Braves 5, Cubs 4

Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs – Box Score – August 23, 2011 – ESPN.

Never anything easy with these guys, is there?

Scoreless through three, the action began with two out in the top of the fourth. Dan Uggla had an infield single, Chipper Jones singled to make it first and third, and it looked like the Cubs pitched around Eric Hinske to load the bases. But then, somehow, they walked Alex Gonzalez too, and it was 1-0. Jason Heyward, hitting eighth, came up and hit a ball to left-center that in most parks probably would have been a double, but in Wrigley on this night was a grand slam homer. 5-0, cruising time.

Of course not. Mike Minor was superb through four innings, but then lost the plot. He gave up a leadoff homer in the fifth (ending a 30-inning scoreless streak by Braves pitching). He “hit” (the wind from his pitch slightly ruffled the pants of) the next hitter, and Darwin Barney, who is quickly becoming a Braves bane of almost Victorinian stature, singled in a pinch-hit. Minor got a long flyout and a strikeout to almost end it, but Aramis Ramirez (who was 5-5 on the night) doubled to score them both, then scored himself when Hinske dropped a 6-3 putout, making it 5-4.

In the sixth, the Braves couldn’t get a two-out hit with the bases loaded. Cristhian Martinez started the sixth, giving up a one-out double but pitching around it. He got the first guy in the seventh, too, then gave up consecutive weak singles. George Sherrill came in and hit the first guy he faced before getting a strikeout, then Arodys Vizcaino — quickly becoming the righthanded bullpen force the Braves needed — got out of the jam with one pitch. He didn’t have much trouble in the eighth, either. Craig Kimbrel got a strikeout and a groundout, then allowed a single by Ramirez, with Heyward (who in his defense was 3-4 on the night) committing an error to get him to second. So Kimbrel got another strikeout to end it.

72 thoughts on “Braves 5, Cubs 4”

  1. Bit of a shaky game for the Braves, but they got it done when it counted (or the Cubs failed when it mattered). These wins are awesome and everything, but I can’t help feeling that the Braves have benefited from a lot of good fortune recently; we’ve been winning a lot of close games.

    Circling back quickly to the Kelly Johnson / Aaron Hill trade – per MLB Trade Rumors, Kelly Johnson is one spot away from Type A FA status (see http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/08/elias-rankings-update-1.html). Jays clearly made this trade with an eye towards collecting extra draft picks. I’m glad we don’t play in the AL East; the Jays are quickly entering Rays territory as “dangerous teams with lots of talent”.

  2. Worst case scenario for the Jays is they get 1yr of KJ at $8mil instead of Hill at $8mil. Or they get two picks instead of 1. Right?

  3. @4 I would imagine the Jays see KJ as another Ynuel and Rasmus. Besides, I think KJ would do well in Toronto when there is no pressure. I believe the Jays will keep KJ for at least a year to see if he can have a good season in 2012, which I think he will. Good fantasy sleeper next season guys.

  4. Don’t think he’s going to be much of a sleeper. Also don’t think there’s any less pressure in Toronto than there was in Arizona. Or in Atlanta, during the years KJ was here, for that matter.

  5. How awesome is it to have a back-end pen like the Braves have?

    Gonna be tough to neutralize the Phils’ rote…but hell…

  6. The fantasy implications of owning KJ in an NL only league are not positive. I didn’t see that one coming. Is he a stealth pain in the ass or something?

  7. Stu, once the club starts winning and in a divisional race, KJ would disappear. They will never win in Toronto. It’s funny, you read what Kirk Gibson said about KJ and you would thought it’s Bobby talking about KJ couple years ago.

  8. You know, I just realized Danny Espinosa is available, so I’m good. Fortunately, 40% of my league is no longer paying attention….

  9. The strikeout of Soriano by Vizcaino was insane.

    Another crazy strikeout I remember was last year. Venters struck out Loney on a pitch that was headed for his armpit. He swung while ducking away from the pitch.

  10. Rotoworld on Heyward’s game:

    “That’s one way to force yourself back into the lineup. However, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez appears to be completely enamored with the overachieving Constanza, and Heyward won’t likely find himself back in the lineup on an everyday basis until Constanza’s inevitable regression to the mean begins.”

  11. So I saw Nyjer Morgan interviewed after the latest Brewers win doing his Tony Plush thing. I like the bowling pin routine, and I really don’t mind the other celebratory stuff, but the schtick was well, NBAishly dumb to me. Perhaps I am being too “you kids get off my lawn here” but I hope this kind of thing doesn’t catch on. Probably too late for that though.

