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Braves 9, Padres 2

Braves 9, Padres 2

 

Win, win, win.  

Skip Caray’s wink at the notion that winning can ever become tiresome is something Braves fans from both Skip’s era and today can appreciate, and a 4 game winning streak surely has some Braves fans headed for a tipping point on the traditional Hope/Doom binary.However, a quick look at the Padre roster, and Braves fans especially will quickly recognize where the Padres are on the rebuilding curve, at least at the Major League level.

Today, Brandon Phillips and Tyler Flowers went a combined 5 for 7 with 5 RBI’s, and Ender Inciarte hit his 4th home run in 4 games. Bartolo Colon was dominant on the mound, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 run in 7 innings.On the negative side, Flowers left with a hamstring injury in the 7th and is listed as day-to-day.

The question of the day is: are the Braves the team that was no-hit for 4 innings today by Trevor freaking Cahill, or the team that scored 9 runs in their last 4 at-bats?Why not both?It’s the nature of the sport, and today’s game can serve as a metaphor for the season to date.After a 1 and 6 start, the Braves are now at 5 and 6 and (it’s never too early to say) just 1 1/2 games out of first. 

The Braves have played some good teams and some bad, some road games and some home, faced all grades of pitchers, and will be repeating this process for about 24 more weeks.The long slog continues Monday as the Braves go for the 4 game sweep.

Funniest thing I ever heard about San Diego: I would post the funniest thing I ever heard about San Diego, but I was advised to stay classy.

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back to back to back Braves 4….nuckled Padres 2 (by blazon)

back to back to back Braves 4….nuckled Padres 2 (by blazon)

Two hours and fifteen minutes sufficed to settle this mellow contest on Jackie Robinson Day. Courtesy of Fox the first innings was played in the ether – when they did deign to let us in their regional guys from SD manned the booth and were a pleasant surprise. Justin Kutchner did play by play, Preston Wilson color. They scored on two points – they said a lot of pleasant things about the Braves without condescension – their required tributes to Robinson were many and spotted throughout the game and Wilson, as one who directly benefited, was moving. Amusingly, he also had a story or two about Smoltz in their new broadcasting roles.

When we were finally permitted to view our game and not Cleveland’s, Dickey, who’d had an easy first so they said, promptly gave up back to back homers. We stayed behind 0/2 till the third when Dansby and Neck both had RBI singles to tie. Gatsby, as he is called in these parts, had horrible AB’s last night ballooning everything up weakly but his single here was to right field and hit low with power and authority. Neck continues to impress at the plate. So it was 2/2 going into the 4th.

In the bottom of the fourth we left 2 on. But the top of the innings was enlivened by the Dickey kick to propel a bunt foul. Not a nudge with the side of his foot but a full blooded kick – memory did not serve up another such from the past. In the top of the fifth, Dickey continuing to pitch tenaciously, it was the Padres’ turn to leave two runners on.

In the bottom of the fifth an event occurred which might well have gone viral around the world, an inch or two either way. Freddie had singled and was likely sent on his way to second in a hit and run. As he barrelled in towards the bag, his left leg was fully stretched out to the side and threatening. Cue our friend Erick Aybar who arrived there from a 45 degree angle with his legs splayed wide, wide open –  Freddie’s left foot, most certainly not willfully, slid between both guides and was heading straight toward Hallelujah City when, with a masterful display of control and compassion, impact was shepherded off to the more friendly side regions. They ended up tangled flat on the bag, each in the other’s arms, much smiles and sighs of relief, all round you might think. No Hibar here.

The top of the 6th started with Hedges, 2/31 coming in, he who had homered earlier, now hit a double but he too was wasted. Come the bottom half, lo and behold, it was our favorite whipping boys who went back to back out of the park. Phillips first at 447 feet to straight center, Garcia his preferred route to right center bouncing off and over the substantial brick wall added to increase the degree of difficulty .

Somewhere behind all this BTW are several shortish rows of fancy seats with what appears to be calligraphy on them – could not make out what was happening. What it most resembled, from a distance, was one of those mausoleums for the multitudes where the customers are boxed and slid in place in their coffins -0r an assembled North Korean cabinet meeting trying to figure who’s the next to go.. Glad to say in this case of course they were sitting happily outside in their seats, coke in hand. Could someone who has been there, or better still, sat there, please enlighten, what are these seats,why do they look so odd on the screen and what do they cost?

