Cubs 3, Braves 2

Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs – Box Score – August 24, 2011 – ESPN.

Well, it wasn’t Derek Lowe‘s fault. The Braves were completely stymied — held to one hit — through six and two-thirds innings against Randy Wells and his 5.84 ERA. Chipper Jones broke it up with a solo homer in the seventh, and Alex Gonzalez had one in the eighth, but that was all they got.

Lowe had one bad inning, the second, when he allowed a two-run homer by Alfonso Soriano and an “unearned” run. He then loaded the bases after a Chipper error, but got out of it and actually pitched pretty well the rest of the way. It didn’t do a whole lot of good.

And Fredi, God bless him, used Scott Linebrink to pitch in a one-run game in the eighth inning. Linebrink, true to form, loaded the bases with one out, but Chipper bailed him out with a nice play on a line drive to get a double play.

171 thoughts on “Cubs 3, Braves 2”

  1. Linebrink getting out of that 9th inning unscathed was one the most improbable things of the season.

  2. Last year Heyward would have hit those spinners that Marmol threw up there 500 feet. He’s developed a dip in his swing though and needs to get out of it. Would be really nice if he’d figure it out before the playoffs too.

  3. Amateur psychology alert:

    It seems like the problem with Heyward has now reached full “in his head” status.

    First, he’s probably putting himself under the typical “make up for lost time” pressure, to get two hits every AB to pull this season out of the toilet.

    Then, on top of that, with these changes they’re trying to get him to make in the cage, he’s probably thinking too much about the ‘in the cage’ stuff, to focus on the the ‘in the moment’ stuff; dwelling on the broader, more personal issues of “hands inside, front shoulder closed, foot down” type of stuff, and unable to focus on the specific task at hand: identifying release point, pitch types, determining the pitcher’s strategy in this particular AB, etc.

    I would love to catch the Phillies, I want the Braves to win everyday. And I know that TOMORROW, Constanza gives you a better shot at winning than Heyward does. But the wildcard looks pretty safe. The pressure is off, a little, and I think the team knows it. I think Fredi knows it; that’s why he’s focusing on resting his big three, and sort of initiating Vizcaino for the long haul.

    He should also start getting Jason the AB’s to get himself straight. It seems to me a Solid-Jason, not even a Hot-Jason, would help this team in the playoffs more than Constanza would at his hottest.

    I think you gotta get him the AB’s. He’s gotta do the work in the cage, and let it come through naturally in the games, until he doesn’t have to think about good-habits, he’ll just have them.

    Straight platoon him. Give him all the righties, and give Constanza all the lefties. Tell him that, too. Tell him he’s got all the righties, from here to October. Don’t worry about left handed pitching, we’ll fix that later. Focus on mashing me some righties, and lets go win the World Series.

  4. @5-

    Warning: extrapolating own baseball career onto a talent several orders of magnitude greater than mine on my best day-

    I agree with your thought process except I draw a different conclusion from it. When I played- again, I was junk compared to any pro player ever- the adjustments I made in the cage didn’t come through in the pressure of a game situation unless I had a LOT of reps. Maybe that was mental on my part- couldn’t adjust to game pressure and reverted to old form- or maybe it was my lack of talent and an adjustment that took me 1000 swings to master, Heyward can adopt in 10. I don’t claim to have a clue. But it is plausible to me that Heyward would be better served by lots of reps in the cage without the pressure of game ABs so that he can develop the new muscle memory he needs.

    If what Chipper said is true and swing mechanics are his problem, then probably he’d be better off fixing those in the cage alone. Especially if his head’s not quite right- when you’re slumping and you try your new approach too quickly, it is easy to say “Shit, that didn’t work” if you still struggle and things just get worse.

    Don’t mean to be pretentious- I know I’m not the only person here who played and the highlight of my career was catching a no-hitter Paul Shuey threw in Legion ball- but it is another way of looking at things.

  5. Just a reminder that Heyward is one game removed from a 3-4, GS performance and that just about everyone looked awful at the plate tonight. The most annoying thing about a player struggling for whatever reason is the rampant confirmation bias that takes hold of everyone. Every strikeout is just further proof that the player is a headcase right now, and every groundout means he should be demoted to AAA immediately, regardless of whether the 9 guys ahead of him in the lineup grounded out themselves or not.

