The last time I recapped a game, we lost 4-1 to the Mets. Kris Medlen was meh. The offense was shut down by Carlos Torres. It was the type of game I was glad to not have actually watched live. Tonight? Tonight was a completely different sort of thing.
The evening started off a little roughly. Dexter Fowler led off with a walk. DJ LeMahieu roped a single to right. Carlos Gonzalez lifted a fly ball to center and the Rox were up 0-1. Alex Wood looked like the same guy that had been intimidated and bum rushed in his previous two starts, nibbling, pitching backwards, and generally behaving as if he didn’t believe he belonged on a big league mound. He wriggled out of the first by picking off LeMahieu and then striking out Troy Tulowitzki, but the atmosphere for his start was unpromising.
With two out in the bottom half, Freddie Freeman got them back even with his 12th bomb of the year. But Wood, nibbling again, gave it right back with a two out, two run jack surrendered to Nolan Arenado (9). He managed to K the pitcher, striking out the side, but you still had the feeling that this was going to be one of those “4 innings pitched, 6 earned runs” outings for the youngster. To add injury to insult, the same hangnail issue that required him to exit his first start early was back with a vengeance; the television feed did a good job of showing the blood streaks on his pants leg every time he wiped his hand across them between pitches. The Braves went relatively meekly in the bottom of two, and things seemed to be shaping up as another one of those nights. Then something unexpected and wonderful happened.
I don’t really know what the training staff did to Wood’s throwing hand in the second. There are a few things baseball teams do for that sort of thing, including superglue over bloody bits. Whatever the Braves medical team went with, it worked like a charm. Wood came out for the third with new pants – seriously, he changed out of the blood streaked bottoms between innings – and a non-bleeding throwing hand. And suddenly, he was a completely different pitcher. New Alex Wood – let’s call him Superglue Alex – sat them down in order in the third. He sat them down in order again in the fourth. He allowed a leadoff single to Todd Helton in the fifth but immediately induced a GIDP from Arenado to clear the bags. A weak ground from Charlie Culberson, pinch hitting for the pitcher, and Wood had his third straight clean frame. Three up, three down again in the sixth. He ran into a little trouble in the seventh, giving up a one out single followed by a ringing double to left center, but then Andrelton Simmons broke out the “what amazing shit will Andrelton Simmons do tonight” get out of jail free card and Wood was through seven with the same 3 spot he had after two on the board.
In the meantime the offense was pounding holy hell out of the Rockies pitching staff for the second night in a row. Justin Upton doubled in Jason Heyward to cut the lead to 2-3 in the third. Then the entire team broke out the whoopin’ sticks in the fourth. 10 batters took hacks. Six of them scored. JUpton had another double – ground rule variety, or it would have been another RBI double. Evan Gattis ripped a two run single. Brian McCann topped it all off with a three run jack, his fourteenth. There’s a reason Walt Weiss chose to pinch hit for his starter in the fifth. It was an inning too late.
The Braves tacked on three more in the seventh, Freeman going deep again for his thirteenth of the year. Anthony Varvaro came on in the eighth and closed things easily. The “double” he allowed to Charlie Blackmon was a single that Heyward played into an extra base by aggressively trying to end the game on the looping fly ball in front of him. No harm done there; you love to see that sort of effort in an 11-3 game, even if you cringe at the thought of Jason Heyward breaking something by moving against air.
All things told, tonight’s game was a near perfect result for Atlanta. There’s a lot of good story lines, all of them in favor of the Braves. Alex Wood found himself at the major league level tonight. As one of the primary voices running him down as a potential starter, I’m happy to say that his turn through the order – specifically his work from innings 3 through 7 – was a godsend. None of the primary relievers so much as warmed up, a much needed rest after last night’s all-hands-on-deck affair.
Equally promising, Justin Upton looked right again. His two doubles were his first extra base hits at home in months. He controlled the plate, and his swing was that compact terror that destroyed the league in April. Heyward continued to get on base in the leadoff spot, Chris Johnson continued to not regress one little bit, Freddie continued to be an All-Star caliber player, and Andrelton continued on his merry way to challenging Ozzie Smith for the title of “best defensive season ever recorded by a shortstop.”
You like recapping games where everything goes right, even if it does make you ramble on a bit. The lead in the east is 10. The Braves have winning records against every other National League playoff contender. Good things are afoot at the Circle K, dudes.
EDIT: updated with links, etc