Natspos 4, Braves 2

Suppose I told you ahead of Wednesday night’s game that:

–Braves pitchers would surrender only five hits on the night;

–The Braves’ starting outfielders would continue to certify the genius of Alex Anthopoulos: Rosario and Duvall would each homer and Soler would reach base four times;

–The Nats’ starting pitcher would only pitch one third of an inning, forcing Dave Martinez to turn to his beleaguered bullpen much earlier than he had planned.

You’d wager a lot of what you own on a Braves win, right?

No, of course you wouldn’t, because you know better than to bet on baseball. As it turned out, this also happened:

–The Braves vaunted infield, which has been so terrific this year, went a combined 0 for 15;

–Braves pitchers may have given up just the five hits, but they walked 8 batters, hit another, and surrendered two homers;

–Touki’s line was especially discouraging: in three plus innings, he tossed 62 pitches, only 29 of which were strikes (the comparisons to Sean Newcomb in last night’s comments are looking more and more apt);

–Drew Smyly the reliever looks a lot like Smyly the starter: three hits and a run in one inning of work;

–The Nationals used six relievers to get through the final 8 2/3 innings; the only two I recognized were Andrew Voth and Wander Suero, both of whom have an ERA around six; and yet the Braves could only plate two against this undistinguished bunch.

Add all this up, and you get a 4-2 Washington victory.  It’s a frustrating loss, because it’s one the Braves should have won.  Fortunately, the Phillies and Mets both lost, so the lead remains at 2.5 and 4 games.

 *   *   *

No one has asked my opinion on the Will Smith/Juan Soto shenanigans, but since I have the floor, may I suggest that Will Smith seems like a jackass?  I’ve said that Don Mattingly’s vendetta against Ronald Acuña is a disgrace. Smith’s attitude and actions toward Soto are in the same category (but not to the same degree).  Deliberately hitting a batter with a pitch is never called for, and in any event neither young superstar did anything wrong.

I’ll tell you who I do respect and admire: Freddie Freeman.  His response to the Martinez-ordered plunking in the first inning revealed his class and character.  In case you missed it, the first pitch from the Nats’ starter Sean Nolin sailed behind Freddie’s head.  The second plunked him right on the hip.  Instead of charging the mound and starting a stupid brawl, he pointed out to the home plate ump that this sequence left no doubt that the pitcher hit him on purpose, thus requiring that the pitcher be ejected.  The umps did indeed toss Nolin.  Freddie then chatted for a while with Soto (with his arm on his shoulder), and went over to the Nationals dugout to speak calmly with Martinez.  His actions no doubt defused rather than escalated the situation. Let’s hope this is the end of this silly “feud.”

By the way, it turns out that Nolin getting ejected didn’t work out so well for the Braves.  He came into the game with an ERA of 5.60—probably would have been better to decline the penalty and leave him in.

  *    *    *

The Braves can and should win the series on Thursday behind Huascar Ynoa against Eric Fedde.  Then it’s six more at home against the Marlins and Rockies. It would behoove our guys over the next week to make some hay while the sun shines, before yet another west coast trip (how did we get both west coast trips in September?!). 

Ten years ago last night, the Braves swept the Mets to take a 7.5 game lead over St. Louis in the Wild Card standings.  You may recall how that pennant race turned out; I still have a little PTSD from it.  I don’t bring up that unpleasant memory as a prediction of the next three weeks.  I could point to, say, 1993, when the Braves trailed with three weeks to play and won the pennant.  My point is that, just as in last night’s game, predictions are a fool’s errand; anything can happen in the last three weeks of a pennant race.  I’m going to do my best not to pull my hair out (not much left anyway) with every twist and turn. A close race down the stretch in September is a rare joy, and I’m going to enjoy it. We have the added benefit of closing the season at home against the two rivals for the division.  I’m not predicting, but I like our chances.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

124 thoughts on “Natspos 4, Braves 2”

  1. Thanks t, I’m with you 100% on Smith and Freeman.

    What Colorado and his relief work shows is not that Smyly can’t pitch 2 times through the order; it’s that he can’t pitch after 9 o’clock.

