Marlins 5 (70-84), Braves 4 (87-67)
W: Clay Hensley
L: Craig Kimbrel
Unreal. Just unreal.
This game seesawed from another disappointing performance by a slumping Braves squad to a scrappy, inspired comeback that would be punctuated with another dominant three-inning gamut of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel to a shocking, hang-your-head in disbelief loss. Ricky Nolasco no-hit the Braves through four, and it wasn't until Jason Heyward homered that the team showed signs of life. Unfortunately, Mike Minor was spending his time getting to see just how hard and far Mike Stanton (two homers, and continued evolution into a hold-your-breath every time he hits a flyball guy) and Logan Morrison (one donger) could hit baseballs.
Things looked bleak until the seventh inning, when Dan Uggla led off with a homer. After recording two consecutive groundouts, Nolasco looked like he might escape unscathed ... but then issued back-to-back walks and was lifted for Mike Dunn. Dunn induced weak contact from Michael Bourn, but unfortunately for Dunn, weak contact isn't a bad thing when you've got Bourn's speed. Bourn beat it out, and Alex Gonzalez scored to bring the Braves within one. Then, Ryan Webb walked Martin Prado to tie the game and Omar Infante booted a Chipper Jones grounder to allow the go-ahead run to score.
Rarely had the Uggla trade looked so good.
And then it was time for the Braves bullpen to do Braves bullpen things: three innings, one run to protect, no problem. O'Flaherty pitched around a couple baserunners, Jonny Venters was perfect, and all that was left was for Craig Kimbrel to close things out. Kimbrel retired the first two batters without incident, then induced a high chopper to third. At this point, circumstances conspired against the Braves as Chipper lost sight of the ball due to the ahem suboptimal placement of the field lights, and displayed all the grace of a palsied rhinoceros as the ball skipped past him.
And then I think that what happened is Omar Infante demolished a fastball that Kimbrel didn't elevate quite enough and it somehow ended up in the left field bleachers. I'm not real sure, 'cause I sort of blacked out, but, yep, that seems to be what Twitter is telling me.
So, y'know, the Wild Card lead is now something like -45 games (+2.5) and god is dead (I feel like that might've been mentioned before) and all is dark in the world. Find yourself your beverage of choice and raise your glass high to Randall Delgado, who takes the mound tomorrow against Anibal Sanchez And His Ears in what is kind of an unfair if you ask me one-vs-three showdown. 7:10 EDT y'all.
Marlins 5 (70-84), Braves 4 (87-67)
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.
WP: Hudson (15-10)
LP: Dickey (8-13)
SV: Kimbrel (45)
This game can be summed up in two words: Tim Hudson. The Braves starter was absolutely electic today, throwing eight shutout innings, allowing four hits and two walks, and striking out a season high ten. After two poor starts in a row, it was a great rebound for the veteran. Hudson also got 11 ground ball outs and threw first pitch strikes to 13 of 29 hitters. Craig Kimbrel finished the one run victory off by striking out the side on 16 pitches in the ninth, getting whiffs on five pitches. That's how you do it.
Offensively, the team continued to struggle. RA Dickey was nearly as good as Hudson, allowing just three hits on the day, but walking six hitters. The walks didn't catch up with him until the eighth inning, when Jason Heyward led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice, and to third on a ground out. Dickey then walked Martin Prado to bring up Mets-killer Chipper Jones, who drove the stake deep again with a single to center field. Dan Uggla would walk to load the bases and give the Braves a chance for some more insurance, but Tim Byrdak came in and got Brian McCann to pop out to end the frame. Two of those three hits went to Jones, who's OPS on the season is up to .835. He doesn't look done at all. Freddie Freeman walked twice, and Prado added a single to his walk, back in his customary second spot in the order.
The team's magic number is down to eight, and the lead in the wild card race is at four games with the Cardinals playing in Philadelphia tonight. Jake Westbrook takes on Roy Oswalt there. Tomorrow in Atlanta, the pitching matchup will be Dillon Gee and the dominant Brandon Beachy, while in Philly, Chris Carpenter takes on Cole Hamels on Sunday Night Baseball. First pitch for the Braves-Mets game is at 1:35. Let's get that magic number down and maybe clinch this week, OK guys?
