Oh the mythical, glorious, perfect lineup! If you look at the May 16th post, I went over what the ideal lineup by statistics looks like on this team. I wished I could see it just once, and yesterday we all got that chance. We were rewarded for our wait. The Braves lineup put 11 runs on the board, with only 5 Ks. I love the OBP in that group. I love the contact in that group. I love that it turns the order over and there are no holes that pitchers can work around. I understand we're unlikely to see that lineup again for another couple of weeks. However, the knowledge that Fredi is willing to go to the hot hands when we need it down the stretch is a very good thing. Bobby Cox would have never done this. He would have been starting vets until we had blown our 5 game lead, because he was veterans first always. If you want one good example of why Fredi is a different manager than Bobby, yesterday was it in a nutshell.
So who got hits? Everybody except the pitchers. It was 1974, Hammerin' Hand was hammering dingers, disco was alive, and the Braves were cranking out the hits, baby! Schafer had a double, Freeman had a homer, Reed had a homer, and Pena had 4 RBIs. Little Pena, the engine that could. RA Dickey, former Cy Young winner, went 6 IP with 11 hits, 6 runs, a walk and a blast. Then, we got into the Jays pen. They didn't look like the pen from Wednesday. In 2 innings, the Braves roughed them up for 5 runs. It was a little bit of payback for the awful performance we laid out there mid-week.
Was Minor good? Is 7 innings and 2 earned runs good? No, it's in fact quite great. 103 pitches with a very robust 73 strikes. Minor was firing at guys because he was spotted an early 3 run lead. Some of you may have forgotten what it's like to have a lead after the second inning. It's nice. It's like a warm cinnamon bun made out of runs and sunshine. It gives those starting pitchers the confidence to just say "screw it, try and hit this." That's what you want. You want your starter firing strikes and daring the opposition to come and get him. That's what Minor did, and he was great at it. Even so, the defense made a HUGE mistake last night that could have cost the Braves big. Andrelton Simmons, he of the ridiculous eye-popping plays, booted the most routine double play ball I've seen all season. That kept the inning going, which led to the Jays tying the game at 3 runs. Now, I'm not mad at him, because good grief, the dude's turned some plays out I've never seen at short. However, we can't get lax, and that was a good example of how fast things can unravel if you aren't defensively sound. The Wild Card game should stand as a staunch reminder of that fact.
Let's look at some of my favorite stats in this game. Braves with RISP went 5-12, so I love that. Minor executed a successful sacrifice when he got a bunt down in the 6th, moving runners to second and third. They came around to score on the next Schafer hit. That was huge. The Braves had 16 hits in 38 ABs for a game average of .421 on the night. That's almost unheard of on this team. In fact, I had to go back and see if we've had 16 hits all season. In a cursory look, I didn't see more. That was an amazing peformance.
Series preview of the Nats this weekend is coming up after lunch. With a 5.5 game lead, we really have a chance to stick it to a Nats team that is now playing .500 baseball, lost 6 of their last 10, and suddenly finds themselves with a negative run differential on the season.