  2. Thanks, tfloyd.

    It is a running battle between Will Smith’s pitching prowess and pugnacious attitude for his least attractive feature, but I grant that his attitude has taken the lead for the moment.

    And his deficiencies as a closer have been noted. But I would note that if it came down to a choice between Will Smith, Hector Neris, or Edwin Diaz as my closer for the rest of the season, Hancock is a fairly easy choice. The fact that this pennant race resembles an easy stroll far more than a sprint owes quite a bit to the efforts of these three gentlemen. Neris has a WPA of 0.0, which is almost impossible for a closer on a winning team. Diaz has been a little better, but clearly worse than Smith. The difference between these three teams in the standings is fairly close to the WPA difference between the closers.

  3. Agree with every single word.

    @1, are you suggesting that no one should feed Drew Smyly after midnight?

  4. Well, so much for Smyly redux. Who was that then at Coors?

    Our immediate future still hovers above 3 tired bats. Simple really.

    Search hi and low for the Urias catch at short that saved Hader and ended the game last night. Oh Mama.

  5. Will Smith had some kind of beef with the Braves a few years ago. I think Fredi was the manager. They noticed he was using some type of goop and pointed it out to the umpire.

    Found it:

    Smith has always been a jerk. Now he is a jerk who is overpaid and underperforming. I just hope he figures it out because they need him.

    I also hope Freddie had a talk with him. When he does that crap Freddie, Ronald, Ozzie or Austin will pay for it. HE won’t pay for it.

  6. @9 That is BS. Hopefully MLB takes a man nearly killing his wife more seriously than that Georgia police dept. I’m hoping for at least a 1 year suspension. I don’t think he ever puts on a Braves uniform again ….regardless of the outcome. He is a monster.

  7. @12: To be fair, it isn’t the Sandy Springs PD that should’ve taken it “more seriously.” It’s the Fulton County DA.

  8. I ain’t here for “surprisingly strong.” I got no time for that mess.

    Get it done, Wren.

  9. So, we don’t really know any facts other than there being an altercation between Ozuna and his (ex?) wife. The initial description of a strangulation-in-process is apparently not supported by the evidence. I find it hard to believe a DA would let domestic violence with strangulation go unprosecuted. I’m not saying he’s a good guy, but it’s obvious that whatever he’s guilty of is not as horrific as some of you are portraying.

  10. @12 I got killed for saying this earlier, but it’s quite possible no one with the last name Ozuna wants his contract to go anywhere and, well, money can be quite motivating.

    My overwhelming fear is that there is going to be a collection of indisputable facts that gives Marcell Ozuna a reasonable claim to this contract, and it will be the Atlanta Braves stuck in an absolutely impossible situation because the Ozuna family seems to be full of hot messes, the patriarch being chief hot mess.

    I don’t know what I’m going to do here as a fan. I don’t want him back. He’s a POS. But I suppose I have to resign myself to the fact that my least favorite Brave will no longer be Melvin Upton and that somehow the bar went MUCH lower.

  11. Reports say Jason Heyward hits a walk off homer for the Cubs last night. Which means nothing to today’s Cubs and little more to him likely.

    But, ah, it stirs the memory bank for when that would have excited us all. A walk off homer? Yes, that’s Jason for you. Sic transit etc etc.

  12. @19 ANY domestic violence is unacceptable. I do not want him on this team ever again. His wife should get far away from him.

    @20 Sadly, you are likely right.

  13. @16 I’m not sure how I feel. The Braves have already gotten the best years out of Freddie. He will be 32 next year. The Braves aren’t a deep pocketed franchise. They already have at least some dead money locked up with Ozuna. They make the wrong decision here and it could really hurt the franchise. Will Freddie age like Chipper or the endless number of players who heavily regressed after age 32. He absolutely should not be signed for more than 5 years. I wouldn’t offer more than 25-30M/year. That sets his family up for life and doesn’t handicap the Braves for years if he becomes an average player in 2 years. If another team wants to give him a crazy contract then let them. It’s business.

  14. Turns out we might have got to Chavez Ravine two weeks or so too early, the walls are starting to crack a bit there. After a bad ninth inning comeback loss to the Cardinals last night Max Muncy comes out and says it’s time we hitters started to perform at the same level as our pitchers. Well chosen words, put that way, eh?

