Oh, heck, let’s do the good first. Top of the 2nd, The Reason guided a grounder through the hole in left and new waiver-wire acquisition Elliot “I got waived by the freakin’ Royals” Johnson followed with the first of two hits on the night, defying for the moment his reputation as an all-glove guy. After Matt “Roman” Holliday doubled and scored in the bottom of the 4th to put the Redbirds up by one, Paul “Alex Wood who?” Maholm helped his own meager cause with a single and Justin Upton took the opportunity to remind everyone that it’s still August and months starting with an A are the months in which he hits home runs. Or anything, really. To wit: a majestic two-run moon shot that would represent the first and last of the Atlanta offensive effort.
Maholm, of course, was making his first start since coming off the disabled list, and for three innings he looked tanned, rested and ready in the best Nixonian tradition. Sadly, much like Tricky Dick himself, he eventually succumbed. Bottom 5, he walked Pete “Daily” Kozma and, with two outs, proceeded to give up three consecutive doubles to Matt “Don’t call me David” Carpenter, Carlos “I would have looked so good in a Braves uni” Beltran, and the aforementioned Holliday, to put St. Louis up 4-2, a lead which they would not relinquish.
The Braves, sadly, resembled the Braves of mid-May through June: lost on the road, punchless, unable to muster any real threat beyond the occasional long ball. Could be a one night thing, or, with Kris “The kids wear their brims flat nowadays, yo” Medlen facing Adam “I would have looked even better in a Braves uni, and did” Wainwright tomorrow night, it could be a harbinger of things to come in the series. And the Nationals and Dodgers both won, the first of those events likely being of little consequence, but the second falling softly in the background with a faint ripple in your water cup like the footfalls of the T. Rex in Jurassic Park. Atlanta’s lead in the best-record sweepstakes is now a game and a half, and the team gaining on them is winning at an historic clip since the All-Star break.
Let’s just say this was not the perfect moment to lose your suddenly dynamic leadoff hitter and Gold-Glove right fielder. Nor for your returning co-ace to have suddenly lost ten MPH off his fastball in his last start, necessitating an MRI and a visit to Dr. James Andrews. (Are there any words more ominous in the English language?)
To be fair, the Braves responded to the loss of their most veteran starting pitcher with a 14-game winning streak, and absolutely no one knows better than they the value of giving the wild card play-in game a wide berth. (Something in the neighborhood of two AUs should do it.) But there are times when the spirit is willing but the roster is weak. Jason didn’t need his jaw wired shut — instead he received two metal plates to hold his lantern-mandible together — so there’s a ray of hope: he won’t have to make do with a liquid diet and thus hopefully won’t lose too much weight or strength. But he will almost certainly miss the rest of the regular season, and when he does return there’s no guarantee he’ll be much help. He is the sixth Brave to suffer a season-ending injury this year, and what looked like a serious shot at post-season glory is now highly in doubt. (Success!, replacing Heyward in the leadoff spot, went a less-than-successful 0-for-5 with two Ks in his first night back up top, and El Oso Perdido a rough-looking 0-for-4.) It ain’t fair, but no one said it would be.
Cross your fingers, folks, and fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.