“You can stand me up at the Gates of Hell, but I won’t back down.” Not only one of my favorite lyrics but probably an all time great lyric. Apply that to the Braves tonight. With Folty on the mound and Culberson at SS, having lost two games in a row by the skin of our teeth and some bad luck, the mojo coming into tonight was awful. Add to that, Berrios on the mound for the Twinkies and the shMets making a move. You’d have to feel like something has to change or this season could start to spiral. Further, a bullpen with a lot of good pitchers in total upheaval.
This is a character building moment for this team. You all know what I’m leading up, of course. One pitch; one run. Only a few players are as good or as fun to watch as our Ronald. He not only smashed a home run, but he also smashed it deep to straight CF. A statement. If that’s not enough, Freddie did the same dang thing in the top of the 3rd. He hit a long HR to CF on the first pitch he saw. Even better, Ronald had walked and Ozzie singled in front of him. And the Braves had a 4-0 lead. I was reading a MLBTR chat where someone asked if Freddie had a good case for MVP and the answer was that he’s not even the best player on his own team.
With the added pressure to perform because of the Gausman waiver, Folty was not only under pressure to show he was back to form but also under extra pressure without a real backup plan. I’m not sure that was the best way to handle Folty’s return, but Folty made the Braves look good with two decent innings. In the third, he faced his first trouble with a walk and a single and seemed to have lost the strike zone. He also looked like he was overthrowing to compensate. The situation was set up for a classic “Folty”. But he struck out Rosario for the third out and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, he was now over 60 pitches after 3 innings.
In the 4th, it looked like they were going to continue cooking against Berrios until Inciarte tried to stretch a single unsuccessfully for the third out. The Braves seemed primed for another mid-inning hibernation, but that ‘s not in keeping with tonight’s theme. Acuna and Albies went right to work creating the 5th run with a single, SB, single, SB. They proved that, tonight, we weren’t going to back down. Then something happened which I can’t remember happening for a while. The Braves put on a real sustained rally in the top of the 6th with two outs without a HR. Not sure when the last time that happened was. It went K, W, K, single, balk, single, triple (Ozzie, OK it was reee-al close to a HR), single double, single, K and 6 runs had scored. It went on so long, I almost fell asleep…..LOL
There we were with a 11-0 lead after 5.5 innings. All Folty had to do was give us one last zero and turn it over to a shutdown bullpen. Easy? NOT!!! Folty gave up a solo shot and a 2-run HR. Overall, Folty was solid but did not prove his gopher issues were gone with those 2 HRs. In came Luke, who got the final two outs of the 6th but walked two before finishing. I hoped we’d see Newk since he’s the only one who hadn’t blown up recently. Umm, no. Newk gave up a three run shot to Nellie Cruz. Cruz hit the first solo shot off Folty. Now it was 11-6 and I was reliving last Tuesday’s nightmare against the gNats. Against the gNats, I was fortunate as I didn’t sit through the bottom of the 9th by leaving early. Tonight I’m sitting at home watching MLBN.
The Braves did not back down and tacked on another run in the 8th. The General came in and stanched the bleeding with the help of Culby at SS who refused to back down by making two outstanding plays easing the General’s way. The 9th came and Greene along with it. With the exception of another solo HR, Greene looked much better and closed the game. This kind of game is what it’s going to take for the Braves to beat the big boys in the playoffs. Score runs and hold leads. Trying to win like the last two games – pitching well and coming back at the end – is not going to cut it. The bottom of the lineup did not help (Duvall/Culby with 7 strikeouts) except for Ender. Our best hitters must remember this night the next time they face an ace. Don’t back down; never back down.