Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Braves win best game of the year so far 11-10

One of the things I'm trying to celebrate this year is when the Braves pull off the unexpected. That's honestly the best thing about a season where you know you're not going to compete for a title. When you get the unexpected upset of a really good team, you should latch onto it and savor it like a fine wine in between several belts of Kirkland Light Beer.

The Braves played the Nationals last night when Stephen Strasburg faced off against Mike Foltynewicz. They really didn't matter in the outcome other than to say neither pitched well at all. This game was an old-fashioned throwback 1990s era of the homer.

Do you like dingers? You bet you do. Chicks dig the long ball as Glavine and Maddux loved to remind us. There were not one, not two, not three, but EIGHT homers in this one game. And even the eighth one mattered in the result. This game was a roller coaster of lead changes. The Braves smacked around Strasburg in the top of the first with two homers for three runs.

But the Nationals came back in the next two innings with two more homers of their own and two more runs scored on a single and a sac-fly. At 4-3 Nationals, the Braves came back in the 3rd and Matt Adams smacked a 3-run homer to make it 6-4 Braves. Are you feeling like the last team to bat might win this game? It sure had that feeling to me.

The Nationals roared back in the 3rd and 4th innings with 5 unanswered runs, and I'm pretty sure in the 4th inning, they came one batter short of batting around the order. It wasn't pretty and that's what finally knocked Folty out of the game with supremely unimpressive line of 3.1 IP, 11 hits, 8 earned runs, 2 walks, and no strikeouts. He sucked. However, coming off a day where he was absolutely impressive in his last start, you can expect some up and down. This was the down. Obviously. Duh.

But the Braves weren't done. Down 9-6, they kept chipping away. In the 8th inning Matt Adams his a solo homer to make it 9-7. Then Inciarte hit a sac-fly with the bases loaded to make it 9-8. Down only one run going into the 9th inning, and the Nationals bullpen looking extremely vulnerable, a victory didn't seem impossible.

It was very possible.

After getting behind in the count, professional hitter Nick Markakis earned a lead off walk, followed by Matt Adams getting walked out of what I think was pure fear of throwing him another meatball he could crush into oblivion for his third homer of the game. That's when Tyler Flowers decided to step and and be the hero. With the game on the line, he belted a ball into the right field stands, stunning the crowd in Washington and giving the Braves an 11-9 lead!

But the game wasn't over. Washington wasn't going to go quietly. A leadoff double for the Nats came around to score on a 2-out single by Trea Turner, bringing the winning run to the plate in the form of Bryce Harper. All eyes were on one of the Braves Country's most hated players, willing Jim Johnson to get him out and not give away one of the most well-fought games of the season. Jim got Bryce to fly out to center harmlessly and the game was ours.

It's not a game you'll tell your grandchildren about but it absolutely was the best game of the season so far. It had everything except good pitching. And frankly, we don't have good pitching so that was supposed to be expected. I'm just happy we won, and I'm happy it was Bryce Harper who got stung for the last out. He can take his endorsements and 5 preseason championship rings back to his piles of money and gigantic house. The loser.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Braves refuse to roll over and die

If you watched the weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds (insert Major League movie joke here) then you may have noticed the Braves actually won a series on the road. Hot damn! When's the last time that happened? Let me pull out the old stat book <grabs a dusty tome from the corner and flips through it like an old fart>. Ah yes, it was about 18 days ago in Toronto when we took two off of them in the snowy North before they broke Freddie Freeman in half at the wrist. Stupid Canucks.

Anyway we won, against all odds. Frankly against all reason if you listen to the people on Twitter whine about what Snitker is doing. HE'S PLAYING GARCIA A LOT! WHERE'S RUIZ? WHAT'S THIS LINEUP! RIGHT/LEFTY LIVES MATTER!

Yes, we've entered a Braves New World where the team is winning in spite of whatever your computer says should have happened. That's a shock for some people and they don't seem to be taking it too kindly. I suggest you remind them that this is sports and wins are good. Just in case they seem to have forgotten that for a moment.

