You can't nurse a lead in Great American smallpark. You can't do it. The Braves jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, and then tried to sit on it for 8 more innings. They got a run in the 5th, and that was it. You don't deserve to win games trying to limp home from the middle innings with no offense. We were battling, struggling, praying, and we finally got the game to one more strike before it blew up. However, it could have blown up at least 4 times before that even happened. That stadium is too much of a launching pad to pretend you can win with defense and pitching after an first inning 3-run surge. No lead should be considered safe there until the final out.
Now, everyone is going to panic and start asking what's wrong with Kimbrel. Nothing is wrong with him. You'll have people trying to play pitching coach about locations, counts, movements, etc. They will be wrong. Kimbrel throws 98 mph, so if a guy times up a low fastball? It's going out. The only thing you have to do is make sure the hitter isn't guessing low fastball in those situations, and Kimbrel had to throw a strike on a 3-2 count. Now, fans are thinking OMG HE'S BLOWN AS MANY SAVES AS HE DID LAST YEAR PANIC NOW! Don't do that. You don't have to like it, but you don't have to fall into the trap that Kimbrel is somehow broken. He's hitting his spots, his command is there, and that pitch that Mesoraco hit was right where Kimbrel intended it. The hitter dropped the bat on it, and in most parks that's a game ending out to the warning track. The fact these homers happened 3 times in the span of about a week is the only thing upsetting people. Spread it out over 2 months, and people shrug it off. So, going forward Kimbrel just has to work in a good mix of fastball/slider combos that keep the hitters off balance. It would also be nice if the broadcasters didn't post stupid graphics about Craig getting his 100th save before he actually gets it. Cut that stuff out, you jinx-happy interns. Oh, and Chip Carey? Bad idea mentioning a possible sweep in the 6th inning of the second game. The baseball gods frown on your hubris.
It was good to see BMac get his first big hit in the first inning to get the first lead. That should boost his confidence as he continues through this road trip. It was also good to see BJ get on base twice with a hit, and Uggla got a hit with no Ks. However after that first inning, the offense went out for Skyline Chili and didn't come back. This was one of those rare games where we hit 3-7 with RISP and lost, in addition to not hitting a single homer. The Reds hit 3 homers. That means the Reds won, and if they had hit any better than 1-7 with RISP, it would have been a blowout in the other direction. You know how many base runners the Braves had after the 5th inning? ZERO. You know how many runners the Reds had? Four. That should tell you all you need to know about why this game was even in doubt in the 9th.
As a fan, you have every right to be ticked off about the finish. It hurts to lose a game on the last strike, but you have to let it go fast. We have a quick turnaround day game against the Reds to finish the series. From my point of view, I will move on pretty quickly because I didn't really expect us to win the second game matchup. The fact that Bailey was an early mess, and we were holding onto a thin margin with Medlen's recent struggles was something of a pleasant shock. The good news is we can still win the series with what I think is a more favorable matchup today. Be ready though, you're going to see the B-Squad lineup for the Braves. So don't be shocked when there isn't an Upton to be found, good or bad.
The CPA predicted the Reds win (moving to 16-10), but it was wrong about the margin. Now we look at the rubber game of the series to see who takes the set.
CPA Prediction Game 3: Reds 4 - Braves 3
The CPA likes Leake in this game. This is one of the few times where I totally disagree. Leake's holding a 1.35 ERA against Atlanta over the last 3 years, and he's posted a 2.70 ERA at home this season. However, Leake has been very volatile in his starts, and he can easily get roughed up by our lineup. While my gut says that this matchup is favorable to a lefty like Minor against this Reds lefty lineup, the CPA's numbers point to the fact that Minor's road ERA is less than impressive, and the bullpen has had issues lately holding leads. It's a cold-hearted machine. We'll see which one plays out today, my gut or the historical numbers.