Braves 2, Nationals 1

Well that was unexpected.

Tim Hudson pitched a great game, Fredi Gonzalez pushed the right buttons, and BJ Upton got the game winning hit. Perhaps it was all luck – or perhaps people just need patience. Baseball seasons are long, these guys are professionals, and the goat one day is often the hero the next.

Tim Hudson in particular deserves praise. He hasn’t had great results this season, but it’s way too early to say he’s done. In fact, if you look at his May numbers, the peripherals were pretty good: a 3.5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 3.73 FIP, and a 3.66 xFIP. His ERA sucked, true – and fans focus on that number more than any other – but that was mostly due to a .348 BABIP and a 51.6% LOB percentage.

All Hudson really needed was a bit more good luck, and tonight he got it. In 7.1 innings, the veteran hurler induced a slew of ground balls that this time were hit at fielders. Thereby avoiding all “episodes,” Hudson surrendered a lone run, and was largely efficient and effective. 4 strikeouts, 10 ground balls, 1 walk: keep your forks another week.

Fredi Gonzalez meanwhile isn’t being cursed to hell after the game, and for that, I reckon, he can be thankful. Or maybe he doesn’t care. Actually, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. In any event, Fredi pinch ran for Evan Gattis again, only this time he did it in the 10th and the move paid off. Here’s what happened: after 9 innings of being stifled by Nats pitchers, the Braves sent Gattis to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Gattis walked, and Fredi then pinch ran Jordan Schafer. He also then pinch bunted with Pena – disaster, as usual – but we’ll leave that alone. Schafer stole second anyway, Uggla walked, and BJ came to the plate.

Against all odds, the lesser Upton finally became the greater. He lined a Henry Rodriguez fastball into right field, scoring the fleet-footed Schafer, and suddenly legions of fans who had spent the better part of the evening cursing his very existence were cheering his timeliness. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. After all, BJ did get 2 hits tonight. But it was only one game, and one game does not fix an astronomically high k-rate and astronomically low LD rate. Or maybe it was a start.

Either way, the Braves will be going for the series win tomorrow. They don’t face the Nationals again until August, and the time is nigh for a 6.5-game lead.

166 thoughts on “Braves 2, Nationals 1”

  1. I really don’t understand how he’s consistently late on 90 mph fastballs but catches up to 101 mph. Not complaining, though.

  2. To be honest, his two “hits” were a bouncer over the pitcher’s head and a broken bat blooper to shallow RF. Plain luck.

    The worst hitter on the team – a title not easy to win – is Heyward though. Automatic out. I marvel at his ability to get the count to 3-1, look at strike two and then strike out on either ball four or a fastball right down peachtree.

  3. It is incorrect to say that “all Hudson needed was a bit more work.” He wasn’t giving weakly hit ground balls, every other ball in play was a rocket, hence the high BABIP. As Hudson himself reported, he watched tape after his last start, realized he was collapsing his front leg and therefore losing all the sink on his two-seamer. He fixed it, obviously.

  4. “bit more luck”, obviously. Also, nice recap Adam, especially for 1.10 AM.

  5. From the last thread: what is trolling, Sam, is to come onto a game thread you have been largely absent from just to accuse people of not criticizing Fredi/Tosca’s pinch-running Schafer for Gattis because unlike on Friday night it worked out, as if to suggest a) the situations were essentially the same and b) that Fredi’s critics are therefore inconsistent or hypocritical. That is some seriously weak shit. So weak in fact as to be indistinguishable from trolling.

  6. I wake up this morning and BJ is still the hitting star of last night. I blame/credit Hudson’s HR for breaking Harper.

  7. If that’s your idea of trolling, everyone is a troll about half the time.

  8. Twas unexpected but welcome. Yea, BJ. Yea, Huddy. Yea, Braves. Many happy returns.

    Also, Jason is hitting .142, but it’s a soft .142.

  9. Nick from last night’s game thread:

    I would say wrong decision last night, right decision tonight. But you’re right that it’s hardly the slam dunk people on here are saying. Also, Gattis still would’ve been 70 percent likely to make an out in the ninth, so there’s that.

