Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

Scarred, but smarter.

10 Aug

A Phils/Barves Game As You Might Expect

11-2. That’s not the record the Dodgers have against the Phillies. That’s the record the Phillies have against us. They’re 31-67 against everyone else, but they’ve beat us like a drum all season. They’ve walked off on us three times, and they’ve beaten us by one run six times. But interestingly, one of our two wins was a 14-1 drubbing. Baseball’s a weird game.

For those that weren’t able to see the game, this guy’s opinion was that Sean Newcomb looked much better. After riding the struggle bus to a 7 walk performance in 4 2/3 innings last time out, he had one walk over 6 innings. His strike-to-ball ratio was one of his best since his first start. He was also hurt by two bad plays that led to 2 of his 3 runs allowed. Nick Markakis lost a ball in the lights that led to an extra base hit, and Ozzie Albies made a poor throw on a relay that led to a run. All in all, this was a step forward for him, and a great bounce-back start after what was probably a defeating start last time out.

But this team is mired in several slumps. Albies, Swanson, Adams, Inciarte, and Markakis are all in slumps, and on top of that, Adams can’t play left field at all (enjoy the video of him dropping a very catchable fly ball if you can find it). Kemp’s absence throws off the feng shui of this lineup as well. Instead of being able to go L-R-L-R all the way through the lineup, Markakis is inexplicably lodged between Freddie Freeman and Tyler Flowers, thus creating a L-L 3-hole and clean-up that the Phillies were able to exploit late in the game here. Matt Kemp, when healthy, is the only thing close to a clean-up hitter we have, and his right-handedness also allows Markakis to hit 5th, Flowers to hit 6th, and Adams to be one of the best 7-hole hitters in the game.

The bullpen once again pitched really well in relief, and Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino have both taken very well to their new roles. At this point, it’s now the offense that hasn’t given the Braves a chance to win. Round and round we go.

09 Aug

Phillies 5, Braves 2

There are few things in life more depressing than having to recap yet another loss against the imposing Phillies, especially when it makes the 5th straight defeat against them. In a year that has seen the Braves make quite a few strides forward, their play against the Phillies has been nothing short of humiliatingly abysmal. To put it into perspective:

  • The Braves are now 2-10 against the Phillies.
  • The Braves have more wins against the Dodgers this season than against the Phillies.
  • A full 25% of the Phillies TOTAL wins on the season have come courtesy of the Braves (10 of 41).
  • If the Braves had reversed that record and gone 10-2 against the Phillies, the Phillies would have a 33-77 record right now (a .300 winning percentage), and the Braves would be sitting comfortably in second place in the division at 59-52, seven games behind Washington.
  • The only other team that Philadelphia has a winning record against this season is the Giants, against whom they are 2-1 (and the Giants have MLB’s second worst record, ahead of only Philly).

I could keep going, but I have to stop before I make myself cry. It’s as though the Phillies singlehandedly have crushed any of the dignity the Braves managed to conjure up this season.

There was little in this game you could point to as encouraging. Freddie hit a solo home run, but that was about it for the highlights. Teheran proved once again that SunTrust holds kryptonite somewhere within its mighty beams, as he managed to give up 7 hits and 5 runs to the Phillies in 5 innings. Max Fried made his major league debut and pitched two innings, giving up two hits and two walks and striking out one. It wasn’t a stunning performance, especially considering it was against the worst team in the majors (and, quite frankly, would probably be one of the worst in AAA, too), but considering what the rest of the Braves staff has done this season against them, Fried’s outing looked downright exciting.

Natspos delenda est. And Phillies delenda est, too, as slowly and painfully as possible.

06 Aug

Marlins 4, Braves 1

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Winston Churchill

Are we turning a page in the rebuild? In quick succession, Lucas Sims, Ozzie Albies, and Max Fried have joined Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, and a shortstop to be named later on the major league roster. Age 30+ guys Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, Sean Rodriguez, Emilio Bonifacio, and others are gone; Adonis Garcia injured and largely forgotten.  Furthermore, there also has been a groundswell of promotions at the minor league level.

