Braves 5, Nats 4 (recapped by sansho1)

As far as the regular season standings go, there wasn’t a great deal riding on the outcome of this game. No matter who won, the Braves would end the day nestled somewhere near the midpoint of a 12-14 game gap between their nearest target (the Nats) and their closest pursuer (the Cards). Given that and the fact that the embattled Tommy Hanson was scheduled to toe the rubber, all but the most stalwart fans could be forgiven if they chose pursuits other than involving themselves in Saturday’s contest.

In fact, for a while the hometown nine seemed ambivalent about their own participation. In the first inning, a patented Adam LaRoche moonshot gave the Nats a 2-0 lead. In the second, vapor lock set in. After a one-out walk to Jesus Flores, Steve Lombardozzi hit a grounder to first, which Freeman handled cleanly about ten feet from the bag. Given the choice of 1) taking the out at first and then throwing to second for the tag play, or 2) going to second to start a traditional DP, Freddie fooled us all and chose neither. OK, that’s not quite fair, as he actually seemed to choose both, which took the form of spinning in place while his options dwindled, giving Hanson time to galumph into the fray and confuse things further, and all hands were safe.

Edwin Jackson then laid down a bunt, which Hanson was slow to field, and his hurried throw went into right field. Flores scored and Lombardozzi went to third, then scored when Heyward fielded the ball, decided he liked it, and chose to keep it. He wasn’t given an error, but deserved one.

So it was 4-0, and the crowd was unhappy. From my Turner Field bachelor party suite vantage point, this took the form of a mass exodus from the seats and into the air conditioning to watch the Alabama-Arkansas game. Only your faithful correspondent and a few other masochists remained. Freeman, after a belly-flop triple, scored on a rocket double by Uggla in the bottom of the second, then slashed one into the seats in the fourth to cut the lead to 4-2. Things to cheer for. Nice.

Hanson settled down and got through the fifth with no further damage (though he did mix in a wild pitch, thus satisfying his quota of three dumb moments per start). The bottom of the sixth began with Prado being inexplicably called safe on a grounder to the pitcher, as the ump ruled LaRoche came off the bag to field the throw. First, he almost surely didn’t. And second, ump Marvin Hudson was in no position to see it if he had. But hey, them’s the breaks. Jackson went to a 2-1 count on Heyward, and just as I said to the guy next to me “this is the pitch, right here” (honest!), JHey sent a screamer over the right field wall to tie the score.

Continued good work by the bullpen conspired to keep the Nats at bay (hey, a Mark DeRosa sighting!), and in the bottom of the eighth Ryan Mattheus gave up a single to Ross and walks to Uggla and Chipper to load the bases, then brushed Simmons’ jersey to allow the go-ahead run to score. Kimbrel Kimbreled, and we all went home unexpectedly happy.

Again, this series is unlikely to make much difference in the final standings – but as a shot across the Nationals’ bow, so far it’s going quite nicely. Mike Minor goes tonight against Gio Gonzalez, whom we’ve handled pretty well in two of three prior starts this season. A series sweep in our final regular season matchup with the Nats would send them on their way with a little something to think about, so whaddaya say, fellas?

155 thoughts on “Braves 5, Nats 4 (recapped by sansho1)”

  1. Wow! Braves Journal is deeper than Alabama’s depth chart.

    Great recap, sansho. Any paragraph that includes “galumph” is automatically nominated for a Pulitzer.

    Sweep the Nats!

  2. All things being equal (amount of rest, relative health, etc.), I’d go with the guy who’s hot and that’s unquestionably Medlen right now.

    Might be able to afford a 3-run Hudson first inning in Game One in a longer series, but not a do-or-die.

  3. Random observations:

    –In case it isn’t clear, Kimbrel is having a historic season.

    Single season OPS against, min. 40 IP:

    Craig Kimbrel (2012) .359
    Eric Gagne (2003) .374
    Cisco Carlos (1967) .377
    Joey Devine (2008) .395
    Dennis Eckersley (1990) .397

    Single season BA against, min. 40 IP:

    Craig Kimbrel (2012) .122
    Eric Gagne (2003) .133
    Carlos Marmol (2008) .135

    That’s right — in major league history, no pitcher has been as unhittable as 2012 Kimbrel.

