Two wins, but two very different games. Game 2 was a classic pitchers’ duel. Strassburg held the Hammers to one hit and no runs through six. Fortunately, new Folk Hero Kung Fu Panda came through with his second pinch homer of the young season, a game winning two run shot in the seventh following a Dansby single. Because Boxcar, Sliderman, and Newk tossed a two hit shutout (I’m not making this up), the Braves won 2-0.
In game 1, our ace Varsity Fried surrendered 8 hits and 5 runs in 2 innings. It was a nightmare first inning for Varsity. The first five batters reached, the Nats batted around, Max tossed 32 pitches and surrendered 4 runs. Turner hit a bomb, but the other four hits in the inning were two bloops and two seeing eye grounders. Truth is, though, Fried clearly didn’t have good command.
Then in the second, Max gave up 3 more hits and another run. One of the hardest hit balls was a shot from Soto off Fried’s ankle, which fortunately turned into a fielder’s choice, cutting Turner down at third. See, luck does have a way of evening out. OTOH, Fried would probably tell us that it didn’t seem so lucky to him; it had to smart. In fact, after that shot to his leg he gave up two more hits and a run. Discretion was the better part of valor and his day ended after those two innings.
(After two starts, Max has an ERA of 9.00. I’ve watched most of Max’s two starts. He’s been a little off, but he’s going to be fine.)
Fortunately, the Braves did what they always do against Eric Fedde, which is to get hits and score runs. After a run in the first, they scored five more in the second. So despite Fried’s struggles, our side held a shaky 6-5 lead after two innings. I say shaky because it felt that way to me, but Tomlin, Nate Jones, and Minter no hit the Nats for the next 4 innings. In the top of the 7th, the Braves got an insurance run on a wild pitch. That run proved decisive as Will Smith (he’s neither fresh nor a prince at this point) gave up a run in the bottom half on 2 walks and a hit, but escaped further damage with a game ending double play. Like Fried, Smith’s ERA is an even 9.00. Unlike Fried, I’m not so confident he’ll be OK. It’s early, of course (see my post earlier today for the dangers of generalizing from small sample sizes), but so far he looks more like 2020 Will Smith than 2018-19 Will Smith.
Back to the second game and the unlikely troika who twirled the shutout. I’m feeling better about Ynoa. They just might have something valuable in him. Newcomb, however, has a long way to go to earn my confidence. He struck out the side in the seventh for the save. His stuff was great; he throws 97-98 mph gas with that easy motion. He just needs to throw strikes. But how many times have we said that over the past four years? I’m an optimist—I’m glad for him to get more chances. Do this a few more times, Sean, and I’ll jump on your bandwagon.
Finally, we have a new folk hero! Kung Fu Panda Rules! (Added bonus: his nickname is much more family friendly than Brooks Conrad’s nickname) I’m one who was critical of keeping Sandoval for the bench instead of Lamb–on the ground that Panda doesn’t provide a home run threat. Fortunately for the Braves, AA doesn’t seek my advice on those decisions.
Off day tomorrow, home opener Friday, when we can start to even the score against the Phillies.