    I’m a big believer in the go for the tie at home, go for the win on the road principle (I’m like this in all sports BTW. For instance, in football, if my team is down by three with the ball on the two-yard line and two seconds left, I’d go for the touchdown on the road and kick the field goal at home. If my team has just scored a TD to pull within one with under a minute left, I’m going for two on the road and kicking the PAT at home.), which would mean I would be thinking about Gattis coming up in the bottom of the ninth and therefore wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on it. On the road, I probably would pull the trigger on it. At home, you have the advantage of the crowd (whatever that’s worth) and the advantage of batting last. You lessen the latter advantage if you pinch-run for Gattis there in the seventh, and make the inning pretty much all-or-nothing, and I just wouldn’t go all-or-nothing at home. But that’s me. When you already have the tie, there’s no such thing as all-or-nothing, so you go for it, plus scoring that run immediately won the game tonight, as previously pointed out, where it would not have last night.

    This is where I come down, more or less. If Fredi had left Gattis in, and Gattis had gotten thrown out trying to score on a single from Uggla or Johnson, I would have understood his decision there too. I wouldn’t have complained much, if any, in that situation. When you’re managing a baseball game, in the heat of the game, you make the moves that you think help you at the time. Very rarely is it the only possible move, and very rarely is it impossible for that move to have negative consequences down the line, if it doesn’t play out your way immediately. That’s baseball.

    I don’t mind a manager that plays aggressively and to win. I don’t mind a manager who makes tactical moves that can come back to bite if unsuccessful in the moment. Thus, I don’t mind Fredi Gonzalez.

    I think a lot of people who complain about Fredi invoke way too much after the fact, Monday morning QB’ing to make the perfect the enemy of the very good. I think they set up an unreasonable shibboleth of what a “smart” manager would do and then complain any chance they get when Fredi isn’t “smart” according to their fuzzy, oft-changing notions of what “smart” is. Fredi Gonzalez isn’t the best manager in baseball, probably. But he’s far, far from the worst. He’s in the top 10 easily, and that plays fine for me.

  10. @6 I love that theory. Hudson burrowed his way into Harper’s dude-brain so bad that he ran full steam into a wall, concussed himself, then messed up his knee. Though, about the “knee”: I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper is still suffering concussion symptoms and the Nats are covering for it with this “knee injury.”

    It would be very disappointing to lose a series to this current Nats, so lets hope BJ is turning it around and, uh, maybe Jason can take the day off. Seriously, it breaks my heart to watch him this year. So much potential.

  11. I’m not sure a concussed Harper is distinguishable from a non-concussed Harper. The knee injury comes from him running into the wall full speed in LA, which was after the incident in Atlanta. Dude runs into a lot of walls. Now he has old man knees.

  12. Fredi played for the win, gotta like that. He managed the pen well too. Washington wasn’t even paying attention to our fastest player in a obvious steal situation, and we sent him.

    I tip my hat to Fredi and BJ for coming through.

  13. I give all credit last night to Tosca. Fredi wouldn’t flout the rules and manage from the clubhouse.

  14. I think Harper is still trying to catch Hudson’s HR. Sliding head first and banging up his knee after initially banging it against the wall is not smart.

  15. Fredi Gonzalez might be a very good manager for some of the same reasons that Bobby Cox was one of the greatest of all time. But he is not and never will be a smart in-game manager, and using the adverb “easily” when arguing that he is in the top 10 overall is truly ridiculous.

    The NL has quite a few crap managers, but I would take Mike Matheny in a New York second and I doubt their respective teams would take Gonzalez for Bruce Bochy or Davey Johnson (who hates bunting and happens to have a career winning % of .560+), while there is no doubt in my mind Bud Black is smarter and a better tactician (admittedly he’s not won much, but he also never inherited a 90-win team like Fredi). Walt Weiss is early days, but from what I have seen of his in-game management he knows what he is doing and the praise from the press and players verges on hyperbolic. And in the AL good luck convincing many people that Gonzalez is better than Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, Jim Leyland, Joe Girardi, Mike Scioscia, Ron Washington, Bob Melvin, Ron Gardenhire or Buck Showalter.