    –The suite was nice, but there are some odd quirks to the experience. First, there is a flat screen TV to watch, but you aren’t allowed to change the channel. So we called for assistance, and a few minutes later a club level rep showed up juggling the remote control for our TV with about five others she needed to get to. Yes, changing the channels on Turner Field club level TVs appears to be a job.

    –Also, the food offerings have not caught up with the improved options throughout the ballpark. No Skip & Pete’s or Rathbun’s available. Just the usual grub.

    –I didn’t mention this in the recap, but of those in the party who went inside when things were going badly, most remained inside. I would say that probably twice as many of them watched Alabama go up 45-0 than saw Heyward’s game-tying HR. The fact that I sat and watched the entire game was conspicuous enough to be commented upon. I found that a little sad, especially given the ticket price….

    –All that said, the beer was cheaper (relatively speaking…$24 per sixpack of the usual macros, and $29 for upscale brands) and the good guys won, so it was a fine time overall.

  4. So maybe you’re wondering if the Braves’ ineptitude with runners in scoring position or the bases loaded actually places the team among the league leaders. And yes, in fact, it does!

    Overall, the team has a .719 OPS, 7th in the league. However, putting runners on base does not seem to help, to put it mildly.

    With men on base: .719 OPS (11th out of 16)
    With runners in scoring position: .691 OPS (13th out of 16)
    With bases loaded: .719 OPS (9th out of 16)
    With a man on 3rd and less than 2 outs: .675 OPS (16th out of 16)

  5. I’m not sure how much of a message it is when the Braves win one game on a bad throw to home and another thanks to a blown call.

    Still, showing they can actually beat the Nats has to help.

    Re the umpiring: I’m glad the Braves won but why don’t the umpires seem more interested in geting the call right than in upholding their authority. Couldn’t Hudson have asked the home plate umpire what he saw? The umpiring is becoming embarrasingly bad.

  6. The new Wild Card playoff is such a joke. Why should a team that’s twenty games over .500 not be able to make the ‘real’ playoffs, because of one game? Any team can’t defeat any other team in one game. The Astros could beat the Nationals in an all-or-nothing one game.

    In what world should the Brewers, Phillies and Pirates be considered “contenders” for anything other than an above-.500 season?

  7. Isn’t there like a four-day layoff before the one-game playoff?

    Also, looking at the Nats remaining schedule it really is too bad that Fredi and his players gave away so many winnable games in August. Every team the Nats play from here on out has a legitimate shot at the wild card–LA, MIL, PHI and STL , while we play the Marlins (twice), Mets and Phillies. With those schedules it would be easy to make up two or three games.

  8. Excellent recap, Sansho1. From my living room perch, I too left our Braves to watch Bama roll. When I came back, the score was tied; and I stayed through Andrellton’s brush through the too exciting Kimbrell end. Thanks for bringing the Braves home with the win.

  9. @8

    How’s the dental work on that free horse? If the Nats had won thanks to our Keystone Kops routine in the second inning, would that be a matter of them being inherently better, or just the breaks of the game? There were two home runs and some clutch relief pitching mixed in there, too, you know.

  10. @5 I’ve watched several games from Smoltz’s suite at Tuner Field, and we had full control over the remote. Very odd that that’s changed.

  11. Fredi has surprised us recently with some of his decisions, he may go for Medlen for the one game playoff over Hudson. Come on, with Medlen pitching like Maddux at his prime, it is hard not to pick Medlen. Gotta go with the hot hand and hot bats in the playoff.

  12. My wife surprised me with a trip to Atlanta (we live in Minnesota) to see Chipper play one last time. It was her first Braves game and our future Braves fan first as well. We had seats 3 rows behind the Braves dugout, so we had a great view of the errors by Freddie and Tommy. Honestly, as anemic as our offense has been lately I thought the game was pretty much over at that point but they pulled out a win and made our trip. It was also a bit of a honeymoon for us. Now we are off to the aquarium and then back to MN. Good to be back in Braves country again!

  13. Also, the Braves’ last games of the year is are Monday to Wednesday, October 1-3, and there’s just one day off before the play-in game on Friday, October 5. So for Medlen to be available for Friday’s game, he basically wouldn’t have been able to pitch at all in that final series.

    Their only off days left in the regular season are Thursday the 20th and Monday the 24th; they wind up the season with 9 straight games, the first 6 at home and the last three on the road in Pittsburgh. Right now, the Braves rotation goes Hudson-Maholm-Medlen-Hanson-Minor, which means that Medlen’s next start will be September 19.

