In their penultimate game of the regular season, Atlanta simultaneously lost a tough game to the Phillies and their control over Home Field Advantage in the National League. That’s not insignificant. It’s true that HFA has not determined postseason success for the vast majority of teams in the wild card era, but it’s also true that this Braves teams plays significantly better at the Ted than they do anywhere else. More importantly, this season HFA really means “avoiding Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke” in a short series. Now, Atlanta needs both a win against Philadelphia and a St. Louis loss against a woeful Chicago team to avoid that fate.
The Braves trailed the entire game after Mike Minor surrendered 2 runs in the top of the 1st inning. Minor has been pedestrian in 1st innings this season: his ERA in the game’s first frame is an awful 5.64, easily his worst mark of any inning. And so last night was of a piece with his larger body of work. He struggled in the 1st, settled down in the 2nd, and finished with a respectable line for the night. Jordan Walden then served up 2 more runs, which is too bad because until recently he was the Braves 2nd-best reliever and a reliable 8th-inning man to boot. Now the team will probably be relying upon David Carpenter and Luis Avilan for non-Kimbrel late-inning high-leverage outs. Anthony Varvaro, finally, allowed the Phillies’ 5th run in the 8th.
As for offense… well, we all know this story. The Braves were mostly quiet with their bats, which has been their wont for the better part of the last 6 weeks. That said, as has also been an iteration of a recurring genre, they managed to leave a small village of runners on base. 12 hits and 5 walks often produces more than 4 runs, but not all hits are created equal. Aside from two doubles and a 9th-inning Justin Upton home run, Atlanta’s hits were all singles. It’s not unsurprising then that 75% of their runs came on the aforementioned homer. The Braves will need to rediscover their power once the postseason starts, for they have recently hit more like the Mariners, Astros, and Marlins than the pre-September Braves.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 9th-inning shenanigans as well. Atlanta cut the lead to 1 after JUpton’s 2-out, 3-run home run, and then managed to get 2 more runners on base for Chris Johnson. The latter hit a sharp ground ball deep into the hole, but was thrown out after Jimmy Rollins made a fantastic play to his right. CJ did not appear to be running hard out of the box; he should have beaten the throw and the game should have continued for at least one more matter. But that’s not all. Johnson subsequently compounded his (and the team’s) frustration by throwing a tantrum in the dugout and hitting Terry Pendleton with his helmet. TP then grabbed and shook him angrily, which made for an odd dugout scene for a team with 95 wins and the division title already wrapped up. I doubt there’s much to see here. They’ll be fine, and Chris Johnson will probably be running like hell out of the box for the foreseeable future.
Julio Teheran gets the ball today in his final tuneup before the LDS. Atlanta hitters will meanwhile get one final chance to batter Philadelphia’s usually middling relievers. Let’s hope they do.