It was Sims on the mound today, battling nicely to stick around 6 innings after allowing 4 runs in the first.  The first started decently enough, with a Miguel Rojas flyout followed by hitting Giancarlo Stanton with a pitch, and therefore stopping him at first base.  But Christian Yelich walked, and back to back home runs by Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto would be all the Marlins would need, or get.  Sims allowed 6 hits and 3 walks, and recorded 3 strikeouts (a caveat: all 3 K’s were against Marlins pitcher Jose Urena.)

Urena allowed 3 hits in 6 innings of his own and allowed the lone Braves run, as Jace Peterson‘s double marked his 2nd pinch hit in as many days, and preceded Ender Inciarte‘s single.  Brandon Phillips made a couple of nice plays at 3rd, and Ozzie Albies was about 3 biscuits short of hitting 2 opposite field homers to left center.  (I’m not sure if those kind of flyballs from him are good or bad.)

If the Braves have indeed opened the valve on the prospect pipeline, it still may be closer to symbolizing the end of the beginning of the rebuild than the beginning of the end.  Folty is looking good lately, but it’s taken him 3 seasons in Atlanta to get here, and it’s unknown if the ultimate winners of Survivor: Gwinnett are even in the majors yet.  Just saying it could still be awhile folks, but if the front office will at least give us the end of the beginning, I’m all in.

Off Monday, then the Phillies come to town on Tuesday.

The 3rd funniest thing I ever heard about Miami:  Anything less than the best is, at most, a misdemeanor. At most.

05 Aug

Saturday, Saturday…No Aggravation…Braves 7, Fish 2

 

Yeah, Folty, Elton, Saturday, WIN! Sweet. Let that tape rip, celebrate with me. Central Park 1980.

 

THE GAME.

11 strike outs, no walks…up against an excellent pitcher, Straily, who had already beaten us twice this year and showed us why tonight again for 5 innings. Folty coming off a poor performance in Philly was superb -totally under control in every sense, composed, deadly. Mano a mano for 5 plus innings, and then..

Don’t think i’ve ever seen a home run like Stanton’s opener in the sixth. It didn’t match his monster 477 last night but that was off a weak ineffective pitch that sat up. Tonight, Folty threw one at 96 right down the middle but UP. Watching the slo-mo replay of Stanton’s swing you could not be but vastly impressed by his fluid, new weight transfer and how he somehow managed to bring his hands up and through the ball. What an athlete now he’s sorted things out, he hit another screamer late off the wall which was hit so hard on a low line that it bamboozled Ender into his second error of the year- he simply wasn’t given enough time to think.

 

Down one latish was nervy but Freddie settled that quickly driving in Ender and BJ in the bottom of the same innings to take a slim lead. Straily was gone, a little unkindly perhaps but anyway, after him, le deluge. No one else could pitch worth a damn for them.. We added 5 in the 7th including a 3 run FF homer. They picked up a solitary run in the 8th but, comically, they somehow brought the tying run to the plate in the 9th due to some ineffective relief from Motte and Jackson(enough already), So Viz had to be brought on and did an admirable job dispatching the final 2 outs. Back to back, Saturday, nice.

 

Bits and pieces. The crowd, 40K,  really got into it tonight and created quite an atmosphere. Lots of noise and at one point a multitude of smartphone flashing lights around the stadium. More of both please.

Folty’s final line – 6.1IP/ 4H/ 1 ER/11K’s. His highlight was the 4th inning when he struck out the heart of their order in sequence – Stanton/Yelich/Ozuna. Magnificent to watch.

Freddie is hitting the ball hard again. Ender just missed a 3 run homer to dead center, late, much to his annoyance.

https://www.mlb.com/gameday/marlins-vs-braves/2017/08/05/491743#game_state=final,game_tab=box,game=491743

 

HAVE FUN…ITS SATURDAY AND WE WON.

05 Aug

Atlanta 5, Giancarlo Stanton 3

Another Friday game against the Marlins, and another 900 feet of Giancarlo Stanton homers. But, the Braves were able to keep the other Marlins in check, and managed a 5-3 win at STP.

R.A. Dickey continued his season of Being Not At All Very Bad, going 6 innings giving up only three hits and a walk, allowing three runs on the aforementioned two dingers to Stanton.

As an aside, I love the word ‘aforementioned.’ To me, there is something quintessentially English about it. It sounds like the Weekend Country Manor Home of the lexicographical world. I think it should be used any chance you get. Anyhoo, back to the aforementioned game.

