Pure Evil 7, Braves 6

Twenty-five years ago, on August 11, 1994, the baseball season came to an abrupt end, leading to the ultimate cancellation of the season and of the World Series.  I’m not here to rehash the rights and wrongs of that abysmal episode.  I do have strong opinions—the owners can never be trusted, and Bud Selig is on my forever bad list—but my main memory is how awful it was not to have baseball in August, September, and October.  The Braves, of course, had won the division in each of the three previous seasons, and although they were 6 games back of the Expos when the season ended, they were certainly within striking distance.  But we never got to see what could have been another great pennant race.

I was a fan through the awful years of the late 70’s and the late 80’s.  I decided that following a team that was on its way to losing 100 games was better than a September of no baseball.  Not having any baseball down the stretch or a post-season was miserable. Better terrible baseball than no baseball at all.

But I’ve changed my mind.  Watching this Braves bullpen is excruciating.  No baseball at all would be better than watching this bullpen. The Braves led 3-0 going to the bottom of the 8th, and 6-2 going to the bottom of the 9th.  And they lost 7-6 in the 10th.  In my 54 years of watching the Braves, I don’t remember a bullpen as bad as this one has been lately.  Every single pitcher seems to have forgotten how to pitch.

For the first seven innings, this was my kind of game, an old fashioned pitchers’ duel. Mike Soroka pitched 7 masterful innings—no runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, 6 K’s.  He is an absolute delight to watch.  He gave up some hard hit balls early on, but settled down and got ground ball after ground ball.  The problem was, Sandy Alcantara was just as good for the Fish, shutting out the Braves himself through 7 on 3 hits.

Then in the top of the 8th, Culberson (who had several sparkling plays in the field) had a bloop single.  He took second on a wild pitch.  With two outs they walked Acuña to face Albies.  I understand not wanting to face Ronald there, but Ozzie is the one guy on the planet who has been hotter than RAJ (just ask AAR how hot he’s been).  Sure enough, after falling behind 0-2, Ozzie doubled on a shot that went off the pitcher’s leg into left field, scoring Charlie.  They brought in a lefty to face Freeman, but Freddie singled on the first pitch to drive in two more.

So could the much maligned Braves’ pen hold a 3 run lead? It doesn’t matter who pitches–no lead is safe.  (Just ask JonathanF how cold the pen is.) Interesting that the guy Snit turned to in the 8th was General Swarzak.  After one out, Curtis Granderson (remember him?) hit one into the upper deck, the next guy singles, and just like that the tying run is at the plate. So Snit turns to Luke the Sliderman, I guess because there is no one else he trusts. What does that say about Martin and Greene? Anyway, Luke walked the first guy he faces, got Castro to fly out, but allowed a run scoring single to Anderson.  Now the tying run was ninety feet away.  But Jackson struck out Cooper to escape the inning with the Braves clinging to a 3-2 lead.

As Ernie Johnson and my wife would say as they went to the ninth, a little insurance wouldn’t hurt.  With this bullpen, it was essential to get a lot of insurance. Fortunately, after two walks, Johan “Claude Rains” Camargo revealed himself, hitting a three run homer.  Just for fun, Acuña walked, stole second and third (he’s up to 28 SB’s), and Ozzie walked, but Freddie struck out

So is a 4 run lead sufficient Melancon Margin?  You already know the sad answer to that question.  After striking out the first guy, our new closer (as announced by Snit before the game) surrendered 4 consecutive singles to make it 6-3. So Shane Greene, the old closer, came in with the winning run at the plate. He promptly gave up a hit on a grounder to Culberson (tough play, but I thought he could have gotten it) to make it 6-4,  and then a double to the left field corner that scored 2, and almost 3.  The only reason the game wasn’t over was that Duvall and Culberson made perfect throws to nail the guy at the plate. Somehow Greene got a groundout to send the game to the 10th

But the Braves went meekly in the top of the 10th, so you just knew where this was headed.  Newcomb came on to pitch the 10th (again, who else is there?) and promptly gave up a single.  He then threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt and the runner went all the way to third.  Martin Prado hits a sac fly to left and that was mercifully that.  No need to prolong the agony.

