In the unforgettable words of Annie Savoy: Oh, my.
I think we’ve definitively answered the question of how the team would react to the season-ending injury to Timmy Lupus.
I’ll try my best not to belabor this, simply because I’m sure you, like me, are anxious to get back to basking in the afterglow of a seven-game homestand that was both epic and perfect, against the Best Team in the National League™ and the most dependable punching bag the Braves have had over the last twenty years. It doesn’t get much better than this, not in the regular season.
Julio Teheran (who still needs a decent nickname in the worst way) loaded the bases twice in the first two innings, but allowed only a single run on a Corey Dickerson sacrifice fly. To be fair, this Rockies lineup was missing CarGo (wrist injury) and Cuddyer (personal absence), but their replacements are Major League hitters, too, and Julio needed 57 pitches to get through the first two frames. Joe Simpson was of the opinion that Julio was throwing too many strikes (and, indeed, he would match a career high of eleven strikeouts, but on this night he did so in five innings, in an eye-popping span of only 22 batters). Brian McCann talked to the young man and things improved; he finished the 2nd inning by striking out Troy Tulowitzki looking, upon which Tulo entertainingly got himself ejected by simply repeating over and over to home plate umpire Marvin Hudson the phrase, “It’s not a strike. It’s not a strike. It’s not a strike.”
It was a strike.
While Teheran was working out the kinks, his teammates continued the offensive tear they’ve been on all week. Bottom 1st, Jason Heyward reinforced his manager’s decision to start batting him first by leading off with a walk, and Justin Upton followed that with a two-run bomb. (I think he’s back.) Bottom 2nd, Andrelton Simmons singled to start the inning and Julio promptly doubled him in to put Atlanta up 3-1. (Gattis, mired in a pretty blah slump, grounded out to third base with men on the corners; this recapper has doubts about his ability to serve as our full-time catcher. If anything like livable terms are available, Frank Wren must re-sign McCann, IMHO.) Bottom 3rd, Teheran started things off with his second hit of the night and J-Hey launched his own 2-run shot to increase the Braves’ lead to 5-1. (I think he likes the leadoff spot.)
New reliever Scott Downs followed up his sparkling debut with another strong inning in the 6th, throwing only eight pitches in the process. The top of the 7th featured the only moments of potential drama, as David “Cup Of A” Carpenter put two men on while getting two outs and was relieved by Feliz Navidad. Feliz wasn’t so Felizitous, allowing D.J. LeMahieu to score and bringing the tying run to the plate. But 5-2 was as close as the Purple Pitcher Eaters would get, and they’d find themselves a lot farther away before it was all over.
Bottom 7th, it occurred to Fab 5 Freddie Freeman that he hadn’t gotten a hit yet. In a game against the Rockies, his personal whipping boys, no less. This would not do. Accordingly, he smacked a single to center, his eighth hit of the series. BMac (did I mention we have to re-sign him? We have to re-sign him) executed a nice hit-and-run to move Fab 5 Huggy Bear to third base to put men on the corners with one out for Chris Johnson, who was working on a streak of six straight multi-hit games. The number of the day being 7, CJ Jr. smacked a long single down the left field line, plating Freeman for a 6-2 advantage. Simba struck out to end the frame, which was news as it was his first K in 65 plate appearances, stretching back to before the All-Star break. So that was neat.
And then, in the bottom of the 8th, the wheels came off of the Pike’s Peak Railway engine car. Joey Terdoslavich singled and Jason walked and Justin hit his second home run of the night, a three-run dinger that made this a 9-2 laugher. (I really think he’s back.) Then Fab 5 Huggy Bear doubled to left because he was still sore about forgetting to get a hit against the Rockies until the 7th inning, which I think we can all understand. Then Todd Cunningham hit a sharp single to Inspiration Point. After Cunningham advanced on a wild pitch by something called an Edgmer Escalona (I gotta run over to Home Depot tomorrow and pick one of those up for my lawn), Freddie came in to score on a ground-out from McCann. Accordingly, Edgmer was not allowed to throw any more pitches and gave way to the Rex Brothers, who I believe are a circus acrobatics team from the Czech Republic. Li’l CJ, unimpressed by the thought of how a mere 2-for-5 night would barely augment his league-leading batting average, decided 3-for-5 was more fitting and singled in Richie Cunningham. Todd. Whatever. And Antony Varvaro (who apparently doesn’t exist in Baseball-Reference.com’s database) mopped up with a perfect top 9th.
Man, what else is there to say? It was the Braves’ first perfect homestand of at least seven games since April of 2000, and only their second since moving to Atlanta in 1966. They scored 40 runs in 4 games. 40 freakin’ runs. And, oh yeah, the team that looked to set a new record in strikeouts for the first three months of the season had as many home runs as strikeouts (3) in this game. While we were moping about their homer-or-sit-down approach, they’ve come out of the All-Star break manufacturing runs and keeping the line moving and then simply augmenting that process with two- and three-run bombs. Not surprisingly, it’s working out pretty well. Their division lead has grown to a tidy 11.5 games. It’s only early August, but you’ll take that every time.
Bottom line: yes, obviously they won’t keep playing this well forever. But their robust streak has come at a perfect time, as their closest rivals have fallen fast and hard. Clearly our Atlanta Braves have done what we hoped: they’ve taken their fallen leader’s injury as extra incentive to get out there and kick some serious butt. It might just be enough to power them deep into October.
(Enjoy it while you can. Melvin Jr. is almost back.)