Braves 5, Nats 1 (recapped by Andrew B)

How sweep it is.

It was scoreless through the first two and a half innings. Minor was looking good in the early going, consistently hitting 92-93 on his fastball and keeping the Washington hitters off-balance. Despite not breaking through on Nats starter Gio Gonzalez, the Braves were looking like the Braves of 2010, working deep into counts (50 pitches in the first two innings) and laying off Gonzalez’s trademark sweeping curve.

Bourn worked a walk to lead off the bottom of the third for Atlanta. Following a lineout by Reed Johnson (who was in for the resting Martin Prado), Jason Heyward fouled off several pitches and poked a single past LaRoche at first, allowing Bourn to scamper all the way around to third base.

With just one out in the third, Gio Gonzalez’s 73rd pitch of the night was a fastball over the outer half that Chipper roped into left-center field. Bourn trotted from easily from first putting the Braves on the board, but Snitker held Heyward, who possibly could have scored from first on the long single. Next, Freddie fought off a 2-2 pitch to shallow left field, scoring Heyward ahead of Tyler Moore’s throw, which wasn’t cut off, allowing Chipper to move up to 2nd, where he would remain as Uggla did what Uggla does, striking out to end the third.

After one was out in the fourth, Zimmerman and Desmond reached on back-to-back hits, but Minor was able to snuff out the rally with a well-timed 6-4-3 double play ball to Simmons to end the frame. Washington broke through in the 6th as a steady rain began to fall over Turner Field. Bryce Harper hit a mistake two-strike pitch to left-center for a ground rule double. He would eventually come around to score on a bloop two-strike, two-out hit by Ian Desmond to cut the Braves lead in half at 2-1.

Gonzalez, however wouldn’t record another out on the evening, a 5-pitch walk to Chipper and a moonshot double for Freddie put runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 6th and chased the Nationals lefthander, whose bid to become the Majors first 20-game winner would have to wait at least another five more days. Craig Stammen came on for Washington, in the pouring rain, and had no idea where the ball was going, missing badly with 3 pitches to Uggla, who promptly did what Uggla does, swinging at the 3-0 and popping up to LaRoche for the first out. Ross then struck out on three pitches and Simmons grounded to second to retire the side and the Braves wasted a golden opportunity.

The bullpen took over in the 7th; Gearrin threw a perfect ninth with one strikeout. With one out in the bottom half, Bourn reached via a walk, his 3rd time on base on the evening. Johnson followed with a chopper to Zimmerman who ole’d it off his glove and then looked up into the lights where he couldn’t find the baseball allowing Bourn to scoot around to third and putting runners on first and third with only one out for Jason Heyward. Facing lefty Sean Burnett, Heyward grounded hard to LaRoche, who made a nice play, touching first to get Heyward. But LaRoche’s throw home was a bit late as Bourn slid headfirst ahead of the throw to put the lead back at 2 for Atlanta, 3-1.

An intentional walk to Chipper and a HBP to Freddie loaded the bases with two outs for Uggla, and a chance to break the game open. Davey Johnson elected to stay with the lefty Burnett to face Uggla, who reached out and poked a 2-strike pitch into left field to score 2 and push the score to 5-1 scoring Johnson and Chipper.

Avilan threw a perfect 8th, including making Harper look silly on a strikeout to end the inning. Durbin allowed a single in the ninth, but the Nats never threatened.

It’s a sweep. The division deficit is down to 5 1/2. 15 games left for the Braves; 16 games left for Washington. It’s a tall task to come back from that. With 15 games to go last year, the Braves led St. Louis by 4 1/2. So it can be done. Perhaps more importantly, the lead for the wild card is now 7 over St. Louis for the 1st spot and 8 over Los Angeles for the 2nd spot. The magic number to clinch no worse than a berth in the Wild Card play-in game is 8; the magic number to clinch that game being at home is 9. All in all, not a bad spot to be in. Off to Miami.

136 thoughts on “Braves 5, Nats 1 (recapped by Andrew B)”

  1. It’s really seemed like the teams that have won the WS in the last couple of years were the teams that got hot in September.

