Braves 6, Nationals 3

ESPN Box Score

The Braves are not the only team getting hit by the injury bug. Ryan Zimmerman, who already has an arthritic shoulder, fractured his thumb while trying to slide to avoid a pickoff tag. He was out then, and now he’ll be out for another 4-6 weeks. Along with concussed center fielder Denard Span and catcher Wilson Ramos’s broken hamate bone, this is the third major injury to a major piece of their lineup.

(Also in the “oh no poor Nationals” file: They may have gotten screwed on at least three different calls last night. In the second inning, Angel Hernandez called Nate McLouth out on a sac bunt, and Matt Williams challenged. TV replays showed that he may probably arrived at the same time as the ball. But they didn’t overturn the call, so Williams was out of challenges — which cost him when Adam LaRoche caught a liner on the fly but the ump thought it hit the ground, so the Nats couldn’t double Heyward off of first base. Later, when Nate McLouth caught a ball then lost control of it while transferring it to his throwing hand, Angel Hernandez ruled it was no catch, and Williams couldn’t challenge that either. Angel makes tons of terrible calls, and will continue to do so in the era of video replay challenges. Fortunately, they went for us last night.)

In the meantime, the rest of the ballgame didn’t go well for the Nats. Alex Wood didn’t have much on his fastball and he was getting squeezed by home plate ump Larry Vanover all night. Take a look at this zone, and just look at how many green dots there are at the edges of the strike zone.


But Wood didn’t make it easier on himself, either. He gave up a leadoff home run to Anthony Rendon, the only run he would allow, but in every subsequent inning he allowed multiple baserunners. Fortunately, his breaking ball was working, and he went to it every time he needed to get out of a jam and usually managed to get a swinging strikeout — in five innings, he had eight strikeouts and three (umpire-assisted) walks. After the fifth inning, he was at 103 pitches, and that was that.

Fortunately, the bats woke up. Taylor Jordan is a fifth starter whose sinker had no sink last night. So he basically had two pitches, a decent changeup and a hanging fastball. The Braves probably should have tagged him a lot harder than they did. But they put up four runs on him in the first inning after Rendon’s homer, and that provided the entire margin of victory.

As it was, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla both had two hits and Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis all had three hits. Justin is heating up, and B.J. and Dan hit the ball hard. Heyward, Regression, and Simmons all went ohfer, but I’m not overly worried about that. It’s more important to get the Uptons going.

The last game is today at 1:30 and this will be the game thread for that one. We’ve already won the series, but it would be nice to break out the brooms. We’re currently tied with the Nats for the best record in the East, at 7-4 apiece, and it would be nice to break the tie and kick ’em into second place where they belong.

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105 thoughts on “Braves 6, Nationals 3”

  1. I DVRed the game last night, but the recording got super messed up somehow. Lines appearing all over the screen such. Therefore, I had to watch the condensed version this morning. How pleasant to see BUpton and Uggla swinging it so well! Regression’s 17Ks this game (Was it not that many? It seemed like that many at the time.) were disappointing, and Heyward seemed frustrated at his last AB, but otherwise it was a very good viewing experience!

    Moar!

  2. speaking of Angel Hernandez….

    Good wins by the Bravos the last 2 nites. Had to catch the hi-lites. Can't watch bcuz the worst umpire on the planet is in this crew.— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) April 13, 2014

  3. To be perfectly clear, the Nats were screwed on the failure to overturn the out call on the McLouth bunt, which meant they didn’t have a challenge on the LaRoche catch that was called a trap. They were not screwed on the failed transfer by McLouth in the fly ball. That play is being called that way across baseball this year. It’s bitten the D-Backs (in spring), Texas and Minnesota already. MLB has told umpires that if the ball does not come out of the glove in the hand it is not a successful transfer, which means it is not an out.

  4. @2, I noticed that too! I’m glad he’s still in baseball.

    By the way, Jonah Keri may have some answers on why there are so damn many more Tommy John surgeries now than ever before.

    “The big risk factor is year-round baseball,” [James] Andrews said. “These kids are not just throwing year-round, they’re competing year-round, and they don’t have any time for recovery. And of course the showcases where they’re pitching for scouts, they try to overpitch, and they get hurt.”