    4 PA do not say anything about anything. I’d guess even batter handedness barely stabilizes in 4 PA. If Heyward has made improvements in his game, and by all accounts he has, then you’d expect him to start playing like a normal good baseball player again – by which I mean he’d still fail to record a hit in around 70% of his PA and fail to reach base in 60-65% of them on aggregate, and that would include completely random streaks of 0-4s and a lot fewer 4-4s. Offense in baseball is designed to result in failure and it’s designed to be fluky in the short term. A result of failure in any given four at bats is not confirmation that a player sucks right now, it’s confirmation that he’s playing baseball. If a player’s process is good (and the frequency with which Heyward has gone up the middle/the other way and hit far more linedrives and fly balls of late is very good), then you ignore an 0-4, add it to his aggregate line and run him back out there the next day without thinking about it.

    /More of a response to AJC comments that I stupidly read on the game quotes than anything here. My apologies for being enraged by AJC comments.

  6. I’d like to see Prado and Uggla take a few days off down the stretch, and for Heyward to keep getting at bats even when Constanza plays.

    I also hope Linebrink is left off the postseason roster. I guess we’ll know more if/when Moylan comes back–hopefully Martinez stays put.

  7. MLBTR says Billy Beane might have interest in the Cubs job. That is the perfect person for that job.

  8. I’m not suggesting that JH should be in the minors but it certainly seems like it is difficult to change your swing-if that is what is happening–at the major league level, especially with a contending team. I don’t think Jason is a “head case” whatever that means (my wife thought I was a head case in 1991 when I would mutter in the shower about the Braves) but hitting at this level is incredibly difficult at best and the pressure of having to relearn your swing while trying to justify the expectations and trying to contribute to a good team must be hard for Jason.

    While it is easy to be an amateur psychologist on people we have never met, I do think psychology is important, despite people like Keith Law who seem to think that it is irrelevant to anyone that makes the majors. At this level, it strikes me that psychology plays an even greater role than at lower levels where the talent difference is greater. There has to be some reason why two players with substantially similar skills often have dissimilar results. I have no idea what is in Jason’s mind right now, but I can just imagine there is a lot of confusion (why is this not working like it has all my life?)and frustration. And, of course, part of it is that our (my) expectations for Jason were probably overly inflated after the beginning of last year.

    Anyway, how the hell can a team be held to two hits by Randy Wells?

  9. @11 It would be interesting to see what Beane could accomplish with a sizeable payroll – the Cubs have spent roughly $70M more per year in player salary than Oakland the last three seasons. I’ve seen it argued that Oakland’s success was really driven by Zito/Mulder/Hudson rather than anything Beane. That said, it’s pretty clear than Beane’s moves at least improved the A’s at the margins, even if he didn’t manage to effect changes on the level of, say, the Jays or the Rays in recent years.

    From what I can tell, the only thing separating the Cubs from the Phillies, is competent ownership and management. While I’m still pissed at the Cubs for beating the Braves in the 2003 NLDS, it would be good for baseball for a legitimate rivalry to develop between CHC/STL/MIL.

  10. Jason doesnt use his hands properly. He’s still trying to pull everything and his whole upper body is diving across the plate, even on inside pitches. He doesnt need to try and become a slap hitter, but he does need to learn to control the bat better.

  11. It’s too bad Ted Williams is dead. I bet he could help Jason. Oh, wait, his head is frozen somewhere; maybe we could recreate him.


    The Cubs (along with the O’s) are the prime example of how payroll isn’t everything. As disgusted as I get with Liberty Media, I would rather have a smaller payroll and competent management than a larger payroll and incompetent (Cubs/O’s) management.

    I would never root against the Braves but 2003 almost had a Fenway Park-Wrigley Field World Series. That would have been incredible for baseball. Something like that might make the World Series a national event again.

  12. When this happened to Francoeur and McLouth everyone wanted them to be demoted to Gwinnett to “get their swings worked out.” Not sure why that’s not the correct approach for Heyward as well.

