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August 7 Recap

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When Kelly Johnson hit his homer last night, it was at that point that I felt like our offense had a real, highly probable chance of pulling out a win in this one, even with all of the bad calls, unfortunate squibblers, and near misses.  I often find myself overly nervous when watching, much less attending, these extra inning nail biters[1].  Perhaps it was some alcohol talking, but I was confident the Braves wouldn't fail me in this game.  If they had, then it wouldn't have mattered.  My computer would be in shambles leaving me in no way capable of blogging my (post?) teen angst (shout out to John Hughes) on the misfortunes of a Braves fan; so, really, it was a win-win.

Before I go into the game's breakdown, I want to mention an observation at the bottom of the eleventh inning in yesterday's (or, at that point, today's) game.  Russell Martin hit a screamer for the hole between second and third to start the bottom half of the inning.  Instead of being a leadoff double, Martin Prado, who seemingly knew where the ball was going the second it made contact with the catcher's bat, ranged to his left and made a play on the ball, laying out in the process.  He quickly got to his feet and forced a quick throw to make an attempt on the fast baserunner.  His throw was on time, but not on the money.  LaRoche was forced off the base and, while he managed to catch the ball, had it knocked out his glove when attempting the tag on Russell.

The play, while amazing in its own right, is not what caught my attention the most.  Fast forward five batters later with the bases loaded, two outs, and recently called-up Tony Abreu is at the plate.  Roger McDowell came out for a conference on the mound and, naturally, all of the infielders followed suit.  As they came close to listen in, before anything could've been said, Prado steps out of the crowd and taps LaRoche on the shoulder apologizing for his errant throw.  Of course, LaRoche acknowledges him in passing, brushing it off.

While Adam might have taken that display of obsessiveness as little more than a rookie move, that obsession and expectation of one's self is exactly the type of competitive spirit so often exhibited by winners.  It's not the post-game interviews with media that can classify that in players[2]; it's the small things they do on and off the field.  And Martin Prado no doubt has that, which has certainly been a key to his success and cemented his place as an everyday player in the Braves lineup.  Ultimately, my point is that, while I love statistics and their uncanny ability for analyzing a players past, present, and future performance, character was, is, and always will be an integral part of baseball.

Braves 9 - Dodgers 5

MVP: Ryan Church (.328 WPA) barely edges out Yunel Escobar (.324 WPA) in this game.  His three-run homer with two outs in the top of the twelfth was a thing of beauty.  It was an absolute rocket to right field.  If Dwight Howard was covering first, he might've had a block on it[3]; it was that low to the ground.  Add to that two more hits, one of them being a double, he ended the day 4 for 5 with 4 RBIs and a walk, well deserving of his MVP crown.  I'd also like to point out Mike Gonzalez came relatively close to this achievement (.286 WPA), often a tough task for a reliever.  The statistic most worth noting about him: he threw a total of 22 pitches over 2.0 IP (14 S, 8 B).

LVP: Adam LaRoche. After starting out red hot, he just wasn't on his game tonight.  He put up an 0 for 5 with a walk and 3 Ks.  It's actually very reminiscent of LaRoche of old...  Let's hope it was a one time thing.

MIP: The two out single by Yunel Escobar by the supposed Sunday-game starter Scott Elbert.  That guy knows how to deliver the two out hit with runners in scoring position.  I don't think there is enough signal to say he's being clutch to any degree, but Yunel has been huge for us.  Regardless, a WPA of .357 earned it the MIP title.  FYI, Church's homer ranked fifth in WPA for all events in that game by the Braves.

UotG: Late-inning work less the pinch hitters.  Overall, this was a collective effort with good offense and fantastic bullpen.  Jurrjens didn't look terrible, but that "bad" call in the fifth nipped us in the butt.  The pinch hitters were miserable, a trait we've been seeing from the Braves.  They did make the game much more interesting with a collective -.167, for what it's worth.

With that, I will rest easy.  Let's hope we bring it all back for tomorrow.  On a completely unrelated note, if anyone needs a good laugh to bridge the gap, then let this brighten your day (thanks to Shane for this one).

[1] People say that will die down with age, but I am still waiting for it.  I think it's all the caffeine.  And Philly air.  That can't help.
[2] I will go on the record now and forever that post-game interviews, besides for a few classics, are completely useless and have no bearing whatsoever on how I feel about a game.
[3] Of course, he would consequently be missing a limb, but he's got two.
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