    That sentiment popped up again and again when I polled an array of talent evaluators, including general managers, assistant general managers, analytical front-office types, and others. Many pointed an accusatory finger at teenage pitchers getting the chance to perform in front of scouts in a way that wasn’t as prevalent in the pre-showcase era, and pitching in a way that might lead to injuries as a result.

    “The rise of Perfect Game baseball and other summer travel baseball has dramatically decreased the off time for younger players,” one American League executive said. “Kids are traveling all over the country from 8 years old on, and playing year-round. Colleges are recruiting younger and younger, and kids feel like if they don’t compete in every summer or fall event, they will lose their chance for exposure. That kind of exposure also leads to kids absolutely airing it out at max effort. When the section behind the plate is loaded with recruiters and scouts, kids absolutely take it up a notch and try to throw it through the backstop. The damage that is being done early can’t be undone by managing workloads once pitchers get into pro baseball.”

    Kiley McDaniel, the scouting-oriented national baseball analyst for Scout.com, agreed. “This originated in the Dominican. In the DR, once you’re 17, you’re ‘old’ and don’t have as many opportunities to get rich or even sign at all, so the system is geared for both hitters and pitchers to peak as quickly as possible in terms of tools, with velocity being the biggest one for pitchers. Now that high school pitchers can get $5 million to $7 million and are scouted year-round from underclassmen ages, a first-world country has the right pressures in place to foster the same environment.”

    Go read the whole thing.

  5. Also, here’s a seven minute YouTube where Blaine Boyer and the rest of the El Paso minor league club exhibit to the world the fact that Jeff Francoeur is, in point of fact, just dumb as a box of rocks.

    On Jeff Ears

  6. I have a theory that I am trying to corral into an article on the subject, actually. Maybe done in time for the next off-day thread.

  7. @#7

    I don’t think the rule was changed. It just wasn’t being enforced as strictly. I was taught that it wasn’t considered a catch until I had the ball firmly within my grasp and either showed the ball or made a throw.

    BTW, my Little League days started in the mid 1960s.

  8. @10: you are correct, though in some 25 years of playing and watching the game, I’ve never seen them call it as strictly as they are this season. The rule in question seems to be part of Rule 2.00, specifically the definition of a catch.

    A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession. It is not a catch, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his contact with the ball, he collides with a player, or with a wall, or if he falls down, and as a result of such collision or falling, drops the ball. It is not a catch if a fielder touches a fly ball which then hits a member of the offensive team or an umpire and then is caught by another defensive player. If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught. In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional.

    Emphasis on the last sentence is mine. Forever umps have more or less ignored that last sentence. They are specifically not ignoring it this year.

  9. The Francoeur video is great, and the cameos of Boyer and Conrad make it even better.

    I guess I interpret the last sentence differently than you do, Sam. In all of those phantom catch plays, my take is that the transfer is always voluntary and intentional (after all, we know the fielder was intentionally trying to make a transfer) so that last sentence would only apply to cases like the one many years ago, when (i think it was) Terry Harper caught a ball, took about six steps and then hit the stands and dropped the ball, and it was ruled no catch. If anything the issue is the first clause in the case you’re trying to make a quick transfer.

  10. Right. It’s the penultimate sentence that I find most important: “If the fielder has made the catch and drops the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch, the ball shall be adjudged to have been caught.”

    I didn’t see Louth’s play last night, so I don’t know if he “drop[ped] the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch,” but that’s what the commentators appeared to believe, and that’s what I have always understood to be an out.

    Of course, it rarely happens that discretely — usually the catch-to-transfer-to-throw is all sort of mashed together, and the fielder often doesn’t have full control of the ball more more than a split-second if that. So I have no doubt that he screwed up. But if he screwed up while trying to throw, that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t catch it.

  11. I’m not sure which clause MLB called out to the umps, but they definitely called out something and the umps are giving far less leeway to fielders on transfers. There’s been a couple of plays on the infield where runners were safe on a bobbled transfer where in previous years it would have been a force and the ball “lost on the attempt to turn two.”

  12. Right, the McLouth catch call was actually correct, but this interpretation of the rule is new—or at least has been revived after some period of dormancy. The LaRoche catch was a clear error that could have been easily corrected with replay.

  13. In the Francoeur video, the pitching coach Mike Cather is also a former Brave from the late ’90s.

  14. I just viewed the E Johnson video, and have to agree it was clear he caught the ball. How can anyone say the batter was safe in that situation? Can we be seeing the “Umpires Revenge” against tnhis review process?