  13. R.I.P Mike Flanagan
    Good pitcher, great sense of humor.
    Easy to root for guys like that.

  14. @16 – Sam, you’re making an apples and oranges comparison here. The problem with Francoeur was that he never learned any kind of plate discipline, and so ‘fixing’ him would require him to develop skills that he had never previously displayed (and resisted learning). On the other hand, Heyward demonstrated both power and patience from his first MLB at bat. Obviously JHey is struggling mightily now, but we have the proof that he can succeed, and that success doesn’t require him to completely relearn his approach to hitting (as would be the case for Frenchie to become a complete hitter).

    Personally I’m in favor of doing whatever will lead to Heyward rediscovering his swing, including sending him to AAA if necessary. That said, I think it’s perfectly rational to believe that the path to success for Heyward does not require measures as drastic as were needed with Jeffie.

  15. I agree with Bethany. McCann hasn’t looked good since coming back. His average has slipped like 15 points. Why on earth anyone on this team would rush back when neither race is within 5 games is beyond me….

  16. McCann was taking some bad hacks last night, but my impression was that he was pressing / swinging at bad pitches, as opposed to being hindered by an inability to swing 100%. While he didn’t have much luck results-wise against Coleman, McCann stung the ball several times. Hopefully he’ll get his timing back soon.

  17. @16 & 18 – But he’s not even really struggling right now! He had an 0-4 last night like a bunch of other guys, but even including that he’s got an .833 OPS over his last 7 games. He’s shown plenty of signs, both results and process based, of coming around. He just needs to be in the lineup consistently now. That’s all he needs.

  18. Why on earth anyone on this team would rush back when neither race is within 5 games is beyond me….

    The way they rushed ol’ “Rusty” Linebrink back mystifies me. Seems like everyone else passed through Gwinnett or Jackson on their way back to the 25-man except Linebrink. And then he got pushed into high-leverage duty on Day 1, even though the manager later said he “looked rusty.”

    That game still sticks in my craw.

  19. Pete – I hope you’re right on Heyward. That said, even with his recent (relative) success he’s had a number of really bad swings on meaty fastballs and spinning breaking pitches, which negatively informs our impression of ‘how he’s doing’.

  20. Pete – I think we need more than a 7 game sample to say he’s not struggling right now. For the last 2 months, he’s had a sub .215avg/.300OBP. His 3 hit game two days ago was his first multi hit game in August.

  21. Sure, that’s why you keep playing him daily. Keep increasing the sample. But any statistical sign of life should appeal to the Hot Handers as long as it’s over more than 10 PA, and it’s definitely enough to make me think that maybe his recent work with Chipper and Parrish is paying off. He’s said himself that there’s only so much he can do without consistent at bats against live pitching, so give them to him. Good Heyward by the end of September is worth the risk.

  22. An earthquake and a hurricane in the same week?

    What are the chances? Certainly an odd confluence of geological & meteorological phenomena.

    Anyway, kinda rooting for a doubleheader tomorrow…

  23. •#Braves lineup: 1. Bourn CF, 2. Prado 3B, 3. McCann C, 4. Uggla 2B, 5. Freeman 1B, 6. Gonzalez SS, 7. Heyward RF, 8. Constanza LF, 9. Beachy 19 mins ago

  24. I think you have to be concerned about a player, no matter how much raw talent he has or how well he has performed previously, if he needs to change his swing so drastically at this level. If this is what is happening, there is no guarantee that he can do it. Look at Tiger Woods (granted there are other issues there). If he has the flaws in his swing that Chipper and other identified–I’m certainly not qualified to judge this–it concerns me that no one noticed before this. Was it the injuries that cause Jason’s swing to change?

    Let’s face it, 21 or not, this seems to be more than just a tweak; it seems to require a new approach at the plate.

  25. Sam, the reason, personally, that I don’t advocate sending Heyward to the minors is that it’s August 25, and Gwinnett only has 12 games remaining. I don’t think 12 games makes it worth jerking him around, up and down.

  26. @31, When are we going to stop messing around and just let these very capable, insightful Facebook “fans” become cyber hitting coaches?

  27. Chipper be strokin’!

    Chipper is 21-for-50 (.420) w/ .720 slugging percentage in past 14 gms, and has 4 HR and 9 RBIs in past 11 gms

  28. Hanson left the club to travel back to Atlanta to have his shoulder reexamined. But don’t worry, DOB says they’re confident it’s still just tendonitis.

