Meh. The Braves lost their third in a row last night on a walk-off Freddy Galvis home run. It may well have been heart-breaking if the game meant more than post-season positioning. Maybe it was anyway. Either way, the Nationals, who won, are basically out of the picture, and the Dodgers, who lost, failed to pick up a game. And so in the end, the Braves maintained their slim 2-game lead on the National League.
Good things about Saturday’s contest: Freddie Freeman kept hitting; Chris Johnson spit on the regression skeptics; and Andrelton Simmons, who has been white hot, remained so with a game-tying 9th-inning home run off Jonathan Papelbon. As far as the final result was concerned, it didn’t end up mattering. But Simmons has recently laid solid claim to being the Braves most valuable player for the 2013 season. Both his 4.3 fWAR and 6.1 rWAR lead the team, and lead it convincingly.
Bad things about Saturday’s contest: B.J. Upton struck out all four of his plate appearances, and has turned from suck to blow; both Justin Upton and Brian McCann went hitless, and are both now officially struggling;* and the pitching staff, on the whole, was awful. Alex Wood was the primary culprit there – he failed to make it out of the 5th inning – but everyone deserves some blame when the pitchers toss 8.1 innings and allow 6 runs, 15 hits, 5 walks, and 1 home run. Oh, and another thing. While it’s true that Fredi wants to give his big guns some rest these days, let’s not kid ourselves into believing that that’s the reason Freddy Garcia, and not Craig Kimbrel, pitched the 9th: Kimbrel hadn’t pitched for 4 days. No, Garcia was in there because this was a road game, and everyone knows that you don’t let your closer pitch in a tie game on the road. That’s too bad, though, because Garcia has now served up 17 home runs in under 61 innings this year.
We shouldn’t write off last night’s game, or for that matter the craptastic baseball Atlanta has played since Kameron Loe started a game on Wednesday, as entirely meaningless. It’s true that the Dodgers haven’t made up much ground, but the Cardinals have. If the season ended today Atlanta would be in the fine position of facing the winner of the wild card match-up between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, while the Dodgers and Cardinals would square off in a battle of villains. But the Braves should also be wary of falling out of that top spot. Having to face either Los Angeles or St. Louis in the NLDS would not be ideal – and hey, we’ve also been reminded this weekend (yet again) of how well the team plays on the road: perhaps home field advantage matters for this team a great deal. Let’s keep it.
*over the past month, Upton and McCann, respectively, are hitting .182/.292/.338 and .233/.282/.370.