  12. I found Morgan pretty entertaining when I saw him play a couple games in person this summer. Apparently, his opponents find him much less amusing—he has more HBPs (10) than BBs (9) this year.

    But, no, I never found the Tony Plush thing too funny either.

  13. This is insane…
    •#Braves rookie Kimbrel’s past 32 appearances: 31-2/3 IP, 12 H, 0 R, 10 BB, 55 K.

  14. From Wikipedia:

    “Morgan frequently refers to himself as Tony Plush, which he states is his “name on the field” or his “gentleman’s name.” Under his nickname, Morgan will occasionally make a hand signal to look like a “T” after reaching base. In 2011 Nyjer created his own twitter account. With over 20,000 followers Morgan often tweets after games using his catchphrase “AAAAAHHHH GOTTA GO!” He is the owner of an adopted cat named “Slick Willie.”

    And here’s an article that appeared recently in Slate, written by the guy who was Morgan’s alter ego.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2301477/

  15. I love the Braves record and don’t want to start becoming the voice of doom, but I really have to wonder if this team has what it takes for the playoffs:

    -rotation that rarely goes past 6 except for Hudson
    -offense that doesn’t take many walks, strikes out a lot, scores sporadically and frequently shuts down
    -reliance on a bullpen that almost always pitches 3-4 innings, especially a rookie closer that has pitched a lot of innings

    On the other hand, the Braves attributes include:

    -a power bullpen and, especially lefties for the Ryan Howards of the world.
    -power pretty much throughout the lineup
    -a much better top of the order
    -strong defense at short (I know, but Ben Duranio at CAC really likes him)
    -a deep, if not especially dominant rotation
    -possibly a relatively healthy Chipper Jones (cross fingers)

    The wildcard here is Jason Heyward–if he starts hitting, this is potentially a very dangerous team. Of course, Fredi probably plans to use him exclusively as a pinch hitter and pinch runner in the playoffs. :)

    I just don’t like the Braves’ penchant for making games that should be easy, like last night, into nail biters, requiring the bullpen to walk a tight rope every night. Eventually, you are going to fall off. Of course, given that most playoff games are close, the Braves may be well-suited to win the close games for a change. But I really worry about how the rotation will match up against the Brewers, less so if they get to the Phillies.

  16. @21

    The difference of actual talent for potential playoff teams is always less than the randomness of potential outcomes for playoff games.

    Get to the playoffs. Take your at bats. Hope it works. Throw analysis out the window.

  17. 19: Thanks! I hate him already!

    Don and Jim were talking the other night about Ron Roenicke’s approach to establishing authority in the Brewers clubhouse. Roenicke says he first has to “earn the trust of the players” before laying down the law and presumably being tough on them. Don said he couldn’t relate to that. I’m afraid I can’t either.

    21: My big concern right now is we’re not punishing other teams with our offense. It seems like every time you look at the scoreboard, the Phillies have the Mets over their knees spanking them and sending them to their room with no desert. I’m glad we won last night, but all our run scoring was restricted to a single inning where we were lucky to spark our output with a 2-out infield single. We shouldn’t have needed an infield single with 2 outs to embarrass that Chumpy McChumpster of a starter the Cubs pushed out there.

  18. Doesn’t matter how many runs you win by, just so long as you win. The rotation issue is an easy fix when you consider some of our starters (plus the kids from AAA) are going to be available in the pen in the postseason. We will be fine.

  19. Sam is exactly right. The Braves cannot afford to build a team that is clearly going to dominate anyone and everyone. They put together the veteran team that they can, rely on a great farm system (Kimbrel, Minor, Freeman, Venters, et al), make some minor tweaks (Bourn), and then see if they can make it to the playoffs. Once you get there, you throw analysis out of the window and take it one game at a time. Our best against their best for 6 innings, then bring in the three-headed monster from the bullpen if you’ve got the lead. The Braves cannot afford (or Liberty Media doesn’t care enough) to “build for the playoffs”, but I like our chances.

  20. The Braves cannot afford to build a team that is clearly going to dominate anyone and everyone.

    I dunno: Bourn, Prado, Freeman, Uggla, Chipper, McCann, Heyward… That’s a lineup that ought to be beating up on at least the crappy teams in the NL. And that means pretty much everyone outside of the Phillies and a few of the Giants starters.

    I’m just weary of racking up scoreless innings against the likes of Livan Hernandez and this loser the Cubs threw out last night.