  29. I apologize in advance, because I know this has been asked and answered a hundred times, but…

    Is there a place where I can find a free stream of the radio feed for today’s game?

  30. @28,

    The plague will breakout soon


    Before Tuesday DOB will write an article on how Hanson has decided to take up golf and is taking lessons from a guy named Jim Andrews from Birmingham. The club is excited about other activities he is taking up and how it will benefit his game. We should start see results in 10-12 months.

  31. @38 – Well, to be fair, what are they supposed to say? In any event, it’s not looking good for Tommy Hanson right now.

    On another note, I was just perusing Dave Cameron’s chat during my lunch and a couple things stood out to me. Folks here should enjoy this bit:

    Paul D: “What’s the one piece of strategy that’s not used that you’d like to see used?”

    Dave Cameron: “The squeeze. Criminally underused. Teams are content to send a guy up there and try to hit an outfield fly ball, but most Major League hitters are capable of laying down a decent enough bunt to get the run home safely.”

  32. Good point about Gwinnett’s season ending.

    Not so good a point about “apples to oranges” comparing Heyward’s situ with previous situations. I am not claiming that the problems with Heyward are the same as the problems with Jeff Francoeur. I’m simply saying that in previous cases, when a player is so clearly and obviously struggling a consensus was that the player should be demoted to get his swing together in less pressurized environs. This was applied to Francoeur, as well as Nate McLouth. It’s only with Jason Heyward that people seem to want to “let him play it out” at the ML level. I find that odd, to say the least. I think a lot of Jason Heyward fans let their fandom override their analytic sense.

    Yes, Heyward had success last year. And now the league has a book on him, and for the very first time in his professional career, pitchers who are his equal (as opposed to completely overmatched minor leaguers) have a plan to get him out. And he needs to figure out how to counter that, which I’d wager money to odds he’s never had to do to date. The idea that you just push him out there every day and everything will return to mean, because that’s the way the ZIPS projections say it should work or whatever, is absurd on its face.

  33. Before Tuesday DOB will write an article on how Hanson has decided to take up golf and is taking lessons from a guy named Jim Andrews from Birmingham. The club is excited about other activities he is taking up and how it will benefit his game. We should start see results in 10-12 months.

    You’re selling the problem short. Dr. Andrews can’t fix a bum shoulder.

  34. @46 – Yes, counting on the Mighty God ZIPS to reach down and restore Heyward is absurd. There are some very specific changes that he’s made in the very recent past, however, and his numbers have improved somewhat in correspondence with those changes. He’s trying to not do the things he was doing when he had trouble. He has made an adjustment. But what do you expect, 4 homerun games immediately? Drugs take a few days to improve symptoms – swing adjustments take a few days to reap benefits.

  35. #48 – why do you say that? Andrews has done a ton of shoulder surgery’s. Most notable – Drew Brees disaster of a shoulder. I believe he did Smoltz’s also.

  36. @49 – Yes, he has. No, I don’t expect magic. Actually, we’re in basic agreement that he should get reps to see what he can do with the adjusted swing (and as pointed out earlier, the AAA season is pretty much over, so it’s gonna need to be ML reps.) That said, he hasn’t really show much over the last few games (despite your small sample stats from above.) Even his grand slam was a weak fly ball, into a strong wind blowing out of Wrigley. Any other park in the league that’s a can of corn to Marlon Byrd.

    My position is simply that Jason Heyward has to prove he deserves to start, just like every other major leaguer, and that his fantastic year last year isn’t particularly predictive of his future performance in that he’s still fantastically young and hasn’t had to make adjustments like this before.

  37. @50 – Drew Brees is a football player, not a ML pitcher. Smoltz was more or less done as a dominant pitcher after the shoulder problems, as are the vast majority of pitchers who have shoulder/rotator cuff issues. Hanson, if his shoulder is really bad (and his mechanics suggest that his shoulder could be really bad) is as likely to go Mark Prior as anything else.

    This isn’t Kris Medlen or Tim Hudson. Elbows are rebuilt via TJ surgery. Shoulders kill careers.

  38. Gotcha, I thought you were making reference that Dr Andrews only works on elbows. He’s actually a good shoulder/knee DR. also.

