It was just two weeks ago that the Braves broke that odd “streak” in which they went forever without winning two in a row.  What a fun two weeks it’s been.  Behind a huge night for Freddie Freeman, who hit for the cycle for the second time in his career, the Hammers defeated the Marlins 11-9, sweeping the series, going 6-0 on the current road trip, and winning for the 13th time in the last 15 games.  There was unnecessary and stressful drama in the bottom of the ninth, but the important thing is the newfound winning ways continue.

Freeman has now matched the career cycles total of all other Atlanta Brave put together (the only others were Albert Hall in 1987 and Mark Kotsay in 2008). When Freeman came to the plate in the sixth, he had already hit a double, triple, and single.  So right on cue, he unloaded on a fastball down the middle and hit a drive that just cleared the center field wall.  It was fun to see the reception he got in the dugout after that feat.  The TV guys said that he is the first first baseman in MLB history to hit for the cycle twice. Actually, he is the first in the NL, but it’s still a big deal.

Charlie Morton went six innings, striking out nine and giving up only three hits.  Old Charlie’s season this year is a lot like his career: he got off to a shaky start, but the longer it goes the better he gets.  Wednesday night was another dominant start.  He retired the first eight Marlins before walking the pitcher on four straight (“There goes the perfect game,” says Chip, right on cue).  Charlie didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, when he surrendered two runs on three singles and a HBP. 

By that time, fortunately, the Braves had a five run lead, having unloaded on young Marlins starter Jesus Luzardo for four runs in the fourth.  The kid has good stuff—that’s why the Marlins traded Starling Marte for him—but he doesn’t have much of an idea where it’s going.  The total included back to back bases loaded walks.  The Marlins have some other young hurlers who likewise don’t have any command of their stuff.  In the eighth the Braves scored three (!!) more runs via the bases loaded base on balls. Our Braves have developed quite a specialty in that manner of driving in runs. 

Speaking of driving in runs, it’s a testament to the strength of this lineup that Freeman is fifth on the team in RBIs.  Ozzie (one RBI tonight), Duvall (two RBI on the night), Riley (also two on the night), and Swanson (who didn’t have an RBI tonight, but is second in MLB in RBIs since the ASB) each have more than Freddie.  Of course one reason Riley and Swanson have driven in so many is that Freeman is on base 40% of the time.  He is leading the league in runs scored; he scored four more tonight to give him 90 on the season.

Well, the Braves were cruising, heading toward a big win, and you may be wondering how the final score ended up 11-9.  A lot of folks on this blog have been clamoring to get rid of Josh Tomlin.  You may get your wish.  He got his usual mop up duty in the bottom of the ninth with the Braves leading 11-3.  Four runs later, Snit felt the need to turn to Hancock to close it out.  Many of you have also called for Will Smith to lose his job as closer.  You may also get your wish. Smith promptly gave up a long two run homer, and all of a sudden it was 11-9.  He then issued a walk and a single to bring the winning run to the plate.  Smith managed to strike out Alex Jackson to end the game, but not before almost ruining what had been a glorious night up to that point.

But a win is a win.  Off day tomorrow before a three game set in Baltimore.  The O’s have lost 13 in a row.  This is no time to ease up on the gas pedal.

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On this date in 1982 (August 19, the date you are likely reading this), the Braves had just lost 19 of their last 21 games, to fall from a 9 game lead on July 29 to 4 games behind on August 18.  Pascual Perez was the scheduled starter against the Expos on August 19. The Braves had acquired Perez in a trade earlier in the summer, and then called him up to the big leagues at the end of July.

My wife and I were at the game that night.  I knew that Perez was the scheduled starter, so I was surprised to see Phil Niekro take the mound in the top of the first, starting the game on short rest.  You’ve almost certainly heard the story.  Perez got lost on Atlanta’s perimeter freeway, I-285, spending several hours going around and around looking for the exit to the stadium.  The problem for Pascual is that Atlanta Fulton County Stadium is not adjacent to 285. 

Perez arrived at the ballpark about game time, too late to start the game.  No problem; the 43 year old Niekro, who didn’t know he was starting until about a half hour before game time, went seven innings giving up only three hits.  Unfortunately two of those hits were two run dingers.  Fortunately for the Braves, they came from behind in the seventh for a 5-4 win, giving Knucksie his 11th Win.  For the kids who are reading this, you may find it hard to believe that we didn’t have any idea what happened to Perez until we read about it in the morning paper.  Nowadays, I’d be staring at my phone and following the tweets with minute by minute updates.

(By the way, that was quite the lineup the Expos fielded that year.  In addition to three HOFers–Raines, Dawson, and Carter–first baseman Al Oliver led the league with a .331 average and third baseman Tim Wallach had 28 homers and 97 RBIs.)

Anyway, August 19 was a clear turning point.  The team went on to win six in a row and 13 of 15 to go back on top of the division by 2.5.  There were more twists and turns in September, but the Braves won the pennant by a game on the last day.  Niekro won seven games from August 19th forward, and Pascual Perez managed to get to the ballpark the rest of the way and won four games the last three weeks of the season.

But on August 19, we had no idea that game was a turning point.  That can only be done in retrospect.  I’d like to think that the game two weeks ago when we won two games in a row and finally broke the .500 mark was a turning point.  But we will only see it that way if they keep this up and make the playoffs.  Right now, I like our chances a lot.