[Note to readers: my 12 paragraph disquisition (and accompanying Petrarchan sonnet) on optimal ordering policy at The Varsity has been excised out of respect for blazon.]
Earl Weaver’s most famous quote is “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” The Braves have had a nice selection of three run homer games lately and seem to have combined them with pitching and fundamentals. How important are 3 run homers? Teams that hit a three run homer in a game win 77% of them. By contrast, teams that hit at least one solo homer win only 57% of the time. Perhaps more interesting, teams that hit three solo homers (thereby equating the total run effect) only win 69 percent of their games, so a three run homer is somehow more efficacious than three solo shots. To be fair, teams that hit at least one grand slam win 86 percent of the time. But games with 3 run homers are 4.6 times more likely than grand slam games, so waiting for grand slams is a difficult managing position.
Coming into this season, the Braves have done even better, converting 80 percent of their three run homer games into wins and 90 percent of their grand slam games. But the Braves have been playing so well lately that I felt the need to start with some humility: the Atlanta Braves in fact have lost one game in their history in which they hit 2 three run homers. Not only that, the two three run homers were both hit by Rafael Furcal (2 of the 9 three-run homers he hit in his career.) It was just over 15 years ago, July 9th, 2004. Furcal’s two dingers were all the runs that the Braves got in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies, as Smoltz blew the save in the 9th on a homer from the Dark Lord and El Pulpo gave up a run in the 10th. Earl was correct: you need pitching too. That game dropped the Braves to 43-42, but they went 53-24 the rest of the season, so maybe blowing a game like that is good for you.
Recap time – (blazon, make sure to send me the bill for the time it took you to get to here.) No three run homers today. The rubber match found Keuchel against Chase Anderson. It was a day game, as I discovered when I awoke from my afternoon nap to discover the game was over. But at least now I’m woke.
I didn’t know there was a day game and the Braves apparently didn’t either. Anderson tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-hit ball. Nap before the game, boys! Do as I say, not as I do! We fell behind on an error by Donaldson and a homer from Piña in the 2nd . In the 6th, Keuchel stumbled with a reverse-cycle inning: homer, triple, double, single. They pulled him then, which is odd because he was doing better with each succeeding hit. Sobotka and Tomlin finished the rest of the game uneventfully.
It only then remained to be seen whether the Braves could spot five runs and pull off a miracle rally. Close, but no cigar… maybe some sort of electric vaping cigar or something. Yet another homer by Donaldson following a Freeman walk got us on the board in the eighth. But Milwaukee had the vaunted Hader in the 9th, who has been unhittable ever since he left SNL. And make it interesting they did. Bloop pinch hit singles from Folk Heros Culberson and Joyce got the tying run to the plate. But RAJ fouled out and Dansby pounded one to center that was caught. And there the game should have ended, but Milwaukee then chose to take a quick snooze. A 3rd strike to Freddie evaded Piña who then overthrew Aguilar at first for another run. Donaldson promptly singled to make it 5-4, but Albies struck out swinging on three straight 158 kph fastballs (us woke folk use the metric system.) One run short.
Back to Atlanta, and the gNats. Not DOOMED, but Wake!