This one was a blowout. It was almost a very different game.
Mike Minor got into trouble in the first inning. Yasiel Puig led off with a single because that’s what he does and if you missed grabbing him off your fantasy waiver wire by an hour like I did a couple weeks ago you’re probably kicking yourself. Nick Punto dragged a bunt into the no-man’s land between the mound and first base to put two men on, and Adrian Gonzalez worked a walk.
Bases loaded, no one out, Minor struggling with his command… potential bad times. But Scott Van Slyke hit a weak grounder to third that forced Puig at home, Minor struck out Luis Cruz, and although the Dodgers got one run on a Skip Schumaker swinging bunt that no one had a play on, nothing else came of that inning. Or the rest of the game, for the Dodgers.
In the top of the second, Dan Uggla walked and Ramiro Pena struck out to start the inning. The Braves hear your cries about bunting, but they have decided to go the other direction and embrace the tactic not as baseball strategy per se, but as absurdist performance art. Jordan Schafer, intending to discomfort his audience and point out the futility of the human condition, bunted Uggla over. This served to bring up the pitcher with two out; that inning didn’t end profitably.
The third was better for the Braves. After loading the bases with one out, Evan Gattis hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Say what you will about Uggla, but you can pretty much guarantee that he’ll launch a batting -practice fastball over the left-field foul pole. Matt Magill threw Uggla such a BP fastball, and the Braves led 4-1.
After having thrown 31 pitches in the first, Minor settled down and finished out six innings, striking out six and giving up only the aforementioned run. He didn’t need any more runs after Uggla’s first blast, but the Braves got them anyway; Freddie Freeman cleared the bases in the fourth with a double, making it 7-1.
You’d think the Dodgers would have made a note about putting a flat fastball in front of Uggla, but Ronald Belisario threw him basically the same pitch to lead off the fifth. Uggla parked it over the left-field fence again.
That was it for scoring; Alex Wood and David Carpenter took the Braves home, and they got out of L.A. with a split. Pending tonight’s Nationals game, Atlanta leads the division by eight games. On to San Diego next, where Fredi Gonzalez has announced the club’s intention to bunt seventeen randomly placed times in one game this coming Tuesday as commentary on the alienation of the individual in the modern digital world. Is this hubris? Perhaps, but I can’t argue with the results thus far.