  16. @16
    I agree all those guys are better. I do think Fredi had gotten a lot better. I blame him for us missing the playoffs two years ago, but I give him credit for last year and what he has done this year. I’m not sure very many guys would have us where we are with the struggles we have had.

    I think a manager wins/ loses 5-8 games a year. I think his moves last night paid off for a win.

  17. The smartest thing Tosca/Fredi did last night was to pinch-hit for Jason against a lefthanded reliever in the bottom of the ninth.

    I would suggest optimistically that he spent the previous 24 hours meditating on what went wrong the night before and he learned from his mistakes, especially when he failed to pinch hit for Uggla against a tough righthanded reliever with Schafer, who a) makes far better contact b) is far faster and likelier to avoid the double play and c) has an even better walk rate than Uggla. Instead, in a game he was allegedly playing to win by pinch-running for Gattis in the 7th inning, Fredi did not actually manage aggressively to win and Uggla predictably struck out.

    IMO, Fredi put BJ in the game to try and keep BJ happy and engaged (in the postgame interview the night before Fredi conceded that BJ, Uggla and Heyward were pissed about being benched), and it backfired. Last night Tosca/Fredi said fuck their feelings and pinch-hit for Jason. I give him full credit for that.

    Finally, if it is your philosophy to play for the tie at home, which is certainly more justifiable than rolling the dice on the rather miniscule odds that one of the following batters hits a double that BJ Upton can score on, but not Gattis, then the far more intelligent managerial decision is to pinch-run not for Gattis but for Freeman. In other words the odds of Freeman being thrown out trying to score on a single or, once he had advanced to third, on a shallow sacrifice fly, are astronomically higher than the odds of Gattis being thrown out trying to score on a double.

  18. I give credit for Fredi for getting tossed and for pinch-running for Gattis there. I think the situation is pretty different when you’re in extra innings and one run means its over.

    I don’t really like giving away an out against someone who’s just shown a complete inability to throw strikes and to do so by removing your best (by 2013 results at least) hitter from the game.

    It was really good to see Upton come through with both RBI tonight, if for nothing else than his own confidence.

    Also great last night: Pens/Bruins and Heat/Pacers. Wow, were both of those entertaining.

  19. In-game management is certainly a large part of the job, but far, far from the only part – just ask Bobby Valentine. Judgement of Fredi’s performance should reflect that. And this seems like an extremely odd time for criticism. His team is overachieving their preseason expectations considerably, despite several key player’s sub-optimal performances. He may not be responsible for all of it, but if we are going to micro-assess any tactical decision, seems like we ought consider the rest of the equation.

  20. Lineup: Simmons 6, Pena 5, JUpton 9, Freeman 3, Gattis 7, McCann 2, Uggla 4, BUpton 8, Maholm 1.

    Just rewatched the 10th inning and still can’t believe Uggla didn’t get rung up on either of those check swings.

  21. His team is overachieving their preseason expectations considerably, despite several key player’s sub-optimal performances. He may not be responsible for all of it, but if we are going to micro-assess any tactical decision, seems like we ought consider the rest of the equation.

    This is what annoys me more than anything about the nitpicking of Fredi’s in-game tactics. You don’t like the bunt? I get that. You want to see Evan Gattis swing the bat? I get that too. But while you’re tearing the manager a new asshole every night, consider that the team is currently 5.5 games in front of it’s division and on pace to win 96 games this year.

    I’m sure those wins have nothing to do with Fredi. Fredi only gets blame when things go wrong, never credit for his team doing fantastically well.

  22. Man last night’s uni’s looked good. Both teams actually. Wish they’d do that for the whole season.

  23. 23–The discussion on Friday night–which has dragged on and been constantly rekindled largely thanks to you and not Fredi’s alleged haters–was not about Fredi’s overall performance or his general management of the team, it was about specific decisions, which were criticized in the game thread as they occurred. The only reason every criticism of Fredi becomes a referendum on his overall job performance is because you choose to make it so.

  24. I’m not gonna feel bad, or made to feel bad (not that you’re the one doing the making to feel bad, Spike), for micro-assessing tactical decisions in one-run games. We’ve had several of them the last week or so, and it’s given us a prime opportunity to compare Fredi against himself in various, similar situations. In my appraisal, and those of others, he comes up severely wanting as a tactician, in both the choices he makes and the consistency with which he applies them.