    If they keep their normal rotation rather than skipping anyone’s turn on an off day, then Medlen’s next starts would be September 26 and October 1, leaving him ineligible for the play-in on October 5, unless the Braves wanted to pitch him on 3 days’ rest, which probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

    So here’s what they should do. If Hanson pitched on normal rest, he’d be eligible to pitch on September 20. They should skip him, which would mean that Minor would start on the 21st. They could skip Medlen’s start on the 24th, but it would be smarter to push it to the 25th. That way, his next start would be on the 30th against the Mets, and then his normal rest would make his natural next start be Friday, October 5.

    All the Braves have to do for Medlen to pitch the wild card game is to skip Hanson’s next start and pitch everyone else in their natural turn in the rotation.

    Seems… kind of obvious, right?

  14. My random thoughts…
    To be fair, if you venture outside the suites and into the club level concourse there are a number of tasty things to be had. Club level has sushi, gyros, pork nachos which are quite tasty, and of course the best deal in the park – the pasta.
    Apparently it wasn’t shown on TV Friday night but it was shown on the big screen at Turner Field: Kimbrel was super upset that he didn’t strike out the side on 9 pitches. That guy is a competitor… not satisfied to strike them out with 10 pitches, no, he wants to do it in 9.
    I think the Braves should take batting practice with runners on base. It is seriously perplexing to me how our hitting can tank so much when we have RISP but I really wish someone in the organization would figure it out and get it fixed.

  15. In fairness to Tommy, that wild pitch was no such thing. The home plate ump got it right that Espinoza interfered with the catcher. Anyway, the right outcome.

  16. Fair enough — all I saw was the ball get away.

    @27

    LOL — to the best of my knowledge, the 5-4 final score was the only happy ending involved.

  17. @30 – time for a return trip to the basement.
    ————-

    Need some help: I’m going to the Falcons game tomorrow night and haven’t been in years.

    Have no idea where to park. Any thoughts?

    Thanks!

  18. Goodness umpiring has become awful. Paul Emmel is embarrassing himself in the Rays-Yankees game. Again.

  19. @ 31
    If you can I would park somewhere else and take a Marta train there. They have a stop right next to stadium (just walked past the dome on our way to the aquaruim). Then you can avoid the traffic before and after the game.

  20. I don’t think umpiring is getting worse, so much as our ability to see what actually happened is getting better. With all the camera angles and the skill of directors to order up to-the-second replays, it’s really easy to tell whether the umpire blew the call immediately after he makes the call.

    That’s why we need extended replay. It simply doesn’t make sense for TV viewers to know that the call was wrong while the manager is yelling himself blue in the face to try to make the same point to the umpire — it makes it seem like MLB is fine with blown calls, and that harms the integrity of the game.

  21. @34 I’m not sure why the umpiring union doesn’t want expanded replay, as it takes the pressure off them and allows them to correct their obvious mistakes.

  22. Because it’s one step closer to automating the umpiring profession in it’s entirety. First Questec, then replay, and ultimately a single official in the booth doing everything remotely.

  23. @37 I wish some one would have used that logic with the DH. “Soon you’ll have completely separate offense and defensive teams!!!!”

  24. Dan: I think the answer to your question is that MLB is slightly embarrassed by the success that wld card teams have had. SO they’re just trying to make it tougher. Toughness in this case has two components — a 50-50 shot (roughly) on the play-in game and the messup of your rotation on the assumption you use your #1 for that game. I wouldn’t say the”ve really made it that much harder for the WC team who wins that game, but I suspect that MLB’s answer to your question would be — who cares if the #1 WC has a crap shoot? Win your division.

    In other news, just got back from DC where I spoke to several residents about the rise of Nat-fever. Interestingly, nobody (including Nat-fans from the “beginning”) begrudge the Johhny=come-latelys. They just haven’t been there long enough for that. What there is universal derision for is newfound Oriole fans. Not even Yankee-hate seems to justify these bandwagon-hoppers.

    Finally, AAR, a 24-21 Yale win in a game where Yale turned the ball over 5 times, had 11 penalties and gave up a pick-6 INT and and a punt return for a touchdown. They’ve got a lot to work on, but it was fun to watch.

  25. JonathanF, I’m glad they won, but I don’t think I’m a good enough fan to stomach 5 turnovers, 11 penalties, and an interception and a punt return both going for touchdowns. I’m pretty sure I’d be as grouchy as Marc Schneider if I wound up watching that. But thank you very much for the update!

