The key to last night’s game, as the remarkably prescient Alex R asserted in his pre-game post, was to “Outscore the Other Team.” The Braves’ did just that, outscoring the Brewers 10-7. When most teams give up 7 runs, they usually don’t outscore the other team, but this Braves offense is capable of doing so with relative ease. And they did that on Friday night, as our Hammers had 15 hits, including 3 home runs (Ozuna, Riley, and Olson, the latter two back to back in the seventh), on their way to scoring those 10 runs.
Remember this past June, when the Braves had the best month of offense in team history? Obviously they have cooled off in July. But this is still the same lineup (literally—Snit trots out the same nine in the same order more than any manager I remember) that set all those records in May and June. They are still very deep and very good. Of course, part of what makes them really good is the depth—everyone in the lineup from 1-9 is capable of doing great damage. And that was the case on Friday night, as six hitters had two hits and the other three had one hit each.
Actually, they haven’t seemed so deep lately. Marcell Ozuna was hitting .155 for July before last night tonight. Eddie Rosario has also cooled off pretty dramatically over the last month. But each had two hits, with Eddie driving in two and Marcell scoring three. When those two are hitting, and when Orlando Arcia keeps hitting (he also had two hits and two RBI), this team will continue to outscore the other team most of the time.
The recently acquired Yonny Chirinos made his Braves debut. The results weren’t great: 6 hits, 4 runs in 3.2 innings. They don’t expect him to do much, but they did acquire him to eat innings at the back end of the rotation. He will need to consume more than 3 and two thirds frames a start to make him worthwhile. But to my eyes watching the game, he looked like he is capable of that. His sinker and slider move pretty well, and mostly he located them pretty well. And some of the hits weren’t squared up. I imagine he will get another opportunity or two.
The bullpen with one exception was excellent. McHugh, Johnson, Jimenez, Yates, and Iglesias shut them out over a combined five innings. That exception was Ben Heller, whose opened the 8th inning like this: walk, single, three run homer, groundout, walk. Fortunately the Braves led by 6 when the inning began, so the lead was still 3, but Snit turned to Yates to put out that fire. Yates, Jimenez, and Iglesias have all been pitching extremely effectively for many weeks now. Heller, on the other hand, may not have much more time with the big club, especially with the trade deadline looming and a new reliever or two possibly on the way.
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I imagine everyone wants to talk about the upcoming trade deadline and what AA has up his sleeve. I’m as interested as anyone, but I’ve got nothing to add on that score. But let’s do opine and speculate in the comments. Doing so this time of year is an essential part of being a fan.
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If you read what I write here, you know that I talk about the past more than the present or the future. So I’m going to discuss a couple of pitchers from fifty years ago who had a lot in common, including yesterday’s date.
July 28 is the birthday of Vida Blue, who was born 1949. Blue, a left handed starting pitcher for the Oakland A’s, turned in one of the most dominant seasons ever as a 21 year old in 1971. He went 24-8, with an ERA of 1.82. He tossed 24 complete games with 8 shutouts. Blue led the A’s to their first post-season berth since 1931 and was awarded both the AL Cy Young and AL MVP for the season. Blue was a solid contributor as the A’s won the World Series in each of the next three seasons, but he never again approached the heights of that 1971 season. Still, Blue was a very good pitcher for many years, winning 209 games in a 17 year career.
Here’s an interesting fact about Vida Blue: as a high school pitcher in Louisiana, he once tossed a no hitter in a seven inning game, with 21 strikeouts. That’s remarkable enough. But here’s what really strains believability. Blue and his team actually lost the game—their opponent never put the ball in play but prevailed, due to ten bases on balls. The young Vida Blue apparently threw harder than anyone, but he never mastered control of that fastball until his 1971 season.
Which reminds me of another Oakland A’s pitcher of the 1970’s who had “Blue” in his name. Johnnie “Blue Moon” Odom was also very good starter for the A’s of that era. Odom, a Macon, Georgia native, turned in several good seasons for Oakland in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Blue Moon was four years older than Vida Blue. By the mid-seventies he was over the hill, when he spent a few months with the Braves in 1975, going 1-7 with a 7.07 ERA. His final season was 1976. In fact, his final Win came on July 28 of that year, when he started for the White Sox against the A’s. Odom was part of a combined no-hitter, going five innings and a reliever went four. Odom didn’t go deeper in the game because he walked eight batters through five innings, and when he walked the leadoff man in the sixth he was removed. Still, unlike Vida Blue’s high school no-hitter, Odom’s team won their no-hitter. I don’t know if any other pitcher’s final win in the major leagues was in a no-hitter—bat signal to JonathanF.
Blue Moon himself had quite the high school career. He went 42-2, with 8 no-hitters, and led Ballard-Hudson High to two consecutive state titles. Apparently the two losses both came on passed balls by the catcher. (I got info on both pitchers from their entries on the excellent SABR bio project website: Blue Moon Odom – Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org); Vida Blue – Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org). )
Tonight the Braves face the Brewers again behind Bryce Elder against Julio Teheran, unless Anthopoulos adds another new starter by then. As long as we outscore the other team, we should be OK.