I for one welcome a day when Snitker plays Markakis at 3rd base and we win the game 14-0. Why? Because we won, and that's all I really care about at the end of the day. There's being right, and then there's results. I care about results. I'm a CPA and a CFO. Wins are the end game of any endeavor, and for the moment, the Braves are getting results.

So how did we win? Was it starting pitching? Hell no, are you crazy did you watch any of the games? The starting pitching would put a bad name to the term greasefire, unless you happened to be named Mike. Teheran just gave up 7 runs in a win, Dickey gave up 5, and poor Mike Foltynewicz gave up absolutely nothing and the team lost the game anyway. Just goes to show you Mike, you have to make them earn it. But not too much, or they don't respect you in the morning.

No, the answer to winning was offense. Pure and simple unadulterated blast it into the second deck of the Great American Smallpark power. In the wins, the Braves scored 19 runs. In the loss? Two runs. Yeah, and we should have won the 2 run game because the bullpen gave that one away in the 9th. Man can you imagine a road sweep? When the heck did that happen last in a 3 game series? <finds the dusty tome again> Wow, September 21st against the Mets in 2016. They must have completely given up hope and sent in the clowns.

Don't get it twisted, I love this team. I'm just shocked at the mercurial way they seem to win and lose on a whim. Pull all the right levers against an easy opponent like San Francisco? We get bushwhacked. Play a bunch of hunches against a decent team like Cincy? We win 2 of 3 in the smallest park in all the land and probably should have swept the series. Go figure.

If you've got a good read on this team, please send me your tips because there's money to be made in the gambling market. I need to know your insights. After all, I need a nice lakehouse just like everybody else. We might as well get rich while we're waiting on the team to really compete, and enjoy the winning streaks while we we can.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Braves May Recap

What a month. This May was probably one of the bigger rollercoasters in my time watching this team. We went from the awful lows of a 6 game losing streak, to the dizzing highs of winning 10 of 13, and back to the terrifying lows of losing Freddie Freeman for most of the season. Then we found Matt Adams in a trade who turned out to be a pretty nice slugger. Then we beat the Nationals in a series! And after that we lost 6 of 8 at the end of the month.

Geez, up and down and round and round again.

What did we learn about this team in April? Well the starting pitching is pretty awful outside of Jaime Garcia, who finished the month with a 2.45 ERA. The rest of the starters? Dickey had a 5.70, Folty and Julio both had 6.12, and Bartolo had an 8.54. The fact we won 12 games in the month is something of a miracle with those stats.

The bullpen was slightly better. Jason Motte was awesome with 12 innings and no earned runs. Vizcaino had over 12 innings and 1 run (the one happened to be the game-loser last night unfortunately). Sam Freeman and Jim Johnson have combined for 5 runs in 25 innings, which is very solid. Then you have the guys like O'Flaherty, Wisler, and Collmenter who just got shelled. In the case of Collmenter is was so bad he was given his outright release.

So how in the world did the Braves win all those games? Timely scoring. In the Braves wins in May, they averaged 6.5 runs a game. Which if you think about it since the starter ERA was close to 5.50, you'd have to score over 6 per game to win. I can also tell you that if the recipe for success is your team scoring 6 runs a night? You're going to lose a lot of games. Even Houston and Washington, the best scoring teams in the league, only average about 5.5 a night right now. It's simply to much to ask of your hitters on a regular basis.

We learned that Bartolo Colon is basically finished, although if you read my blog a month ago I basically made that point already. We learned that Freddie Freeman isn't the only engine driving this offense, and that if we had him along with these other pieces you can see some glimmers of hope for scoring on a regular basis. We learned that Josh Collmenter wasn't the answer, and that Jason Motte may be nice trade-bait at the deadline. And lastly we learned that the division is already over in May because the Nationals are up almost 10 games on everybody, and nobody except Washington has a winning record heading into June. The NL East is starting to look like the AFC East in the NFL.

As we head into June, I only have one thought that really crosses my mind: When we will see the next generation come up and play at the major league level?

I have a feeling it's coming soon with these starters struggling.