W: Chris Capuano
L: Derek Lowe, obviously
Things that happened in this game:
- Derek Lowe gave up nine hits, walked a batter and struck out a pair en route to allowing six runs in two-and-a-third innings pitched. He also sweated.
- Julio Teheran, despite being functionally the opposite of Derek Lowe, fared nearly as poorly: two-and-two-thirds IP, four hits, four runs, two walks, two strikeouts.
- Braves pitchers threw 202 pitches on the night.
- The Braves had six hits as a team. If you picked any two of Jose Reyes, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Nick Evans or Josh Thole, you'd get at least six hits.
- Eric Hinske went up to the plate with a beer coozie on his bat. He lined out.
- Dan Uggla's dip became sentient. Understandably distracted, Uggla went oh-fer.
- Michael Bourn tripled and stole a base.
I don't know, though, what else do you want to hear? The Braves, for the second time this season, couldn't get a bat on sub-90s heat and a loopy slider. The quartet of Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak, "Josh" Stinson (if that is in fact his name) and Ryota Igarashi held the Braves hitless for the last four innings of the game, and didn't look particularly troubled in so doing. Teheran and fellow heralded rookie Arodys Vizcaino were ineffective, Scott Linebrink did Scott Linebrink things, and it took Anthony Varvaro to "stop" the bleeding and allow a run on three hits in two innings.
With the exception of a dazzling play by Alex Gonzalez, who ranged impossibly far to his left, snared a grounder and threw out Jason Bay by way of a jumping throw and a Freddie Freeman teabag of the first base dirt, this was an ugly, ugly game. And not just because of Uggla's dip assaulting the bat boys and telling a woman that she didn't need that hot dog she was eating.
If you didn't subject yourself to watching this game, just know that my version of tonight's events is far better than whatever actually happened on the field. So, ok, whatever: tomorrow! 4:10 EDT is the time, R.A. Dickey (who must be steamed that he wasn't pitching on Star Wars night at Turner Field) will take the mound opposite Tim Hudson. My prediction: blood. Because I don't think the grounds crew wrangled up that dip yet.
WP: O'Flaherty (4-2)
LP: Nolasco (10-11)
SV: Kimbrel (44)
The Braves offense was as dead as a doornail for the first six innings of the game, tallying just a pair of hits against Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco, who was excellent. Through six, he has walked just one hitter and struck out five. Nothing was going on. But in the seventh, magic happened. Freddie Freeman started the inning with a fly out, and Dan Uggla started the rally with a walk. Brian McCann singled to put runners on the corners with one out for the terribly slumping Martin Prado. Prado went unorthodox though, and laid down a perfect bunt. Uggla scored on the safety squeeze, and all hands were safe on base. Jason Heyward flied out, and that brought up Alex Gonzalez, who has been on a crazy roll during the Marlins series. Gonzalez then took an 0-2 pitch and slammed it over the fence in left field to give the Braves a 4-1 lead that they wouldn't relinquish in the game's final two innings. Gonzalez and Prado, the two heroes of the game, each had two hits. The team had five in total. You do the math there.
The rookie parade of starters continued today, with Randall Delgado making his fifth career start today. It was another impressive outing for him, as he went five innings, walked two, struck out four, and allowed just one run, on a solo homer by Greg Dobbs in the second inning. Aside from that Dobbs homer, Delgado never had any problems aside from a high pitch count, throwing 101 pitches over those five innings. The second inning was the only one where he had multiple runners on base. The Braves bullpen stepped up to the plate big time yet again, with Cristhian Martinez and the O'Ventbrel trio combining to throw four perfect innings, striking out five and geting five ground ball outs. At the end of the day...yeah, I'll take that.
