The honoring instinct of the animal
No blame on the red bull
Throw fury at him

Aim, gorge and win

Less contenders on the way today
Let them pay

Mastodon, “Crusher Destroyer”

Last night’s matchup between Pirates ace Mitch Keller and Braves #4 starter Bryce Elder went about as well as a Monte Carlo simulation of 1,000 games between these two teams might have been expected to go. First, the Braves dinked and doinked him to death, and then Ronald supplied a 110-mph exclamation mark.

Today, the Pirates throw Johan Oviedo, a Cuban defector whose career ERA+ of 100 probably tells you what you need to know. At 25 he’s still establishing himself in the majors as he has stuff but no command. For now, he epitomizes this particular Pirates team, which has not had much of anything go right during this their latest moribund rebuild.

The Braves will counter with Dylan Dodd, who began the year wonderfully with an April 4 start where he allowed one run in five innings; since then, he has allowed 67 runs (including 21 homers) in 88 2/3 innings in the majors and minors, and that, uh, won’t get the job done. He’s 25, drafted in 2021 as a money-saving college senior, and this year was his first cup of coffee.

As jealously as AA guards pitchers with options remaining, today’s game may not be his last chance, but as it’s been nearly a lost year for him since that magical April evening, this may be one of his last opportunities to make a good impression before the winter. (Case in point regarding options: Ben Heller was optioned after pitching a scoreless 9th inning last night, to make room for Dodd.) After all, if Dodd can’t succeed against this relatively punchless Pitsburgh lineup, already missing three of its most impressive players in Andrew McCutchen, Oneil Cruz, and Henry Davis, what role can he hope to play on this team?

On the flip side, as the Braves have demonstrated with Dodd, Mike Soroka, Jared Shuster, Allan Winans, Darius Vines, Kolby Allard, and most of all with Elder, there will continue to be spot starts and auditions available for these pitchers to demonstrate that they can provide value to the club.

Arguably, that’s exactly what they did with left field, shortstop, and even DH; coming into this year (and for many weeks after), it was not entirely clear that Arcia, Rosario, and Ozuna would be reliable everyday options at those positions, and the likes of Braden Shewmake, Sam Hillard, and Vaughn Grissom tried their best to make their case. With as many star players as this team has signed for the next decade, it can be difficult for a player at Gwinnett to see a clear path from succeeding in the minors to succeeding in the majors, which, after all, is the American dream. If you can’t see a way to achieve prosperity through hard work, it’s hard to want to work hard. So the Braves need to ensure that those pathways to success remain open and visible no matter how many wins the major league club ultimately achieves.

Sidenote: there are only two major leaguers from Elk Grove, Illinois. One of them is Dylan Dodd. The other is also a rookie in 2023: Bobby Miller of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who mastered the Braves just six days ago. Dodd will not need to pitch like Miller in order for the Braves to have a chance to win today, though. As tfloyd noted in the recap of last night’s game, our boys can handle the stick reasonably well. If Dodd can manage to give up three runs in five innings, I think we’ll have a reasonable shot at winning this game.