The excesses of hope must be expiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment. If it be asked, what is the improper expectation which it is dangerous to indulge, experience will quickly answer, that it is such expectation raised as is dictated not by reason, but by desire; expectations raised, not by the common occurrences of life, but by the wants of the expectant; an expectation that requires the common course of things to be changed, and the general rules of action to be broken.
— Samuel Johnson, Letter to Baretti, June 10, 1761
Remember to not have any hope
— Mac Thomason, game thread, Sept. 13, 2009
The Braves have two straight wins against the Washington Nationals, Ben Sheets is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 12 innings as a Brave, Chipper Jones hit a fist-pumpingly awesome pinch homer in the 9th and has 4 RBI in two days against the best team in the league, and the Braves are within 1.5 games of the division lead. If we don’t start pumping the brake on the hope car, it could become a runaway train.
Why we should maybe be slightly cautious:
Sheets got lucky today. He stranded multiple runners on base three different times, getting out of first-and-second with a strikeout in the 1st inning, first-and-third with a double play in the 3rd inning, and first-and-second in the 6th inning.
The Braves offense was awfully iffy today. While Sheets was walking on the edge of a knife, it was 1-0 for about two hours, from Brian McCann’s solo shot in the second inning through the bottom of the 7th. The Braves made it 2-0 in the top of the 8th in inimitable fashion, somehow scoring just one run despite a single, three walks, three stolen bases, and a wild pitch. A day after his best game in a month, Uggla got a golden sombrero, striking out four times in four plate appearances.
On the other hand:
The Braves recorded three double plays on the day, with Janish in the middle of two of them; say what you want about him, but I think he’s a better ballplayer than Jack Wilson and Tyler Pastornicky. I’d rather have Andrelton Simmons come back at 100% than force him to come back early and struggle the rest of the year like Heyward or Prado did last year.
Brian McCann had a homer and two walks in three plate appearances today. On July 7, McCann was batting .231, and Dave O’Brien wrote a piece headlined “McCann feels turnaround coming after session with his brother.” Since then, he’s hitting .344/.417/.844, with 5 homers and 9 RBI in his last 8 games.
Ben Sheets may give up a run at some point, but still. Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, and Jair Jurrjens have ERAs of 4.52, 5.69, and 6.20, respectively. It won’t take much for him to exceed their levels of suck. Sheets’s two scoreless starts equals the number of scoreless starts that those three knuckleheads have achieved between them.
Bourn, Prado, and Heyward were 4-12 with three walks and three stolen bases today. With a top of the lineup like that, we’ll wind up scoring a few runs by accident.
I still think Medlen should be in the rotation, but he pitched two more scoreless innings. He’s got a 0.73 ERA with four holds in 8 appearances this month. He’s really good. Hopefully, with Venters off the DL, we’ll be able to add the old Everyday Jonny into our mix, too. Durbin had a scoreless inning as well. He obviously melted down the other night, but Durbin has not been charged with a run in 29 of his last 33 appearances, as his ERA has shrunk from 8.25 to 3.58.
Since the Puerto Rico/Montreal Expos moved to Washington, following the 2004 season, the Braves have been 68-69 against them. Before last night, they were 66-69. In a couple of hours, they will have an opportunity to climb to an even .500, and if they were to win, tomorrow they would have an opportunity both to gain a winning record against the franchise and to take the division lead.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Chipper Jones has an even 1600 RBI. Last night, as you know, Chipper Jones pushed past George Brett to become the all-time leader in RBI by a third baseman. He gained the all-time lead in runs scored by a third baseman by passing Brett on July 1. (If he gets 28 more walks the rest of the year, which is unlikely but possible, he’ll pass Mike Schmidt for third on the all-time list for walks by a 3B, behind Eddie Yost and the great Darrell Evans.)
He may not retain his place on those leaderboards for long, of course. Some time, probably next year, Alex Rodriguez will have played more third base than shortstop; he’s currently just 77 starts and 633 2/3 defensive innings behind. And that will push Chipper to number two in RBI and runs by a third baseman. But, hell, there’s no great shame in that. George Brett will still be number three.