    Thankfully, one of his tactics – pairing Laird with Julio – seems to be over. McCann caught Julio just fine. Let’s tip our hat to Laird for shepherding Julio through this fragile period, but now that’s over, and we can look to a future where only Gattis and McCann are getting starts behind the plate.

    Also, it was wonderful seeing BJ be successful last night even if it was because of dribblers and bleeders. Hey, putting a ball in play and not popping it up is progress for him. But one thing to keep in mind is that yesterday was Negro League Day at Turner Field, and there was no way the outfield of Upton-Upton-Heyward was not going to start. I’m guessing that decision came from the front office and ticket sales department.

    I’m still stunned that last night I was accused by “I know more about baseball than you” Sam of being guilty of smugness. Perhaps my comment was a bit over the border of smugness, yes, but that wasn’t the main purpose in what I said. Regardless, it was hilarious to be lectured by the uncontested king of smugness himself. Don’t worry, Sam (if you even do or care to worry), I still read what you write and listen to your podcast. Just as you tire of hearing people harp on Fredi’s management, I tire of the reflexive pro-Fredi contrarianism.

  25. Yes we’re in first place. If it was because we’re a strong team, I’d feel better about that. But we’re not a strong team. Most of that record is built by two big winning streaks. Outside of those streaks, it’s hard to suggest we’re anything but a mediocre team.

    And those winning streaks were largely defined by a small handful of players going on torrid hitting outbreaks that have nothing to do with the manager. Justin Upton and Evan Gattis carried the team in April, and our starting pitching was hot out of the starting gate. If Fredi had something to do with Evan’s development as a hitter and his placement on the 25-man, then tip your cap to him.

    Meanwhile, May has been largely mediocre save for the one 8-game streak, many of those games won by timely hitting from El Oso Blanco, who could most often be found sitting on the bench because of Fredi’s fetish for a guy that looks just like him. I would like to use Sam’s “play to win” argument by suggesting Gattis should have been playing more rather than relegated to the bench as often as he was, but that’s just me.

  26. I don’t think it’s fair, or particularly accurate, to present Fredi in comparison to Bobby Valentine, and conclude Fredi has some gift.

    Fredi can’t handle the “tough” questions from Atlanta State Media without glaring and glowering and asking “Well who would you have me use?” If you can’t recall seeing that, it’s because he only gets two tough questions per season from those sycophants.

    And he gets credit for clubhouse management, yet we pull our hair out EVERY SEASON over a new acquisition whose change of scenery has led to a career worst season. Hell, every season we seem to have one of the worst 5 position players in baseball. We fired the last hitting coach who couldn’t fix Heyward, and now we’ve got twice as many hitting coaches, and THREE players hitting under .200.

    No one blames Fredi for that. And that’s fine; how would you quantity the effect of the manager on the performance of his subordinate coaches? But why do we jump to give him credit for “clubhouse unity?” Isn’t bringing in “character guys” a directive from the top?

    Terry Collins, for example, is accused of being a poor clubhouse and media guy. And I’ve seen nothing that tells me Fredi would handle New York any better, but we’ve seen Terry Collins out-manage Fredi twice this season. Bruce Bochy backed him into the corner in one of those games in San Francisco, too.

    I’ve seen plenty of times Fredi moves have worked out. I can’t recall a time he managed the OPPONENT’S roster, the way other managers have managed his.

  27. If it was because we’re a strong team, I’d feel better about that. But we’re not a strong team. Most of that record is built by two big winning streaks. Outside of those streaks, it’s hard to suggest we’re anything but a mediocre team.

    Every team in the majors wouldn’t look as good if you took out their two longest winning streaks…

  28. Isn’t it somewhat understandable to have a “fetish” for a guy with a 8 year all star resume over a 26 year old rookie who may or may not stay hot? Of all the things to get after Fredi about, playing McCann isn’t one of them. Not sure I totally understand the point about the streaks, but in May the team was on the hardest part of its schedule, and on the road. I think they did great to hang in around .500 for the trip and get home and beat up teams they are supposed to. Those winning streaks started by guys on torrid hitting streaks also occurred while guys were in the middle of just as awful slumps. Outside of when they are good, they are bad, but this is true of any team. Those wins happened, they count, and after a third of the season, you can’t really dismiss them as “lucky”. Or maybe you can. In the words of my good pall Lincoln, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be”. I am enjoying the heck out of this season – my memories of far worse ones stretches back many years.