    2011 Cardinals: 18-8 in September
    2010 Giants: 18-8 in September
    2009 Yankees: 19-9 in September
    2008 Phillies: 17-8 in September

    It doesn’t mean anything, and I’m pretty sure a Fangraphs study from back in the day conclusively proved that September wins do not correlate with October wins. Still, one can hope…

  2. Nice recap work, everybody. I’ve been appreciating the details and humor in everyone’s work this past week.

    I’ll try to catch a game in Miami. I can probably buy a $15 ticket and move to almost any seat I want at this point in the year. I saw a Marlins-Brewers game two weeks back and it looked like there were about 10,000 people there.

  3. I’m not a huge fan of ESPN’s super-cool Sportscenter recaps normally. But someone just said that Uggla celebrated his 2 RBI hit by (quoting from my questionable short-term memory) doing 60 forearm curls and chugging a 6 pack of protein shakes. That’s funny.

  4. I think Medlen has the whole team behind him; don’t think that Chipper’s Medlen/Maddux comparisons are for nothing. I think Fredi has been much improved this year, but I’m still not sure I’m jazzed at the prospect of him managing the team next year.

  5. If Gonzalez goes with Hudson over Medlen, it’ll prove that his bluster last season about starting the “hot hand” of Constanza over Heyward wasn’t something he actually believed.

    So many managers fall for the siren song of ‘Veteran Presence™’, and that’s the line Gonzalez will probably give.

  6. Great recaps by one and all. Thanks guys.

    Great game last night. Bourne may be struggling with the bat but that speed is a game changer. So who here thought the rotation top to bottom would be Medlen Minor Hudson Hanson of the Braves that were on the roster at the start of the season?

  7. I haven’t seen it noted anywhere, but my count says Kimbrel’s save Saturday moves him into a 4th place tie with John Rocker for career saves in Atlanta!

  8. When this team is working the count and not trying to overswing they are a joy to watch.

    When they’re not, I blame Jeff Francoeur’s Ghost.

    (And the Uggla comment about the wrist curls did elicit a chuckle in the Seat Painter household.)

  9. In Miami tonight for the game. Any tips on the new stadium? How about a good place to go nearby to see the Falcons’ 4th quarter?

  10. As folks have probably seen, Dave Cameron thinks we should start Kimbrel in the play-in game.

    It actually makes sense that we take steps to maximize the advantage we have of knowing we’re likely to be playing in that game. I’d love it if the Braves were mum on their strategy all the way up until handing in the lineup card, and then it’s the Kraken on the mound for the first inning or two.

  11. @19, Taste of Miami in left field has some great South American cuisine. I highly recommend the Columbian hot dog and the cafe con leche.

  12. Tell me something – why in the hell would Fredi choose Hinske to lead off an inning when Constanza is on the bench?

    I can sorta see using Hinske to pinch hit with two outs and no one on, but lead off? That’s just stupid.

  13. How does the rotation set up for the one game playoff? With Kershaw getting shut down, should we start pulling for LAD to knock out Stl and Mil? Im sure we will get Medlen ready for that start, but it will be interesting to see if any of these other clubs will be able to pull away and get their rotation set up for the 1 game play-in.

    What a stupid idea for baseball btw. I understand the concept of having more teams chasing a spot down the stretch, but they should at least play a best of 3 series.

  14. #18 – Dont worry. Harold Reynolds said before this series that the Braves could be the team left out between Stl, LAD, and Atl. I guess a lot can change from one series to the next.

  15. Why would we start Kimbrel?

    Changing things up like that just before a do-or-die game isn’t good.

    It would be like letting Chipper pitch so we can have nine solid bats in the line up.

  16. Yes, thanks again for the recaps (Spike, sansho1, Andrew B, etc.)

    #10
    What is this–a rave?

    (Yes, I’ve witnessed blissed-out kids going into Port-O-Potties; nothing says romance quite like germ-closet sex.)

    #24
    I’d guess Fredi just wants to make sure Hinske gets an AB in a game that’s not do-or-die. Maybe he starts hitting the ball(or maybe not). I don’t see that as a big deal.