  21. @21

    That is why we have to rest our bullpen. In the playoffs, our starters won’t have to go past the sixth inning.

    I hate to say it, but in the playoffs, we should play for an early lead so we can get to O’Vencibrel (ther new name for the fab four).

    If Bourn leads off with a hit, steals second, let’s bunt him to third and let McCann hit a fly ball.

    If we score 2-3 runs early (unless it is Lowe) we should win 90% of the time.

  22. Since Bourn’s acquisition, the Braves have averaged 4.76 runs per game.

    Some might point to another pesky little left handed waterbug type hitter contributing to that outcome, too.

  23. Before Bourn’s acquisition, the Braves were only averaging 4.06 runs per game. And yes, you are right Sam. Constanza deserves credit.

    Pythag record: 73-57
    Real record: 78-52

    *25 1-run victories

  24. @21, we used to have teams that ran up gaudy regular season records like the Phils, with arguably better starting pitching, and the results were (with one notable exception) suboptimal. I wouldn’t concede just yet.

  25. 28 – right, and that’s really good. The Braves offense has been well above average for the past two months.

    Recently, though, the starting pitching hasn’t been as good–well, at least until a week ago. The drop off from Hanson to Minor is probably significant, and the drop off from first-half Jair to his second half incarnation is as well. That’s why we need to see one or two if the following happen: Hanson get healthy, Jurrjens improve, or Lowe return to April’s form.

  26. Heresy here: I’m ready for prado to revert to super sub status. He could spell the outfield of Sam’s Waterbug, Bourn and the Franchise’s Future Reborn, Chipper, Uggla and Freddie to keep everyone rested.

  27. I think Heyward should get a chance to play, but before last night he wasn’t helping himself.

    We need to get off this Heyward/T-Bone thing and focus on winning.

    I personally don’t care if we win it all with my barber playing right field. Just win baby!

  28. Braves’ NL rankings…
    runs scored: 8th
    HR: 2nd
    OBP: 12th
    OPS: 9th
    ERA: 3rd
    WHIP: 2nd
    K: 1st

  29. “We need to get off this Heyward/T-Bone thing and focus on winning.”

    I agree 100%. I dont understand the hate for Constanza. The guy is getting his shot and producing. He’s helped this offense get going and he’s giving Heyward some competition out there. Heyward is the cornerstone and everyone knows that, but pulling against Constanza for geting the job done is over the top.

  30. This ain’t college football. You only have to win by one run. Last year, the Giants had to win 7 post-season games to secure the pennant. They won 6 of them by one run.

    The back of the Braves bullpen makes this post-season very intriguing, and a Braves/Brewers series should be terrific. We’re near the top in NL pitching, in the middle with runs scored; Milwaukee is near the top in runs scored, in the middle with NL pitching. And, of course, we’ll see all those Braves-return-to-Milwaukee stories, which would give the series a little more juice.

    One of the great things in life (and baseball) is having something to look forward to—looks like we got it.

  31. IMO winning so many games by one run has a lot more to do with a lights out bullpen than luck. Good luck will eventually run out, but the bullpen has looked solid all year. To his credit, I think Fredi has been very aware of overworking his top 3 and has managed the bullpen well in the 2nd half of the season. Vizcaino may still falter, but he is light years better than Proctor and has made a huge difference so far. It also helps that the Lisp has been doing a great job since his recall from the minors.

  32. If Moylan proves healthy and Helms becomes the RH bat off the bench, who doesn’t make the playoff roster?

  33. @42 – Lowe and Lugo or Conrad? Not having a backup SS may be a problem, but Lugo has been basically worthless. Lowe had a great September last year, but unless he does the same thing this September, I don’t see how you can keep him on the playoff roster. A lot will depend on how Hanson looks when/if he returns. If Hanson doesn’t come back this year, Minor will definitely be the odd man out.

  34. @43
    It might be smart, but there’s no way that the Braves leave Lowe off of the playoff roster. My guess would be the Lisp and Lugo, but it should be Linebrink and Lugo.