    There are other indicators too. With Pollack on the IL Bellinger is back and guess what. There appears to be the inkling in the FO of panic to avoid the real chance of having to play the wild card game with the Giants who’ve pasted them lately. And so on.

    Why is this annoying? The bloom way be off the rose. So very recently we beat the Giants and then lost all 3 in LA under fairly excruciating circumstances. Just a little too early then, maybe. It wouldn’t have taken much, remember?

  15. My prediction: Braves get stuck paying his salary. Trade him to another team for a bag of saltines. Pay most of the contract anyway.

    My creeping dread: then Liberty uses that sunk cost as justification for not re-signing Freddie.

  16. @25
    It’s not like Freeman is a guy just coming out of arbitration and getting his first contract.
    You would think that a guy that has already made over 100 million already has his family set for life, lol.
    Agreed on not loving giving him a long contract; 4 or 5 max but the average would have to be 30 per year for him to agree to terms IMO.

  17. @ 19,

    The initial description was by 2 police officers as to what they saw. Apparently the Mrs. denied it was true. So, at that point the DA either had to allow the Mrs. some slack and not pursue the highest charges, or charge her for perjury and or tampering with evidence and / or filing a false report. Then, they could have gone after the originally charged felonies (which were supported by the physical evidence and the officers) or not proceed against the Mrs. and accept what they could get (but with the threat, “you have to plead to something or we go back to felonies.”)

  18. @ 20,

    At this point, Mrs. Ozuna would much rather have her part of the remaining contract than have Marcell in jail (but that could turn out to be an unwise choice).

    Under the standard player agreement, these “bad morality” things have been arbitrated and tried. MAYBE if the lack of morality was hitting an umpire with a baseball bat, they might get somewhere. But the players association will fight anything beyond the negotiated suspension parameters. I think this is an area where the new contract should be negotiated into a different posture, but to get a “REALLY bad guy and we don’t have to pay” will cost a whole lot of something else from the owners.

  19. I dunno, I get something stuck in my craw on “the Braves are not a deep pocketed franchise.” I think John Malone’s at least as rich as Ted Turner was when Ted owned the Braves. Liberty just has an extraordinarily conservative approach to where on the curve they believe the marginal value of a dollar starts to decline.

  20. @ 19,

    The thread on the page indicates the defense attorney said the body cam video from the officers conflicted with their stories. Maybe one of them had dealt with the Ozuna’s before and juiced up the story. Maybe the defense attorney is stretching reality.

  21. I tend to think a competitive Braves team would be wise to spend more than they have. But I recognize that:
    1) it’s a gut feeling, not a real calculation
    2) at some point, “Ownership is cheap!” comes into direct conflict with “The playoffs are a crapshoot.”

    Especially if you’re saying “Maybe this team can be the ’06 Cardinals,” you can’t have it both ways.

  22. #34
    Why not?

    The ’06 Cards analogy, I believe, is made for a team that putters around most of the year, then wakes up in time to blaze to/thru the post-season. Not sure it has anything to do with salary structure. (At least, I don’t look at it that way.)

    How ’bout we just win the WS… and sign Freddie?

  23. @32 Oh, I agree with that. The problem is that Malone doesn’t own the Braves. The stockholders of Liberty Media own the Braves. The Braves as an asset has grown in value exponentially since they were purchased. Instead of allowing the Braves to borrow from that surplus value, they steadfastly stick to their position of ONLY allowing the Braves to spend what they make in revenue. Last year we saw what happened. No revenue meant AA didn’t have the money to build a bullpen, finish the bench…even sign a backup catcher. It could be worse……some corporate owners steal some of the profits.

  24. Just to be clear: the crapshoot theory doesn’t say that the worst teams have the same probability of winning as the best teams… It says the best team’s probability of winning is no more than 20 percent or so, and the worst (non-Wild Card) teams plus Wild Card Winners have probabilities no less than about 10 percent of winning. And given the imperfect correlation between payroll and quality, incremental payroll has a pretty small effect on the probability of winning the World Series (but not zero!)

