WP: Byrdak (2-0)
LP: Venters (6-2)
SV: Acosta (2)
This was a really really frustrating game. After taking a 1-0 lead, Brandon Beachy put two on in the fourth inning. With two outs, Fredi decided to bust out some of his classic overmanaging and walk Justin Turner (he of the .699 OPS) to get to pitcher Dillon Gee. At this point in the game, Beachy already had three unintentional walks. His control was a mess. Why would you put yourself into a situation where a walk definitely means that a run is coming in? Predictably, Beachy walked Gee to tie the game up at one. The next hitter was Ruben Tejada, who hit a bases-clearing double to make it a 4-1 game. It was unnecessary to walk Turner (especially in the FOURTH INNING OF THE GAME) instead of going after him. This was something Bobby would do all the time, and it drove me crazy then. It still drives me crazy now.
The Braves would battle back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth. Alex Gonzalez started it with a homer, Michael Bourn singled in Jason Heyward, and a bases loaded ground out by Dan Uggla tied it at four. The game remained scoreless until the seventh, when Freddie Freeman, who came into the game in a double switch early on, singled in Gonzalez to make it 5-4. Jonny Venters handed that lead right back, though. Venters sandwiched a pair of walks around a single to load the bases, and another walk to RONNY BLEEPING PAULINO tied the game at five. Tejada was next up, and he blooped a single into right to give the Mets the lead. Heyward threw a missile at the plate to nail another runner at the plate to stop it from being a 7-5 game. But that didn't matter, because the Mets got a solo homer in the ninth from Lucas Duda off Craig Kimbrel (!!!!) to make it 7-5. The offense threatened in the ninth, putting two on with one out, but a pair of ground outs ended the game.
This one was on the pitching staff. The Braves offense scored five runs and pounded out 12 hits. That should be enough. Sure, they should have had more, going 3/15 with runners in scoring position and stranding 15. But good lord, the team blew two leads in this one; one by Beachy, and one by Venters. The Braves pitching staff wasn't sharp against a Mets lineup that didn't have Jose Reyes in it. They walked eight hitters. EIGHT. Cristhian Martinez and Eric O'Flaherty did a good job at shoring up the game once Beachy exited, getting eight outs without allowing a baserunner. Hell, all five of Martinez's outs came on the ground. Venters has a 5.40 ERA in September, walking seven and striking out ten. He's as tired as a dog, with now 84 innings pitched on the year. But as long as the team is playing close games, he's going to get used. I just hope we don't keep seeing meltdowns like today.
Offensively, like I said....the team was fine, but could have been better. Heyward reached base four times in five plate appearances, as did Chipper. Freeman reached three times after not starting the game. Gonzalez, Uggla, McCann and Bourn each reached twice. So what the hell was the problem? Crappy luck. Many of the hitters reaching base did so with walks as opposed to hits. Not that I really mind all that much, but some hits with runners in scoring position would help out a ton. Diaz started against a righty, saw six pitches, and got one hit. He was double switched out for Freeman, who was productive all day. I would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Freeman played all day as opposed to just for the back end of the game. It also would have been nice for Heyward to be hitting higher in the lineup. He reached base four times today, and has reached in 20 of his last 43 plate appearances since being given the first two games off in the Philly series. Gonzalez has been solid with the bat, but Diaz? Matt Diaz, who is 5/20 with one walk and no extra base hits since coming back to Atlanta? Come on Fredi, you're smarter than that.
The magic number is still seven, and it's not going to get any easier as the Braves head to Miami to take on the Marlins for the final time this season. Why isn't it easy? Their three starters are Nolasco, Sanchez and a white hot Javier Vazquez. The Braves three starters are a pair of rookies (Minor and Delgado) and the incredibly ineffective Derek Lowe. The Braves need to take two outta three here. That would cut the magic number to five at the lowest, with the Cardinals still having two in Philly and then three with the suddenly hot Mets. This will be an odd situation, cheering for the Phililes and Mets in the same week....but here we are. I'd really like to get this wild card locked down before heading home next week for three against the Phillies. Make it happen, Braves.