Monday, May 4, 2015

Braves split 4-game series with Reds

I said going into this series that a split in a 4-gamer is always fine with me, and in this case I feel the Braves really played very schizophrenic baseball across all of the matches. But I'll take it. Let's break it down game by game.

Game 1 was Shelby Miller's first loss this season. That's odd because he had been pitching so wonderfully in 2015, and he looked in control through 5 innings of this pitcher's duel. Then, the sixth inning happened. A passed ball by Bethancourt on a strikeout of Billy Hamilton put a runner on first with no outs. A single and a double later, the Reds were up 1-0. Now, that may seem small, but in a game where the Braves were showing literally no signs of scoring, that was a disaster. What followed was an onslaught of home runs in the later innings, culminating in the Red's pitcher Mike Leake hitting one deep. Braves lost 5-1, scoring a meaningless run late well after the game was decided.

Game 2 featured two young bucks on the mound trying to make a name for themselves in the majors. Anthony DeSclafani for the Reds had already pitched 4 games and allowed only 3 runs total. Mike Foltynewicz was making his first start ever in the MLB. You'd figure on paper that Mike would struggle and that the young hurler with the 1.04 ERA for the Reds would dominate a Braves lineup that mustered exactly 4 hits in the last game. But this series was completely backwards, and this game proved it again. DeSclafani gave up 4 runs after Folty gave up 3 early, and the Braves held on to win a squeaker 4-3 thanks to a Kelly Johnson 2-run homer.

Game 3 looked like it set up well for the Braves. Jason Marquis for the Reds had a 5.00+ ERA, and Eric Stults had only given up 3 runs in his last 12 innings of work. Looks good right? Braves were scoring and things were looking up. Wrong. Stults got hammered for 11 hits, 6 runs, and 2 homers in 7 innings, and the bullpen tacked on 2 more bad runs for good measure. The Braves scored 4 of their own thanks to a Cameron Maybin homer and late RBI single, but that wasn't enough. Braves lost 8-4.

Now Game 4 looked bad for the Braves. Julio Teheran had been struggling mightily, giving up 16 runs in his last 3 starts. Johnny Cueto on the other side for the Reds had been dominating, going 8 innings in each of his last 2 starts, and getting two wins. So of course what happens in this screwy series? Teheran comes out and dominates with a 6 inning, 3 hit shutout, and Cueto gets rocked for 9 hits, 5 runs, and the loss in 6 innings. Nothing went as planned as you'll see in the CPA in the next preview. But the Braves ended up winning 5-0, and Kelly Johnson managed another homer in the series, this time in front of his young son who was visiting the game with his little league team. It made Sportscenter and it was adorable.

Two things I liked, and one I hated since this was a split:
  1. I liked Kelly Johnson's power - Kelly only went 3/15 in the series, but he did hit 2 homers. Those were also huge because they gave the Braves the lead at the time. He has 5 homers now on the season and Fredi has been batting him cleanup at times. If you had that prediction coming into the season, please let me know, and we'll head to Vegas immediately.
  2. I liked Julio's turnaround - He seemed to understand that he wasn't throwing his fastball enough, as I detailed in the "What the heck is wrong with Julio?" article I did last week. But the key for him is not only throwing it more, it's the placement. And he placed the ball well all day.
  3. I hated the attendance on Thursday Night - I went to the game and to say it was sparse would be a massive understatement. I understand voting with your wallet, but this is not a bad baseball team to watch. They listed it at 15,000 people, but if it was a head over 6,000 that showed up, I'd be shocked. I'm going again on Tuesday night because this is way more fun that the swing and miss baseball I suffered through last year. I recommend getting on board.
I'll give an MVP for the split simply because it looked dire after the first and third games, and the Braves rallied each time. The MVP goes to Mike Foltynewicz. Not for his first major league win, which was really big. No, it was for the fact that Mike actually knocked in 2 runs on his first every MLB hit in the game. Noticed I didn't mention that in the game 2 recap right? I sandbagged you, I was saving it for this. That's why Folty gets the MVP nod.

Next up, the crappy Phillies come to town. Can we please not blow the series this time? Philly stinks.

GO BRAVES!

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