  25. Avoiding the fan revolt alone would be worth paying Freeman. It would get very ugly. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

  26. We need Erick Fedde to wake up
    from this dream and remember that he’s still Erick Fedde.

    Edit—just as I wrote this, Stephen Vogt just forgot that he’s Stephen Vogt.

  27. Ynoa has swung at every single pitch since coming back to ATL. No hits at all. Swinging at garbage. His good start must have gotten inside his head.

    And lol at Vogt as the 100,000th run

  28. He also probably wasn’t hitting in the minors, right?
    How has Ynoa looked on the mound? I’m just following on Gameday tonight.

  29. Stephen Vogt finally remembered how to hit like a Braves midseason pickup!

  30. @30, 31, 33

    Really enjoyed cliff’s take on things. Good to hear from an attorney on these matters.

  31. A 14.81 bullpen ERA this series. Woof. I’m sure Chip will tell us this collection of detritus is reliable.

  32. Bullpen went all to hell … you could tell Jackson didn’t have it 1sr 2 batters …but Snit just let’s them hang themselves ..

  33. whew, if Matzek doesn’t try for a kick save, that might have been a double play. This team cant make anything easy. Bad slide at home cost them, too.

  34. Might as well have let the pitcher bat there.

    Meanwhile, the Rockies’ gas-can bullpen is in the process of blowing its 9th-inning lead over the Phillies. (They hung on.)

  35. 8 hits with RISP in the last 18 games. Pathetic. Something like 8-47.
    Living (and dying) with the solo HR.

  36. This bullpen is just embarrassing. Rodriguez has thrown up BP pitches for the home runs he’s allowed recently.

  37. Bad fundamentals by joc not running after his K…

    Oh boy, Hancock vs Soto again in the 9th…..that surely will end well.

  38. Oh, the comments:

  39. Didn’t even wait for soto to get the fireworks started. Oh and Joc is not a good defender at all. That catch at the wall to end a game a couple of weeks ago was awkward as heck, and he just dropped one with an unneccesary jump.

  40. Yeah, this is a good call.

    Also, why the hell did we not put Heredia in center? Was he too busy practicing his fight choreography to grab his glove?

  41. ohhh nooooooooo

    Swanson did that perfect. Ozzie’s throw was offline but Freddie makes that play most of the time.

  42. Haha, wow, that was terrible. Freeman messed up more than Ozzie, I think. The throw wasn’t even in the dirt. FF commited to stretching out before the ball got there.

    Oh, let’s not forget that we wouldn’t even be in this game if not for Vogt miracle night.

  43. Yes Chip, the Braves and Nationals are “laying it on the line tonight”…and playing a beer-league quality baseball game while you’re busy talking about the magic of a pennant race.

  44. I detest Smith but I can’t blame all of this on him. Yes, he gave up the long fly ball but why wasn’t Heredia in the game? Bad throw by Oz, bad no catch by Fred.

  45. Freddie needs to catch it, but I’ve about had it with our dumbass shifts. There’s seemingly no rhyme or reason to it. I’m sure they think they have one, but all our shift seems to be good for is making turning double plays exceptionally difficult and leaving massive holes on the right side for opposing right-handed hitters to serve the ball through with two strikes. Can we inject some common sense back into this please?

    Not to be outdone, Dave Martinez botched a pitching change and gave Arcia a free at-bat when he should’ve been burned. Just fantastic strategy all the way around.

  46. This is honestly the most annoyed I’ve been with Chip all year, with his “what a fantastic game this is!!! Aren’t pennant races great???? Well???? AREN’T THEY????” pablum. I mean, reading the game you’re calling might be in order at some point.

  47. @106

    It’s like he’s trying to overcompensate to sell the sport because the NFL started tonight. Just call the game, Skippy Handelman.

  48. Also, that was a hit in any context. Sometimes you get cheapies due to weird defenses in that spot, but that was a line drive that split the gap.

  49. @118

    I would argue Webb deserves the win here. Name another pitcher that was more responsible for winning the game than he was.

    And in checking it on Fangraphs, I can confirm that he collected almost half a win by himself in terms of WPA.

  50. @122 Webb did a great job. I’m a big fan of his. I just think attributing wins to relievers is silly. I’m not even a big fan of saves.

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