Braves 2, Cards 1

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves – Box Score – April 28, 2009 – ESPN

1. Sometimes you do the wrong thing, and it works out anyway.
2. But at some point, it will backfire.

For point one, consider Tony LaRussa. He apparently told his pitchers not to throw Chipper Jones any strikes. This makes a certain about of surface sense, in that Chipper has hitting behind him Casey Kotchman, who has no home runs on the season, and Jeff Francoeur, who has looked hapless at the plate for the past week. Conventional theory (traditional and sabermetric) is that you shouldn’t walk someone every time up — certainly not with a runner at first base! — and that it will eventually backfire. The first three times Chipper was walked, it did not.

And consider Matt Diaz. With two out and the bases loaded, the Braves trailing 1-0 in the eighth, he swung at what looked for all the world like ball four. But he made contact, and the shortstop didn’t get a good jump, and the ball trickled through the infield for a two-run single to give the Braves the lead, and eventually win the game. Now, I don’t know what even Matt Diaz, a bad-ball hitter, would hit on that pitch and that swing, but I doubt it’s .200. It’s sure as hell not as high as what his OBP would be if he didn’t swing at it. But it worked. This time.

Also, the runner who scored the eventual winning run was Chipper. Again, if you do the wrong thing, eventually it will bite you.

Joseph Reyes was outstanding tonight, though he got a no-decision; at least he didn’t get hung with a loss like Jurrjens last night. He went seven innings, throwing 92 pitches. He struck out seven and walked one. He had a hit batsman in the first inning that eventually scored on an infield single, and thus left losing 1-0 because the Braves couldn’t score. Moylan pitched the eighth and wound up with the win; Gonzalez struck out the side (including Pujols, after going down 3-0) in the ninth for the save.

The Braves blew a lot of chances to score over the first seven innings; they stranded eight runners and hit into three double plays (two by Francoeur), and Escobar caused me to christen the term “Yunel” for a stupid baserunning mistake that leads to an out, overrunning third base for no good reason in the third and getting tagged out. (It was counted as one of the double plays.)

73 thoughts on “Braves 2, Cards 1”

  1. I think somebody is going to pull Yunel aside very soon and tell him to stop all those baserunning non-sense.

  2. For the sake of any younger kids in the audience who started watching baseball sometime after 1994 or so, that was what a baseball game is supposed to look like.

  3. This game gave me all kinds of acid flashbacks to my days of living in San Francisco – I thought I was watching a Giants game, only with Chipper as Barry Bonds (and no protection in the lineup). I’ve probably seen the Cardinals about 10 times in that park during my years over there. That was good for about 30 IBBs for Bonds, followed by 30 f’in’ Chicken dance songs.

  4. As Edward G. Robinson said in the Cincinnati Kid, sometimes it’s all about making the wrong move at the right time.

  5. I really like Schafer:

    “I have to prove I can be consistent. You can’t strike out three times one game and get three hits the next game.”

  6. The stuff he had tonight is what made Gonzo the best reliever in the league at the time we traded for him. When his fastball is sitting at 94-95 and he’s got command of the slider, he’s virtually unhittable.

    And Greene looks nothing like Chris Kaman.

  7. btw, if Diaz takes the pitch and walks to tie the game im sure we’d find a way to lose. Thanks for swinging Matty

    I like Reyes increasing his trade value also

  8. I just looked at the upcoming pitching matchups, and Friday is HAMPTON v. LOWE. I can’t wait to see what video Mac has in store for us then. I can only hope:

    1.) The Braves put up ten in the first, or

    2.) Hampton gets hurt during warm ups.

    Sidenote: The braves.com headline attributes the win to Diaz’s “Clutch Bat”

  9. By then he will get very expensive. He is showing signs that he has fully recovered. People can play safe, but will have to pay premium for playing too safe.

  10. The biggest “What the hell is this guy thinking moment” goes to Chip Caray…who claimed that Harry Caray never drank while calling ballgames.

    Not the first for Chip.

