Sunday, April 19, 2015

Braves win series in Toronto

I honestly didn't expect the Braves to take the series against Toronto, especially since they are one of the most powerful slugging teams in the league. However, when I reflect on what happened in these games, I actually think the Braves could have swept the series if not for some bad luck. Let's take a look at the games.

Julio Teheran was actually terrible in game one, and that's something you almost never see. His fastball was completely off, and as a result several Toronto hitters blasted them into the stratosphere. Julio gave up 5 runs on 4 homers, which is the highest homer total in a single game of his career. But the Braves were not to be deterred by Toronto's offensive onslaught. They chipped away with a full array of singles, doubles, triples, and even some homers of their own to put 8 runs on the board. Nick Markakis had an amazing day as he went 4/4 with 3 runs scored and a walk. They simply couldn't get him out. Braves ended up holding on to an 8-7 win.

The second game is the one I felt the Braves gave away. Alex Wood had a great outing going, and the Braves put 4 early runs on the board. But when the 7th inning rolled around Fredi Gonzalez left Wood in for one batter too many. After giving up a double and a single to make the game 4-1, Wood then gave up a triple and a controversial infield single to make it 4-3. What looked like a close play at first was reviewed by the umps, but the video evidence didn't show enough, so the call of safe was upheld. Even so, the Braves still had the lead going to the 8th, but the bullpen finally let them down. Jim Johnson gave up a huge 2-run homer to Bautista, making it 5-4 Toronto. The game looked over, except Kelly Johnson decided to pull a miracle out of his rear and hit a game-tying homer in the top of the 9th. In extras, Fredi Gonzalez made another tactical error by going to Sugar Ray Marimon, a guy with almost no MLB experience, in a 10th inning tie game. Bear in mind he had could have kept Avilan in the game, but he loves that lefty-righty stuff late. Anyway, Donaldson hit a walk-off homer for the Blue Jays, and the game was over. Fredi later admitted he would consider other options in similar situations. Nice. We could have used that YESTERDAY!

The third game was a Sunday affair in front of a huge crowd in Toronto. Over 44,000 from the attendance reports. And they all got a front row seat to the Braves handing them a butt-whomping. But it was a weird butt-whomping. First, the runs all came in the first 3 innings for the Braves. Second, all the runs came courtesy of really stupid throwing decisions or fielding issues by the Blue Jays. Third, Jonny Gomes had 4 RBIs, which is just crazy since he only had one hit, and it wasn't a grand slam. What happened was the Braves loaded the bases in the first inning, and Gomes hit a rocket over the head of the center fielder to clear the bases. Then, in the third inning after Freddie Freeman walked, Chris Johnson singled to center, Freddie for some weird reason tried to lope his way to third, the throw got away, and Freddie scored while CJ 2.0 moved up to third. A Gomes sacrifice fly brought him in. Give Shelby Miller a 5 run lead early, and he's going to win. And he did, Braves won 5-2.

Three things I liked:

  1. The base running in the third game was fun and crazy. Watching Freddie Freeman go first to third followed by Chris Johnson getting an error assisted triple? That's unlikely to happen again all season. Freddie runs like one of his legs is shorter than the other, and Chris regularly treats his shoes with cement.
  2. The homers! Man there were a ton of homers. The balls just seem to fly out of that stupid ballpark in Toronto. It must be the air or the Canadian exchange rate or something. Either way there were 12 homers combined in the series. That's a bunch even in the AL.
  3. The Double plays! Wow. How many Braves double plays did we turn in this series? SEVEN. There were seven double plays turned by the Braves, and they now lead the major leagues in double plays turned. Not only is that cool fielding, it's also a neat thing to brag about.
MVP of the series is easy. It's Nick Markakis and it's a complete runaway. Like Reagan beating Mondale in 1984 kind of a runaway. Ask your parents, kids. Anyway, Nick was on-base 11/14 times he came to the plate. That's an on-base percentage of .786, which is pretty absurd. Nick is now top 10 in the entire MLB in on-base, out of hundreds of players. Can you even comprehend how different this is from last year when our entire team was a bang-or-bust group of tilting windmills? Well? CAN YOU!?!

The great news is that the Braves carry this winning momentum into a series with the Mets, who inexplicably lead the entire NL with an 10-3 record. If they play their cards right, the Braves will take over that spot after the series is over.


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