JonathanF commented earlier today that “Our bullpen is colder than the stare from my wife when I tell her we can’t go out on a Wednesday because I’ve got a recap to do.”  Well, that drew me up short.  Wednesday is one thing; imagine how my wife reacts to the fact that I volunteered to do recaps for Saturday games.

As is typical for me, I didn’t think about the effect on my marriage when I volunteered to do Saturday recaps.  If I had, I suppose I could have rationalized it–I’m pretty good at that. After all, we’ve been married for 42 years, but the Braves have been a big part of my life for almost 55 years.  Simple arithmetic.  But of course that would be the wrong way to look at it.  As important as the Braves are in my life, my wife is infinitely more important. The truth is, she is intimately familiar with my Braves obsession and is amazingly tolerant of the impact on my life and our relationship.  The best news is that after all this time, she has become more than tolerant.  She actually enjoys watching the games and especially going to the games in person.  What’s not to love about RAJ and Ozzie? (She’s even ordered her own Braves Journal T-Shirt!). 

But after this game, all that may be gone. I wouldn’t blame her if she never wanted to watch again.  I’m not sure I can.  This one will take a long time to get over.

But of course I will.  The great thing about baseball is that they play every day.  Tomorrow Folty takes the hill.  He’d better go 9.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

195 thoughts on “Pure Evil 7, Braves 6”

  1. The impact of all but a select few pitching coaches is overrated, but for his sake, I hope Rick Kranitz rented rather than bought, because he will be an easy scapegoat in October (or sooner).

  2. Did it really take 42 years for her to get into it? I’m at 35 and she has even flickered interest yet…..

    Great recap. Good enough to lessen the heartbreak tonight a bit.

  3. Thank you, Tfloyd, and may your future recaps be for more joyous results.

    @1 I honestly didn’t understand the pitching coach swap we did this offseason. Was the last one really a problem? Kranitz wasn’t even wanted by the Phils, and we traded out someone who seemed to be working out alright for him.

  4. This bullpen did not deserve your recap, tfloyd.

    This game reminded me of theat Red Sox game I attended last September, giving up 8 runs in the 8th and 9th to lose 9-8.
    The Braves kept winning after that game and so will they tomorrow.

  5. The fortitude it took to produce this recap is exceeded only by the grace of its execution. Thanks.

    But it’s really hard to write the word “execution” when there are so many potential current applicants in the bullpen. Which, by the way, is colder than Ozzie is hot.

  6. I don’t understand why Snit pulled Soroka. He had only thrown ~80 pitches. At some point you have to let these guys pitch. There is no requirement that the bullpen has to be used.

  7. @8 I agree, 80 pitches isn’t that many. Hindsight being 20/20, he should’ve left him in.

    On the flip side, I could see Snit thinking that Melancon had been pretty decent so far, and playing the odds that some combination of relievers surely could save some wear on Sork’s arm by getting through two innings without giving up six runs.

    Of course this bullpen never fails to disappoint.

  8. ‘ I coulda’ been a relieva’ .’

    tfloyd, much thanks. You at 42 years, Roger at 35. Now I see the basis for all these pearls of wisdom that emanate on these pages nightly. I’m at 55 but by addition only. It took me three choices so I don’t suppose that counts.

  9. Throwing the ball.

    Up until about three weeks ago our excellent overall defense was marred by an inability to throw the ball in the clutch, duly noted here. Particularly where a relay was involved. Not now.

    To illustrate. The Duvall/ Culbertson relay from Castro’s winning hit was so good it nearly saved the crazy day. And, interestingly, the word is out among the enemy, do not take the extra base on Acuna’s arm. Don’t even take it when you feel your hit fully entitles you to it. So doubles can become singles, triples to right field a museum piece.