    Until we get a real cleanup bat…Chipper Jones will get used to walking down to first. Frank Wren, time to get busy. We won’t win games like this very often.

    What a shame that JoJo didn’t get the win.

    This impotent offense has certainly been exposed…but Yunel’s inexplicable baserunning hasn’t helped.

    No way Glavine can add something to this rotation…even my big doubts of Kawakami notwithstanding…I get a feeling that Glavine is gonna get teed off on.

    Lastly, if I wasn’t a Braves fan, Gonzo’s ridiculous rocking on the mound would be highly irritating. Hope he keeps getting that nasty curve across. If so, he has the potential of making a case as the most effective closer this side of the strike-throwing Wohlers…not the latter day “can’t find the plate” Wohlers.

  11. 19 — Gonzo’s rocking could get irritating, but not nearly as much as the “I’m showing you up” antics of the mets’ closer. Yunel’s bat flip kinda bothers me as a Braves’ fan… can only imagine that others don’t like it too much.

  12. I love what the Cardinals are doing with their team. They’ve got one bonafide stud slugger, 2 or 3 other power bats, and then a bunch of defensive specialists (that Ryan guy is pissing me off…one more insane defensive play from him and he gets one in the skull from Vazquez tomorrow).

    They remind me of the mid-90s Braves. They’re my pick to go to the World Series, I’m calling it right now. Screw Chicago and LA.

    Random thoughts…

    Kotchman hitting cleanup is necessary right now, but he needs to bat 2nd as soon as McCann comes back. He makes good contact and doesn’t strikeout much. More importantly, Escobar needs a reality check. He makes too many dumb plays to be getting that many ABs in the 2-hole.

    We really need an Adam Dunn.

  13. Clutchiness aside, anyone with eyes can see that Gonzo pitches with more intention and focus when the game is on the line.

  14. Gonzalez is definitely dealing. 8 of his last 10 outs have come via strikeout. Kotchman has actually done fairly well lately, but if it’s true he hit into 2 DPs tonight, that makes 2 DPs, 2 Ks and 7 left on base for the evening – ouch! He definitely was not clutch tonight!

  15. Re: clutch.

    The human brain is hardwired to think in terms of narratives. “Clutch” is a function of this tendency; in a close game the player’s final at bat is more likely to be remembered than the preceding ABs put together, not because of any statistical effect, but simply because it’s the most important in the narrative of that game.

    “Clutch” spread because it was what fathers told sons about when they told stories about “how it used to be”; it’s reinforced now because any number of media tell us these stories during the games, during commercial breaks, during drive time, etc. As long as there’s sports, there’ll be clutch.

  16. @19: As much as I understand the tendency, I think you’re forgetting John Rocker. Not saying Wohlers wasn’t better, just that any discussion of “best since” should start with the most recent dominant closer. I’ll never forget Rocker and Benitez in the ’99 NLCS, taking the mound almost every night… definitely one of the most clutch pitching performances ever. Too bad he was a jerk.

  17. @29: Well now I feel kinda stupid… but honestly I don’t expect Gonzalez to come anywhere close to matching Smoltz’s 2003 this year. He’s already given up half as many earned runs.

  18. Anyone else notice who played 1B for the Rangers yesterday? Never would’ve thought I’d see that day… and apparently he played another inning or two on the 23rd.

  19. All of ya’ll are right…Smoltzie and Rocker were fantastic closers. I guess I was giddy with a win.

  20. Just watch the replay…Gonzo’s delivery looked so free and easy…he looks very healthy to me.

    Jim Edmonds?! Power?! Hank and Babe can provide more power to the lineup than Edmonds now.

  21. I was pissed that Cox used Yunel to bunt shafer over in the 8th because it gave one of our last 6 outs and it took the bat out of Chipper’s hands. Of course it worked out in the end so I suppose he’s a genius. Yunel would have GIDP I’m sure.

  22. Yunel would have GIDP I’m sure.

    More likely he would have singled and then managed to find some increasingly idiotic method of getting thrown out on the bases. Maybe stop a couple steps around 1B to tie his shoe or something.

