Well, the Braves lost a game of the type they’d been winning, 2-1 to the Marlins. Greg Maddux pitched well, but the Braves simply couldn’t drive in any of 11 baserunners; the one run came on an Andruw homer. Maddux looked pretty good, in general, but had some bad luck. He had six strikeouts in six innings, one of the rare times this year he’s seemed to have his strikeout pitch going. Tim Spooneybarger went two perfect innings.
The first Marlin to score reached base on a hit by pitch with two out in the fourth, followed by consecutive singles. Now, the Braves didn’t lose because of that HBP; they lost because the Marlins bunched their hits and the Braves couldn’t. Still, the HBP should not have counted, because the pitch was a strike. Replays showed that the batter clearly swung at the pitch; the bat was pointing at the outfield. Most of the time the plate umpire wouldn’t even ask for help before calling that a strike, but in this case he let the batter reach.
This is me as a baseball fan, not a Braves fan, talking here… Umpires are letting batters get away with murder in terms of hit-by-pitch calls. I don’t know if it’s just trying to simplify their job by removing a judgment call, or if it’s pure laziness, or if they’re trying to avoid beanball wars, but they have decided that anytime a batter is hit he’s awarded first base, contrary to the rulebook. The end result is that batters are leaning over the plate, diving into the plate, and not trying at all to get out of the way of pitches. And umpires are giving them first base anyway. It drives me nuts, and the pitchers have enough trouble getting outs as it is.
Gary Sheffield reached base on an infield single in the fourth, tying Dale Murphy for the Atlanta record for consecutive games on base, until they find another record anyway. Andruw, in addition to his homer, had two walks, both of them on long counts. Hopefully he’s finding the strike zone again. Rafael Furcal, who needs to draw walks even more, also had two.