The game looked dire early. The Braves gave up the lead in the second inning, and heading to the bottom of the 3rd they found themselves down 3-0. It could have been serious head-hanging time, but with 2 outs in the 3rd, Freddie Freeman came up large. He hit a cue-shot double down the third base line that scored two runs, making the game 3-2 Pirates. After an Alvarez homer in the 4th to increase the Pirates lead to 4-2, the Braves had to find some unlikely help from the back end of the order. With 2 outs again in the 6th, Dan Uggla hit a single to get on base, and BJ went yard 417 feet to center to tie the game. That's a huge contribution from two guys that had been struggling to make contact. After that tie, the bullpens battled into the 10th inning, when a leadoff walk and hit batsman put two men on base for Andrelton Simmons. He ended up slapping a double to right center, scoring Uggla, winning the game, and getting carried off the field by Heyward!
It was tough to watch in the beginning, but the finish was well worth the wait. In a 5-4 victory you expect some tight pitching and clutch hitting. However, the reason the game was so close was the Braves untimely strikeouts with RISP, and the fact Minor got dinged for 2 jacks and 4 runs early. It wasn't Minor's best day, as he made a few too many mistakes in the middle of the plate, but giving up only 4 hits isn't exactly a disaster. It's just that they plated all 4 runs, and the Braves defense continues to have issues in the field. The Braves have now had an error in 4 games in a row. They've gone from being one of the most sure-handed teams in the league to a middle of the road fielding squad with 34 team errors. I know what you are thinking. How many of those are Dan Uggla? The answer is 9 of them. More than 25% of our errors come from that one guy, and he's tied for the worst fielding 2nd baseman in baseball. Another issue is Justin Upton, who has the worst fielding record at the LF position with 4 errors, and Freddie Freeman has a shocking 5 errors this season. That's got to be better as we get past the All-Star break.
The hitting was the reverse of what you expected. Dan Uggla got on base 4 times with 2 hits, 2 walks, and scored 2 runs. BJ Upton hit a 2 run homer to tie the game. Heyward went 2-4 with a run scored. Simmons went 3/5 with the gamer winner. It was a bunch of batters you normally don't see guiding the ball around, in addition to Freeman coming up large with his 2 run double. McCann and CJ came up wanting for hits, but had a combined 3 walks. The RISP numbers reflect why the game went to extras, as the Braves only went 2-14. Sooooooo many chances, and the 12 Ks didn't do us any favors with guys on base. The good news was that as much as Minor struggled, the bullpen was sharp as a tack. 4 innings, 4 pitchers, no runs, 1 hit and 1 walk for the bullpen last night. That's almost perfect. In fact, I'll take that every day with whipped cream on top.
Also, odd stat of the day: The Pirates had 5 hits and a walk, scoring 4 runs with 3 runners stranded. The Braves had 10 hits, 7 walks, scored 5 runs and stranded 13 runners. Sometimes it's about quantity of chances over quality at the end of the game.
The CPA (30-18) notched another win along with the Braves yesterday. Let me preface today's prediction with the fact that Wandy Rodriguez has owned the Braves lifetime, and the B-Squad is in the game. I honestly don't expect to win this, as I said in the series preview. I was hoping we'd take the first two, play this game, and hope the Pirates make some mistakes. We're right there. Let's see what the CPA thinks.
CPA Predication Game 3: Pirates 5 - Braves 2
Wandy held the Braves to a 1 hit shutout in Pittsburgh. He's much worse on the road, ala Tim Hudson, but he's not so far off kilter that the backup lineup should be able to crush him. Meanwhile, the Pirates lit up Teheran in their only look at him, so the CPA hates this matchup. The Braves will have to get some timely homers or big hits to overcome the numbers in this one.