  26. @39, I certainly get the argument, but the result is to now give an even less deserving club a chance at the WS.

  27. @42, Sure, and if .500 teams start winning it, I’m sure they’ll make it even tougher. But if WC teams start winning once a decade, they’ll probably be happy, whether the new rules had anything to do with it or not. And it’s not as if we haven’t had barely qualified teams making the playoffs before — it was just through the winner-of-a-bad-division route, the 2008 84-win Dodgers, for example.

    As for my Elis, 39 years of watching good and bad teams lets me take it all in stride, particularly for out-of-conference games. The game featured a 98 yard TD which was Yale’s longest play from scrimmage in its entire 140 year history.

  28. Chipper talking about the Medlen-Maddux comparison again:

    “You’re starting to see the Greg Maddux effect,” Jones said. “He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Maddux for the simple fact that he has a devastating changeup. Maddux would kill you with command of his fastball and cutter early in the count and then put you away with his changeup.

    “Medlen is able to make the ball start off the plate and come back on the corner. The one difference is that Maddux could make the ball go both ways on both sides of the plate. Medlen doesn’t have the cutter, but he has a better breaking ball than Maddux did. The approach to getting people out is the same.”

  29. kinda seems like the nats are in ‘get out of town mode’ hopefully it comes back to bite them come the important games.

  30. Fifty pitches through two innings. The process is good, even if the results have been lacking so far.

  31. “Gio Gonzalez just not himself out there tonight.”

    Yeah, it couldn’t possibly be good and patient at-bats by the Braves.

  32. I don’t know what Uggla was looking for on those last two, but evidently it wasn’t for anything in the middle of the plate.

  33. Boy, I really don’t like it when they interview players and managers during the game. Really bothers me for some reason.

    Does that make me a stick in the mud?

  34. Nope, John R. That makes you a baseball fan, wanting the talking heads to shut up so the players can play the game.

    Minor’s been solid through five.

  35. I haven’t watched many games this year, so I haven’t seen much of Chipper. Man, he looks and acts old! I hadn’t noticed how station-to-station he’s become.

    It is really nice to see the lovefest for Chipper on ESPN. As much as their Gio-love is frustrating, Nats fans are probably equally sick of hearing about Chipper tonight.

    Probably more sick of his production, though…

  36. I may go to one of the games this week in Miami.

    If I go, I’m bringing a sign that reads “Marlins: TAKE HIM BACK (Please??)

  37. Anyone think the Braves will lose the one-game playoff by failing to score a runner from third with zero outs in the inning?

  38. Did you know that it was raining? The umpires just figured that out, like a tyrannosaurus who just noticed that someone stepped on its foot.

  39. My dad keeps absent-mindedly referring to Michael Bourn as “Jason”. After that race and slide into third, I’m not sure he’s wrong!

  40. Amazing! Uggla with a clutch hit and we actually made a good out on the base paths! Chipper would’ve been out at the plate if Freeman hadn’t drawn that cut-off. Will wonders never cease!

  41. Ross has been hurting for a couple weeks now. The good news is that it should be pretty clear to all the other GMs that he is too old to be an everyday catcher. At this point I bet we can bring him back on a two year deal at less than 2mil/year.

  42. Also, I second the hesitant praise of Fredi these last couple weeks. Now, we just hope we see what he does in the postseason.

  43. Hopefully, that sweep will pay dividends in the playoffs if we face the Nationals. Even more hopefully, the Nationals will completely fall apart after that and we can get back into the division. Either way, our magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 8, to clinch home-field in the play-in is 9.

  44. 151- The Nats have the Dodgers and Brewers coming up this week, a tough couple of opponents. If we can get even halfway decent offensive performance, we still have a shot. Of course, we’ve been lacking that consistency for several weeks, which makes this an even more opportune time to find it.

  45. Alex,

    If I wasn’t grouchy and pessimistic, the Braves would lose every game they play, I guarantee it. :)

    Sansho @ 12,

    I grant your point.

  46. Nats go 5-11; Braves go 11-4. Voila! Nats host WC game.

    Honestly, I still can’t get too bothered about the division. Line up Medlen however we can for the WC game, plus I’d probably start Boscan here & there if our catchers are still hurting.

    Still, nice to see some life & really nice to sweep a team that’s whooped us all year.

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