San Francisco 10, Atlanta 7 – MLB – MLB RECAP

When in doubt, take the out.

The Braves led 2-0 going into the bottom of the fourth. By the end of the inning, it was 9-2 Giants. There was bad pitching, bad defense, and the presence of Antonio Alfonseca (Juan Cruz now doesn’t even get to pitch when the starter is knocked out early) to explain much of this. But the other problem — the big problem in my opinion — was Braves defenders trying to do too much and winding up costing the Braves a chance to win the game.

The Giants had runners on second and third, none out, when A.J. Pierzynski hit a sharp comebacker to Russ Ortiz. Rather than looking the runner back and throwing to first, Ortiz tried to get the runner at third, even though he hadn’t strayed that far from the bag. The runner, of course, was safe, there was no chance to get Pierzynski, and the Giants had the bases loaded. Ortiz would get only one more out, and that on a bunt.

Then, with one out, the bases loaded, and Base12 pitching in his inimitable way, Mike Hessman (who had come into the game on a double switch) tried to turn the 3-6-3 double play. That’s a difficult play for an experienced first baseman, and Hessman is a novice, and righthanded to boot. He threw the ball into left field.

Though we can’t be sure of how things would have developed, at least four runs can be blamed on these two mental errors in combination. And the Braves lost by three runs. I rest my case.

The Braves had a good offensive game, at least, with twelve hits. DeRosa, who really does seem more effective in the 2 spot, had three hits, two of them doubles. Marcus Giles had another hit, and has at least one in every game this year except the one in which he was ejected. Hessman also doubled, his first hit this season. Damon Hollins made it to the game but didn’t get a hit as a pinch-hitter.

Will Cunnane and CJ Nitkowski were effective, or at least didn’t allow any runs, after Alfonseca finally left having put the game away for the Giants… The Braves finally have an off day, then play at Colorado to finish the road trip. They’re 4-5 on it so far. The Marlins are back to three games up on the Braves, and the Phillies have crept to only one more game back.

32 thoughts on “San Francisco 10, Atlanta 7”

  1. While some the were costly, I will pin this loss on Cox. Alfonseca had no business coming into the game when he did. And he had nothing. While he has been little bit better than I thought he would be this year this was the perfect situation for Cruz. Hopefully, Bobby got a reminder after he gave up the longball to Michael Tucker. The ball was in they air so long I had time to say, “Michael freakin’ Tucker” three times and really slow before the ball landed. We put up 7 runs and lost the game. That just cannot happen if we want to go to the playoffs.

  2. I really am becoming concerned about the lack of use of Juan Cruz. He’s only made four appearances this year. He’s only pitched in 6 non-extra innings. We were losing in every non-extra inning game in which he has appeared. Sure, Cunnane needed some work and looked good for once, but Base12?

    It’s starting to look like Cruz and Cunnane are going to split time doing mop-up work. Blarg. He’d be better off getting work in at AAA if it doesn’t hurt his pride. Of course, he should be the 7th inning guy, but it looks like Bobby’s love affair wasn’t even fazed by Graboski’s bonehead feilding on Tuesday. Double blarg.

  3. Yeah, what is up with that? Mac, you’re damn right about taking the outs. But really, my concern is with the Bullpen use.

    It shouldnt matter that Alfonseca was given a million dollar contract and has major league experience, and that Cruz has less of both. By any standards he has been the far better pitcher this year, and he has been among the best on the staff in his limited use.

    Actually, I could see in Cruz’s work the potential to be the best pitcher on the staff (save Smoltz) now. But where is the work? I’ve been frustrated that he is only used for mop-up, but then last night he wasn’t even used for that. If he comes in instead of Pulpo, the Braves might win that game.

    The offense has been impressive; makes me happy. But dang we gotta do something about that preventing the other team from scoring runs part of the game.

  4. (Hangs head in shame)
    Correction: I meant to say “While some of the fielding mistakes were costly”. I’m not sure what happend.

  5. Does anybody know of any recent public comments made regarding Juan Cruz by Mazzone or Cox? It is quite a shame that they (Schuerholz included) were so high on him at the beginning of the year and now he’s treated like Spooneybarger, Marquis, Hodges, Bong and the list of talented but frustrated young pitchers goes on…did Cruz just tick the wrong guy off? There must be something going on behind the scenes here.

  6. It was 2-0 when I went to bed (as I am old), so I didn’t get to see the unraveling.

    Anyway, I am usually a Cox apologist, but was there any reason for the double-switch that early? Curious move.

    I actually think Hessman can be a helpful gear in the right machine, but I don’t know if it’s a good move to remove defense in the middle of a big inning for the other team. Everybody makes physical errors and Hessman made a couple of fine plays on Tuesday night, but LaRoche is clearly a level above him on defense, so the double-switch seems a bit premature to me.

