Braves 4, Jays 3

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Atlanta Braves – Box Score – May 23, 2009 – ESPN

I’m on record as saying that it probably doesn’t matter if you use your best reliever as a setup man or a closer. I’m not sure that using him as an auxiliary backup closer to come in and get the closer out of jams is really the way to go, however.

Derek Lowe had another good start, again in the rain. It always rains when he pitches. I think he may be a rain god. He had trouble in the third, giving up a walk and a single and then a one-out double to put the Jays up 2-0, but after that pretty much shut them down, going 7 1/3, striking out two and walking two; outside the third, he allowed only three other hits.

Lowe himself was the motor for the offense. In the bottom of the inning, he singled with one out, went to second on a KJ single, and then came home on a double to deepest center by Casey “The Stands Are Not In Play” Kotchman. In the fourth, Francoeur (who was three for four, but still sucks) doubled! I know! It looked like the Braves wouldn’t get him home, but Lowe came through with a single to make it 3-2.

In the seventh, KJ homered, his first since mid-April. (He’s tied for the team lead with four; the other leaders, Chipper and Yunel, missed the game with various injuries, so he might want to watch out.) Lowe hit for himself and started the eighth, but faced only one batter, successfully, before Bobby brought in Moylan. I don’t get it either. Moylan walked a guy but got out of it with a double play; Soriano was getting ready to bail him out, as this is apparently his job.

In the ninth, Gonzalez got the first man, then allowed a one-out double. The umpires frankly screwed him on the next batter, who was obviously out on a checked swing 2-2, and took a couple of pitches that looked like strikes to me but were called balls. He then gave up a single to make it 4-3, runners first and third, and walked the bases loaded all on his own. So Soriano came in, and was brilliant, striking out a pinch-hitter and getting the last out on a high pop to ACHE.

The Braves had eleven hits, but drew only one walk; they stranded seven.

47 thoughts on “Braves 4, Jays 3”

  1. Meanwhile, Raul Ibanez has as many homers as Chipper, Escobar, Kelly, Kotchman, and McCann combined.

  2. Our lack of power is pathetic. It is certainly worse than I thought it would be.

    Looking at the Mets-BoSox game, Boston has 5 guys in their lineup with 6 or more homers and 4 with 8 or more.

  3. A bit unconventional, but a win nonetheless. Given the lineup we trotted out I figured Lowe would have to be exceptional to win, and he had a pretty darn good game. Let’s get the sweep tomorrow and win it with a big lead and Bennett mopping up.

  4. We did gain a game on the Phillies, who lost. We’re 1.5 behind them, the Mets are 1.0 behind.

    Meanwhile, ACHE was 2-4 with 2 singles. He only hits singles, I guess.

  5. At least Chipper came to the on deck circle in the 8th.

    Hopefully he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow to make up for McCann’s absence.

  6. He only hits singles, I guess.

    He’s been on a singles only kick since 1994.

  7. Chip Caray’s favorite question:

    He didn’t ask it tonight because he was traveling to his TBS broadcast, but I’m sure he would have if he had been on the broadcast tonight.

  8. Nice win for the Braves – especially considering they were without Chipper and Escobar. Given the way Jurrjen has been pitching, tomorrow seems winnable. Richmond has been pitching well for the Jays, so it may be another 1-0 game if we win it. Please Bobby, start Diaz tomorrow! Anderson’s weak singles aren’t starting many rallies.

  9. It’s nice to have good pitching again. But this lineup will not be taking us to the promised land, not even if the Braves manage above-average pitching the rest of the way. I hope a real outfielder comes our way soon…

  10. Missed today’s game, sort of. I’m at a electronic-music festival in downtown Detroit, so I was watching Carl Cox rock this gigantic plaza, while I’m on my cell hitting refresh, sweating out the 9th. Another scary, but good finish. Whew.

    Let’s get a sweep. Why not?

  11. Think about it this way: Jordan Schafer leads our outfield in OPS and yet he hasn’t homered since the third game of the season, he’s struck out in 37% of his at-bats, and only has 9 XBH’s.