  10. This is the type of loss that brings into play a manager’s skills. Someone like a Bobby Cox (or Snit), will not make that big a deal about it, and try to hold it to a one game losing streak. A more intense skipper might rage his way to a week long tailspin. So, here’s hoping this is just a one-off.

  11. @13–absolutely right. These relievers don’t need a kick in the butt. The problem isn’t that they’re lackadaisical. They do need to execute their pitches with confidence and focus.
    Bobby understood that as well as anyone. He was hard on players who didn’t show effort, but he was always supportive of those who try. And most importantly, it’s just one game of 162. Got to stay on an even keel.

  12. Thank you, Tfloyd. Disgustingly putrid Braves baseball is better than no Braves baseball. It has to get better, doesn’t it?

    @13 and 14: yep.

    Wives are wonderful, mysterious beasts though they be. They’re flawed, however. I mean, they put up with us, don’t they?

  13. @12 Very true. Of course, you can’t expect everyone to be perfect but a perfect throw from Ronald nails Ramirez at 3B on the pickoff error. With Ramirez out, Newk may well have finished the inning. We may not have won anyway but it would have been an inning or two later.

  14. Yes, we have to be patient and try to let some of the guys work out their issues or find their place in the bullpen rotation, but we also have to evaluate as many options as we can. Why not let a couple of guys work out their issues at Gwinnett? And, at the same time, give some new guys or old guys a chance to provide value. Swapping out Martin for Webb is not like a crap shoot. Letting Weigel pitch a couple of innings couldn’t hurt – he’s already there. Add someone to the 40-man now so he could be playoff eligible – Tucker Davidson? After Weigel pitches, give Tucker a shot. And Walker already pitched decently.

    We have to go a lot with what we have now until rosters expand, but we have quite a few options to work with internally that could help a lot over the next three weeks. Then, in September, we can really lean on the hot hands – Wright, Sobotka, Minter, Touki, Bryse, the new guys. Anyone could find their potential and step up.

    We can’t wait, though, it’s too late in the season. Guys like Swarzak, Newk, and Luke have to get back to where they were. And we have to find someone – even one guy – who can get hot and throw up some zeros. Maybe we could have a bullpen day where we can pitch guys one or two innings to see who can generate some outs even if we end up losing by 10 runs.

  15. Maybe having guys who give up too many walks but get some Ks and outs are better than guys who give up endless strings of singles but don’t walk anyone.

  16. The most extreme thing I can say about one loss out of 162, that was absolutely putrid to watch in person with a bunch of raging University of Miami fans in attendance, is that I hope we let the bottom of the pen log some innings and give these wunderkinds some time off.

  17. @18

    It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. It’s frustrated when a high K, high BB guy walks the stadium, and people scream for someone who can throw strikes. But if you have a high contact, low BB guy, sometimes the hits fall in, and you want them to miss bats. Personally, I still come down on having guys who can throw strikes. Sometimes games like last night happen, but if you’re making the trade, consider the options:

    1) 1.5 WAR reliever who has a high K, high walk rate.
    2) 1.5 WAR reliever who has a high contact, low BB rate.

    You probably feel like you can bring #2 into a really good defense, and he might become a 2 WAR reliever, whereas there’s not as much upside to #1 because unless you can help him find the strike zone or miss your bats (which our org doesn’t seem to be that good at it), then there’s really nothing you can do.

    I like the acquisitions we made, and I’m sticking by them. There are fans right now that were ecstatic on July 31st and now want to burn Shane Greene at the stake.

  18. I questioned for a second why they pulled Soroka at 82 pitches, but c’mon, can you really not trust your bullpen to get 6 outs? And you have to bake into the equation that we probably would have added runs against the Marlins’ crappy bullpen, and they probably made the decision to pull Soroka after putting up 3 runs in the 8th. And it looked pretty dang good of a decision when we were up 6-2 in the 9th. At the end of the day, these guys need to do their job.

