The title says it all. The Braves lost a 4-game series in Chicago for the first time since 1968. I just wanted to remind people that the Braves are setting records that haven't been broken in almost 50 years. It reminds me of when the Florida Gators lost at home to Vanderbilt a couple years back, and that hadn't happened since World War II. But at least the Gators had the good sense to fire their head coach. The Braves don't seem to do anything but tell us that this manager has a handle on everything.
I'm not going to lambast Fredi Gonzalez for many things, because honestly the manager has little control over many things, but his bullpen management has been a disaster. There are few good answers, and when there aren't many good answers it falls on the pitching coach to improve guys, and the manager to put those struggling relievers in the best positions. Instead, Fredi is focusing WAY too much on R/L matchups (or not enough at the right times) and not taking into account that the bullpen guys need time to figure it out on the mound. Then, inexplicably he gives extra batters to guys that are obviously struggling and the game comes unraveled. Allow me to explain.
In game 2 against the Padres, Wisler has a 2-run game going through 5 innings. He has 85 pitches in the books and although he's laboring, he's still getting outs and keeping the Braves in the game. Instead of letting him go in the 6th, Fredi goes to the bullpen. Any time the Braves put the bullpen in play for more than 3 innings, I can almost guarantee the odds of losing rise to 90% or worse. Aardsma comes in and gets shelled. Detwiler come in after him gets shelled. And what was once a 2-0 managable deficit in the 6th ballooned to a 7-0 laugher in just one inning.
In game 3 against the Padres, Julio Teheran has been dealing. He has only given up 1 run on 4 hits through 6 innings, and he's struck out 7. The Braves are tied 1-1 because the offense is terrible. But because for some reason when a pitcher gets close to 100 pitches, he has to come out now. So who does Freddie go to? A rookie who has literally 6 innings pitched in the majors. In a tie game on the road. Are you freaking serious? Of course as luck would have it, BJ Upton gets a hit off him immediately. That alone should tell you the kid doesn't have it today. Does Fredi take him out? Noooooooo, he leaves him in there for not one, not two, not three, but SIX batters as the Padres manage to score two more runs to make it 3-1. Moylan eventually relieved him and got the final out. Hint, you don't put a brand new rookie on the mound in a tie game scenario. That's stupid.
I won't fault Fredi for starters getting destroyed, so Folty getting ripped in Game 1 against the Cubs, and Wisler getting shelled in 3 innings has nothing to do with management. Even Shelby Miller's curse can't seem to fall on Fredi because nothing will help Miller win a game it seems.
What I will fault him on is Game 3. By some small miracle with Williams Perez on the mound, the Braves manage some stellar offense. They scored 7 runs in this game, and they had a 7-3 lead going to the bottom of the 5th. Perez had looked nothing short of awful all game, giving up a couple of no-doubt homers on a ton of pitches, so we had to know that this was going to be his last inning regardless.
The Cubs managed to ding Perez for two more runs on a double after he's gotten two outs. Does Fredi get him? No. So Perez gives up another two out double and now it's 7-6 before Fredi finally gets Moylan to put out the fire. And he does. So with it 7-6 does Fredi allow Moylan to go back out there? No, he goes to, you guessed it, MARKSBERRY AGAIN! And the kid gives up a dinger to tie the game 7-7. The time to put in Marksberry isn't in freaking close games! You don't let young kids who were in single-A ball suddenly jump into high leverage MLB situations. That's why you have guys like Edwin Jackson and Peter Moylan for matchups.
So Jackson comes in and puts out the fire. For some reason he lets Jackson go another inning, but not Moylan, and Jackson gives up back to back homers. Note, this was against the bottom half of the lineup, and Miguel Montero who hit the first homer is a lefty. Jackson is a RH guy. The time for LH Marksberry was then if you believed you HAD to use him to get a lefty out. I'm fine with using the kid as a lefty specialist to get lefty hitters. But he'd already burned Marksberry down in the earlier innings to face a RH-RH-and Switch. It makes no sense. There's no real logic here. Just madness.
Anyway, just watch how Fredi manages the bullpen like he's pulling names out of a hat. Also if the Braves are in a key situation, I don't want to see someone pitching that's been called up this season unless it's the last thing we have. And we just released Aardsma who was one of the other few guys with some experience on this team. We're just making bad situations worse. We should have released Detwiler. He's terrible. But he's a lefty so he'll probably play here forever and suck the life out of me.
At this point I'm only watching home games because that seems to be the place where the Braves actually win, despite the bullpen shenanigans.