    To me, the bigger picture, as it relates to Hinske, is that it’s becoming more difficult to justify a post-season roster spot for him. It would be nice to have another legit power threat off the bench…

  17. I could see Kimbrel coming in in the 7th inning and going for a 3 inning save, or something, but I don’t see how we benefit from him pitching the first two innings compared to the last two.

    If it was up to me, it’s Medlen for the first seven, then Kimbrel for the last two. No messing around there. I think my only fear is a reliever blowing it, not the starter as much. I’d be more worried about O’Flaherty going in the 8th inning than, say, Hudson starting the game over Medlen.

    At the end of the day, this game will be a total crapshoot. A VERY exciting crapshoot, but a crapshoot nonetheless. It’s not even like a playoff football game. Eli Manning could not be crisp (perhaps like yesterday), and you can still win the game. If your starting pitcher gets bombed, you’re going home. That’s what sucks about one baseball game: it comes down to your starting pitcher 9 times out of 10.

  18. I agree, Rob, and that’s why the “veteran guy” stuff starts. People think that if you’ve been there before you’re much less likely to psych yourself out and do something different than what you did before. I hasten to add that I have no idea whether or not that’s true. But it isn’t necessarily stupid. But the Mets let a “veteran” Tom Glavine give up 7 runs in the first inning of a game they had to win to avoid an epic collapse. By contrast, the Cardinals put the kid with great stuff, Rick Ankiel, in a playoff game and he almost blew a five run lead when he completely lost the plate for what turned out to be essentially the rest of his pitching career. I don’t think there’s any kind of analysis to tell you whether to go with Hudson or Medlen in a 1 game situation… and I’m a statistician by trade.

  19. I don’t see why Kimbrel would picth three ininng either. I could see him coming in earlier if we were in a jam, but not pitching three innings.

    We should start Hudson or Medlen and use Kimbrel in the 8th and/or 9th, if the situation calls for it.

    What we should do is kick the Card’s asses like 15-2 and let the Lisp pitch four innings.

  20. The only other thing I’d point is that whatever you do, you get two chances to second-guess in this format. if you lose the WC game, you can say you shoulda played the other guy. If you win the WC game and lose the next series, you can say you shoulda played the other guy to let the guy who won the WC game get two opportunities in the next series.

  21. What does the roster have to look like for the play in game?

    Do you have to have “starters” or do you leave Maholm off and carry another bat or guy in the pen, then pick him back up for the next round?

  22. This may have been covered and it’s admittedly an outside possibility, but what happens if we tie for the division? Last year it was just a H2H tiebreaker but this year more is at stake so they have to play it out right?

  23. If you think it’s a good idea to use Kimbrel to maintain a tie in late innings on the road, starting him in the play-in is merely the logical extension of that. If I were Fredi, I’d just tell him now, “You’re starting, but don’t do anything differently than normal. I’m expecting you to get X outs, and then we’ll play matchups from there.”

    I mean, if I could, I’d use Kimbrel for every single batter for the whole season. But we can’t. No such constraints exist in a one-game, do-or-die situation. He should be counted on to mow down as many as he can to start the game.

  24. @43

    If he and Medlen/Hudson were robots and therefore were unlikely to be affected by such a massive toppling of their normal routines, maybe you’re right. But they’re not, so that throws that out the window right there. Your direction from Fredi to Kimbrel would be impossible to carry out. How would you not treat it differently? It would be impossible. It might work out OK for Medlen, since he’s kind of used to coming in for long relief situations, but to think Kimbrel and Hudson wouldn’t be fouled up by it isn’t realistic.

    Secondly, even if you took the players emotions and routines out of it, the fact is that at-bats in the eighth and ninth innings of close games are more important than at-bats early in those games. There’s less room for error and one bad pitch could end everything. One bad pitch early in the game can put you down 2-0, which can be overcome pretty easily. So why would you want to take Kimbrel away from what could be the most important pitches of the game so that he can pitch in less stressful situations and put someone who’s less qualified to deal with those situations in that spot. On paper, every single at-bat is equally important. In reality, it’s not.

