This is getting fun. Just a week ago, the Braves finally broke the odd streak of non-streaks by winning 2 games in a row. In defeating the Reds 8-6 last night, they won their 7th of the last 8, and they now have their first 8-2 stretch of the season. We can now refer to the streaking Atlanta Braves—and it’s the right kind of streaking.
Oh, and because the Phillies lost to the Dodgers again, they are now tied for first. The Mets are just a game back. We’ve got us a full fledged pennant race.
Much like the entire 2021 season, last night’s win was not pretty. Our guys blew a 5-0 lead. After building that lead through three innings, we witnessed perhaps the worst instance of hibernation mode all season. From the third to the 11th inning, they only got one hit. In very 2021 fashion, they failed to score in the bottom of the 9th and 10th when they had the winning run on third.
The bullpen gave up a total of 4 runs. Most significantly, Will Smith blew the save for the 2nd time in 3 games when he surrendered a game tying 2 run homer to Votto in the 9th. In his past 3 appearances, he’s given up 5 runs, 5 hits, 2 homers, 2 walks, and hit a batter. Y’all should feel free to continue the discussion in the comments regarding his fitness as a closer. He’s certainly not a Fresh Prince any more; can we call him Hancock for the drunken superhero who never seems to be able to save anyone?
Yes, there was a lot that was ugly in this game. But after all that unpleasantness, Ozzie Albies supplied a moment of pure beauty and joy in the bottom of the 11th. Santana had given up a Manfred run in the top of the frame to give the Redlegs a 6-5 lead. Of course the Braves started the bottom of the inning with the tying run on second. But by the time Ozzie strode to the plate there were two outs with two runners on (give Pederson credit for a two out walk, allowing Albies to come to the plate). The count went to 2-1, and as Chip would and did say, the Braves were down to their last two strikes. Ozzie then crushed a fastball deep into the right field stands for the come from behind 8-6 victory.
The Braves drafted Lucas Sims in the first round in the 2012 draft. The Gwinnett native never established himself with the Atlanta club, but he’s found a home as a reliever for Cincinnati. I’m pleased for him. I’m especially pleased that the best pitch he ever threw for the Braves was that 2-1 fastball to Ozzie.
The Braves built that early 5-0 lead behind two doubles by Riley, who drove in two and scored one himself, and a mammoth two run shot by the swashbuckler Heredia.
Touki Toussaint started the game and pitched pretty well. For some reason, I’m particularly fond of Touki. As we all know, he has big league stuff, but he will need to command it consistently to be a productive big league pitcher. In that regard, he’s much like Sean Newcomb. But I gave up on Newcomb long ago, while I still have fond hopes for Touki turning into a star. Last night, he was not as sharp as his first two starts, but he did shut them out through five innings. His command wasn’t great, though, and his pitch count grew into the 90’s by the 6th. In that frame he grazed Castellanos with a pitch and then surrendered a two run homer to Votto. Joey went 4 for 4 with the two 2 run dingers. He’s been crushing the ball for the last month or so.
Which brings me to this week’s criticism of Chip (and Frenchy this time). On more than one occasion, they noted that Votto has somehow rediscovered his power stroke from his earlier years in the league. It’s true that Votto is on the downward slope of the aging curve, but for whatever reason in the past month he has recaptured his earlier success (it happens to most stars for some stretches). They both indicated, however, that until recently he seemed to prefer to “take his walks” rather than try to hit home runs. Do they not realize that being selective at the plate and hitting for power are not mutually exclusive? In fact, the greatest power hitters very carefully choose not to swing at balls that they cannot drive. Do they not remember Barry Bonds? Even worse, at one point, Chip compared Votto once again to Tony Gwynn, suggesting that like Gwynn, Votto had chosen until recently not to try to hit home runs.
Anyway, the facts don’t bear out their observations in the slightest. The last big power year for Votto (before this year) was 2017, when he hit 36 home runs and walked 134 times (a BB% of 19%). In 2019, he only hit 15 home runs, but it wasn’t because he was walking more. He had 76 base on balls, with a BB% of 12.5. Votto is a great hitter because he gets on base at a higher rate than any of his contemporaries (career OBP of .417) and he hits for very good power (career SLG .520). He’s never been remotely like Tony Gwynn as a hitter.
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In this space I often look for events in baseball history on this date, or perhaps birthdays of significant players. I’ve written fondly of Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou, and Rico Carty on or around their birthdays. Yesterday was the birthday of Melky Cabrera. I’ve got nothing new to say about him.
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Today at 5:00, the Hammers go for the sweep behind Kyle Muller. Now that they have found their way to first place, might as well stay there.