    Yep.

    I think we’ve got the pitching to make a real run at the playoffs, but this offense will eventually catch up with us and burn us.

  12. Ya know what, we’re 2 games above .500. Right now, I’ll take that. Unfortunately, I don’t see any hope of improving. We’re on pace for 85 wins, and I don’t know what’s going to push us above that. I would like to find hope in the fact that there’s no way Francoeur, Anderson, and Schafer will continue to be this bad. All of those guys are sporting OPSes below .700, and Anderson and Schafer are just flat-out awful. At some point, Wren must address the lack of outfield offense, but I don’t know what he can do. Is he over-budget? Does he have any financial leeway to take on anything of value?

    But the thing is that we ARE close. Our starting pitching has pitched well, and if last night is any indication, Kawakami will improve. I don’t know if Hanson is ready for prime-time yet, but I know we’ll be able to find someone better than Jo-Jo’s ERA of 7 to fill the 5th spot. Of course, the bullpen is concerning, but some good bullpen managing can cover up some of those concerns.

    I don’t really know what to think. I like where we’re at, but I don’t know what can be done to improve things. Unfortunately, I don’t think our outfield will learn to hit well, so I think you gotta make a personnel change. One of those guys have to go. And really, subtracting any of those guys will be addition. But this team has shown a lot of heart the past two nights, and I like what these two wins say about our team.

  13. At a certain point, they’re going to have to consider sending Schafer down and giving Gorkys a chance. He’s probably not ready yet either, but there aren’t a lot of other options. Brandon Jones should be in left, but everybody knows that.

  14. If the Braves don’t melt down again in the dreaded month of June, I think they’ll trade for a good outfielder sometime in July.

  15. I hate calling guys up out of necessity. Just in recent years, Kyle Davies, Joey Devine, Jeff Francoeur, Jordan Schafer, etc. have been called up because the person they were replacing wasn’t getting the job done, or they simply didn’t have anyone. The problem is that it obviously stunts their development. Tampa is doing this to a lesser extent with Kazmir’s injury forcing Price up.

    I wish our organization will get to a point where we don’t have to rely on unproven prospects. We take fliers on guys like Raul Mondesi and Garret Anderson, and then it paints us into a corner when they inevitably fail. I think that’s what has kept us from being successful these past 4 years. And if we don’t do that, we end up trading the farm for a bad situation (Teixeira).

  16. I am not going to complain: if we take at least 2 out of 3 from the Jays–who had the third best record in baseball–with this anemic lineup, then I’ ll take it….

  17. First off, there’s one clear reason the club is going to be better in the second half of the year than it was in the first, and that’s because it’ll have Tommy Hanson on it. Having him be your fifth starter is HUGE. Schafer I think will improve as the year goes on and he learns more.

    And one nice thing about have huge, glaring holes is that if you plug in someone even average you get a large gain. A trade for an OF bat (or even one of the outfielders turning in league-average offense somehow) could probably net a win or two. Also, I’d predict KJ to perform better over the rest of the season than he’s done thus far.

    So I really see a lot of room for optimism. The only thing I’d be worried about is one of the top three starters getting hurt, but then there’s also Tim Hudson to plug in depending on the timing and such.

    I’ll just add that while I was a Frenchy skeptic from the beginning (or at least 2006 on), the balls he hit tonight were hard hit, and he actually looked like a genuine major league player when hitting them. He’ll probably go 0 for his next 15 with a couple GIDPs, but at least we can enjoy that double. :-)

  18. Big series win vs the Jays.

    Especially at home…where the Braves haven’t played well.

    But Frank Wren is preoccupied with his son’s playoff push in high school baseball, according to Chip Caray’s replacement.

    Gonzo deserved better tonight…several calls didn’t go his way.

  19. A pretty ugly night on the farm…Cody had 4 Ks, but that will happen. Venters pitched well until he ran out of gas…but I am beginning to have my doubts about Jake Thompson….