The Braves opened the scoring in the first, as the Marlins kicked the ball around the infield, Brandon Phillips coming home on an error off the bat of Nick Markakis. Stanton tied it up in the 4th, homering to dead center on a knuckler that didn’t, becoming the first player to hit one off the batter’s eye. Stanton launched another in the 6th, his league leading 36th homer, driving in Miami pitcher Adam Connelly, who had singled for the aforementioned third hit Dickey allowed.

But Atlanta responded in the bottom of the frame. Phillips singled, Tyler Flowers singled him to second, and Nick Markakis pulled to within 30 of the league lead in home runs to make it 4-3 Atlanta. Atlanta added an insurance run in the 7th with Lane Adams coming off the bench with a pinch hit double, advancing to third on a wild pitch, and coming home on a Phillips single.

Jim Johnson worked the 8th, pitching around a lead-off pinch hit single from Ichiro Suzuki, and Arodys Vizcaino closed out the game working around a swinging bunt and a two out walk. Mike Foltynewicz toes the rubber tonight against Dan Straily. Maybe we can limit Giancarlo to only 600 feet of fly balls this evening.

03 Aug

Seventh game letdown–Dodgers 7 Braves 4

Game 7 in Atlanta!

The excitement leading up to this game was so palpable and so intense that words cannot describe it. As Dusty put it in the last game thread, “tonight is Game 7 of our NLCS with the Dodgers. We shocked the world by taking the first two, only to see LA reel off three straight. Flowers had the dramatic decisive blow to send us to a game 7 tonight where it’s former Brave Alex Wood against newcomer Newcomb.”

Indeed, how many crucial game sevens had Atlanta fans witnessed in their home park in the fifty year history of the Atlanta Braves? Given the remarkable run of October baseball from 1991-2005, it’s not as many as you might think. The most famous of course is the 1992 NLCS against the Pirates—Francisco Cabrera, Sid slid, Braves Win! Braves Win! Braves Win! Braves Win! I never tire of hearing Skip on the call: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYIPtLDWx-s. (BTW, tonight was the ninth anniversary of the death of Skip Caray; he was a gem.)

There was the 1996 NLCS against the Cardinals in which the Braves overcame a three games to one deficit and won three straight to win the pennant and advance to the World Series. That game seven in Atlanta, though, was anti-climactic as the Braves won 15-0.

And that’s it.* So no wonder everyone was so eagerly anticipating this game seven.

Well, maybe not so much. Man, I miss October baseball. I yearn for real game sevens instead of fake ones. But the cold hard truth is that this Braves team is a long way from competing in October. The Phillies are a very bad team, and the Braves have lost 9 of 11 to them. Yet against the Dodgers, who are having a phenomenal season, our Braves somehow managed to split the first six games of the season series (in fact, no one else has beaten the Dodgers in the last month). So, if the Braves could win this last game against the Dodgers and win the season series, that would be something.

But alas, even that minor consolation was not to be. Sean Newcomb again showed flashes of what he could be, but he also showed what he currently is, which is someone who walks way too many batters to be a successful starting pitcher in the big leagues. His line in 4 2/3 innings: 7 K’s, 7 walks, 4 hits and 3 runs. And 110 pitches! Jason Hursh gave up three more runs, and Ian Krol one more—because Ian Krol.

Offensively, the Braves didn’t have much going through the first 8 innings. They did have two memorable hits in the game. Early in the game Markakis got his 2000th career hit. In the 9th, Ozzie Albies, whose streak of reaching base in every game was already intact thanks to a walk, got his first big league hit—a three run homer to left. Too little too late to affect the outcome, but it’s exciting to see the kid up and playing. Even with just the one hit, his OPS is now .864.

Our old friend Alex Wood pitched six strong innings. In the 5th, when the outcome was still in doubt, the Braves loaded the bases with no outs. Thanks to a pickoff at second base and a double play, the Braves got nothing. That sequence was the most important in the game.

You know, every time I start to feel good about the trades and picks Coppy has made, I see Alex Wood and I’m reminded of the trade that should not be mentioned. That deal is still absolutely inexplicable.

Unlike a loss in an October game seven, the Braves live to play another day. Marlins in for three for the weekend.

