About 45 minutes before game time last night, we were preparing dinner and getting ready to settle in to watch the Braves and Marlins. All of a sudden I heard a loud crashing sound and looked up to see our 14 year old miniature poodle Sophie come tumbling down the staircase.  With a sickening thud she hit bottom on the hardwood floor.  I rushed over to her and it was quickly apparent that she was injured.  She couldn’t put any weight on her left rear leg and she was obviously in pain.  Our regular veterinarian office had just closed, so I called our region’s one 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital.  They advised us to bring her in for x-rays, about a 30 minute drive away. 

We left the house about the time of the first pitch of the game.  Once at the vet hospital, we handed her off in the parking lot and sat in our car, waiting for word.  We were pretty certain she had broken or dislocated a leg or a hip or both.  Of course we both surfed the internet looking up all the things that could be wrong and reading about possible treatments and prognoses.  With a dog her age, the possibilities could be dire.  At one point, the doctor called us and asked permission to sedate her to do the x-rays.   

 I tried to listen to the game on the radio—a little distraction might help.  But the news on the radio was not helpful.  Our guys quickly fell behind. Wright gave up solo homers in the second and third and a two run shot in the fourth.  He exited after four innings, having surrendered 5 runs on 7 hits and two walks.  He threw 83 pitches, only 47 of which were strikes.  Meanwhile, the newest Phish Phenom, Sixto Sanchez, was as good as advertised.  Through six innings, he shut out the Braves on 2 hits with 6 K’s.  I turned the radio off after the 4th inning; we didn’t need even more depressing news as we waited to hear from the vet.

I did keep an eye on the MLB app on my phone, and noted that in the bottom of the 7th (after Luke Jackson had surrendered a run in the top of the 7th), Sanchez left after a hit and a hit batsmen.  The Braves eventually loaded the bases, bringing d’Arnaud to the plate with two outs as a pinch hitter for Inciarte.  We were looking for miracles, both in the vet hospital and in Truist Park, so I quickly turned the radio on, only to hear Travis ground harmlessly to short, ending the only run scoring threat of the game.

The Braves went quietly in the 8th and 9th, the Marlins tacked on 2 more in the 9th off Jacob Webb, and the game mercifully ended 8-0.

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As I heard the bad news on the radio about another poor start by Kyle Wright, and reflected on Mike Soroka’s season ending injury and now Max Fried’s back that landed him on the IL, I thought of Sophie’s plight as a metaphor for this season for the Braves.  With all the pitching injuries and failed efforts, this season’s once high hopes have come crashing down like Sophie’s abrupt tumble down the stairs. 

I don’t have any good news to offer about the Braves’ pitchers.  The status of the starting rotation is bleak. We can hope that Fried just needs to rest a minor back injury and will be back as good as ever in another week, and we can hope that Anderson will pitch like the guy in his first two starts as opposed to the guy in his third. Maybe Tomlin will pitch like he did in his last start.  Maybe Milone will be a serviceable innings eater.  Perhaps Hamel will finally come to the rescue in the last week of the season.  And I hear that Folty has gained weight and velo on his fastball.  (I have no hope for Kyle Wright this year, but I’m not ready to give up on him long term.  He is not that far off, but obviously he needs to figure out command of his pitches.)

But all that is slim hope indeed.  As several noted here yesterday, the current rotation, especially without Fried, rivals some of those of the 1970’s in futility.

 *  *  *

Nevertheless, don’t give up hope.  Shortly after the game ended, we got great news from the vet.  X-rays were negative.  Rather than a break or a fracture, the doc diagnosed a hip ligament strain.  Sophie will struggle for a few weeks, but she should be able to recover fully.

Can we expect such a turnaround from the Braves’ starting staff?  It’s too much to expect, but it’s not too much to ask.  Our team still leads the division by 1.5 over the Phils and 2.5 over the Fish.  And remember, even a third place finish could land a playoff spot.  And once you get to October, it’s a crapshoot (right, JonathanF?).  We will need to roll a boatload of lucky dice to get anywhere, but you never know. 

But one key the rest of the way is to beat these Marlins a few times.  I figure Sophie has watched over a thousand Braves games in her now long life.  She’ll be laid up on the couch for the rest of this season, so let’s win some for her! And let’s start tonight—Tommy Milone faces Pablo Lopez.