    Agree on the use of Cruz. Alfonseca is going to get every opportunity to prove he cannot pitch and that’s the way it is (and has been) throughout the game. But he’s just not doing it.

  7. What about Johnny “Don’t call me Erik” Estrada? Ponch has quietly tapped his average up to .323 on this trip and to date has 6 more RBI (18) than Javy “Ladie’s Man” Lopez (12) has for Baltimore.

    Javy also seems to have cooled down a bit from his blazing start, posting stats of .200/.259/.240 in the last seven days compared to .455/.500/.727 for Johnny–and we’re only paying him 1/19th of what Javy makes! That’s gotta make a general manager feel good.

  8. I too went to bed when we were up 2-0. I sure wish that Bobby would read BP. Maybe he would get the idea that using a good reliever in high leverage situations, like the old days when relievers were called ‘firemen’ might be a cool thing to try. The Cruz situation might be something like the Chen situation. Uncoachable. Maybe fastball down and away is not in Juan’s vocabulary, but I guess Base12 has to lose 5 or 6 games before Bobby figures out that he is Roberto Hernandez with 2 extra fingers.
    The double switch is curious. Just as curious was when with 2 men on and no out in the first game Bobby had LaRoche bunt. Would that be a no confidence vote in the young man? You think that the switch to Hessman mid game is the second vote?
    On the positive side, when you look at the offensive numbers one of the things that strikes me is the good OBPs. I hope that this trend continues.
    I sure hope that Hampton doesn’t need a stint on the DL for psychoanalysis after the game in Coors.

  9. Not sure how this came about, but late in the game with a man on base (I want to say 9th inning but maybe I am wrong) I noted Jesse Garcia batting for Marcus Giles. Is this not two straight games where Garcia has replaced Giles- is this for defensive purposes or is Giles hurt a little? Not that it cost the Braves the game, but it sure did not help to have Jesse at the plate (predictably, he popped up to the infield).

  10. The Cruz situation might be something like the Chen situation. Uncoachable

    If Bobby and Leo have drawn that kind of conclusion from the extremely limited amount of time they’ve had with Cruz, then rebuilding the pitching staff is going to be a long and excruciating process.

  11. I agree with Dave that something else must be going on. The use or misuse of Cruz is a bigger mystery to me that playing Wise. Leo seems to have trouble finding roles for versatile pitchers. I certainly hope that Cruz does not go the way of Marquis.

  12. I’m thinking that they just don’t trust Cruz yet, for whatever reason. Also, he is the only guy that can really pitch 3 or more innings out of the bullpen. So I guess they like to save him in case of long extra innings. Either way, I wish they would let him pitch more.

  13. My comment about Cruz being uncoachable is based on my observations over many years of Braves watching. Odalis Perez, Bruce Chen, Jason Marquis, and Trey Hodges are just a few examples of guys that had some success in the minors or had what scouts said was good stuff that the Bobby for some reason or another didn’t use. Chen and Marquis were said to be uncoachable. I don’t know about Perez and poor Hodges has to be wondering what he has to do to prove himself since he had a pretty good spring. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Cox is so enamored of guys like Grybowski and Greg McMichael. I guess that 12 division titles, 5 pennants and a World Series make him way smarter than me.

  14. Did anyone else notice CJ Nitkowski throwing a (very effective) curveball for the first time last night? He was locating his fastball pretty well, ripping the slider sideways out of the zone, and dropping the big hook right on the outside corner. I know there’s a school of thought that says don’t throw a slider and a curve, but it seems very effective if you can take 10mph off like CJ was. Any thoughts?

  15. I don’t usually get to see C.J. pitch, because it’s tough enough to stay awake past the horror show that usually precedes his trip to the mound (i.e. a blowout game or any use of Base12, Gryboski, a Hampton start, etc.). Plus, when the Braves are Out West, I don’t even get a chance to try…

  16. Huh? Bobby used Odalis Perez. Used him a lot. They stuck him into the starting rotation and let him pitch until his arm nearly came off. Let him pitch even when he wasn’t pitching well. Perez made 17 starts in 1999 before his elbow gave out, throwing 93 innings, despite a 6.00 ERA.

    Bobby used Hodges a good bit, too, early last season. Hodges then started to become muy hittable and Bobby eventually gave up on him. Not that that means he’s not better than Base12 and shouldn’t be in the bullpen or rotation now.

  17. I think Bobby and Leo like Grboski on the “whatcha see is whatcha get” angle. He basically throws one pitch (and he is throwing it better this year) that can be helpful in a given situation. But Bobby has given Grboski about 100 times more rope than he has the other aforementioned pitchers and he appears to be expanding his role.

    I hold out some hope for Nitkowski and if anyone can squeeze the potential out of him, it’s probably Leo. Nitkowski commented recently in an article that he’s learned more about pitching since being a Brave than he had in all his years prior to being here. He seems to be an eager pupil, but he has been wild when put into key situations (which is the ultimate no-no for BC and Leo), so we’ll have to see how it turns out.