Relief was called up in the top of the seventh when their first two batters had reached, bizarrely, both sending Dickey sprawling as he tried unsuccessfully to field their hard hit grounders which bounced off him and away. He had done us proud. As did Suzuki, no pass balls. Ramirez came on and cleaned up emphatically. Funnily enough the aforesaid Wilson had just said Ramirez was not one of those who could get it to 95 when a 97 was posted. To his credit he called himself out and laughed. Self deprecation in this business brings welcome relief.

Just like last night the Braves bullpen performed like clockwork. Vizcaino in the eighth, JJ polishing off the ninth. Much maligned a week or two ago they now look solid from the right  and with Mauricio still to come.

It was a grand night all round. Three in a row, all the Robinson tributes, lots of laughs with Erick and Freddie, balls flying out of the Park. As our kids used to say, are we there yet?



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Ender’s Game–Braves 5 Padres 2

Ender’s Game–Braves 5 Padres 2

Ok, I apologize. That’s a cheap, unoriginal, and not at all clever play on Inciarte’s unusual name.
But it really was his game. Ender will go down in history with the first hit, first run scored, and first home run at SunTrust Park. He also caught the first and last outs of the game. He was the main reason the Braves won the home opener (and avoided what would have been a pretty embarrassing defeat after all the hype and ceremony).

Julio pitched pretty well. He wasn’t sharp—he walked four and hit two more batters. But there weren’t many hard hit balls and he limited the damage. He could only go six innings because with all the wildness it took him 100 pitches to go that far. Fortunately for the Braves, the bullpen came through. Ramirez, Vizcaino, and Johnson each pitched a scoreless inning. (Did you realize that since that abysmal collapse in Pittsburgh last Sunday–when they blew a two run lead in the 8th and a one run lead in the 10th—the pen has strung together nine scoreless innings?)

I got a little PTSD flashback to the first two months of last season, when our Braves were historically awful. What does it say about the Padres that two of the players they started were Erick Aybar and Jhoulys Chacin? And wouldn’t you know that Chacin drove in Aybar for the Padres’ first run?

Let’s take this opportunity to survey where we are and what we know about the 2017 Braves team. What conclusions can we draw so far based on nine games? ALMOST NONE. We know the bench is one of the weakest you’ll ever see, but we knew that before opening day. Kemp’s injury has only made it more obvious. Adonis Garcia is not a major league caliber third baseman—but again no surprise. The bullpen may be a strength, but we’ll see.

There are three players in the lineup that we’re counting on for the next good Braves team: Freddie, Ender, and Swanson. So far, Freeman is showing that he may have taken it to the next level; he is one of the best offensive players in baseball. Of course we don’t expect Ender to be a power hitter, but you gotta like everything he does bring to the table. Dansby is off to a weak start, but he should come around. Teheran is a very good starting pitcher. His ERA in three games is under 1.00. He’s not that good, but he’s awfully dependable.

Two notes about the past and the future. As a Braves fan from way back, I always get sentimental when they honor the past greats. It was wonderful to see in the pregame ceremony Niekro, Murph, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper, Cox, and especially Henry Aaron. He will always be the greatest Brave, and I got a little chill seeing him walk out and toss the first pitch. Great player and great man.

As to the future, last season for the first time in my life I paid more attention to the minor league box scores than to the big league games. I find I’m doing it again. I know There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect, but Coppy has staked this team’s future on a version of that. His bet is that although no one pitcher can be counted on, if you have ten to fifteen great prospects, three or four may turn out to be top of the rotation starters. Just look at the starts already this season by Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Ian Anderson, and Touki Toussaint (among several others). Hard not to get excited. I also know they are just as likely to lead to disappointment. Ah, such is baseball.



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Braves 5, Fish 4

Braves 5, Fish 4

Hey, I get to recap a win.

What’s not to love? Ender Inciarte came alive with 2 HRs, his first multi-homer game in a Braves uniform, and a rare surge of power from someone who hit 3 HRs in 523 ABs last year. He can be extremely valuable without hitting for power, but putting some over the fence is not a bad thing for a 26-year old outfielder to add to his game. He also made a terrific diving catch off a sinking liner. Statcast gave it a 41% probability of being caught. Good for him.

Freddie Freeman was also doing what Freddie Freeman does. He added a home run of his own, and did you know that he leads all players in wRC since the 2016 trading deadline? Literally everyone. He’s his own guy. Tyler Flowers contributed two hits, including the go-ahead RBI. Dansby also added a hard-hit single for a 1-4 day, and that leaves Adonis Garcia as the only regular who’s yet to put together any string of hits.

