Doubleheader Recap: Braves Win Opener 7-1, Drop Wild Finale 10-9

I don’t even know.  I seriously don’t even know. 

I can confirm that some baseball definitely happened at Truist Park today The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves played twice, and both teams came out on top in one game. The first game was a pretty normal baseball game; the second one went from crazy to exuberant to confusing to downright surreal in about two hours. 

I guess it’s time to try to figure out what happened there? 

Positives: 

  • Freddie Freeman hit a grand slam. I’ll type it again because you have literally waited a decade to read it. Freddie Freeman hit a grand slam. He is now tied with Rafael Ortega on the career grand slams list in Atlanta Braves history. In all seriousness though, it’s one of those checkpoints that doesn’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things compared to championships or cumulative numbers, but it has been a recurring bit for so long now. 

I guarantee that every time Freeman has come up with the bases loaded in the last few seasons, you’ve looked at someone across the room. You’ve texted someone. You’ve tweeted into the void about this being the time. It’s one of those things that has just been entrenched in the discourse of the franchise for so long, you’re going to feel weird not thinking about it the next time he comes up to the plate with the bases loaded. Regardless of anything else that happened, Freddie’s slam will be on the end of year highlight pack. 

  • Obviously I hope Ronald Acuña Jr. never gets injured again, but he certainly knows how to announce his return to the lineup. Three home runs today including one he thought was a routine flyout to center. Sure bat flips are cool and all, but they have nothing on angry bat slams. 
  • The first four innings of game one feel like they happened 23 years ago, but you’ll probably take that Tommy Milone every fifth day if you can get it. His changeup is his bread and butter, and he didn’t try to get too overzealous with anything else. At the risk of completely morphing into Chip Caray and talking about how velocity isn’t important, he does know how to locate his stuff well. He did get a little bit lucky in a few spots—most notably with Adam Duvall’s heroic home run robbery—but four innings of one-run baseball from anyone not named Fried or Anderson is a positive outcome at this point. 
  • Speaking of Duvall’s catch, he is proving himself to be more than just a bat against left-handed pitching. That catch was not his first run-saving snag out in left field and he added two more hits against right-handed arms. Brutal seventh-inning at-bat in game two aside, Duvall had another solid day. 
  • Remember when Manny Ramirez played for the Dodgers and they had “Mannywood” out in left field with some of the fans there? And you know how there’s the Judge’s Chamber at Yankee Stadium for Aaron Judge? It’s time to do something like that for Austin Riley in the left field seats, because he is becoming a frequent visitor out there. 
  • Ozzie Albies took batting practice on the field. We’re closing in on his return. This is the part in Jaws where the music starts getting a little louder and the drum beat picks up in speed. 
  • Obviously the results weren’t the desired ones, but it’s always worth celebrating when a player comes back from Tommy John Surgery to make his MLB debut. Congratulations to Patrick Weigel on achieving a lifelong dream. 

Negatives: 

  • Go ahead and skip this section if you’re faint of heart. There’s a blowtorch coming. 

There is absolutely zero conceivable reason Charlie Culberson should be pitching in a high leverage spot. I feel like I lost brain cells just typing that sentence. He faced Trea Turner in a three-run game with the bases loaded tonight. Chris Martin did not pitch in either game today. Tyler Matzek did not pitch in either game today. Mark Melancon did not pitch in either game today. Heck, Darren O’Day only threw 13 pitches in a low leverage outing earlier in the day. And of course, nobody pitched yesterday on the off day. 

Any of those options would have been better. Leaving Weigel in just to face Turner would have been better, because after that at-bat either the inning would have been over or the game would have been far enough out of reach to justify using a position player. There is no defense for a position player pitching in a game close enough to be tied on one swing—especially with an offense this hot. 

But there was no reason for AJ Minter to pitch in a 7-1 game that would inevitably lead to Weigel getting shoehorned into a tough spot for his debut. There was no reason to leave Weigel out there to throw 36 pitches and take a beating if he was just going to lift him for Culberson while the game was still close anyway. There was no reason for Robbie Erlin or Josh Tomlin to go through the lineup for a third time in their respective starts this week. There was no reason for Matt Adams and Ender Inciarte to take at-bats away from Cristian Pache while he was up. 

