I have become convinced that one of the pernicious evils that the 1994 baseball strike has inflicted on us, is the Tyranny of the Long Ball. Think about it for a minute. After Cal Ripken Jr passed Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive game streak, MLB needed something to continue its recovery of popularity after pissing off the fans by cancelling the ’94 World Series (and coincidentally, saving the Braves consecutive division streak in the process, as if the season had played out, the Braves would’ve gotten run by the Expos. THAT team was dynamite. But, I digress.). And the decision to juice the ball to emphasize the home run has had knock on effects that have probably permanently changed the game. Now, I won’t yell at you kids to get off my lawn, because dadgummit, watching your team’s starting infield launch 5 dingers in a game against one of their main divisional rivals sure is fun. And that surge in homer happy hitters (man it sure is early to alliterate, sorry, digression), has led to teams looking for power pitchers to combat the swing for the fences mentality. Of course, while not always true, velocity and command don’t always pair together.
And that is one of the main Unintended Consequences of the Juiced Ball Era – that we have witnessed the near extinction of The Pitcher’s Duel. Seems like every day we get a lot of 7-4 or 8-6 scores. But, last night, the Braves and Pure Evil hooked up in a classic 1-0 game that would’ve been right home back in the 1950’s.
The Marlins ran out their rookie pitching sensation, Jordan Yamamoto, who has been channeling his inner Greg Maddux since being called up. Atlanta countered with Julio Teheran, who was coming off three bad starts after two months of pitching well. But, Julio was facing a team he has controlled, with 12 scoreless innings spread over two starts.
Yamamoto was as advertised. Holding down a potent Braves lineup with an unpredictable array of pitches, ranging from a lollipop 70 mph curve ball to 95 mph heat on the corner. He kept the Braves batsmen off balance by mixing up his pitches, aided no dobt by the fact that there wasn’t much of a ‘Book’ on him. Perhaps after two months in the league, he will be more hittable, but last night he really was sharp. He held the Braves hitless through 4 2/3 innings, walking Josh Donaldson in the 2nd, before Brian McCann finally reached on a single. The only real trouble he faced was in the bottom of the 6th, when he walked Matt Joyce to lead off the inning, and then surrendered a single to Ronald Acuna Jr. for a no out men on first and second situation. However, Ozzie Albies hit a hard groundball to first, which the Fish turned into a nifty 3-6-1 double play. An intentional walk to Freddie Freeman brought Donaldson up, but he grounded weakly back to the pitcher.
Julio, on the other hand, was pulling off his Julio Joudini act most of the night. Julio started by giving up singles in the first to Curtis Granderson with one out, and another single to Neil Walker with two down, but retired Starlin Castro to end the threat. Jorge Alfaro led off the second with yet another single, but was erased on a double play. Yamamoto led off the third with yet another hit, singling to center. He advanced to second when Miguel Rojas grounded to short. Johan Camargo made a fantastic play going to his right to retire Rojas, who was initially called safe, but replay reversed the call when it showed Claude’s throw nipped him by at most two millimeters. A two out walk was followed by Julio going to 3-2 to Walker, but Walker struck out looking on a borderline pitch. Which was probably ball 4, but we’ll take it. There were a number of irritated batters last night with the home plate umpire’s zone.
That seemed to settle down Julio, who retired the next 8 Marlins hitters, until Walker coaxed a two out walk in the top of the 6th. Starlin Castro then doubled down the left field line, and Walker was held at third on a questionable decision by Miami third base coach Fredi Gonzalez (yep, the very same). Austin Riley did not play the ball well, and Walker probably should have scored, especially as there were two outs, but Gonzalez threw up the stop sign. See, those of you who were worried that Fredi would be making terrible calls at Sun Trust were right. He does. Good for us he’s in Miami now and not in the first base dugout. Julio then managed to coax a fly ball to center from Alfaro to wiggle off yet another hook.
The 7th inning saw both teams turn to their bullpens. Touki Toussaint struck out the side, issuing a two out walk, and Miami responded with Austin Brice, who gave up a one out single to Riley but otherwise was as dominant as Touki.
Then the rains came. Let’s just say that the rest of this recap is based off the MLB.com condensed game video, because the game didn’t restart until about 12 AM this morning. Or something. I was asleep by that time. So, sue me. I’m old.
Anyhow, appearantly A.J. Minter worked around a two out single to Walker, and the Braves couldn’t do anything in the bottom of the 8th. Luke Jackson gave up a lead off double to Alfaro in the 9th, but struck out the next two batters before getting Brian Anderson to fly out to deep left. Atlanta got its own lead off double in the bottom of the 9th, when Fab Five Freddie doubled off the left center wall. Donaldson was intentionally walked, and Nick Markakis advanced them with a swinging bunt. Riley got the second intentional base on balls to load them up for BMac. McCann lined the first pitch he saw from Jose Quijada into left for the walk off single and the 1-0 win.
So, the win, coupled with the gNatspos loss to Kansas City, pushes the Bravo’s divisional lead back to 6.5 over Philly. Max Fried looks to close out his sparkling first half on a high note this afternoon against Caleb Smith. Let’s hope the bats are a little more awake than they were last night.