night convinced that the Baseball Gods will not allow the Braves to have nice things. If you were watching as Freddie got plunked on the wrist and immediately walked to the clubhouse in disgust, and then watched the repeated replays of that HBP alongside the almost identical HBP in May 2017, you just knew that the promising start to 2018 was heading toward 2015-17 territory.
Were you as stunned as I was to see Freddie in the starting lineup Thursday? There were so many nice things in Thursday’s game, it’s easy to lose sight of the best thing of all: Freeman’s wrist is OK. Freddie not only played, he had a sac fly RBI his first time up, and followed up with 2 hits and a run scored.
Although not as significant for the fate of the 2018 Braves, the most amazing thing about Thursday was the start turned in by Matt Wisler. Who among us predicted a month ago that among all the starters, Matt Wisler would put in the best start of the first month? Even that tiny band of us who still think Wisler can be a productive ML pitcher could never have foreseen this. He went seven strong innings (first starter to do that this year), giving up only 2 hits, 1 run, 8 K’s, and 0(!) walks. Folty and Newk, pay attention, especially to that last number.
It was the best Braves start so far, but it’s not like the Braves starters have been crapping the bed. Last night was the 11th straight game in which the starter gave up 2 or fewer earned runs (at least that’s what Rob keeps telling us and I’d never question our leader). Pretty amazing.
More things that are not just nice, but amazing:
Preston Tucker, with 5 RBI’s on the night, is tied for the league lead with some guy who plays for the Gnats. Ryan Flaherty came into the game leading the league in BA. Kurt Suzuki had a dinger and 2 doubles on the night; he’s crushing any fastball in the zone. He continues to hit in 2018 like it’s 2017—levels that he had never approached before last year.
The play of Tucker and Flaherty is great fun, but they won’t keep this up. (That’s not to say they can’t be valuable players for the Braves going forward.) But the most exciting thing about this new season is the play of Albies and Swanson. Ozzie has 2 more hits and scored three times, and Dansby had another hit and RBI. So far, no sign of a sophomore slump for Ozzie, and Captain Dans appears to have recovered from his. These two could be exciting us together for years to come.
Of course it wouldn’t be the 2018 Braves without the bullpen giving us a scare. Visions of last Saturday at Wrigley came crashing in in the 8th. Lucas Sims gave up 3 walks and 3 runs before Sam Freeman bailed him out. I think that’s the last we’ll see of Sims in ATL for a while.
Do you remember how good Matt Harvey was in 2012-13 before his Tommy John surgery? He was as good as any starter in the game, looking like a perennial Cy Young candidate for years to come. That didn’t quite work out. Man, did he stink it up on Thursday. If it wasn’t the Mets, I’d almost feel sorry for him.
And that, of course, is a cautionary note. Be amazed at the wonderful things the Baseball Gods give you in the moment, but don’t think you have the future figured out.
(Even so, did you see that Austin Riley had three more hits at AA last night, and his OPS is 1.259. In high A, Joey Wentz went 5 scoreless innings striking out 6; his ERA is 0.64.)
Tonight Sean Newcomb faces Noah Syndergaard. The odds favor the Mets in that matchup, but I’m not making any predictions.