Monday, July 23, 2012

Braves @ Nationals Games 2-4 Recap

In a matter of approximately 24 hours, the Braves played 3 baseball games. One went well, the other two were complete disasters. I won't pretend that we played this series well. Frankly, we were lucky to escape with a split, which was a great thing for our team in a 4 game series on the road. When you lose the back half of a series like we did, it doesn't seem like a good series anymore, but we have to remember what we needed going into the road trip. In that light, I think we can take our wins, take our lumps, and move on to this week still in contention.

In Game 2, the MVP was Ben Sheets. He was absolutely dominant. After 6 innings of shutout baseball with 6 Ks, it become very obvious to me that Ben Sheets can compete at this level after his layoff. It's a great sign that we're able to pick up a no-risk-high-reward guy like Sheets to supplement the rotation, when we all know there are major holes starting to emerge due to play and injury. Add in the fact that BMac and Chipper both went deep during the game, and you get a well-pitched, well played, close game that ended up in our favor at the end. The shocking thing was that we won the game going 0-5 with RISP. Note that, because it comes back later. Anytime we're living and dying by the long ball in a series, it doesn't bode well for us.

Come Game 3, the back half of the double header. Delgado was on the mound, so I was already not happy. Then, we took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and I started to get slightly optimistic. This was my mistake since we didn't get another hit past the 3rd inning. Delgado gave up two runs to tie the game, but Cristhian Martinez gave up the rest of the damage out of the bullpen. Still, this game was about the Braves not being able to get anything going at the plate under the Curse of Delgado. My theory was that the Braves can hit before Delgado actually takes the mound, thus the 2 early runs. Once he set foot out there, the curse was on, and we never did a damn thing. The Braves went 1-5 with RISP, and the one was in the first inning. Prado and Bourn went 1/8 at the top of the order. That's terrible for them.

Game 4 went completely off the rails early. JJ was dreadful. He couldn't locate again in 2.1 innings with 6 runs on 9 hits, including 2 HRs. This is a bad sign. If JJ gets in trouble with his location, he's doomed. That was the problem he had in the first half of the season before he was banished to the minors. That also makes two games in a row now where JJ has been a trainwreck. One more like that, and he's going to be released. Meanwhile after game one where Uggla came up big, he didn't get another hit all series, so that hurt us. However, this game wasn't about our hitting, even though we went 1-4 with RISP, and had 8 hits. When your starter puts you in a 4 run hole right off the bat, the game is pretty tough to win. When it's a 6 run hole by the 3rd inning, it's almost impossible. We had a chance to get back into the game in the top of the 4th when we had the bases loaded an 1 out, but BMac grounded into a double play to kill the rally. After that, the rout was on.

The real killer of this series was Roger Bernandina. In the last 3 games of this series, Roger went 8/11 with 3 RBIs, a run, 2 stolen bases, and a walk. In this series alone, Bernandina raised his batting average 34 points. He was taking every pitcher in every count, and slapping the ball to all fields. Add in Ryan Zimmerman hitting TWO homers in game 4, and you end up with a game I didn't bother to watch after the 5th inning.

Next we head to Miami to face a Marlins team that's absolutely reeling. They have lost 5 in a row and got swept by the Pirates. We should be able to take advantage of these guys. However, we play on a Monday. Can we break the curse of the Mondays? Can we get a much needed series win? We'll need to get more than 2 runs to do it.

Go Braves!

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