    I tire of Yunel on the bases.

  23. The reality is that teams win games all the time where they do the wrong thing. It’s just the nature of the game being played day after day. LaRussa may have screwed up but if Diaz doesn’t hit a bleeder up the middle, it works out. How many times did Bobby Cox do something ridiculous but win because he had Maddux, Glavine, or Smoltz on the mound?

    BTW, the MLB Network is so superior to ESPN for highlights, it’s a joke. They actually show other games besides the Yankees and Red Sox. I was able to watch Diaz’s hit and watch Gonzo in the ninth.

    Ububba,

    Sorry about your Devils but, after watching the Caps beat the Rangers, I have to say this playoff hockey is hard on the nervous system.

  24. “Clutch” is treatise-worthy, but one of you (who, btw, discounts the reality of “clutch”) defined it perfectly:

    “Executing a quality at-bat in a key, late-game situation.”

    It’s hard to define “clutch” any better for a hitter in the game of baseball.

    It’s why I call Barry Bonds “solo”. How many of those homeruns came with no one on in a game long-decided?

    And, the development of the concept of a closer is an indirect acknowledgment that “clutch pitching” is a desired (and measurable) outcome.

    It exists. And it’s really important. But, like God, it’s just really hard to completely understand. At least for me.

  25. @41,

    I agree that that is a good way to define “clutch.” And, obviously, some hitters can do that better than others. But logically, these would be the guys that are the better hitters overall. When I go out and play tennis, I often “choke” on big points, not because I get especially nervous but because I’m not that good anyway; the better you are, the more likely you can execute in “clutch” situations. But even if you do, that doesn’t mean you will succeed. In any given at-bat, the probability is strongly in favor of the pitcher getting the hitter out. So you can’t necessarily judge the quality of the at-bat by the result; if a guy hits a sharp ground ball directly at an infielder, did he choke?

    Moreover, sometimes teams need “clutch” hits because they fail earlier. If the Braves had done something earlier in the game in “non-clutch” situations, they wouldn’t have needed a “clutch” hit. And, even defining clutch situations presents problems. If Chipper had hit a home run in the first with a guy on first base, and the Braves won 2-1, would you say it was not a clutch hit because it wasn’t a late and close situation and no runner in scoring position?

    As for the closer, the idea is that you want a guy with very good stuff pitching in the last inning. It’s got nothing to do with being clutch; closers developed because of the idea that it would be preferable to have a fresh pitcher finishing the game rather than one that was tired and, obviously, you would prefer that pitcher to be pretty good.

    And one final point. The argument about Chipper not being “clutch” is similar to a criticism Milo Hamilton once made about Hank Aaron. The fact is, if you put someone in enough clutch situations, they are going to fail most of the time; for some hitters, we remember the times they come through and for others we remember the times they don’t. By this standard, Francisco Cabrera is a better hitter than Chipper Jones. (Hank Aaron did have a signature moment when he homered to clinch the 1957 pennant for the Milwaukee Braves.)

  26. Marc,
    Thanks, but (sad to say) that was an all-timer.

    Still not sure if I’d consider it a worse experience than the ’94 Devs-Rangers series, but it was certainly more shocking.

    The only silver lining: The Rangers got eliminated last night, too. Thanks, Caps.

  27. I love Yunels talent but he is an annoying player.

    The base-running is ridiculous.

    The bat flipping is obnoxious, it adds nothing to the game, and magnifies his other deficiencies.

    He should be taught a lesson buy Cox and benched next time he acts like an idiot and then put into the 8 hole for a game or two. If that does not straighten him out he will never learn.

  28. are there any mock drafts showing who our picks might be this year. I wonder how much higher this Schuster (sp?) kid’s stock has risen. 4 straight no hitters in HS and he makes news on ESPN for giving up a hit. Kid’s already throwing 90 and he’s a lefty out of FL

  29. As annoying as Yunel can be, can you imagine how you’d feel about him if you were a fan of another team? He’d be among my least favorite players in baseball.

    That hair doesn’t help.