Jaime Garcia, again, was unimpressive. He only has 4 K’s in 11 total innings, and he’s giving up over a hit an inning while giving up 3 HRs in those 11 innings. He was the victim of another unearned run, and here’s another fun fact: we are second in errors per game, and we lead all of baseball in unearned runs. No team can say that they turn their own errors into opposing teams’ runs better than us. Tip your cap… to us. You can make a very reasonable argument that if the defense were to be cleaned up (maybe Jace Peterson at 3B and Ozzie Albies at 2B?), this team’s won-loss record would look a lot different.

It wasn’t all bad. The relievers combined for 4 IP, 5 K’s, and no hits, walks, or runs. Really impressive work. Both Eric O’Flaherty and Arodys Vizcaino struck out 2 in their lone innings, and Jose Ramirez and Jim Johnson were both smooth too.

Day off today. Brand new stadium tomorrow.



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Braves 4, Marlins 8

Braves 4, Marlins 8

There was much excitement today in Braves land before the game, when the team announced Matt Kemp is headed to the DL with a sore hamstring, and the announcement caused so much shuffling around in the Braves locker room that someone forgot to sit down and tell Bartolo Colon that he is on the Braves now, and with that fact comes a certain ability against the Marlins in Miami. This was a grave error, since Colon went out and pitched against the Marlins like he did when he was on the Mets, which is to say, not good. Let’s hope whoever was in charge of passing along the info to him will remedy their mistake before his next start in Miami, so that he knows going in that a little Marlin will cure whatever ails the Braves, and he will feast upon them accordingly.

The rest of the Braves continued very much to be Braves-like. Playing shoddy defense, grounding into double plays, treating situational hitting like it had the plague…really Braving in a nutshell. Colon allowed a run before he got an out, and by the time the first inning was over it was 3-0. He allowed three more in the third before the Braves put a run on the board in the fourth on a Nick Markakis home run. The Braves pushed two more runs across in the fifth, thanks to some questionable Marlins defense, to cut the deficit in half, but Mike Foltynewicz gave both runs right back in the bottom of the inning, pretty much making the game a moot point. The Braves picked up their final run in the sixth, and then the teams swapped scoreless frames until the game came to a merciful close.

Despite the final score, the game contained the most exciting part of the Braves season thus far. A cat somehow found its way onto the field and managed to escape by climbing the centerfield wall. There’s something you don’t see every day. Fortunately for the Marlins, it wasn’t black, so it didn’t benefit the Braves at all. It did generate some interest, though, so maybe SunTrust Park should take notice and emulate it later on in the season if the product on the field becomes truly unbearable to watch.



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Pirates 6, Braves 5 (by Rusty S.)

Pirates 6, Braves 5 (by Rusty S.)

Apparently, the maximum theoretical number of caught stealings that can be recorded in a game is infinite. Thankfully, the possible number of blown saves in a game is constrained by the number of players on the roster. The Braves tested the latter boundary Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Julio Teheran turned a 4–2 lead over to the bullpen, after going 7 innings, allowing 6 hits and a walk, with 4 strikeouts and 0 earned runs. However, Arodys Vizcaino, Jim Johnson and Jose Ramirez barved it up, leading to a 6 – 5 Braves loss in 10 innings. In the 4th, Teheran picked off Starling Marte AND Freddie Freeman; Freddie was somehow handcuffed, or back on his heels, and dropped the throw. Freeman was charged with an error, and Marte was safe at 2nd, but charged with a caught stealing. This led to 2 unearned Pirate runs. In the 6th, Teheran picked off only Marte, his league-leading 23rd pickoff since 2013.

Vizcaino and Johnson gave up a run apiece in the 8th and 9th respectively, and Ramirez gave up a 2 run walk off homer to Marte in the bottom of the 10th, after the Braves scored a 5th run in the top of that inning. Vizcaino’s run was also unearned, but he was saved from further damage in the 8th by a nice double play; Johnson could not get the same help in the 9th as David Freese broke up Brandon Phillips’ turn on a slowly hit grounder. (It’s not clear to me that Phillips had a chance had he gotten a throw off.)

Aside from wasting a nice start from Teheran, the Braves wasted a 4 for 5, 2 home run, 1 stolen base effort from Freeman who (like millions of people before him) came up a triple short of the cycle. Dansby Swanson also went deep for the Braves. Marte went 4 for 5 for the Pirates.