    Yes, if Medlen or Hudson have a bad outing in that game, we’re in trouble, but why is it more likely that they have a bad outing when pitching according to their normal routine than it is that Kimbrel would have a bad outing if you pitched him drastically different from his? Or that Medlen/Hudson would if you pitched them drastically different from theirs? You have to trust that Medlen or Hudson are going to do exactly what they’ve done all year, and that’s put us in a position to win the game. Only on paper is starting Kimbrel an idea even remotely worth considering.

  25. @44

    I would start Hudson of Medlen and have the other one ready to go if there is an early problem.

    Keep it close and give your self a chance to win.

  26. Pretty cool find on fangraphs…

    Prado, Bourn, and Heyward are all on pace for 5+WAR seasons. The last time all 3 OFs on one team ended the season with 3 OF with at least 5 WAR was…when and who?

    Hint: In 1980, the A’s OF trio of Rickey Henderson, Dwayne Murphy, and Tony Armas accomplished this feat and the team I’m discussing above was somewhere between ’81 and 2011. No peaking!

  27. @44, I am not sure about your valuation of early runs at all. The team that scores first wins significantly more often than not (since 2000, it falls into a 64-67 percent win ratio), and even more dramatically so in playoffs. The whole point of starting Kimbrel is not just to get the first 6 outs, but to in effect have a DH lineup the first couple times through the order, and be able to play matchups with your pitching staff to preserve a lead. I’m also not sure why this would be so jarring to these pitchers. Kimbrel would be asked to pitch two innings, and the other relievers one or so each. Get a decent lead and run Hudson out there. Still tied and you can go with Medlen a long time.

    I am not 100 percent sure about the rules, but assuming the play in roster is distinct from the next round, you could drop your 3/4/5 starters and add some bats to lengthen your bench. I am not saying it ought be done, but it seems much more plausible than an “only on paper” strategy to me.

  28. Without second-guessing your analysis at all, spike, it has the flavor of Romer’s paper on why teams should go for it a lot more on 4th down. Regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea, the opprobrium dumped on a manager who goes that far against the book pretty much guarantees we’ll never see it.

  29. @50 I don’t know the answer, but it’s unlikely to be a partial season (’94 or ’95) just due to the difficulty of reaching 5 WAR with a less than 162 game schedule.

  30. Win Probability Added is a useful stat to measure the relative importance of in-game situations and the performance of individual players relative to the importance of said situations. Despite pitching only 55.1 innings, Kimbrel leads the league in this categorty with a 3.9 WPA. Medlen and Kyle Lohse are second with a 3.1.

    Also, there are four other relief pitchers in the top 10. How is it possible that the best relief pitchers are able to post a number comparable to the best starting pitchers in this metric, despite pitching only 30-40% as many innings? It can only be because they are deployed in more determinative situations — the late innings of competitive games. I see no compelling reason to mess around with this. Also, I agree wholeheartedly with Nick’s point.

  31. Nope, wasn’t that one. In ’02, both Joneses have atleast a 5 WAR, but Sheffield had a 4.1 WAR. In ’03, Sheffield had it, but Chipper and Andruw both had a WAR of 4.1.

  32. Baker did a great job on Saturday being forced around the bases to eventually score the winning run, so I’m glad he’s being rewarded with a start.

  33. Shocking news: Yunel is a jerk!

    “>” alt=”” width=”560″ height=”” />” alt=”Yunel's eyeblack has a disappointing message.” width=”480″ height=”270″ />

  34. Off the top of my head…

    I’d guess it’s either a Pirates team with Bonds, a Giants team with Bonds, or the Cardinals during Albert Pujols’s years in the outfield when they also had JD Drew.

  35. @61 There’s some Gettys (sp?) images that show it as well, so it’s real. The question is if he put it on there or of it’s a prank.

  36. 63,

    It would still be in extremely bad taste, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody pranked him, given his popularity in the clubhouse. This is a horrible prank (if it is one), but I don’t think baseball players are renowned for their wisdom or political correctness.

  37. It would only be an effective prank if he had only one pair of eyeblack stickers, and so had to wear them or go without. He probably has a box full.

  38. 70- Agreed. Uggla never does things like this with runners on base. Or without them, for that matter.