  20. I think Schafer will improve as the season goes on — it’s tough to watch him struggle, but you can’t just jerk him around for it. It’s clear they’ve committed to him, as they have with so many other young players through the years. Mostly, it’s worked out.

  21. …and ARod has 7 homers in 15 games. Absolutely nuts.

    Y’know Josh, I’m starting to think he may be on something. I know it sounds crazy. Or maybe it’s because they built the new Yankee Stadium like a little league park.

    And one nice thing about have huge, glaring holes is that if you plug in someone even average you get a large gain

    I’ve heard that story before. If we have to go down that path again, at least let’s trade with the Rangers again. I would get some level of enjoyment out of watching a Rangers playoff team with all of our players and Andruw hitting cleanup.

  22. We are stuck with this offense. We have a weak offense which we should all have envisioned. This team is built around pitching, and the last two games showed precisely how this team will win games. As Mac said, we are back to the early 90s again.

    Mac, Gorkys is having his own strikeout trouble in AA. Calling him up will solve nothing. If we are going to send Schafer to AAA to work on his swing, I would prefer calling Blanco back up. Otherwise, we would be ruining Gorkys like we are ruining Schafer now. Blanco should be able to achieve an OPS of .650, right?! Right?! At the same time, I think Bobby likes Schafer too much to send him down.

    Tiger224, Wren was at the park tonight watching the game.

  23. I know some of us think we may have overpaid for Lowe (including myself), but this guy is a pro and his attitude is just awesome…

    “That’s why you hit every day,” Lowe said when asked about his offensive contributions. “You try to get as athletic of a swing as you possibly can to at least give yourself a fighting chance up there and just try to put the ball in play.”

    …I am glad we have him. He is a great example to our young pitchers.

  24. Stephen, tonight is the kind of night which should remind us not to get too excited on Cody. The kid is having Schafer-like contact problem even in High A.

  25. #23–I am not as happy with the Braves’ track record with young players as you are. Kyle Davies, Frenchy and now possibly Schafer: all of these players might well have developed better had they not been rushed to the majors. I remember that Mac once made a similar observation about Furcal.

    I certainly would have preferred letting Blanco start in CF for the first couple of months of the season.

    Schafer is clearly overmatched and there is no guarantee that he will get better (nor to be fair is there any certainty that letting him play at AAA would make him a better player either) playing the rest of the summer in Atlanta. Time will tell…

  26. KC–True enough–there is no guarantee that he will even be successful at the AA level. That said, I suspect that if Cody Johnson does have a career with the Braves we will see him have some ugly games like the one last night. Yet, we will probably also have a good number of games which were won by Cody Johnson home runs.

    At this point, I am more impressed by the 16 HRs….

  27. Stephen, looking at the positive side, if he can maintain a high walk ratio and high batting average, there may be a chance that he may become another Ryan Howard….but that’s a very positive outlook.

  28. btw, who is that prospect we got in return for janderson? Do you know how is he doing?

  29. #1 -2 Here is another way to look at it: the Braves have hit 30 home runs; Heyward and Johnson have already hit 24…

  30. The Braves are now 8-6 in one-run games. The back end of our bullpen might very well keep us in a position to trade for an OF bat in a month.

  31. Blanco had a great offseason and played in the WBC; I don’t think sending him to Gwinnett did him any favors.

    Schafer will stay in CF unless he falls below the Mendoza line….

  32. I haven’t noticed, is Schafer still wearing the wrist brace?
    If the dude is hurt he should not be playing, we arent doing him any favors if so.

  33. I don’t know whether extra time in the minors would have made Furcal a better ballplayer, but I do know he was a vital cog on several winning ballclubs. Let’s not get so enamored with hindsight that we call Furcal a failure.

    Andruw, Smoltz, Glavine, Avery, McCann, Furcal — all these guys were given positions or rotation slots at ages 19-21 (in Furcal’s case, so we thought), and most were allowed to play through significant struggles. If a few others did not succeed — well, not everybody was going to succeed. But the ratio of successes to failures has justified the approach IMO.