*You recall that the clinching game in the 1995 World Series in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium was Game 6 of the series, and the greatest game seven in World Series history, in 1991, was played in Minnesota.

03 Aug

Braves 5, Dodgers 3

The Braves had lost 6 straight, and was playing a team that was on pace to win 113 games, so naturally, we came up with timely hits and strong bullpen work to sneak a win. Of course!

Most noteworthy, however, was Brandon Phillips‘ shift to playing third base. The Braves and Phillips have had a publicly quiet, but seemingly rocky road if you read between the lines. It’s been speculated that the Braves had different deals at different times through last offseason to pick him up, and one would assume that Phillips held it up. At some point, the Braves provided a bonus for him to agree to a trade, and the trade was finalized after Sean Rodriguez‘s injury, which is interesting considering the Braves were linked to Phillips before they signed Rodriguez. Then, it became reasonable to speculate that the Braves had a deal to trade Phillips, but that was axed. Ozzie Albies called up, Phillips to the bench, then Phillips to third, and lots of innuendo from the beat writers and managers about its circumstances. Hmm.

Ozzie Albies is still searching for his first hit, but he’s worked two walks, and in his at bats, he doesn’t appear to be over-matched. He’s taking good swings, he’s not chasing too many pitches, but the hits haven’t fallen quite yet. He’s made some nice plays in the field, though, and I’m sure enjoying the ride.

Julio Teheran had another less-than-stellar start, but it was hardly what we’ve seen most recently. He gave up a home run, but he issued no walks, and only gave up 4 hits in 5 innings. That all sounds good for Julio, but he still gave up 3 runs, and he left after only throwing 64 pitches due to a cramp in his right thigh. Perhaps his night would have ended better, but who knows? The bullpen provided an unexpected but much appreciated 4 straight innings of scoreless work. The same bullpen that had an ERA north of 7 was able to keep the best team in baseball at bay for rest of the evening. Baseball.

The big hit was a 2-run, opposite field, pinch hit homer by Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the 8th, and then Arodys Vizcaino came in to lock it down. Vizzy was pumped after the save, and I would be too if it meant I might be the team’s closer. We shall hope.

02 Aug

The Future Has Arrived

With the major league debuts of Lucas Sims and Ozzie Albies, the Braves stepped into the future on a beautiful evening at SunTrust Park Tuesday night. They fell just short, though, of leading the Atlanta club to victory over the best team in the majors, which confirms failure of the whole rebuild and dooooom for the next decade or two in Atlanta baseball. It has now been proven that Albies will bat .000 for his major league career and score 162 runs a year on average. His walk-to-strikeout ratio will be amazing (162 walks to 0 strikeouts), but sadly that won’t be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. Apparently that place requires a few hits and a home run or two. Equally sure is that Sims’s career will be average, with a not-quite respectable, yet not not-respectable 4.50 ERA and a textbook definition of a quality start every time out. His walk-to-strikeout ratio will also be impressive (around 90 strikeouts each year and no walks), and he will allow around a hit an inning. His major league record will be 0-for-however many games he starts.

So much for hype.

[/sarcasm]

In reality, the Braves did on Tuesday exactly what they did on Monday—got themselves down before the offense finally woke up a bit to claw back to within one run in the late innings to allow the team to only lose by one run. This time, though, the performance was against the team with the best record in baseball, instead of against the team with the worst. So, it was slightly more impressive.

Sims went six innings and looked composed on the mound. He allowed single runs in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, but never let the Dodgers’ bats break out a big inning. He pitched well enough to keep his team in the game, but the Braves’ bats were stymied by Kenta Maeda, and only managed to collect two hits against him in his seven innings of work. The Braves did not get a runner to second base until the 8th inning, when the now-positionless Brandon Phillips got there on a sacrifice bunt after he registered a pinch hit to follow Camargo’s two-run homerun. Camargo scored the wunderkid Albies, who had coaxed a walk to lead off the inning. Phillips’s hit went for naught, though, after a ground out and soft pop-up ended the inning with his tying run stranded on third. The Braves went weakly in the 9th, with three strikeouts against one of the best closers in the league. I’d forgotten what it felt like to watch someone dominate on the mound in the 9th inning. What memories it brought back.

