Remember that bizarre game in which Charlie Morton gave up seven walks and three hits in five innings, but no runs? He threw 105 pitches, with more balls than strikes—yet surrendered no runs.
That was just a week ago. The Braves starters had just turned in a stretch of stinkers, about six in a row in which each starter surrendered at least five runs each. So in my recap last week I said, with a good deal of sarcasm, that Charlie’s shutout performance had stemmed the tide, suggesting that the other starters would henceforth follow his example and turn in stellar outings.
My facetious comment was unwittingly prescient. Since that performance by Morton against the Mets on August 11, the Braves’ starters have pitched 45 innings and yielded only two runs. Spencer Strider and feel-good story Alan Winans each tossed seven shutout innings in last Saturday’s doubleheader. Max Fried gave up two against the Yankees in six innings, but he’s still working out the kinks. Bryce Elder returned to his early season form with seven shutout innings against the Yankees. Morton followed up his strange outing against the Mets with an excellent six innings of shutout ball against the Yankees. (Observant readers will note that I have not included Yonny Chirones’ start last Sunday, but I don’t consider him part of the rotation.)
Which brings us back to Spencer Strider. Aragorn was absolutely dominant last night, striking out ten Giants and giving up just one hit in the Braves 4-0 win over SF. As usual, the Braves struck early with two in the 1st, followed by single runs in the 2nd and the 6th. The offensive star was Michael Harris II, with four hits. The bullpen held them scoreless in the 8th and 9th, for the Braves’ third consecutive shutout, and fifth in the past eight games. The starters have been brilliant over the past week, but let’s not overlook the relievers, who have also been near flawless.
I don’t have anything more to say about last night’s game, since I didn’t actually see it. Instead, I attended a concert in which the Macon Pops Orchestra and four outstanding vocalists performed Motown hits. Pure nostalgia, but for someone my age it was a lot of fun.
Does this have anything to do with the Braves, you ask? Of course it does! I was in elementary school when the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Four Tops were all over the radio. And that radio was mostly, in my case, a transistor radio. That radio was tuned to two stations. During the day it was WQXI, 790 AM (there was no FM yet), which played Top 40 hits. In the evenings, I switched to WSB, 750, to listen to the Braves. Starting in 1966, I listened to virtually every game on that radio. The games were very rarely on television; the radio broadcast was the way you followed your team.
So when I hear “My Girl,” I’m transported back to 1965 and remember the excitement knowing that the Braves were coming to Atlanta. When I hear “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” or “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” it’s 1966 and the Braves are our team in Atlanta. The Braves won their first pennant in 1969, a year that saw “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “I Want You Back” on the charts.
By the time the 1970’s rolled around, I wasn’t into AM radio (although Motown still put out some classics—”What’s Going On?” “Superstition”), and I no longer had that transistor radio. I still followed the Braves on the radio, but by the end of that decade Ted Turner was broadcasting every game on TV.
Those 1960’s pop hits and Braves baseball are forever linked in my memories. That’s especially salient this weekend, which is Alumni Weekend. Rico Carty will be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame tonight. The Beeg Boy was a big part of those first five years of Atlanta Braves baseball, and one of the best hitters ever to wear the Braves uniform. I’m pleased he’s being recognized.
I said above that I don’t consider Chirinos a member of the Braves rotation. But that’s not up to me. Apparently the Braves have some reason known only to them to keep trotting him out there. He takes the hill tonight. I wouldn’t bet on the shutout streak lasting another game. But you know what, this is baseball and anything’s possible. Let’s make it four in a row, Yonny!