  35. My Guess at the Playoff Roster:

    McCann
    Freeman
    Uggla
    AAG
    Chipper
    Bourn
    Prado
    Constanza

    Heyward
    Conrad
    Hinske
    Ross
    Lugo (can’t see not having a back-up SS)

    Hudson
    Lowe (the Cult of the Old won’t let him be left off)
    Jurrjens
    Beachy
    Hanson/Minor (depends on Tommy’s health)

    Kimbrel
    Venters
    O’Fleherty
    Vizcaino
    Sherrill
    Linebrink (would rather see Martinez here, but the Cult of the Old strikes again)
    Moylan/Martinez (depends on whether PeMo throws out his back tweeting)

  36. Every action over the last 2 weeks indicates that Gonzalez, not being an idiot, has clearly moved Martinez ahead of Linebrink in the bullpen pecking order. There is absolutely no way, barring injury or collapse by the Lisp, that Linebrink makes the post-season roster ahead of him.

  37. With off days would just four starters be more likely? The four would depend on how they pitch from now to end of season. With back up SS AGon could be pinch hitted for.

  38. I’m perfectly fine with Linebrink never appearing in a meaningful spot again for the Braves.

    And by meaningful, I define that as any game in which the Braves lead or trail by more than 7 runs.

  39. George may need another day off to regain his explosive speed. He fears being Wally Pipped. Would he a good choice as PH leading off inning?

  40. I agree that regular season performance has little to do with how teams do in the playoffs. I think having a power bullpen is a huge advantage in the playoffs but I worry about overuse and I would like to see them play a few more games like Saturday where they jumped on the D-Backs and didn’t have to stress out in the later innings.

  41. Isn’t Prado more or less filling the “supersub” role now? He’s not playing all over the field, but alternating between LF and 3B allows time off for Chipper, Heyward, and Constanza (edit: and Bourn, as Constanza can play CF).

  42. @57 – Yes. Prado is bouncing back and forth from LF to 3B giving Chipper days off. Constanza is bouncing back and forth between RF, LF and CF giving Heyward (we know!) and Bourn days off. Hinske is taking the occasional day at 1B to rest FreFre down the stretch. (Freddie would have scooped Alex’s “E6” last night and kept the game a little more comfortable in the 5th.)

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Prado slide over to 2B and rest Uggla once or twice either, although it’s more likely we’d see Conrad in that slot.

    Lugo spells AGon, obviously.

  43. @53
    Not much on the payroll for ’13 yet, but tons of arb-eligible players and presumably a hole already in LF and SS. Bourn might be too expensive.

    Options that year:
    Chipper-7 mil club option
    Hudson-9 mil club option
    McCann- 12 mil

    Arb-eligible:
    Jurrjens- 3rd
    Prado-3rd
    O’Flaherty-3rd
    Heyward-1st
    Hanson-1st or 2nd
    Medlen-2nd
    Venters-1st

  44. Good article about 1B. Kinda points out how torturous it is to try to come up with good stats for defense.

    Also, it’s hard to decide to whom to award the error on missed scoops. Last night, I thought the error should have gone to AGON. Our infield has gotten so used to Freddy catching damn near everything that they just kind of heave it in his direction.

  45. I agree. Alex rushed the throw and it short hopped Hinske. I dont think you can give that error to the 1B.

  46. It seems as though the “Runs Saved” calculation depends more on avoiding mishandling throws than making a large number of scoops. I’d like (as you can see in the comments) to see the full list to know where FF ranks.

  47. Yes. The post-Beltran Mets are Houston bad right now. Any baseball team should be embarrassed to ever lose to them right now. Lots of injuries and other problems caused it, but the state of that team right now is misery personified.

    /but they are ahead at the moment.

  48. I don’t really get the Helms signing even for AAA. As I think about it, it’s hard for me to imagine him making the playoff roster. I guess if we clinch a playoff spot we can let him play 3rd and give Chipper and Prado a break at the same time during the last few weeks of September.

  49. Fredi seems to do a lot by feel. My guess is Helms has come through for him in clutch spots before, thus earning Fredi’s loyalty (and probably a spot on the playoff roster).

    Can’t say that I blame him. Just hope Fredi’s situational instincts are better than Bobby’s. (Leibrandt? No!!!!)

  50. @69 Agreed. We could have used Helms last year when CJ and the Prado got hurt. Maybe in September to rest starters unless we get a chance to catch Phils.

  51. Do you have more confidence in Smelms as a RH pinch hitter off the bench or Lugo come playoff time ? I think I’d lean towards Smelms. If Gonzalez gets hurts in the postseason, I believe Lugo could replace him on the roster, but then would have to miss the next series, but I could be wrong on that.

    In an emergency, I believe Prado could play the rest of the game at SS and then Lugo could replace Gonzo on the roster for the next game. I have no use for Lugo on the playoff roster, as I have no use for a third catcher, but I think both will be on there.

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