  15. Not many guys catch that liner Werth hit. BJ’s reactions were Andruw-like on that one.

  16. Infield in with Jupton up there…. We very well may see a fatality on the infield.

    EDIT: Hey! That works too!

  17. Now if we can just find some way for him to always think it’s April.

    Edit: Was ball 1 to Andrelton really right down the middle as Gameday says? Nevermind.

  18. This Gio guy, he’s not so tough. Of course, putting anyone in a Gnats uniform seems to make him falter against the Braves.

  19. This part of the rule “A CATCH is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it;…” was, in my mind, satisfied by McLouth last night. His glove was firmly gripped around the ball. That ball wasn’t going anywhere. If it had been the third out, he’d have just sauntered towards the dugout and tossed the ball towards a fan a minute later. Or maybe he would have fallen flat on his face, because he’s Nate McLouth. Regardless, I don’t know what to make of the fact that a firmly held ball in the glove is not a firmly held ball in the glove depending on the situation.

  20. Tyler does look an awful lot faster running the bases than playing the field, doesn’t he? That was a nice looking swing too (by both Tyler and Jason).

  21. Freeman’s probably the league MVP so far!

    Edit: And now we’ve hit for the cycle as a team, with two out in the 2nd.

  22. That home run swing was classic Freddie Freeloader. That’s how I’ll always remember him, pulling out his 7-iron for the inside pitches.

  23. Bet Gio wishes he could throw a curve that breaks as hard as Freeman’s homer.

    And we’ve staked Big Handsome to a 6-run lead. Harang’s sittin pretty.

  24. I know the Simmons and Freeman extensions are early days and all, but someone may need to commission a statue of Frank Wren.

  25. As the greediest person I know, I’ll say it’s a shame that Harang isn’t putting guys away a little faster. It’d be really nice to let add some of the bullpen to the list of guys getting a Sunday breather.

  26. Aside from winning the game, the goal now is to try and get a day off for Kimbrel, Carpenter and Avilan.

    Edit: @47 my thoughts exactly.

  27. The only problem with being up by so much early in the game is that we probably won’t get to see Tyler Clippard. I always enjoy watching us get our daily run off of one of the Nats’ best relievers.

  28. Hey, remember when Washington set up their starting rotation out of spring to put their best against us in our opening matchup (their second series)? Yeah, I guess that strategy hasn’t played out consistent with their hopes and dreams.

  29. @47, 49 – That 8 pitch inning will certainly help.

    @48 – It might be popular, but if Harang keeps pitching well, Wood goes to the pen to reduce his workload.

    Someone is pound to strain an oblique or something. He won’t be there forever. And he can come back if Harang falters. And if everything goes perfectly, maybe you flip flop them in July or August, anyway.

  30. It might be worth thinking about going to a kind of five and six-man rotation, where if Wood is needed in long relief his spot could be skipped. That might keep his innings down below 170 or so and we’ve got him ready to start in the postseason.

  31. @59 – I really don’t think they’re going to screw with everybody else’s rest to keep Harang’s arm in the rotation. It’s going to be Harang vs. Wood, and unless and until Harang turns back in to a pumpkin, the incentives lineup for Wood moving to the pen.

  32. @61-I definitely think that will happen, too, but if it’s mid-May and Floyd is pitching really well with stamina and velocity I don’t think you can keep him in AAA indefinitely.

    Edit: of course, Harang continuing pitching like he has thus far is the least improbable of all the probabilities.

  33. how many guys have we gotten plunked this weekend? 3 or 4 on Friday, now Freeman today, this has got to stop. A 6 run lead is a great time to make that point.

  34. 61: Results notwithstanding, not much reason to think Harang is a good pitcher. I would send him to ‘pen when Floyd’s ready, regardless of whether he keeps up this smoke-and-mirrors act.

  35. The rotation right now is:

    Teheran, Wood, Harang, Hale, Santana

    When Minor comes back, Alex Wood or David Hale is the odd man out there. Probably Hale. When Floyd comes back, if Harang still has a 1.00ish ERA, the other of them sits down. Because all things considered, Aaron Harang’s current ERA is 1.02. And that’s pretty good.