  39. Which one of the ESPN mouthpieces predicted Hanson would have problems due to his herky jerky delivery? It’s definitely not surprising.

  40. “We can talk like we’re in love
    Or talk like we’re above it.
    We can talk and talk
    Until we talk ourselves out of it”

    I move we table the discussion.

  41. Hanson has been in the yellow-alert category for his “inverted W” delivery by quite a few people.

  42. So we’re going to proclaim Strasburg’s Tommy John, and Hansons shoulder injury to be caused by the inverted W.

    But Medlen’s TJ was just because pitching is bad for you?

  43. Completely different body failure modes though, and if I put a blanket prediction of serious arm injury on every pitcher coming up I’d have a better than even success rate. Pitchers get hurt from pitching.

    Edit: Or what jjschiller said.

  44. Ha, rules for classifying groupthink should be developed like those for the hot hand. Is the spirit of groupthink present where two or more are gathered, for instance, or does it take at least three?

  45. 76- To paraphrase from The Natural movie, “Errors are like a disease. As contagious as bubonic plague. Attacking one, but infecting all.” And the Cubs are world-class carriers.

  46. Chip is like a kid who’s class took a field trip to the cheese factory his dad works at. It’s getting irritating.

    “I don’t think the fans fully understand how hard that ball had to be hit in this wind. When the wind is blowing in here…”

    “That’s the biggest lead I’ve SEEN at Wrigley Field.” (WTF?)

    “You can hit it under the radar here with the wind blowing out…”

    “Oh this is my FAVORITE water fountain here, it gets colder faster than ALL the others. Come on guys, try it! Guys! Guys?…”

  47. @78 Whoever is doing the scoring for Yahoo today is an idiot; you may want to follow on ESPN.

  48. #78
    No, Castro got on after Uggla flubbed a dunker into the outfield.

    When Castro stole second, AGon failed to handle McCann’s crappy/high-offline throw & Castro took third. He scored on the IF groundout.

  49. Gamecast says Castro stole 3rd on an error by SS AAG. How is that run considered earned then? Without the error, he’s at 3rd with 2 outs.

  50. @78- He stole second, but Brian threw the ball in to CF (o be fair, Alex could have stopped it, but tried to pull it down and make a quick tag, and missed it)… So he was actually on 3rd for the groundout.

  51. Uggla could’ve caught the pop. McCann could’ve made a decent throw. Gonzalez should’ve caught the throw. We totally gave ’em a run there.

  52. C’mon, defense. Now is not the time to start this crap.

    Stu @ 55 – no, there’s never in history been a worse combination. Hell, I’d listen to the truly execrable White Sox announcer before Lemmer and The Gas Bag.

  53. Anybody watching got a quick explanation of how the pitcher didn’t stop the runner from third when fielding a ground out?

  54. The groundout was up the 1st base line, it wasn’t a comebacker… more of a swinging safety-squeeze.

  55. AAG did not hit into a triple play there. Not even into a double play. What a GREAT at bat by his standards.

  56. Sorry, just stating what everyone knew was coming. Those two guys are brutal to watch right now.

  57. @102 Now I’m glad that I’m at work and was spared any possibility of seeing the ugliness.

  58. The Heyward at bat was particularly brutal coming, as it were, on the heels of such and excellent Freddie at bat.

  59. Man, they need to disinfect the locker room or something. Sick and tired of this goddamn baserunning disease. Michael Bourn was a perfectly healthy base thief before he got here.

  60. There is a horrible, infectious life form responsible, Anon21, but I’m not sure “disinfecting” is the term for getting rid of Fredi.

  61. @107
    Is it the uniforms? That’s about all I can think to explain the nonsense. He’s been caught 5 times now as a Brave.

  62. @109: See, I doubt it’s even Fredi’s fault. A guy like Bourn picks his own spots, doesn’t he? Unless it’s a hit-and-run play, which I don’t think have been responsible for any of Bourn’s CS.

  63. And, on the other side of the ball, Brian McCann is having a terrible day with Cubs baserunners. Ugh.

  64. Looked like we were late covering? Throw was to the bag, right?

    And that’s after he’d already run once on 3-2.

