Oh Boy, I could rave on all night about this Braves team. Itâ€™s so easy to cheer them on. Theyâ€™ve now won nine consecutive games overall, and 13 in a row at SunTrust Park (the franchise record). The Eastern division pennant is in sight: Every day, itâ€™s a gettingâ€™ closer, going faster than a roller coaster. Will the Nats catch the Braves at this point? Thatâ€™ll be the day!
In each game of this series, the Nationals have hung in and chose not to fade away. Well, all right; they made it interesting, but I guess it doesnâ€™t matter anymore.*
The Braves defeated the Nats on Friday 5-4 for the third game in a row. The lead is now 10, the magic number is 11, and the Braves have effectively won the division.
Saturdayâ€™s game followed the script of the first two games of the series. And why not? If it ainâ€™t broke donâ€™t fix it! Terrific starting pitching, big hits including multiple homers, and a shaky bullpen that made it too close for comfort but held on for the win.
For the third straight game, the Braves got a terrific performance from their starting pitcher. Â Julio Teheran went six, striking out 8 and walking only one.Â He surrendered just three hits, with the only damage a solo homer by Cabrera.Â His fastball command was especially impressive. Julio has quietly put together an excellent year.Â
The Braves scored 5 runs, on a solo homer by Albies in the first, a solo shot by Donaldson in the 4th, and back to back jacks by McCann and Joyce in the 6th (BMacâ€™s was two run shot).
(How does Bethany feel about Josh Donaldson? Sometimes she’ll sigh, Sometimes she’ll cry, And we’ll know why. That mulleted scamp is raining in her heart. )*
As in Thursday and Friday games, the bullpen was the only weak spot. Darren Oâ€™Day (he really exists!) made his Braves debut in the 7th. Unfortunately he walked the leadoff man. To Snitâ€™s credit he took him out in favor of Newcomb. But Newk had no command of his fastball and walked the bases full with no outs. He did get Zimmerman to ground into a double play, but after yet another walk, Josh Tomlin had to put out the fire and keep it a 5-2 game.
The bullpen drama continued in the 8th. Shane Green had been near perfect for the past 3 weeks, and this night he wasnâ€™t. Still, after allowing two baserunners, he almost escaped unscathed. With two outs it appeared he had Soto struck out, on a foul tip into the mitt. But when it didnâ€™t stick, you just knew that Soto would make them pay, and he doubled in two runs. (It looked like a ball that Hamilton, in for his defense, could have caught. What was interesting about that is that both Joyce and Riley, not known for their defense, had made excellent plays to rob Nats of hits in earlier innings.)
Melancon had a clean and sharp ninth to close it out.
The Braves go for the sweep and the jugular on Sunday, in a matchup of once and future Cy Youngs, Soroka vs. Scherzer.
*The oldsters among you caught the references. Charles Hardin â€œBuddyâ€ Holly was born on this day in 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. I spent 15 years of my life in Lubbock. It was long after Buddy Hollyâ€™s all too brief life and career, but I knew people who had known him. Holly died before his 23rd birthday, but his influence has been enormous. The Beatles would not have been the Beatles (and would have named themselves something else) without Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Most of you have never been to Lubbock; itâ€™s in the middle of nowhere and not on the way to anywhere. But the musical talent that has sprung from that arid soil rivals any area in the United States:
Waylon Jennings (you all know Waylon, but did you know he was the bassist in Hollyâ€™s band at the time of his death?); Terry Allen (if you donâ€™t know him you should–artist, poet, and songwriter extraodinaire); Sonny Curtis (member of the Crickets who wrote the Mary Tyler Moore show theme); Delbert McClinton (among many other accomplishments, taught John Lennon to play a blues harmonica); The Flatlanders (Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, three terrific singers and songwriters); Mac Davis (who I never cared for but he did sing â€œLubbock Texas in my Rear View Mirror); Glen D Hardin and Bobby Keys (two of the greatest session musician musicians of the rock era); Natalie Maines (lead singer of the Dixie Chicks); Amanda Shires (perhaps at the moment best known as the wife of Jason Isbell, but a terrific musician and singer herself).
The only locale than rivals Lubbock in terms of musical talent is where Iâ€™ve lived for the past 15 years: Macon, Georgia.Â Little Richard and Otis Redding hailed from Macon, and James Brown lived and worked in Macon at the start of his career. The Allman Brothers Band lived and recorded all their classic music in Macon. One half of REM (Mike Mills and Bill Berry) grew up in Macon.Â Lucinda Williams spend part of her childhood in Macon (and memorialized it in Car Wheels on a Gravel Road). Â Â Many big hits in the 1970â€™s were recorded in Macon at Capricorn Studios (including by the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop, and Charlie Daniels). What does that have to do with the Braves?Â Well, I did see Chipper play for the Macon Braves in 1991.