    This is a freaking 9-man pen. Someone needs to get some outs. Let Weigel and Tomlin throw a little bit, then send Weigel down, get Webb back up, put him in the late inning rotation, and hopefully things will fall into place. Thank goodness we have a good lead and a crappy NL East.

  19. @20 – The answer is obviously C) High K AND low BB reliever. Duh.

    But I guess the price for one of those guys was too high.So we roll with what we got and keep fingers crossed the contact finds it way to 3rd or 2nd (os SS when Dansby returns).

  20. The existential dread brought on by any call to the Braves bullpen this year has caused me to dwell on Braves bullpens past. So I offer 2 lists:

    Past Braves relievers I would most trust to get out of a 1-out, bases load jam in Game 5:
    1. John Smoltz
    2. John Rocker (dude was a dick, but gave up 0 ER in playoff career)
    3. Mike Remlinger
    4. Billy Wagner

    Past Braves relievers I would least trust to get out of a 1-out, bases load jam in Game 5:
    1. Kyle Farnsworth
    2. Chris Reitsma
    3. AJ Minter
    4. Kevin Gryboski

  21. The NL East doesn’t *seem* too good, but behind us there are 3 NL East teams within 1.5 games of the wild card. The Braves may actually be better than I think.

  22. “Watching this Braves bullpen is excruciating.”

    Yep. Exactly. The pen over the last six games: 18 ERs, 1 BS, and two L. Only the offensive production has prevented more losses over that time.

  23. I stopped watching after we went up 3-0. I feel like that might have been the right move.

    The Mets really are an incredible story. But it’s more about why they’ve been so bad for most of the year rather than this current streak. I mean their pitching is ridiculous. In a short series I’d favor them over most non-Dodgers teams.

  24. I think that the 4-A guys have proven time and time again that they can’t get it done. There’s zero point in shuffling around and trying them again, and you’re not gonna send the pitchers you just traded for down to the minors. They are the guys we’re gonna sink or swim with and they have to get it done. And we have to keep going to them for better or worse.

    There is no solution other than those guys pitching better. Continually shuffling relievers to and back from Gwinnett has never really worked, and it’s not gonna work now, either.

  25. Chip thinks we did the Marlins a favor by losing last night. Apparently, they needed it when they had a big crowd. Ugh..

  26. Good start that we screwed up. Not sure getting one hit yesterday should make Johan the 5 hitter but whatever

  27. @33 It’s not like we have anyone else to put there. Charlie is the only real alternative and they try not to double up righties (which I realize is a bit archaic, but the manager is who he is).

  28. @27 I could not disagree more. Your logic is based upon the contention that everyone at Gwinnett is a 4-A player whether they’ve had a chance in the majors or not. I think we have a perfectly cromulent major league reliever in Webb who happened to be on the IL when we brought in the new guys. Sobotka is up and down, too, but has never been as bad as Martin has been so far. Tucker has never sniffed the majors yet, he did manage to lead the Southern League in ERA and pitched 5 innings with no ER last night in Gwinnett.

    Even Luke was not as bad as it might seem. He pitched a reasonably normal close to the 8th. He gave up one Grybo but got out of the inning with the lead intact.

    We must allow some of the guys to get straight in either Gwinnett or lower leverage situations. Trying out guys like Weigel, Davidson, Webb, Sobotka, Walker is not going to do any more harm than the current bullpen is doing and we might find one guy who can get outs.

  29. @35

    Webb, I’ll grant you.

    Sobotka has been every bit as bad as that and worse, and Martin is clearly better than he is.

    Luke Jackson is absolutely terrible, and the fact that he continues to somehow luck into not giving up leads shouldn’t detract from that fact. He threw a hanger to Starlin Castro in the eighth that would’ve given the Marlins the lead 8 out of 10 times, Castro just popped it up. He should not be in any high-leverage situations whatsoever IMO.