The team's magic number is now down to nine, as the Cardinals won in Pittsburgh. The Braves have an off day tomorrow before welcoming the Mets to Turner Field for three. Game one will feature Derek Lowe taking on Chris Capuano. The Cardinals are also off tomorrow, so the maigc number will remain at nine for another day. The Braves will hopefully saw off a couple digits on that this weekend, as the Cardinals are going to Philly to take on the reigning NL East champions. One problem: Philly clinched a playoff berth today with a win over the Astros. They might start resting some guys, and put out a team that isn't built to beat St Louis's brains in. That's not a good thing at all. St Louis is scheduled to face Cole Hamels on Sunday and Roy Halladay on Monday, so maybe both of those guys will still get their full starts in and dominate the Cardinal to give the Braves some breathing room. Fingers are crossed.
Braves 7, Marlins 1
Okay folks. We can all take a step back from the ledge now, and hopefully the panic that has gripped Braves fans for the past week will start to abate after the first win in two years or so. Coming into tonight’s game, the Braves playoff odds stood at 94.5% or 93.9% depending on the source. While that certainly doesn’t look nearly as good as the 99.4% of a week ago, remember that it took as bad of a week as the Braves have seen all year to drop it all of 5%. The world isn’t ending, and the Braves won tonight. Exhale.
I heard a certain Braves announcer say earlier this year that homeruns are rally killers. The Braves had two rallies killed tonight. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla were the culprits with both hitting three run home runs…the nerve of these guys. Uggla has now hit 34 on the year and trails Pujols by one for the National League lead which is crazy when you think about his first half. It’s good to see McCann get a couple of hits, and hopefully he’s breaking out of his funk. Larry Wayne collected two hits, Alex Gonzalez had three hits with two doubles, and Freddie Freeman walked twice so it was a good all around effort in this one.
Fredi must be giddy about these expanded rosters as he found a way to use six pitchers in this one. He almost always does a good job pulling the starter at the right time, but it’d be nice if he figured out that relievers other than Martinez can pitch multiple innings. Outside of the four walks, Minor had a good outing. The Braves have gotten excellent work from their young starters this year, with the only noticeable flaw being their inability to pitch efficiently and go deeper into games. That should come with experience though.
It’s hard to complain about this one. The Cardinals won, but as long as the Braves take care of their business, they need not worry. The biggest concern now is health and getting Lowe, Venters, Heyward, and McCann playing better for the playoffs. It’ll be the Fish tomorrow in an afternoon start and then an off day before the Mets come to town in what looks to be a good opportunity to solidify the stranglehold on the Wild Card.no comments
W: Clay Hensley
L: Anthony Varvaro
SV: Leo Nunez
I refrained from tweeting this during the game for fear of jinxing the Braves, but at no point from the eighth inning on did I have the slightest inkling that Florida might win this game. And I can't really tell you why; after all, the Marlins got on the board early, plating a run in both the first and third, and a pair in the sixth. They then threatened in both the seventh and the eighth, but the Braves pitchers kept finding a way out. The offense kept up their tepid pace of, if I recall correctly, 3.4 runs per game this month, scoring four by way of a run in each of the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but it always seemed like there was room for more.
Indeed, Chip Caray's insane screeds about how OBP is a bad stat because it doesn't account for poor performance with runners in scoring position may have caught hold with the fans watching tonight's game. The Braves were 3-14 with RISP, and stranded 15 runners the honest way, leaving the bases loaded on one occasion and marooning a pair on four occasions.
The hard thing about this game is that it's hard to assign too much blame to any particular player. Jason Heyward walked three times, Michael Bourn had three hits, both Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla contributed a pair of knocks themselves, and Alex Freaking Gonzalez was the star offensive player of the game, collecting three hits and two RBIs. Brandon Beachy turned in an effective start; he lasted only five and a third innings, but struck out 10 and walked just one. He did surrender nine hits and all four of the Marlins' regulation runs while throwing 73 pitchers through three innings, but managed to compose himself and throw up Ks with aplomb. The bullpen was effective from a macro view, allowing just one run in six and two thirds innings, though Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty had to overcome some struggles to preserve their clean sheets. Craig Kimbrel may've moved beyond some of the doubt that's started to cloud his performance recently, striking out a pair and sitting above 95 mph with the heater, and Peter Moylan was as effective as he's ever been since his recent return from the DL.