The Braves have dropped into 4th place in the NL East, behind one in the loss column to the Mets and two to the Marlins. It will be a dogfight to the end between those three teams to see who ends up on top, and whose name will be listed just above the Phillies in the standings.

Of note: Sean Rodriguez really should have gotten an extended rehab/Spring Training assignment before he was put back on the major league roster. Eleven games across four levels just did not cut it, especially when he collected all of three hits in those eleven games—two singles and one double—while he had twelve strikeouts. His presence on the major league roster makes no sense. There were literally zero reasons to rush him up with the number of infielders (and even infielder/outfielders) the Braves have on the roster. I have gotten to the point where I turn the game off whenever he comes up to bat. I just cannot watch him anymore. He makes me yearn for Jace Peterson. Also, Jim Johnson pitched the 7th inning last night and did a good job. For Braves’ fans collective blood pressure, may he stay pitching that early in the game and not see another close/late situation again this season.

Natspos delenda est. This season has gone down the drain over the last two weeks, so all the other teams can be delenda-ed too. Actually, I’d be happy now if the Braves could win a couple in a row. That would be fun. But the Nationals should lose, too. Always. Because that is fun too. So, yeah, Natspos delenda est.

31 Jul

The Burmese Railroad: Barves 6, Phillies 7, but swept out with the trash

Where do we go to consider the weekend of discontent? The Barves were embarrassed over and over. Then, today we have Mike Foltynewicz. Surely he will give us a good performance. Not quite. He Barved it up to 5 runs, all “earned,” in 4 innings.

Why the Burmese Railroad. Although “Bridge on the River Kwai” is fictional, it does give you the gist of what happened. Thousands of British troops surrendered to the Japanese in the fall of Malaya and Burma. If a few of you are “young un’s” now they call Burma, Myanmar. They were hauled off in humiliating style to live in horrible conditions. They were killed if they didn’t jump up and go work as ordered.

Among those orders were to complete a railway to allow Japanese attacks toward India to be supplied by a railroad from Rangoon. To do this required construction through an area with high ridges intersected by many swift rivers. So it was blast, pick, haul dirt and rock out, bridge, and start blasting again. The Barves experienced this humiliation by being beaten 4 straight times by a team that seems to be a lesser force than the Barves less than mediocre crew.

After getting only 1 run through 6 innings off of something called Nick Pivetta, the guys seemed to lift up their lunch pails and swing them a little in the late innings. 3 in the 7th made it 7 to 4. Then, 1 in the 8th and 1 in the 9th.

It appears that the FO (that’s Varsity speech for a frozen orange drink, you know, naked dog walking, etc.) couldn’t trade any of our rentals for anything that they thought was worth more than the right of its patrons to continue to see Kurt Suzuki, Brandon Phillips, and several more players.

30 Jul

Phillies 2, Braves 1

The Braves, like their baserunners, cannot get home fast enough, as they left 9 men on base and fall to 3 – 7 on the road trip.

R.A. Dickey had the knuckleball working to the tune of 8 strikeouts, 4 wild pitches, 2 passed balls, and 1 unearned run in 7 innings, but Vince Velasquez threw 7 scoreless innings for the Phils.  The Braves played for 1 run in the 8th and got it, on a Danny Santana single, a wild pitch, a sacrifice bunt by Ender Inciarte, and a run scoring fielder’s choice that probably could have been scored an error.  Rex Brothers cleaned up a mess in the 8th, but a leadoff double off him in the 9th by Andrew Knapp led to Akeel Morris loading the bases with nobody out, from where Freddy Galvis walked the Braves off with a line drive single.

Interestingly, Jim Johnson came on with a tied score in the 8th, and Brian Snitker confirmed after the game that Johnson is no longer the primary closer.  http://www.ajc.com/sports/baseball/braves-snitker-says-johnson-longer-primary-closer/RFjGpuN0wazeaqWQDWnh5J/  I’m sure the Braves would have liked to have gotten Johnson a couple more saves so that they would not be selling at the bottom, but it appears that now they will try to build up Arodys Vizcaino‘s value instead.

The Braves will try to salvage a game from the 4 game set on Monday at 12:35.

The 2nd funniest thing I ever heard about Philadelphia:  The Phillies are still just 38 – 64.

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