What a couple of days here at BJ. I think the Braves should never have an off day because 1) it drives me crazy with no Braves baseball to watch and 2) BJ goes crazy without real time things going on…… sheesh. So tonight’s game should have been expected to be a barn-burner with Keuchel vs. Nola. And so it was for most of the game.
Dallas Keuchel pitched very well for the most part. There’s not a lot to talk about for this game as there was not a lot going on except good pitching and bad hitting. Keuchel made it work for 7 innings. With his stuff (and yes, I still think he’s LH Julio), he has to be nearly perfect to succeed. He really was near perfect except for two bad pitches. One was a 2-run 2B in the 4th to Jay Bruce (arggh, Jay freaking Bruce – he should never beat us). The other was a 2B to Realmuto in the 6th which put men on 2nd and 3rd with one out. And Dallas wriggled out of that one with two sharply hit grounders right to fielders (first to Freddie and the second to Dansby).
Aaron Nola sure did his job, but I don’t believe that it was just Nola’s pitching. The Braves seem to have lost their edge after a big June. With the exception of the “tired” veterans – Markakis and McCann – no one got nuthin’. There was “warning track power” and hard hit grounders, but none of the other guys were on their game. Austin Riley, especially, is struggling to make good contact. In the last 30 days he’s hitting .235 with a .789 OPS. That’s Markakis territory for the last month. Although, I’ll admit Riley’s OPS is over .900 for the last week. Only Donaldson managed to see that the curve is almost never a strike and got two walks for his efforts. Ozzie swinging at every first pitch is not gonna work against Nola. Nola lasted 8 innings virtually eliminating any chance we had to get a good look at the Phillies bullpen.
I wasn’t exactly sure whose bullpen would fail first. Sobotka came on in the 8th and looked pretty good (I was gonna say “fantastic” until he walked Hoskins and threw a wild pitch). He seems to have turned a corner and may be the guy he was last year again. And, OK, another questionable Snitker move. He put in Blevins in the 9th to get his lefty (Bruce) which he did easily but then left him in for 2 righties, the first of which singled. Franco failed to cash in on a Blevins meatball so Snit’s move didn’t turn out as bad as it could have. Tomlin came in and got the last out to get us to the bottom of the 9th. I wish there had been more drama but there was none. Neris came in and put up three strikeouts and that was the end of that.
In the end, a great pitching performance by Keuchel mattered not a whit because the Braves never scored. The best thing about the game was Harper’s 0/4 with a GIDP. The Braves struck out 11 times – more than once on balls out of the zone. Riley was the official goat with his four LOBs. Acuna walked once but scored a hat trick (3 Ks). And it’s Tuesday.
One note I’d like to close on. I noticed that Nola did most of his damage against the young guys (Freddie’s mini-slump notwithstanding). Donaldson, Markakis, and McCann were 3/9 with 2 walks and 3 Ks (and the only EBH). Acuna, Dansby, Riley, and Ozzie were 1/14 with 1 walk and 5 Ks. When playoff time comes, the TORs will find weaknesses and experience will make a big difference. The young guys need to make adjustments to hit the best pitchers or it won’t matter how good our pitchers are.