Really what this game came down to was a trio of great defensive plays from the Marlins middle men: Omar Infante (yes, I know) made a nifty stop of a topspin-heavy grounder off Dan Uggla's bat, and Donnie Murphy snared a Prado liner just an inning after prolonging the game by throwing out Michael Bourn on a slow grounder to short. Had any of those balls gotten through -- you know, like the way Mike Stanton's grounder found its way under Jack Wilson's diving stab -- the Braves' magic number would be 10 and we wouldn't have to suffer through any talk of momentum.
As it is, the thing I'm most afraid of is that Fredi is going to see this loss as a reason to think that he has to shake up the lineup even more. I know the desire is there for him to want to affect change in what he perceives as an underachieving group, but fluctuations like this happen over the course of a baseball season; what's important is that he -- and we fans -- understand that it's merely unfortunate timing for the Braves to fall into a swoon like this. If this run of play had happened in June, there'd be no hand-wringing; I just ask that Fredi and the fans all step back and remember that the Braves are still the overwhelming favorites to win the Wild Card, and that an extra innings loss to a depleted Marlins squad, while discouraging, is not a death sentence.
And so! Let us look ahead to tomorrow with bright eyes and light hearts, as Mike Minor and Brad Hand square off in an epic showdown of southpaws with last names that are almost too noun for their own good. 7:10 EDT, y'all.
The answer is simple: you should be worried right now. The Braves still have a 95.9% chance of making the playoffs, so the stats are definitely in Atlanta's favor. But momentum? That left the Braves a long time ago. The team is still 21 games above .500, but let's look at their September stats real quick. In September, the Braves have a .698 OPS, good for 12th in the NL. The pitching staff is also 12th in the league with a 4.18 ERA. The pitching is the odd thing to me. The team has had seven starts by rookies in September, and those rookies (Minor, Beachy, Delgado, Teheran) have a 3.31 ERA in those seven starts. That's pretty damn good if you ask me, and the 33:15 strikeout to walk ratio isn't bad either. As for the two veterans currently on staff, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson...well, they've got a 5.48 ERA in four starts, and a 20:12 strikeout to walk ratio. It's bizarre, that the rookies in the rotation are pitching better than the veterans.
As for the bullpen, the big three is showing signs of exhaustion. Only Eric O'Flaherty remains unscored upon, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless this month with four strikeouts and no walks. Craig Kimbrel allowed a pair of runs in a blown save on Friday, a loss that really stings the team. Jonny Venters looks gassed, just like he did last September, and has allowed three runs in five innings while walking five hitters. Even Arodys Vizcaino had a pair of bad outings this month, but has held the opposition scoreless in his last two appearances. The return of Peter Moylan hasn't gone well, as the veteran has allowed five baserunners in 2 1/3 innings since coming off the DL, while only striking out one hitter.
Going back to the offense for a second, it hasn't been pretty. The oldest member of the team, Chipper Jones, has also ben the most productive. Jones has a 1.001 OPS in 33 September at bats with a pair of homers. Only Dan Uggla with three has more than one home run during the month. Uggla, Freddie Freeman, and Michael Bourn have all been solid during the month, with OPSes over .800. But the rest of the squad has struggled. Jason Heyward has been the best right fielder, with a .707 OPS. Jose Constanza has lost the spark that made him attractive, with just a .471 OPS this month. New acquisition Matt Diaz has four singles in 12 plate appearances without a walk, and has as hollow of a line as you can get. Martin Prado's nightmare season in left field continues, as his OPS in September is a pathetic .484, and he's been dropped in the lineup (though not far enough) as a result. And what about Brian McCann? The slugger who carried the Braves during the beginning of the season when Dan Uggla struggled has a .627 September OPS with 12 strikeouts in 34 at bats. The best thing about McCann's month is his team-leading eight walks.
