“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
What a frustrating team these Braves have been to watch! We are all looking for a way out of the malaise that is the 2021 season so far.
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”
We’re all a little confused about what the central problem is. There’s one indisputable fact–they sure can’t get no relief. Some relievers have been consistently terrible (remember the late Jesse Biddle?), some have been wildly inconsistent (looking at you, Newk) but even the “good” relievers have been hurt (Martin) or have had several rough outings (Smith, Minter).
“Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
Our businessmen owners at Liberty Media plowed the earth of Cobb County at taxpayers’ expense, and they’re drinking the revenues it generates.
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”
But the suits at LM don’t seem to understand what a baseball franchise is really worth. They don’t want to invest in the players necessary to put this team over the top. Man, we sure could use Mark Melancon and Adam Duval.
“No reason to get excited,” the thief he kindly spoke,
Some of us (see, e.g., each of my Wednesday recaps this season) insist that it’s far too early to panic or to draw dire conclusions about the ultimate outcome of this long season.
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
I’ve felt that too many in Braves country have jumped to conclusions that aren’t truly serious—folks make assertions that aren’t backed by evidence.
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate,
Some of us have been around for a long time and we’ve been through a lot of seasons; we know that a team’s record in mid-May is not necessarily indicative of what it will turn out to be at the end of September.
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”
I will admit to impatience with those who to my mind talk falsely, who prematurely decide that certain players are no good: Swanson (I’ll admit that he’s not looking good at all this year), Riley (who has really turned it on lately), or even Ozuna (very slow start, but could yet put in a productive season). Or assert that certain guys are over the hill (Morton, maybe even Freeman). These predictions may turn out to be correct, but it’s too early to make definitive conclusions.
All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
I’ve tried to stay on the watch for signs of hope, but even my sunny view is starting to dim. This team has been very hard to watch, and my default position of hopefulness has been sorely tried.
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
It’s not that the front office has been standing pat since the season started; it seems there are new roster moves every day. Lots of players came and went in the first six weeks, but none has made much difference.
Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Some fans are fiercely registering their displeasure, with low growls of disapproval. This team has not been getting the job done.
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.
Going into Wednesday’s game, the Braves desperately needed a win. I was starting to feel haunted by the prospect of a promising season spiraling out of control. Doom was approaching, and the winds of frustration were howling.
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Eighty years ago this week, in Hibbing, Minnesota, Abram and Beatrice Zimmerman gave birth to a baby boy, Robert Allen Zimmerman. Happy 80th, Bob! May the never-ending tour continue!
* * *
Oh, you tuned in for a recap of Wednesday’s game with the Mets? The Braves finally defeated the hated Mets, 5-4, on a walk off home run in the 9th by Acuña. So the growling wildcats, approaching riders, and howling winds are kept at bay for another day.
In fact, this may have been the most important victory of the year so far. I say that in part because a loss could have been the most frustrating in a season already chock full of frustrating losses.
There were many signs of hope in tonight’s victory. First was the performance of Charlie Morton. The starters’ ERA in the last 14 games had been 2.62; Charlie was the one who stood out in the rotation for having several poor starts in a row. But tonight Morton was simply terrific. He went six innings, giving up one run on only two hits, striking out 8 and walking no one. If Morton pitches like this going forward, the Braves have the makings of a stellar rotation. (Morton really was sharp, but I should point out how weak this Mets lineup was. It would be a cliché to call the Mets’ a AAA lineup, but it’s literally true. All three Mets starting outfielders tonight were in AAA earlier this week; Fargas and Lee made their big league debuts in this series, and hitting third for the Mets was old friend Cameron Maybin, who before today had been toiling for the Cub’s affiliate in Omaha.)
The second hopeful sign was the offense stringing together lots of quality at bats, putting the ball in play and hitting to the opposite field. Most importantly, they came from behind twice and scored runs in the 8th and the 9th.
Tonight’s game started out much like Monday and Tuesday. The Braves didn’t get their first baserunner until a Freeman single in the 4th. And he was quickly erased by an Ozuna gidp.
Morton was one over the minimum through 5. The problem was that one was a solo homer by Jonathan Villar. So going to the bottom of the 5th, the Braves were trailing 1-0.
For the first time in forever, the Braves actually put together a rally in the bottom of the 5th, batting around and plating 3 runs. Big hits by Riley, Heredia, and Charlie Morton (!).
Although the Braves led 3-1 heading to the 7th, they should have had more. They left the bases loaded in the 5th, when Ozuna hit a shot up the middle but right at the shortstop. In the 6th, the Braves loaded them again, but Panda (pinch hitting for Morton) hit a rope that was speared by the third baseman.
Because Morton was removed for a pinch hitter, the Braves needed to get nine outs from the bullpen. Gulp. In the 7th A.J. Minter at first looked looked sharp, quickly retiring the first two batters and getting Dom Smith to hit a weak tapper in front of the plate. Then all of a sudden the wheels fell off. First he threw wildly to first for a two base error. Then a walk on four pitches, followed by a run scoring double. Jackson came in with the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position, and promptly surrendered a bloop single to center that scored both runners. So just like that the Mets led 4-3.
When the Braves failed to score in the 7th despite a lead-off walk by RAJ, followed by a rocket to right by Freeman that Lee caught as he crashed into the wall, those riders of doom approached even closer and the winds of frustration picked up.
Fortunately Chris Martin pitched a 1-2-3 8th. In the bottom of the inning, Riley doubled (he’s looking great!), Dansby had an infield single, and with two strikes Contreras hit a liner to right that tied the game. But this being the 2021 Braves, moments of exhilaration like that always seem to be followed by frustration. Swanson was cut down trying to steal 3rd (WTF?) and Heredia and Adrianza struck out.
So we went to the ninth in a tie game with Will Smith on the mound. We’ve seen this play before, as recently as last night. When Maybin struck out but reached on a wild pitch, then stole second and advanced to third on another wild pitch with just one out, the winds of doom were positively deafening in my ears. Lo and behold, Smith induced the next two hitters to pop to Riley ending the threat.
And on the first pitch of the ninth, Ronald did his thing and celebration ensued. We gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
Friends, after tonight’s stirring win, I believe the times they are a changin’. I feared that a hard rain was gonna fall, but the answer just might be blowing in the wind.
Braves start a four game set with the lowly Pirates tomorrow. More like tonight, and we may just find shelter from the storm.