  34. You know damn well that Frenchy’s three hits tonight will have him and the Braves saying he’s back. Groan!

    The Braves have to get some more offense to be a legitimate contender. As good as the pitching is, I don’t think it’s good enough to carry this pathetic offense. (It would help, of course, if the mainstays could stay on the field. How come Chipper and Yunel and so on can seemingly get hurt sitting on the bench while Frenchy could apparently be run over by a truck and not get a scratch?)

    I am not going to get excited about Hanson until I actually see him succeed in the major leagues. In any event, even if he does well, they still need to score some runs once in a while.

    The games in SF next week could set some sort of record for fewest runs and hits by both teams in a series. If you like offense, don’t watch those games.

  35. Stephen @32, Darrow’s got fewer than 10 IP. I don’t think it’s useful to draw any conclusions from a sample that small. His walk rate is high, but other than that, it actually looks like he’s pitching pretty well. (TONS of grounders, no HRs allowed, etc.)

    And while Anderson would look great platooning in LF instead of ACHE and spotting Schafer in CF from time to time, that notion was dead the moment we signed Garret Anderson. The problem with signing Garret Anderson isn’t that he looked a whole lot worse than our other OF options at the time. Rather, it’s that his signing basically precludes us doing anything else there even when he sucks as much as he has lately. Cox/Wren are going to keep him around for a while longer just because we went out and signed him and don’t want to eat the salary, etc.

  36. #38–Thanks for reminding me of Andruw–as I recall he was one of Mac’s examples. Sure, he and Furcal had very solid careers, but if I recall Mac’s point (and I am sorry that I cannot be more specific about when he wrote it) accurately many of these players who come up quick, adapt, play well never seem to reach their potential.

    To be sure, each case is unique, but Schafer had never played in AAA (nor to this day as Frenchy) and had about half a season at AA and the experience of the Arizona Fall League. In any event, I hope that he adapts quickly….

  37. mraver–True enough, but the last thing I would like to see is a 25 year old who has to spend another season at AA….I might add that I liked the trade and picking up Darrow, but I am now having my doubts….

  38. Calling up Blanco is the right move.

    It gives us a true leadoff hitter which will have a positive ripple throughout the rest of the lineup.

    He’s a decent CF and just might steal us a base. What a concept.

    Oh, and if Diaz doesn’t play, Bobby should be instituionalized.

  39. 14 — I appreciate Rob’s post, because he’s generally one of the more optimistic fans among us. I think the pitching has been even better than I expected, and the OF even worse than I thought.

    The OF could be improved (not made good, but better) right away, but it just doesn’t seem like Bobby’s going to sit or platoon anyone. The OF might not get better unless Wren makes it better.

    Rob also suggested a little better bullpen management would cover some of the concerns there. Again, I just don’t see Bobby managing it better.

    On a more positive note, the pitching has been really good and this was a great series win. If Kawakami can step up too, then that’s a very solid rotation.

  40. #43–I would like to see Blanco come back–I think that there is a chance that he would play better in Atlanta. Last year he had an ok rookie season–a decent OBP, but no power. However, the Braves will understandably want to see him deliver at Gwinnett County first….

  41. I’m fine for sticking with Schafer. The kid doesn’t look lost up there. Seems more of a physical struggle to catch up with major league pitching. I have faith he’ll figure it out, and really, there is no one else. Blanco isn’t really good enough defensively to be more than a spot starter in center. Gorkys is too far away. It’s really too bad we didn’t get Cameron a few years ago. It would have allowed Schafer to spend this entire season in AAA. Perfect stopgap guy who is a legitimate glove/bat.

    Offense needs to get better. The players themselves aren’t going to do it. Ball’s in your court Wren…

    Oh, and I was trying to think of offensive players I would trade Tommy Hanson for. (Taking service time/salary/need into account) Ryan Braun is it so far…

  42. Isn’t Francoeur the perfect candidate for someone who was on roids? His power has gone from very good to just slightly above rafael belliard.

    Was Francoeur the one who Schafer took the fall for?

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