The Braves are now 1 and 5 on the season as their planned exile post the SunTrust Park shakedown continues (in this context, “SunTrust Park shakedown” refers to the exhibition game played March 31st against the Yankees.) An off day Monday, then on to Miami for two.

Funniest thing I ever heard about Pittsburgh: (I swear I saw this on an ‘80’s Jeopardy episode.)
Alex Trebek: “This Pittsburgh sporting team acquired its nickname due to its habit of signing players away from other teams.”
Overly enthusiastic contestant: “WHO ARE THE PITTSBURGH STEALERS?!”



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Pirate Kings 6, GIDP Braves, plus a few errors 4

Pirate Kings 6, GIDP Braves, plus a few errors 4

Know thy enemy…to set the mood.

Their swords, our knuckles.

Tonight’s game will be played in beautiful, balmy weather. Yesterday’s, not-  suffering under conditions we Brits call Brass Monkey Weather. Guess?  Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey – a typical souvenir brought home from the days of the Raj. As we are about to witness a game consisting entirely of balls and strikes, surely apropos.

POST MORTEM…another game that was tight – we started up 2 and then it somehow got away…the DP’s and errors loomed large in that but the worst part of losing was to waste the outstanding debut of RA Dickey who went beyond 100 pitches with only 3 earned runs in an exemplary performance. Not that far behind him till he tired late was his catcher, Suzuki. There’s some promise there.

PLUSES

Dickey… great debut plus endurance.

Jace…ok game, triple off the wall, good base running. Looked like he belongs for now.

Krol…OK, Ramirez too.

Dansby…coming around, another hard hit double.

Phillips…big double but bad error and GIDP’s.  But he can drive the ball still.

Neck/Ender…you can see them coming around too.

 

MINUSES

Freddie Freeman…quite awful by his standards….one good dive stop to save another error but…he is starting to look like April/May last year at the end of which he had climbed to .240…i can’t take another 30 odd games like this…swinging through average fastballs down the middle and chasing them up and away – just to speed things up a bit? Why? …runners stranded all over…Jeez, how do you reconcile this with his second half last year and even his very hot effort in NY earlier in this week…SSS? yes but…he did the same last year and it went on till June.

Snit…there’s no excuse for D’Arnaud in the ninth with the tying runs on and Recker on the bench….it’s absurd.

Our Offense…of the 4 runs we scored tonight two came from a bloop hit from our pitcher…the other 2 could be put down to the Marte/Polanko combo in the outfield doing their best Claude/Gaston routine no less than three times in the last 24 hours while one of the still best CF’s in baseball languishes in right. Crazy stuff, how long will that last?

GIDP’s…infuriating tonight, is it all just bad luck? Is it naive to ask the hitter to think elevate if and when the pitcher allows…they always seem to hit low screamers…it killed us.

Errors/Infield defense…Lay off my man Adonis, the line drive machine…remember how he turned this defense around last year when he cane back up…plus i wouldn’t doubt he was still cold from Friday! Acuna will keep, then Maitan,,,Dansby one wide throw but Freddie too played a part. Phillips couldn’t handle a hot shot with the infield in. We will improve here, rapidly I believe.

 

Question    Which NL hitters hit into the most line drive outs?  By eye please.

Answer       Adonis and Buster Posey. Kemp threatens. Come back soon, like tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Pittsburgh Leopard Seals 5, Atlanta Penguins 4

Pittsburgh Leopard Seals 5, Atlanta Penguins 4

The March of the Penguins continued Friday, as our Tuxedo’ed Terrors fell to Pittsburgh 5-4. It seems R.A. Dickey can’t throw his knuckler in the cold, so Mike Foltynewicz was moved up a day. Unfortunately, his command must have caught the same sniffles as the knuckler, as he gave up 6 hits and three walks in 3 and 2/3rds. Even with all the baserunners he only gave up 2 runs, but Ivan Nova, The Pittsburgh Snowman, managed to navigate the snow flurries and Monongehela River ice floes to hold Atlanta to a single unearned run through 6.

Josh Collmenter tried to warm up the Braves in the 5th, but pouring gas on the fire worked no better in PNC Park than it did at citifield, as David Freese and Francisco Cervelli homered. The Braves made it interesting in the 8th, tallying three runs, highlighted by a Brandon Phillips 2 run single, but Adonis Garcia‘s grounder up the middle was turned into a double play to extinguish the threat.

One hopes that the Braves won’t get overrun by the rapidly approaching glaciers that have marred the season opening road trip.