    Can’t believe we didn’t take advantage of the “here, you guys should win” play.

  65. 118: Dan was a little late covering, yes, but the throw was over his head. I don’t see how the out gets converted even if he’s right on the bag.

    119: I don’t think he’s a bad defensive catcher, but he is pretty bad at throwing out base stealers, which is of course only one aspect of catcher defense (albeit probably the most visible, easily quantified one).

  66. I think McCann’s throw was on target. Uggla wasn’t quite in position and his momentum carried him away from the tag. Not 100% on that without seeing another replay or two though.

    Guess it didn’t matter.

    @120 Could be right, I got kind of a half glance at it and then one replay.

  67. @121 – Brian’s throw wasn’t even so much to CF, as it was a gapper. He was trying to throw out the power-alley.

    Uggla caught it on the shortstop side, and had to leap for it.

  68. I don’t mean to bitch all day about the baserunning, but how was that not two bases, Dan?

  69. Do we get a run here?

    Glad Uggla beat the throw to third there, because he was definitely coasting before the error.

  70. Wait, so if you hit the ball in the air, your guy is still allowed to run?

    I’ve seen other teams do that, but wasn’t sure what was going on…

  71. This has got to be our second or third-best 1st and 3rd with no out performance this year, right? We actually scored!

  72. Uggla displayed good baserunning judgement both on his ball off the wall & the single/error in LF. Turned into a valuable run.

  73. Based on today’s performance, I think the league needs to give the Braves a two-second handicap for baserunning plays on both sides of the ball. Uggla tags Castro two seconds after Castro hits the bag, that’s an out, Prado scrambles to the bag within two seconds of being tagged, that’s a stolen base. Because really, we’re just operating on a whole different level right now.

  74. If anything, the Braves deserve MORE credit because of their ineptitude on the base paths.

    No team in baseball would do this well with 23 outs per game.

  75. 135- I know the break-even percentage was well into the 70s during the ‘roid years, but it drops as scoring goes down. I think it really is close to 2-to-1 again.

  76. Unlike most people in this crazy world, sdp, you are consistent and reliable. You can be counted on.

  77. 135- I know the break-even percentage was well into the 70s during the ‘roid years, but it drops as scoring goes down. I think it really is close to 2-to-1 again.

    Agreed. WAG – beat out 55% of your attempts and you’re helping, in this environment.

  78. 146: Don’t mind Sam, it’s just his backdoor way of defending all of Fredi’s moronic bunt calls.

  79. Just looked at the box score for this game. God, the bottom of the batting order is just horrendous. If they’d only hit the ball ONCE IN FREAKING BLUE MOON!! Gonzo and Heyward are the anchor that’s gonna drown this team come the playoffs.

  80. Is 8 to 3 Linebrink proof? Sherill proof?

    I would take the chance and not change pitchers until the second base runner reaches. Start whichever of the two is “on hand” and have the other ready.

  81. But apparently I misunderstand the importance of pitching O’Flaherty in a game with a 5 run lead.

  82. 156- No, but I think you’re just in time for the Heyward-bashing, and the AAG-bashing never goes out of style.

  83. Well Heyward has been below .300OBP the last two months also, but he’s nowhere near AAG’s suckiness at the plate.

  84. I didn’t mean to imply that AAG-bashing isn’t deserved. It is. It really, really is. We certainly don’t need to have two pitchers in the lineup, one of whom hits a home run every two weeks.

    C-Mart does what he does best. He could handle an expanded role, but we have none to give him. C’est la vie.

  85. Just read through the comments before checking the score. We lost, I’m guessing…..6-2?

  86. Did the Braves win? You wouldn’t know it from the comments.

    AAG is what he is. What’s the point of bashing him? It’s ridiculous to complain about him because he isn’t Yunel. He didn’t make the trade. He is a good shortstop with occasional power who is otherwise a lousy hitter. You might as well complain that McCann is slow (or that he is a lousy catcher–oh yeah, people do complain about that).

  87. Oh, come on, I get your point, but there’s no way you could come to that conclusion. There’s excitement over McCann’s homers, talk of the 5-run lead, etc.

  88. 165, I’m sorry to say this, but comparing AAG’s flaws to those of BMac is downright laughable.

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