  30. With a 6.5 game lead this team is in trouble. Playing about the 4th best of the 5 teams in the division and things could get real tight after the Mets series next week. I am not sure just try harder and just be better is going to be sufficient. Folty didn’t get a call and he loses focus and now down 3-1. The bullpen is now as big of a dumpster fire as the Nats pen was. I don’t know that there any answers but trotting Greene and the gang probably isn’t it. Losing Dansby continues to be a big issue and the bench is weak because of it.

  31. @45

    If you’ve watched this team all year and have come to the conclusion that they’re in actual season-endangering trouble right now, I don’t really know what to tell you.

    If we even wind up losing this game, it’s a bad series on the road against a bad team at the tail-end of a long road trip, nothing more.

  32. And today’s Marlins version of Cy Young blows through our murders row bottom of the line up

  33. @48 not in season endangering trouble today, but after the Mets series it is quite possible things are going to be a lot tighter

  34. @48 Kinda like the Royals series, huh. It’s annoying that this team seems to play up or down to the ability of our opponent.

  35. Doom and gloom and Chief Nocahoma. And another Folty walk to lead off an inning. The more things change, …

  36. Several things:

    1. Oh good, Chief makes an appearance. I guess we’re officially in a slump.

    2. @50: Are you serious? We’re averaging seven runs a game on this road trip!

    3. @52: Every single time we’ve had a series like the upcoming Mets one, we’ve taken two of three and kept on rolling. Not seeing a whole lot of reason to believe that won’t be the case again. And at the very least, they would have to sweep us for it to be “a lot tighter.” Are you predicting that?

    4. @53: No argument there.

  37. @56.4: The Mutts do have good pitching, but Folty kept the Fish off the board in the second.

  38. Be thankful. Mike’s given us five with the lead. He pitched well after his first inning pout.

  39. What is this “qualified for the win” thing Chip is talking about? Doesn’t he have to pitch 4 more to qualify?

  40. Bad luck on that swing but Folty missed his spot by quite a bit and caught too much of the plate

  41. @88 yep. Some of it is the pitcher missing their spot but some of it seems like Flowers pitch calling as well

  42. Martin Prado has been terrible for three years and has a .586 OPS this year, yet he feels so intimidating.

  43. Chip’s “qualifies for the win” talk is a pet peeve of mine. With our bullpen, leaving a game after 5 or 6 with a one run lead makes getting a win at all deeply problematic.

  44. Having said that, leaving a game with a lead does beat the hell out of giving up the lead. Good job, Folty.

  45. That was so stupid I can’t even process it. Why the F would you not use Julio or Fried to bunt? What is the F is Snit thinking? That was a waste of one of the 2 “actual” bench players you have available with a 3 man bench

  46. @99 Very puzzling, especially since Duvall seems to have zero sacrifice bunts in his entire career according to Chip.

  47. Julio would have about a ten times better chance of getting the bunt down than Duvall. Plus you’ve burned one of your two pinch hitters.

  48. Well that is a huge break. Makes the bunt fail a moot point except it would have scored a run

  49. @99 I’m sure in his brain he’s thinking “but if it’s Duvall, they won’t KNOW that we’re trying to bunt”

  50. Not everything that ends badly was a bad idea, but hard to figure out that Duvall bunt. I’m going to guess he thought he saw something available; can’t imagine that was the plan.

    Edit: “he” being Duvall.

  51. I hope Chris Martin has turned a corner. He’s the one I think has the most possibility of getting straight. He has swing and miss stuff. He is very very similar to Sobotka.

  52. Well, that would make them hot, at least.

    My new definition of an Atlanta Save: a complete game by the starter.

  53. He got two outs. The last pitch on Brinson was close. He just didn’t execute the last pitch to Granderson. He deserves another batter to get out of it. Whoever comes on next will not be able to keep the first hitter off base. It’s the pattern we’ve developed.

