UPDATE FROM ALEX: The deadline for submissions to our writing contest has passed. Thanks to all who tried out. Kristi and I will contact you shortly with further information.
This is a long one, but I promise it's worth the read....
Just when I thought Jeff Bennett had done everything he could to make me dislike him, he goes and breaks his hand punching a door. Did I mention that he did this during a game in which he was still the pitcher? You'll recall in my post after Wednesday's game that I mentioned Bennett giving up a two-out, two-run hit to A-Rod to give the Yankees the lead. Well, apparently he was as mad at himself as I was at him and he proceeded to punch a door just outside the dugout. But the stupidity didn't stop there. No, he was so embararssed that he didn't tell anyone what he'd done or that a bump was raising under the skin on his non-throwing hand. Nope, he went back out and pitched in the seventh, giving up a homerun to the first batter he faced. After his poor performance on Sunday, in which he managed to lose the game in just one pitch, one might have thought his poor performance on Wednesday would jeopardize his position on the active roster. It did, just not in the way I had hoped. For now he's on the 15-day disabled list and Boone Logan has been recalled from Gwinnett to take his place.
Speaking of Boone Logan, he got a chance to come in the game last night after Derek Lowe had a less than stellar performance. I'll never forget him beating the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, but apparently they haven't forgotten either and were out for revenge. Lowe lasted only three innings and gave up 11 hits, 8 runs (6 of them earned runs) and walked three. It simply wasn't his night. After that, a flurry of Atlanta relievers worked their way through the rest of the game, in part because Medlen was unavailable for long relief after having to relieve Kawakami on Wednesday evening. Medlen did come in for an inning and manage to hold the status quo, followed by O'Flaherty who did the same. Then Boone Logan got his shot and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, only to falter in the seventh and be removed after giving up two more runs to the Yankees. Moylan and Acosta followed to finish up the game and the Braves lost 11-7.
If there was a silver lining, it was the Braves scoring seven runs and Francouer having a rare two-hit night. Prado, Anderson and Escobar each contributed with a two-hit evening as well, with Escobar contributing three RBIs. But all the hits and RBIs in the world for Escobar won't make up for his seemingly endless string of blunders lately. Last night was no exception, with Escobar being charged with both a fielding and a throwing error. I've heard that a sore right hip is to blame, but I'm not buying it. A sore right hip doesn't explain all the base running errors he's made this year. Mental errors on the bags and on the field removed, Escobar has committed eleven errors at shortstop this year according to the official stats. That's only five less than he committed all year last year and we're not even at the All-Star break yet! Now add in the mental errors that don't make the stats, like during the Pirates series when he didn't notice a runner breaking for home after a play and we lost the game 3-2, or earlier in June when he rounded first too far and got caught on his way back to first, or in the Orioles series when he chose to make a late throw to the plate instead of tagging out a runner in a run-down situation...and these are just examples I remember from June!
I know I'm going to catch some heat for this, but here goes anyway. Being both a Braves and a Red Sox fan, I'm a little conflicted over who to root for this weekend. I have always rooted for the Braves when they play the Red Sox, because bottom line is that they're my hometown team. However, I've always said that if the Braves are out of it and the Red Sox need the win to stay ahead of the Yankees, then I'll root for the Red Sox. They seem to always play around mid-season though when everyone is really still in the pennant race, so I always end up rooting for the Braves. It's a harder sell this year though after seeing the way things have gone when I truly thought we had the tools to win this year. We have a terrific starting rotation who should all have better records than they currently do. There's plenty of blame to go around too. Francoeur isn't having the better year at the plate that we'd been told to expect, Escobar seems to have lost his mental instincts, Anderson is the laziest outfielder in Major League baseball (although I appreciate what he's done at the plate), and Kelly Johnson makes Francoeur look good at the plate! If I were being rational, I would root for the Red Sox this weekend. There is very little reason to believe the Braves can win the pennant this year, while the Red Sox need my support to protect a four game lead over the Yankees.
But, there's something about baseball that makes us all a little irrational. No matter which team you're a fan of, you go into the season thinking your team has the chance to win it all. It doesn't matter if your team hasn't been to the postseason in the past decade. Against all the odds, all the stats, all the naysayers, you believe your team could be the Cinderella story this year. If you're a Braves fan, you want to believe that the heartbreaking loss of future Hall-of-Famers John Smotlz and Tom Glavine were necessary to make room for the younger guys who can take us all the way. And even now, when we're four games back and the fourth place team in the Division, you might bitch and moan about the team, but somewhere deep down you still think the stars could align and they could pull it out. And it's for that reason that I will proudly put on my Braves hat tonight and be willing to risk the Red Sox sliding in the standings if my Braves can just get some wins!
In other (somewhat related) news, John Smoltz made his first start for the Red Sox last night. If you only heard about the four runs he gave up in the first inning, then you didn't hear the whole story. He settled down after that and stayed in for four more innings and only gave up one more run. Overall he game up seven hits, five runs and one walk while throwing 62 of 92 for strikes in his first start since June 2, 2008.