There was no reason to pinch run for a trail runner in the ninth inning of a tie game just before Duvall’s walk-off single against the Phillies. There was no reason for Ozzie Albies to take at-bats while his wrist was in so much pain he couldn’t get into his stance from the right side. There was no reason for Jhoulys Chacin to pitch multiple innings in a high leverage spot in that 11-10 win over the Mets. 

There was no reason for Mike Soroka to only get one start in the division series last year as the staff ace. There was zero reason to leave Mark Melancon in to give up four runs in the top of the ninth of game one of that series, only for the offense to pull three of them back. There was no reason for Inciarte to spend the first quarter of last season languishing in the lead-off spot (which to his credit, he has since admitted was an error). There was no reason for Jonny Venters to face right-handed hitters with the Braves clinging to a 2-1 lead in game four of the 2018 NLDS. 

If it feels like I’m piling on, it should. For all of his merits in the clubhouse and with man management, he has been morbidly compromised when it comes to any kind of tactical decision making pretty much from the jump. It’s just not one of the tools in his toolbox.

Nobody is saying he should have a pink slip on his desk tomorrow—or at least I’m not. 

But if a night where a pitcher making his debut got totally hung out to dry and a utility infielder faced the other team’s best hitter with the bases loaded isn’t the one to at least open the dialogue about if there is a better way long term, then when is? 

  • In fairness to Snitker, Huascar Ynoa didn’t make his job any easier. He had no fastball command and his offspeed stuff came and went like a bored neighbor. The seemingly eternal struggle to fill the bottom end of the rotation has no end in sight after another brutal night from one of the young arms tonight. 
  • Tough luck with some BABIP tonight, too. Riley hit a ball 101.4 MPH off the bat with the bases loaded in the third that turned into a double play, and the Nationals had two balls hit squarely off a base and trickle away from the closet defender in their five-run third. Freeman also squared up a ball with an xBA of .870 in the sixth that was caught.
  • The Braves were gifted two games without having to face Juan Soto or either of Washington’s two remaining horses in the rotation and couldn’t sweep the two games. Regardless of the nature of the loss, that’s a missed opportunity. 

Former Brave Of The Day: 

Josh Donaldson hit his first home run since returning from the IL, and it was a towering 441-foot blast off Matthew Boyd in Minnesota. He is now the Bringer of Purple Rain. 

Quote Of The Game(s): 

“Obviously he’s thinking…I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking!” 

– Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) 

Tomorrow’s Goal: 

Play a normal baseball game. Or at very least, I’ll settle for actual pitchers throwing every pitch.

20 thoughts on “Doubleheader Recap: Braves Win Opener 7-1, Drop Wild Finale 10-9”

  1. Thank you, Alan. Lots of negatives this time around and rightfully so.
    Should have never lost that second game. I don’t think I have ever said a bad word about Snit since he is making up for some questionable bullpen decisions with effective management of the players.
    But what the heck was he thinking?

    Also, there is no way any of Ynoa, Erlin or Tomlin should start any games or go longer than once through the lineup at this point in the season with the Braves in the playoffs race.

  2. Thanks again for your great work, Alan. I defend Snit pretty regularly around here. He gets the most important things right—player morale, cohesion, etc.
    But the bullpen management yesterday was unbelievably horrible. I think it was Nick yesterday who pointed out that Snit will use his best bullpen arms up by 4 or 5 runs, but frequently punts to the 5th or 6th best reliever option when down only by a run or two. Yesterday was the most egregious example of this I’ve ever seen. Heading into the final inning of each game, obviously the odds of the Braves losing game one were much lower than the odds of winning game two. In other words, the leverage was much greater in game two—but that when he used the untested rookie and the position player

    Snit’s not alone in this. There must be a psychological reason. I suspect it’s much harder for a manager to deal with a blown lead than a failed comeback. The criticism—including self-criticism—may be greater if a team blows a lead of several runs than if they fail to come back and win when down by a run or two.

  3. Sorry to see Weigel do so poorly. He played a baseball video game with my then-15-year-old son for about 20 minutes at the 2019 ChopFest. Son said he seemed like a nice guy. It looked to me like his first pitch was fine, then he lost his concentration when he had to be reminded to throw that ball in for his trophy case – seemed like he was out of whack from that point on.

    With Markakis on second with no outs down a run in the bottom of the seventh, I expect our chances of winning were at least 25%, right? I imagine it’s been a long time since a position player had that high of a chance of getting a win in a regulation-length game.