  39. For the next three days, I fear.

    Apparently Denver mayor Michael Hancock used to be the Broncos’ mascot.

  40. As what passes for an Uggla defender on this blog, I just want to point out that he is the right handed power on this team (Prado has changed his approach, and Chipper bats left handed a lot, and Ross is hurt). He may not be a great right handed power bat, and he is surely an overpaid one at his current level of production. But his walks are valuable and there is no obvious replacement for what he brings on the team at this time. His OPS is only slightly behind Bourn, so if Bourn gets all the money, Uggla is slightly overhated. As I said in my recap last week, he’s really, really frustrating, but he’s not worthless.

    On the other hand, I’m drunk right now, so take it all with a grain of salt.

  41. I know! Hardly seems like the same team.

    Jonathan, you fight valiantly, but I just can’t see it working much longer. Once pitchers determine that he can’t hurt them, they won’t throw pitches out of the strike zone, and Uggla really will be worthless given his lack of glove and foot speed. If Nick Ahmed can play well in the high minors in 2013, Uggla’s probably going to be jobless.

  42. Like he’s really writing the next great american novel in his mind, and then a play happens, and he maybe he catches it, maybe he doesn’t.

  43. CB Bucknor is the only umpire whose accuracy could be improved by consulting a Magic Eight Ball. And if they could fine Joe Simpson, they would. Brian J: how have these pitchers not learned this by now. He’s leading the league in walks in the midlle of September. When are they supposed to learn? The advantage of power is that the risk-reward ration of throwing strikes is too high. Now I grant it could be a problem in the playoffs, but he hits enough enough homers that they’re still scared of him.

  44. My vote is for Medlen in the Wildcard game. The rest of our pitchers aren’t reliable enough right now.

  45. MLB.com is down here. The conspiracy theorist in me suspects the NFL is trying to boost MNF ratings.

  46. Dan’s power output is way down from previous years- he’s slugging .380, down more than 70 points from last year’s career low, and his 18 HR are nine fewer than he’s hit in any previous season. The reputation has slightly outlived the reality. It won’t go on forever. And we still owe the guy $39 million for three years. Oh joy.

  47. I agree he’s overpaid at his current level of production. And I agree that if they stop walking him and he still can’t hit them he’ll be replaced. But I’ve done all the defending that 4 Maker’s Marks allows. He’s on his own now. Maybe CB Bucknor will just call him safe no matter what he does from now on.

  48. What?! I thought I looked it up right and one of them didn’t have a 5 WAR. Oh well, I was close enough…

  49. Not that it matters to the outcome of this game, but Eric Hinske looked as bad is his PH at-bat just now as any position player I’ve seen this year. Totally, totally lost. Woof.

  50. If Costanza, Hinske and Overbay are our lefthanded bats off the bench, we better hope we see nothing but lefty relievers.

  51. Eric Hinske: Still done.

    Yes, lack of glove and foot speed. He’s done a little better on defense this year, but he’s well above his established level. (As for foot speed, he’s 3 for 9 in stolen bases as a Brave, just for example.)

    His offense this year and his defense last year would produce close to 0 WAR; he’s at only 2 WAR as it is.

  52. Revolution just started on NBC. Apropos because its opening resembles what Kimbrel does to opposing offenses- he turns them off and they never turn back on.

  53. This game was tighter than it should have been, but a win’s a win.

    Don’t look over your shoulders, Nats. The Braves are sneaking up on you.

  54. Man, these substitute refs are just getting openly mocked on MNF. They certainly suck, but I feel for the guys. Thats a big stage with a lot of complicated rulings in a league where the commish changes tons of rules from season to season. How have they not settled yet?

  55. The NFL gets away with things that MLB would get roasted for. Imagine if MLB used replacement umpires-on the other hand, maybe they would be an improvement. If Bud Selig tried to make himself judge and appellate judge for punishment, everyone would think he’s a clown. But, if Roger Goodell does it, no problem (although the real courts seem to have a problem with it).

  56. and in ’99 the brought up minor league umps to replace the accepted resignations. (dang edit button, I miss you)

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