The Braves crushed the Rockies 8-1 on Friday evening, for their 11th win in the last 13 games. Each team has seven hits on the evening. And yet the result of this game was never in much doubt; it was a laugher from early innings. (Is the term laugher still used in this context? I have echoes of so many baseball recaps from the last sixty years in my head that I’m not sure.)
Anyway, as the Pigs might say, although the hit totals were equal, some hits are more equal than others. Here’s what I mean: three of the Braves’ first four hits were home runs, and each of those was a two run shot following a walk. Travis d’Arnaud did so in the first and third, and Eddie Rosario in the fourth. That’s a quick way to turn three hits into six runs. By the end of four, the Braves were sporting an 8-0 lead. Those runs were scored off the corpse of Dinelson Lamet, who came into the game with an ERA over 10, and managed to actually increase his season ERA.
TDA’s first inning blast traveled 474 feet, and his third inning clout went 433. Hitting two homers over 900 combined feet is an amazing feat, but even more amazing is that this is the third time this season that a Brave has hit two homers that averaged more than 450 feet. Austin Riley and Matt Olson have each done it as well. And although Ronald Acuña Jr hasn’t performed that trick, he does have six 450 plus dingers this year, which is as much or more than every other *team* in MLB. You may also have seen that our guys have hit over twice as many balls with an exit velocity over 110 mph than any other team in either league. This team crushes the ball like no one else. It’s probably not worth the effort, but if ever a team deserved to be renamed the “Hammers” it’s this one. On the Animal Farm that is MLB, Atlanta’s hits are a lot more equal than anyone else’s.
The offense is not a problem. To the extent I have is a concern with this team, it’s the rotation. Missing each of Fried and Wright has so far not kept the Braves from having the best record in the NL and second best in MLB. But Spencer Strider has looked quite human in his last couple of starts. And although Bryce Elder has been a revelation, he is showing signs of inevitable regression (you didn’t think he would actually lead the league in ERA, did you?).
Which brings me to Jared Shuster. Young Jared sailed though the first five innings, only running into real trouble in the sixth, when he finally surrendered a run on a double, single, and a couple of walks. Shuster gave up five hits and three walks in 5 and two thirds, but only the one run. For the second outing in a row, he walked more than he struck out; he doesn’t have Ace stuff. But he’s given the Braves several solid starts in a row. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Kirby Yates took the mound in the sixth with the bases loaded and two outs in an 8-1 game. Not really high leverage, I realize, but given some of the pen’s meltdowns lately, I’m sure some of you were afraid to watch. Out of my duty as a recapper, I did watch, and I saw Kali Jr strike out Jorge Alfaro with several nasty splitters, keeping it an 8-1 game. That’s the pitch that made him one of the best relievers in the game four years ago. I’m ready to predict that Yates will pitch more and more effectively as the season progresses.
Speaking of relievers making comebacks, the recently signed and called up Ben Heller pitched the 8th and 9th. He held them scoreless, striking out five. His stuff looks electric. Heller had not pitched in the big leagues for almost three years. It’s too early to make predictions on him, but so far he looked like yet another AA special reclamation.
The only thing that gives me some pause about the stellar results of our three pitchers is looking back at the Colorado lineup. Man, what a bunch of nobodies. And what a poorly run organization! We should all thank the Lord each day that we are not Rockies fans.
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June 16 is the birthday of Ken Johnson, Braves pitcher in 1965-68. I imagine no more than a handful of you remember him, but he was a very solid starting pitcher on the first Braves teams that wore an Atlanta uniform. He accumulated 8.9 bWAR in his nearly four years with the Braves. His claim to fame, though, is that he is the only pitcher in MLB history to lose a nine inning complete game no hitter. The year before he was traded to the Braves, while with the Houston Colt 45’s (how many of you remember them by that name?), he lost 1-0 to the Reds, when Houston committed two errors in the top of the ninth to allow the only run of the game. To be fair, one of the errors was his own. But still, as he said after the game, “I pitched the best game of my life and still lost. A hell of a way to get into the record books.”
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Day game on Saturday, Bryce Elder against Connor Seabold. I’ve never heard of the guy, but he can’t be any worse than the late lamented Lamet. No reason to stop crushing pitched balls and smashing the Rockies.