  4. Great recap, Alan. I love the extra that you provide.

    Snit clearly said that if Weigel couldn’t get through the inning, he wasn’t going to burn any more relievers. The “you can’t waste a game in a 60-game season” line falls a little flat with me. Sure you can, especially if it means saving relievers for the next day.

    With that said, if it’s like any other year where you can option a Ynoa and bring him somebody else to bring a fresh arm for the next day, then I don’t agree with it. And I don’t know if that’s an option right now from the alternate site.

  5. Seems to me Snit was pretty upset/defensive in the press call after the game. I would think he knows he screwed up. How can he not.
    That’s what I like about Maddon, after a game like this, he would have said ” I really screwed up, this loss is on me”.
    The again, maybe Snit doesn’t see it that way.

  6. JC’d

    blazonsays:
    September 5, 2020 at 4:53 am

    Will not remember all this righteous bickering…what will remain in perpetuity is the sheer boyish delight that Freddie took in his first grand slam in a whole bunch of career attempts. It’s a game.

    One other memory, from Game One. The second Acuna home run. The one that took off like a jet fighter off a carrier deck, eschewed unnecessary altitude, still cleared everything then buried itself in an oversize Christmas Tree which visibly shook at the affront.

  7. @4

    Saving all your relievers for the next day is incredibly stupid when you have a perfectly winnable game right in front of you. There’s a guy or two you want to avoid using because he’s pitched two days in a row? Fine. Just handing a game to your opponent because you refuse to use any of about four guys after a day off? Decidedly not fine.

    And the Culberson conversation covers up for the fact that Weigel shouldn’t have even been in the game in the first place.

  8. I agree that the real issue is that Weigel was in the game. I’m not worried about Culberson per se; I know it’s crazy to put a position player in to pitch, but he’s… probably pretty good, especially in small sample.

    At the time, he had Weigel, Martin, and Melancon available. They had a day off yesterday, and they don’t have a day off for another 2 weeks. So, I mean, I guess I get wanting to give Martin and Melancon an extra day of rest. And if you’re going to have the 29th player be a pitcher, why can’t you use that pitcher when you’re already down in the last inning? I dunno, I think the real issue is that Ynoa and Millone both suck and we had to use 7 relievers in one calendar day. Another option: why not use Melancon instead of Weigel, option Ynoa after the game, and recall Newcomb to get a 2-inning reliever for tomorrow? Or is he still a starter in the org’s eyes?

  9. So, full disclosure, I was really struggling to get into the season during mid-August. I was excited when the season first started, but the lack of fans in the stands and the weirdness of guys opting in and opting out, I was busy with work, and I just couldn’t sit down and take in games. But right after the trading deadline, I woke up and realized that it’ll be interesting to see if we can take this weird roster, figure out the rotation, have this balls-to-the-wall last month to grab a playoff spot, and it would have a lot of urgency. So, I’m back to being passionate about baseball again. Not sure if anyone else has struggled to maintain excitement like I have.

  10. Snitker has to manage 3 bullpen games a week, and even as well as Fried has pitched, he can’t be counted on to go more than 6. The Braves are starting a stretch of 14 games in 13 days, and you’re going to have to punt sometimes.

    I would prefer to punt on 4th down though, and it’s agreed that last night it feels like we punted on 3rd down.

    Managers make 1000’s of decisions over their careers. The ones that work out are quickly forgotten; the ones that don’t are catalogued to accumulate with no expiration date. It’s no wonder almost every manager is fired eventually.

  11. Managers make 1000’s of decisions over their careers. The ones that work out are quickly forgotten; the ones that don’t are catalogued to accumulate with no expiration date. It’s no wonder almost every manager is fired eventually.

    This might be one of the best ways I’ve ever seen it explained. Very well done.

  12. @9

    Rob, we’re worried about you! A month or so ago you told us three and a half hour baseball games held little pleasure for you, they were a drag. Now, today, you are honest enough to admit your interest in baseball waned in August. Que Pasa?

    Has your heart been seduced by anger at there being no college football which I believe you once stated was your number one love? Regarding Braves baseball it seems fair to say by the evidence of these pages that passions and commitment are still alive and well for the Braves here and have been since Day 1.

    So please cheer up, come back in the fold, and stay stoked! Best.

  13. @14 It is hard to sit down and watch a three and a half hour baseball game. Not sure I understand the question.

  14. @3: Per BRef, the Braves’ chances of winning the second game last night when Austin Riley strode the plate in the bottom of the 7th was 54%.

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