Should Braves fans really be worried? Honestly, we should. We can point to the fact that the team has 15 games left, six against the Marlins, and three each against the Phillies, Mets, and Nationals. Be thankful that the Braves are 9-3 against Florida, because the team is a combined 22-23 against the other three teams. If the Braves can take four or five outta six from the Marlins, we can all breathe a lot easier. But if those six games are split, or god forbid, the team loses the majority of the final six games, we could all be doing a lot of scoreboard watching down the stretch.
WP: Minor (5-2)
LP: Schwinden (0-1)
SV: Kimbrel (43)
After being swept for the first time this season by the Phillies, the Braves looked to regain some momentum in game one of today's double header against the Mets. Major props have to be given to Fredi Gonzalez for finally putting a more optimized lineup on the field, featuring Chipper Jones in the two-hole, Martin Prado batting sixth, and Jason Heyward actually in the lineup over the not-so-hot Jose Constanza. Even bigger props go to him for sticking with this lineup in game two, but we'll see if it carries over to the series against the Cardinals.
The Braves struck for three runs in the top of the first, with Chipper doubling to left field with one out. After a McCann walk Dan Uggla grounded into a fielder's choice, putting runners on the corners for Freddie Freeman. Freeman roped a double to centerfield to score both Chipper and Uggla and took third on the throw. Martin Prado then hit an infield single to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.
Minor set down the first two batters before surrendering a single to Lucas Duda. David Wright doubled and Angel Pagan walked to load the bases for Jason Bay. Minor then surrendered his first home run of the season, a grand slam, to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Chipper brought the score back even with a home run of his own, his sixteenth of the year, to lead off the third. After Freeman and Prado singled, Heyward singled in Freeman to put the Braves up 5-4.
The lead was extended to 6-4 after Tim Byrdak hit Michael Bourn with a pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh. The run would prove to be an important one as the Mets would score a run on a sacrifice fly from Nick Evans off of Jonny Venters. Craig Kimbrel shut the door in the ninth for his fourty-third save of the season and to give the Braves a win in game one of the double header.
WP: Julio Teheran (1-1)
LP: Dillon Gee (12-6)
In game two of the double header, the Braves sent top pitching prospect Julio Teheran to the mound and the Mets countered with Dillon Gee.
The Braves jumped out to an early lead again after Dan Uggla scored leadoff man Michael Bourn with a single to CF. Bourn had reached base on a throwing error by Jose Reyes, then stole his fifty-second base of the season. A Freeman groundout moved him to third, and he scored on Uggla's single. As was the case in game one, the Mets also scored in their half of the first, tying the game when Bay hit a sac fly to plate Reyes.
The Braves added a second run in the fifth when David Ross drove in Prado with a single. They increased their lead to 3-1 in the seventh inning when Chipper Jones hit a sac fly to score Jack Wilson, who had been double-switched into the game, along with Cristhian Martinez, and had lead off the seventh with a double. Ross hit a home run, his sixth, in the ninth to stretch the Braves' lead to three runs. Chipper then doubled in Bourn, who had tripled, to give the Braves a 5-1 lead. Anthony Varvaro pitching a scoreless ninth to seal the double header sweep for the Braves.
The win is the first of Teheran's young career. Jason Heyward was 0-3 with a walk, while Prado, Wilson, and Jones all doubled in the game. Martinez pitched two scoreless innings to help bridge the gap between Teheran and the rest of the bullpen.
The Braves start a three-game series with the Cardinals in St. Louis tomorrow.
Now, how do you win the contest? Simple: I want a story from you. I want you to tell me about your greatest memory as a Braves fan. The story should be a minimum of 50 words, and can talk about any game you want. I'll be picking five winners, all of whom will receive a copy of the DVD from A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions.
Best of luck to you alll, and I'm eagerly anticipating hearing your stories. A special thank you to A+E Home Entertainment and MLB Productions for letting me run this contest. Enjoy!