  36. @66 – I understand the impulse. But he’s thrown 18.1 innings, with 17 K’s and 3 BB’s. I’m not betting on the 0.90 ERA to continue, and I’m not even contending that the 6:1 K:BB ratio is going to continue. But we’re not really talking about David Hale’s first three appearances here. He’s performing in line with his results. If he keeps up about 2/3 of this performance, he’s in the rotation.

    EDIT: Oh, and I know everyone jokes about “knowing how to win,” but he’s the third straight guy we’ve handed a 4-run lead to, and he’s the only one who knew what the hell to do with it.

  37. Aaron Harang’s current ERA is 1.02. And that’s pretty good.

    When Sam goes to hot-handism, something is very wrong in the universe…

  38. Don’t know that I am ready to use him any high leverage situations, but Ian Thomas could be really useful. I don’t understand why guys aren’t hitting that fastball, but he seems to know what he’d doing, that’s for sure.

  39. Fredi might figure that Walden is going to break anyway, so he might as well use him while he’s got him.

  40. It’s also nice to see that Matt Williams is a pretty average manager, to the extent such a thing matters: His early lineups (and subsequent justifications) are odd; he won’t pinch hit his sp in obvious spots; and he seems content to just sit around while his players yell at Angel Hernandez’s awful strike zone. What I’m saying here is that the Nationals can eat it.

  41. There are plenty of Nats fans that will still try and tell you that Desmond is as good as Simmons.

    Start making Wren his statue.

  42. B.J. Upton, prior to spending 15 minutes at the batting cages with Chipper Jones Thursday afternoon: 29 at bats, 0 extra base hits, 0 walks, 13 Ks

    B.J. Upton since spending 15 minutes at the batting cages with Chipper Jones Thursday afternoon: 19 at bats, 1 triple, 1 HR, 1 walk, 3 Ks

  43. 82- Great! He’s made it all the way up to mediocre!

    Gus Schlosser is pretty much killing time waiting for the bus to Gwinnett.

  44. I love Pickles, because we named him Pickles, but two months ago no one aside from his mom knew Gus Schlosser pitched for the Braves.

  45. @82 – It’s a good sign that the K’s are down. I’m still not optimistic, but I want to believe.

  46. I’m still not optimistic, but I want to believe.

    Kind of like with Harang. I remember how Ben Sheets’ first three starts went though, and how he pitched after them.

  47. Harang has done his job. Anything more we get out of him is cake. We need BJ to be functional as a baseball player for the next four years.

  48. Given the fragile and volatile nature of pitchers, you are far more sanguine than I about Harang’s job being done at this point

  49. Harang’s basic job description out of Florida was “get me to Santana and Minor without being 5 games back.” He’s done that and more, and in the process, he’s earned the right to continue getting the ball every fifth day for a while. Alex Wood is quite talented and barring setback certainly looks to have a place in the Braves rotation for the next few years. But Alex Wood is also only 23 years old and has all of 211 innings pitched in his professional career. He’s never pitched more than 139.2 innings in a single year (2013, split between MS, GWI, and ATL.) It won’t hurt anyone to let him ease into things as a bullpen arm and sixth starter, at least until Floyd or Harang show signs of failure.

  50. So did Harper get booed incessantly again today?

    That first game on Friday, he was booed very loudly. It was funny to watch Simpson and Caray pretend to be oblivious to it, and not acknowledge it.

  51. “They’re a good team,” Harper said. “They play very well here. We try to come in here and win ball games. And sometimes it doesn’t happen. They’re a great team. They’re a great organization. They hit homers and doubles a lot these past three days. And they didn’t make many mistakes. You gotta tip your cap.”

    Never gets old.

  52. I’m actually kind of turning around on Harper. ESPN is no fault of his, his weekend kind of seemed like he was the guy trying to light a fire under his team. Unfortunatly for him, it typically manifested itself in a stupid mistake, but I would rather have him on my side than someone so talented but fragile as strasberg for example.

  53. “They’ve come on the winning side of it more often than we like, but we feel confident against this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We respect them, we respect the organization, but we don’t fear them. We think we’re the better team, and we think at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.”

    -Washington Nationals General Manager Rizzo.

    This was said exactly one year to the day of Espinosa’s “I don’t think they’re better than us” comment about the Braves. Guess April 13 is simply the day when Nationals’ personnel like to run their mouths.

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