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braves-win-anatomy-of-a-four-game-sweep | May | 2008 Articles

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Braves Win! Anatomy of a Four-Game Sweep

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Sweep! Update (Will Schaffer): Bobby Cox signed a 1-year extension today, which will keep him managing the Braves through the 2009 season. Based upon this and comments that have been made over the past couple of seasons, it seems like Bobby Cox will be on a year-by-year basis. If he wants the job, it's his, but at 67, many believe Cox will be hanging up the spikes (yes, he wears spikes) soon. The Braves just completed a four-game sweep of the Mets in extremely convincing fashion, exorcising some of their own demons and setting a good tone for our series against the Diamondbacks, currently the best team in the league, and our summer push to wrest the division from the hands of the Marlins. The first seven weeks of the Braves' season were frequently maddening, as our powerful offense frequently disappeared, our starters usually petered out around the 5th or 6th, and our Bobby-abused bullpen coughed up leads, so that despite an ostensibly shiny team ERA and batting average our team vastly underperformed expectations. Well, we're still underperforming, as our Pythagorean W-L is 30-17 (in contrast to our real record, 26-21), but we're 5 games over .500 for the first time all season and finally starting to look like the team we thought we had entering the spring. So, to paraphrase Morpheus, how did we beat them? 6-1, 6-2, 11-4, 4-2. As Jessica Bader of Take the 7 Train describes it, "The first three games of this series were shellackings, games in which the Braves offense acted as a meatgrinder that just chewed up Mets pitching. TonightÂ’s game was tantalizingly, heartbreakingly close." I'm not sure the first and second games were exactly meatgrinders -- until a late-inning homer off a crappy Mets reliever in each game, the games were definitely within reach. The third game was really the only absolute slaughter, at least by the scoreboard. Otherwise, though, we outclassed them in every respect. Offensively, we actually left runners on all over the place, leaving 37 men on base over the 4 games. We had 46 hits, 16 walks (against only 11 strikeouts), and Mets pitchers plunked us 4 times, so it's actually surprising we only scored 27 runs (26 earned). Our team batted .341/.418/.519, with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homers (one solo job and three two-run jacks), and 32 pesky singles. We didn't have a single "big" inning, but we had a ton of little ones: of the 32 offensive half-innings in the series, we scored in 14, with 6 one-run innings, 3 two-run innings, and 5 three-run innings. Meanwhile, the Mets batted .220/.243/.311, grounded into 5 double plays, got caught stealing once, struck out 21 times and only drew 4 walks. They got 29 hits, but scored only 9 runs (8 earned), largely on 3 solo homers, and left 19 men on base. The key to their offensive ineptitude is this: of their 36 offensive half-innings in the series, they scored in only 5. In Tuesday's doubleheader, they went scoreless in 15 straight innings from the 1st inning of the first game to the 8th of the nightcap. In fact, there were only 9 innings in which the Mets had more than one hit. Perhaps the most remarkable thing of all is that the Mets actually used more pitchers than we did, 15 to 14. But our bullpen use was still problematic, as Acosta pitched in three of the four games, Boyer pitched in two, Bennett pitched in two, Ohman pitched in two, and Resop pitched in one, while Royce Ring and Phil Stockman never came into a game. I say this every other day, but Boyer and Acosta are headed for serious arm problems, and Phil Stockman has logged a grand total of one appearance in the week he's been with the big club. He needs to be used while he's up here, and Bobby needs to be forcibly restrained from abusing his other relievers the way he's done. Considering we outscored them 27-9 in the series, he could have done a better job of sharing the workload. Otherwise, though, it was a remarkable domination. Tonight we'll face cancer survivor Doug Davis, making his first start in the majors since last year. Jo-Jo Reyes goes for us, and our success will largely depend on whether his blisters continue to recur. He's shown signs in his last few starts of being a useful major league pitcher; let's hope that continues. The Diamondbacks are coming off being swept by the Marlins, so we're catching them at the right time. Let's hope we can continue our surge and their fall.

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