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Pirates 5, Braves 4

Pirates 5, Braves 4

Just reading the boxscore, you’d think it was a fun and exciting game. Game decided by one run, Braves rallied in the 8th and had the tying run on third in the 9th.

But it was not an enjoyable game to watch. In fact, it was pretty unpleasant. Thirty something degrees with snow falling made me squirm, even in the warmth of my living room watching on TV. And listening to Chip and Joe is generally more irritating than enjoyable.

The on field action had a lot more bad than good. We got the bad version of Mike Foltynewicz. He just wasn’t crisp; he did not command the fastball; his slider was unreliable; he wasn’t missing bats; and as a result of all of that he could not complete four innings. And his facial expressions and body language exhibited frustration with the umpire’s calls throughout—after we heard all spring about his maturity and new attitude about dealing with adversity. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, though. Napoleon’s vaunted Grand Armee stuggled in similar conditions in the Russian Campaign.

Even with all his troubles, Folty only gave up two runs (could have been a lot worse!). In the fourth, EOF, of all people, got us out of a bases loaded jam created by Folty. Maybe there is some life left in that tortured left arm of his. I doubt it, but I’m willing to give him a few more opportunities to prove definitively he no longer belongs in the big leagues. I realize that I am sentimental about the O’Flaherty of 201-2012. Now that was a great relief pitcher.

The rest of the bullpen was pretty bleh, or worse. Long man Josh Collmenter proved why he was never a candidate for the rotation—and why he was released outright last year by the Dbacks—when he gave up back to back solo jacks in the 5th. Other than that he looked pretty good. Chaz Roe was ineffective as usual in the 7th, when the Bucs scored their fifth and final run, although to be fair his defense betrayed him. More on that below.

Our offense, Matt Kemp continues to look like a right handed Babe Ruth (albeit perhaps slimmer than the Bambino at the same age). That’s very good. He left the game, however, with an injured hamstring, which apparently happened when he made a sliding catch (I’m not making this up!). If his injury is at all serious, that is very, very bad. Cakes is the only other hitter who is producing so far. He had two more doubles and is slugging .500. Kemp is slugging 1.125. No other starter has an OPS so far of .600, except Freddie, and his barely so.

The moribund Braves bats rallied in the 8th. Brandon Phillips had a clutch hit to drive in two runs to bring the Bravos within a run. That’s good. Especially since he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the 4th and struck out with runners on second and third in the 6th. That was excruciating. After Brandon’s hit in the 8th, it looked like the Greek Demigod had singled up the middle, but the Pirates keystone combo turned that into one of the prettiest double plays you’ll ever want to see, ending the rally. Look for a video of that one.

Speaking of double plays and Brandon Phillips, the Pirates only scored that run off Roe in the 7th because the Braves failed to turn a dp on a routine grounder to short. It sure looked like Phillips was slow to get to the bag and then slow to make the turn. But who am I to judge? As I said, it was cold as hell.

So what have we learned from these first four games about the Braves likely fortunes in 2017? NOTHING! It’s only four games, y’all. 158 to go—let’s keep an open mind.

Oh, one other piece of news this week. As you’ve heard, it looks like Ryan Howard will be a pinch hitter for the Braves in a few weeks. You may not think that is so good, considering that his batting average was below .200 last year, but he did hit 25 home runs last year in 362 plate appearances. More importantly, he’s not Emilio Bonifacio, who so far is our first pinch hit option. Honestly, I’d rather see Dwight Schrute or Kevin Malone in that situation than Mr. Good Face.

A brief personal note, I’m a long time faithful reader of Braves Journal, but a new commenter. No other sports site in my opinion approaches the quality and consistency of the comments on this site (low bar, I know, but I mean it). I’m honored this year to help out by doing weekly recaps. Y’all are loyal fans, but I’d venture that no one on this site or anywhere else has been an Atlanta Braves longer than I have. I was nine years old and living in Atlanta when they announced the Milwaukee team was moving to Atlanta. I’ve been hooked ever since.

If you are likewise addicted to following this frustrating team, you may want to know of the weekly Braves podcast that my son and I do. It’s called the Channel 17 Podcast, and you can find it here.



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Mutts 6, IWOTB 2

Mutts 6, IWOTB 2

Jaime Garcia pitched four strong innings, and Matt Kemp hit two solo shots, and the Braves almost won their second game of the year but then Garcia went out for the fifth and sixth and gave up two-spots each time, and Chaz Roe brought his gasoline pail and gave up a two-spot in the seventh, and since this April offense could no sooner surmount a four-run lead than a paramecium could surmount Everest, that was that.



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