  54. @133 For a change, he had a blanket! Quite the pleasant alternative from this:

  55. If Waters was on the 40 man I’d seriously consider adding him to the roster and releasing Joyce (the only reason I’m not suggesting doing the same with Pache, who is on the 40 already, is that he’s a righty).

  56. I didn’t count a single swing and miss on a slider, did you? He had good zip on his fastball and they weren’t squaring it up, but the thing about BABIP is, when you give up a lot of contact, some of it’s going to fall. I’d love it if Luke could miss more bats when he needs to.

  57. This is back to where we were before the end of July. Swarzak/Newk in the 8th and Jackson in the 9th. Martin and Sobotka are interchangeable. Maybe we get Webb back up and occasionally sprinkle in Melancon and Greene and we can have ourselves a bullpen. I still think we need to see what Weigel can do. And Walker was good too.

    I bet Greene doesn’t make the playoff roster.

  58. @175 – I could’ve sworn he got at least one, and looking it up, mlb.com confirmed Castro’s first strike as a swing-and-miss on the slider. But to your point, it was the only one, and all 3 hits in the inning came on sliders.

  59. Squeaker.

    SAINT LUKE…soft contacts, no prob, my man.

    NEWCOMBE..pathetic, given second chance, walked the tying and go ahead runs. Emotionally out of his depth. Kick something else.
    ENDER… 60% of our RBIs. Thank you
    JOYCE… DFA or Gwinnett. Bring up Contreras or Jackson.
    CHARLIE… Had to be under the influence of something. 4 K’s..his last at bat, in the clutch, struck out on 3 pitches, missed the last one, high, by 15 inches.
    OZZIE rolled over on first pitch 9th. Forgiven!
    FLOWERS…caught a good game.

  60. DFA Joyce. His bat has gone to sleep, and he’s not really that good of a fielder. Call up Duda, who has some pop. If Freddie is to do well during these last two months of the regular season and beyond, he needs to start getting more rest. Duda can give him that without sacrificing too much.

  61. Why DFA Joyce? Do you really think Duda will give you a lot more than Joyce between now and August 31? If Duda proves he can hit in AAA, give him a shot in September and go to whoever is playing the best when the playoffs come. Joyce is just as likely to get hot as Duda – maybe more.

  62. #189

    Duda may still walk into one. He’s more of a HR threat than Joyce ever was. My main interest in Duda is that he can give Freddie a day off now and then. I want Freddie to be ready.

  63. @76

    God, I couldn’t love him any more.

    ‘You’d be so easy to love
    so easy to idolize
    all others above.’

  64. By the way, did any of you see this?

    “He’s only getting better,” said Martin Prado, the Marlins veteran and longtime former Brave who has been a mentor to Acuña, talking to his young countryman during every series between the teams. “He has ability to do stuff on the field that I’ve never seen before. The last guy I saw like that was Andruw Jones, and I think he’s better than Andruw. It’s early to say that, but he’s got better tools than Andruw.”


    Did anyone know that Martin Prado has been mentoring Acuña? That’s so cool, and perfectly in keeping with my longtime love of Martin. I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a manager after he retires.

  65. That’s a great story, Alex. Who knew, not us, but to learn that is reassuring and oddly appropriate.

  66. I had to Google “Coppolella banned” to remember his name, but here’s Kevin Maitan’s numbers this year in A ball.

    In 106 games:

    415 AB, 0.227/0.290/0.345, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 134 SO, 33 BB

  67. #191

    Prado routinely hosts dinners for Latin players as a way of welcoming them to the big leagues and as means of helping them adjust to the demands of living in a different culture. As sad as José Fernández’s death was, it was fortunate that the Marlins had recently acquired Prado, who demonstrated incomparable leadership during that tragedy.

  68. Instead of a recap, braves14 has a great post on how pitchers are performing as they turn over the order. New post.

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