OK, I’m too happy to be snarky about a marketing campaign. Yup, the 2012 Atlanta Braves are returning to the post-season.
The Braves managed to shed those 2011 Blues with a thrilling, come-from-behind, walk-off victory—4-3 over that dysfunctional squad from South Florida, the Miami Marlins. The Wild-Card-clincher came courtesy of Freddie Freeman, whose GIDP ended last year’s painful collapse. Sweetly appropriate.
This time, the ending couldn’t have been more different. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th, Chipper Jones doubled & took third on a Mike Dunn wild pitch—then Freddie cranked one over the centerfield fence. Pop, pop, pop went the champagne corks and a big, frothy Braves celebration began.
Where we stand: Unless the Washington Nationals decide to hand over the division title— Braves are 4 GB with 8 games to go—it looks like the next really meaningful game will be at The Ted on Oct. 5.
How’d it happen? Coming into the Game #154, the Braves’ post-season magic number stood at one, Chipper Jones was set to begin his last regular-season homestand and The Amazing Medlen was taking the mound with a chance to tie a really weird, but no less amazing record of having his team win 22 consecutive times he’s started a game.
Oddly, the Marlins secondbaseman Donovan Solano—he of the .355 slugging percentage—had other ideas, nearly ruining the party with his first two Major-League homers. In the 2nd inning, he crunched Medlen’s belt-high 2-seamer into the left-field stands to give the Fish a 1-0 lead. In the 7th, he jumped all over a heater right down Peachtree, lofting a 2-run shot to right-center, making it 3-2 Miami.
For the most part, the game was an engaging clash of pitching styles. Apart from the two apparent mistakes to Solano, Medlen was his usual efficient, strike-throwing machine (7 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 8 K, 0 BB in 92 pitches). Nathan Eovaldi—a hulking flamethrower who reminds me of Scott Erickson—was made to work a little harder (6 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 8 K, 2 BB in 102 pitches), but he scored similar results. If this guy has it figured out, watch out… nah, he’ll probably be on the Red Sox before you know it.
Anyway, before the 9th-inning fireworks, Braves opportunities were few. The Braves tied things 1-1 with a modest rally in B2, Chipper enjoyed a standing ovation, then walked. Freeman blooped a single and Uggla guided one just past Jose Reyes’ dive, scoring Mr. Jones.
In the bottom of the 3rd with 2 outs, Prado wacked at a shoulder-high heater like Buford Pusser taking on a Dixie Mobster with his 2-by-4. The result: An oppo triple and his 90th hit of the season with 2 strikes. Alas, Heyward K’d on a similar pitch to end the minor threat.
But in the 6th, Big Jason golfed a triple off the left-center-field wall. Chipper dutifully flew out to medium right, easily scoring Heyward—2-1 Bravos with Med Dog on the mound.
After Solano’s short-lived heroics, EOF & The Kraken did their collective thing—2 IP, 0 runs— giving the Braves a legit chance to rally in the 9th. They did, and now they’re set for October, hopefully for a long stay.
BTW, it should be noted that Fredi managed this game like he really wanted to clinch tonight. In the 7th, he pinch-ran Constanza for McCann, who was on 1st base with 2 outs and he brought in EOF & Kimbrel while behind. Worked out.
So cheers, Braves fans! As the late Skip Caray liked to say, “It’s cocktail hour!”