  30. csg,
    That kid’s a middling prospect—nowhere near first round material. Lots of kids throw 90 in high school.

  31. I voted for a stupid baserunning error to be called a Yunel, but I have a better idea. I think it should be called an “Esco”. This fits nicely with a Prado and a Grybo. Maybe we should call a stupid bunt call a “Coxo”.

  32. “are there any mock drafts showing who our picks might be this year.”

    I have seen 1 where we take Donovan tate, if he is still around (Braves rule #1-you must take a kid from the state of Georgia if he has talent). I have seen another where we take Alex White, a pitcher from UNC. I think it really depends on what the 6 teams in front of us do; there is a top 10, and we will pick the best of what drops to us (as opposed to, for example, absolutley picking a pitcher 1st, no matter what).

    Speaking of which are any of the crew of pitchers we picked last year doing any good? I know Jacob Thompson has done fairly well at Rome, but he was a lower round pick.

  33. bfan,
    I think we’d probably take one of the high school arms, Matzek or Purke, before a college guy like White.

    Another name to watch: Sam Selman, out of Texas. When he signed with VU after his junior year, he was a tall, projectable lefty with a fastball in the upper-80s. As a senior, that fastball has been sitting in the mid-90s, and he’s shooting up draft boards. I think he’ll go in the first round unless he decides he really wants to come to Nashville.

  34. @ 48

    Well, if you were a Mets fan you wouldn’t mind it. They sure do love Jose Reyes’ antics up there.

  35. I just saw Schuster yesterday lose his bid for the 5th no-no. The guy is good, and he’ll probably go in the first round, but the teams he was pitching against he had no offense. Gaither (the team he played yesterday) could rake, and he didn’t fair as well. Nothing against the kid, but Atlanta I think has the 8th pick and there are better players than Patrick Schuster at that time.

  36. I was too dismissive @49, but everything I’ve read (Baseball America, Perfect Game, KLaw, etc.) says Schuster will be taken in the 2nd round at the earliest.

  37. Ive read that Schuster is a second round pick at best. He is left handed, so I assume if we draft him he will go strait to Atlanta.

  38. Oh, I wasnt saying we’d draft him. I was just trying to see if he’d be a 1st round pick or not. Its just good to have your name on ESPN for giving up a hit

  39. @44 Is Andruw just a bad CF now? Because he should be in the lineup with the way he has been swinging the bat.

  40. 60 — I think he’s still having trouble with his knee. That, or they’re just being cautious with it.

  41. #62 – yeah, im stacked in the outfield with Werth, Ichiro, Swisher, Span, Dye, and Murphy.

    My 2nd base options are KJ, Scutaro, and bonaficio

  42. 63–didn’t the Mariners sign Josh Fields? He’s listed as the 45th pick in the mock draft. That doesn’t give me much confidence in the rest of the projections if the folks making them are even more poorly informed than I am about college and h.s. players.

  43. No Uggla or Hanley in the line-up against Santana today… hope the Fish can pull out the win (I know they’re the ones ahead of us in the standing right NOW, but Mets losing is more fun than almost anything… you know, except the Braves actually winning).

  44. Sickels is very good at what he does, and he has 3 Georgia HS kids in the top 20; this state produces outrageous talent in baseball at the top end.

  45. Marlins have already doubled the number of earned runs Santana has given up this season (was 2, now 4)… Santana’s 0.70 ERA was an abomination, glad to see it raised a bit.

  46. I was seriously angry at Cox for not benching Escobar after that idiocy last night (though I didn’t actually think he’d do it…he’s only done something like that once that I can remember, and it was for not hustling as opposed to simply being a moron). It has reached the point where it is, quite frankly, beyond annoying. For God’s sake, someone teach Yunel how to run the bases or keep him out of the lineup!

  47. Well… I hope whoever is closing for the Fish can get his 3 outs today… Fish up on Mets 4-3 going into the bottom of the 9th and I’m headed home from work. If this were a Braves game (even though I have faith in Gonzo), I would be expecting to somehow lose it after I left work and come home to a heartbreaker.

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