    I was against the Alfonseca signing (I’m still looking for someone who actually thought it was a good idea) and he is pitching horribly. Hopefully, collecting some insurance on Byrd will allow AOL to give the Braves the chance to do the right thing for the team here and release AA.

  18. I can’t say I know anything about this Kevin Gryboski “Horror Show” that the anonymous poster is convinced he’s seen this year. Maybe I’m just being fooled by the 0.93 ERA he’s put up so far. How dare he pretend to be an effective pitcher!

  19. Uh, Yeah you are right. I forgot that Perez was in the rotation in 1999. It just seemed that he didn’t get a lot of action after that. As for Hodges you’re right again. In the second half though he disappeared.

    It would be interesting to know what the real scoop is on Cruz. When I’ve seen him pitch he looks like he as great stuff. Better than Wright and certainly better than Alfonseca.

  20. I believe they said Perez was uncoachable as well. I could be wrong. I have always liked how he pitches, though.

  21. Unfortunately, ERA doesn’t account for inherited runners scoring. If I decipher the abbreviations correctly, Gryboski has allowed 4 of 8 inherited runners to score. On top of that he’s given up 4 BB in 9 2/3 IP, and recently failed to look back a runner on third when he threw to first. Luckily an excellent throw by LaRoche and a more amazing block of the plate by Perez got the guy out at the plate and erased the mistake.

  22. I believe Perez is pretty much on record as saying he loved playing for Bobby and did not like playing for Leo.

  23. 50poundhead, I’m pretty sure you’ll never find a single soul who liked the Alfonseca signing. As much as I admire what Schuerholz has done for the Braves I can’t for the life of me figure out why he did this when we went through a season of Hernandez, Roberto. Ole Base12 hopefully will become sunk costs before he costs us more games.

    Good point, looking deeper into the statistics. I was surprised by Grybowski’s low ERA since when I’ve watched the Braves he’s pretty much sucked. Middle relief in high leverage situations is killing rallies which makes the decisions to use Grybowski and Alfonseca even more puzzling.

  24. I can see an argument against using Gryboski in the high-leverage game-breaking situations that Bobby uses him in. If he continues to allow half of inherited runners to score then it would be foolish to keep sending him out there. On the other hand, if a guy is coming into games with runners on all the time you can’t always expect to him to win the battle every time.
    I’m not saying the guy is Superman, but I really can’t figure out what he did to be put on the same level with Pulpo. When it comes to games being broken wide open against us, I’d think Gryboski to be the least of our worries.

  25. I suggested awhile back that Gryboski be used in exactly the sort of situation as Wednesday night — runners on base, the Braves losing, and one or two more runs would break the game open. His occasional gopherball tendencies don’t hurt the team so much then, because the difference between a homer and a single is no biggie when two runs for the other side puts the game away. Other than the one game when he blew a good start for Hampton (who hadn’t pitched enough to justify being yanked) Gryboski has been okay.

  26. My comment about Cruz being uncoachable is based on my observations over many years of Braves watching.

    Oh, I think the comment has merit. Just as I said, they’ve hardly had any time to decide, and if they’ve already decided to McGlinchy him after barely any time, that’s reckless misuse of resources.

    Chen and Marquis were said to be uncoachable.

    Marquis is off to a solid start for STL, by the way.

    I can’t for the life of me figure out why Cox is so enamored of guys like Grybowski and Greg McMichael

    Hey hey hey, lay of Greg McMichael! In four seasons with ATL he had ERAs of 2.06, 3.84, 2.79 and 3.22. Almost as underrated as Kerry ligtenberg, he has a career ERA+ of 130. Saved the team when Stanton imploded in 1993.

    I believe they said Perez was uncoachable as well
    I believe Perez is pretty much on record as saying he loved playing for Bobby and did not like playing for Leo.

    I don’t know that I ever heard the latter so directly stated, but he did say that LA would let him pitch inside more, as he did in the minors, whereas Leo tried to make him pitch like Tom Glavine. He did nibble the corners a lot in ATL, and his walk rate since has been amazing, suggesting he has challenged hitters more (albeit with mixed results, one dominant season and one mediocre).


  27. Botom line is, Juan Cruz need to get his skinny little ass on the mound at least once this series, even if it is Colorado. Just so we know he’s still alive and all. (Maybe Base12 ate him. El Pulpo looks like a ravenous Lon Cheney-type werewolf sometimes).

  28. A couple of years ago when Odalis first came back to Atlanta to pitch against the Braves, he made some not-so-thinly veiled comments about how he didn’t like working with Leo.

  29. I’m not really trying to bash Gryboski or even put him in the same category as Tony 12 digits. I just don’t like the role he has been assigned, which appears to be “Go-to guy as a bridge between the starter and Reitsma when the game is close.” I like Mac’s ideal role much better.

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