Once again, your Wednesday correspondent is called on to squelch a mini-slump, known in Japanese as a cliffSam, this time taking on the KRP which is Cincinnati. They have 5 wins, 40% of which have come against us. Last year’s Braves showed a tendency to play both up and down to the competition, and they’ve certainly played down to the level of the worst team in baseball so far.
After 22 games, the 1966 Braves were, like this team, 12-10. Denny Lemaster threw a 7 hit complete game shutout to beat the Astros 6-0. Eddie Mathews in the midst of a long season-opening slump, had 2 RBIs. Hank Aaron was picked off first.
The Braves score in the top of the first against Finnegan BeginAgain: Ender Inciarte single, advancing to second on a wild pitch, scoring on an Ozzie Albies infield single combined with a wild throw to first. There was an interesting call when an Albies steal was negated by the Reds catcher touching Fielding Culbreth’s mask while winding up to throw to third. I would think that on a play like that the umps should award what, in their judgment, would have been the result, but apparently I’m not allowed to make up new baseball rules, or even properly interpret the Infield Fly Rule in the playoffs. (Still pissed…)
But the highlight of the first inning, it goes without saying, was the initial MLB appearance of St. Ronald of Acuña, Junior Division. It was a long fly ball to the warning track in right center on the first pitch he saw. He now holds, or is at least tied for, two major league records: fewest balls seen per time at bat and lowest swing-and-miss proportion in MLB history
The bottom of the inning, helmed by the great-last-time-out Matt Wisler began ominously with three straight outfield singles to load the bases. But a short flyout and a double play restored order.
Maharishi Acuña didn’t bat in the top of the second, so I’m not sure it happened.
Inciarte led off the third with an infield “hit” which was actually a bonehead play by Votto, who suddenly decided he was the only player on the right side of the infield on what would have been a simple 4-3 putout. A Freddie Freeman single followed. A Johan Camargo double plates another run, but nobody cares: it was just a means to get to at-bat 2 of Lord Acuña. Another flyout on the first pitch, this time just short of the warning track to right. Both records intact.
It looked unlikely that Dictator-for-Life Acuña would hit in the fourth, so I stopped paying attention for a little while. I was right.
The fifth inning begins with Ronaldinho again due up 6th. A solo Albies shot off the foul pole and a single by Nick Markakis led to hopes that Tsarevitch Ronald might be seen in this inning, but it was not to be, as Camargo was ordered to ground out to see what the Acuñabulator could do leading off an inning. Joey Votto ended Wisler’s bullet-dodging with a two run homer in the bottom of the fifth. At that point, a hit by Schebler found Adam Duvall thrown out by 20 feet to end the inning – ummmm, not in the fabulous new world of replay in which it is ruled that Perez missed the tag at home. (He may have, but I’m not completely certain Duvall hit the plate. I’ve given up deciding whether these replays are correctly decided or not.) Another single, and the Braves are behind by 1.
So for the first time in his brief career, King Ronald II comes to the plate representing the tying run. Tension rises as speculation begins… will he take a pitch? Yes, facing a new pitcher, Austin Brice. And we get his first K, called, on a 3-2 pitch.
A new battery started the bottom of the sixth: Jesse Biddle to Kurt Suzuki. Another DP erases a mini-threat.
Inciarte singles (his third hit) in the 7th and steals second to create an opportunity for Neck as the Reds intentionally walk FF5, but Kakes grounds out.
The Reds again load the bases in the bottom of the 7th with 1 out, but two Ks from Biddle keep it close.
Then in the 8th, IT happened. The initial safety of Ronald Acuña Jr., a solid single. Kevin Shackleford is the answer to a trivia question. A 3-2 base hit with Swanson at the plate leads to first and third. After a Tucker K, Suzuki brings Ubermensch Acuña home with a two-out single to tie the game.
The 9th began with Albies getting hit on the arm and a Freeman single. In a move that belies everything I ever saw of him, Phil Gosselin replaced Peraza as part of a double switch. Markakis hit into a double play, and I want to amend my earlier remark about replay. Replay should be disallowed except on plays which involve CB Bucknor – Markakis clearly safe and the camera makes clear what a bad umpire he is. Camargo brings home the go-ahead run on what Thom Brennaman called an “infield double” and I would call a not particularly well fielded chopper in the hole. The new Sultan of Swat strikes out to get to the bottom of the 9th with a lead.
Minter in for his first MLB save and his first since A ball in Rome: F7 (to Acuña! His second putout…) K F9 (at the wall).
cliff… Sam… this is how it’s done. See you next week.