  29. I don’t think it’s fair, or particularly accurate, to present Fredi in comparison to Bobby Valentine, and conclude Fredi has some gift.

    That was NOT the conclusion offered. I said that Bobby Valentine knows quite a bit about in game tactics, but doesn’t succeed because managing has a lot more to it than that. That is a far cry from “Fredi is really good at it”. My argument was that the totality of managerial impact is difficult to determine, and at least from the empirical evidence, his team is winning, his players seem to like him, and he is getting results. Your argument that he is responsible for some of the poor player performances is well taken, but you can’t give with the left and take away with the right – he’s getting the desired results.

  30. Re: Winning streaks. This year so far we’ve had two streaks where we won 10 and 8 in a row, respectively. Of the 33 games we’ve won so far, those 18 wins account for over half of them.

    The 2011 Braves never had a streak longer than 6.
    The 2012 Braves never had a streak longer than 7.

    This year, our first streak was ALL because of Justin Upton, which is why I haven’t griped one bit about his recent malaise. He was Mr. April and now it’s someone else’s turn to pick up the slack. But Brother BJ, Uggla and Jason have continued to underperform, Gattis spent half of May out of the starting lineup. Therefore, I guess, Fredi’s got to step into the void and make things happen!

  31. I agree with 14. If Fredi was thrown out of the game in the 4th, shouldn’t the credit for last night’s decision-making go to Tosca? Fredi could get fined or suspended for even sending an instructive text message if i recall correctly.

  32. It seems pretty silly to me to argue that we are really a mediocre team that just had a couple lucky winning streaks when most objective measures including our pythagorean suggests we are about as good as we are.

    I suspect Fredi has cost us a couple wins this year, mainly the bunting but also the occasional boneheaded bullpen decision. If it is true that overuse, especially in a disastrously managed 2011, broke Venters and O’Flaherty, then you could argue that Fredi is going to cost us a lot of wins this year no matter what. But I will concede that it is also possible that his management of the clubhouse is good for a couple wins as well. At the same time even his defenders would have to concede that he might have the easiest managerial job in all of baseball. His decision to pinch-run for Gattis Friday night came on the same day that DOB wrote a truly ridiculous article on the website of the city’s newspaper of record attacking anyone who would criticize the manager of the team it is his job to cover with some measure of objectivity. And then that very same day it does not occur to him (or the one or two other hacks present) to even ask Fredi about that decision. Fredi never has to explain what he does. He never has a reporter ask him why he burned a good pinch-hitter to bunt in a situation where all of the empirical evidence suggests you are more likely to win swinging away.

  33. I haven’t read a DOB article literally all year, and don’t intend to. As far as managerial jobs go, Cox certainly paid forward a ton of indulgence for his successor, but really, the team has won 89 and 94 games in his two full years. Any serious baseball fan would take that in a minute, and even the football-minded semi fans that abound know it. Let Fredi spend a year with the team seriously out of contention, and I think the job will suddenly get much tougher.

  34. I think Fredi is a C+/B- manager overall. I still think he has gotten better. Great at managing the clubhouse, decent with his bench, kinda ugh with the pen.

  35. one yardstick for preferring Fredi to Bobby Cox stands out mid all the gilded dross…Fredi doesn’t beat his wife…

  36. “Against all odds, the lesser Upton finally became the greater.” That whole paragraph is amazing.

    Great read!

  37. Both the Lisp and Ayala have apparently rejoined the team from extended Spring Training. They haven’t been activated, but apparently this is the first they’ve even been seen back with the club.

  38. More fuel for the Huddy broke Harper theory:

    “I think after I hit the wall [at Turner Field], I think I should have went on the DL, just try to get better and came back 15 days later … With a lot of guys out, I wanted to stay in the lineup the way I was swinging it. Of course, I want to play every day. It’s something that, maybe I’ll learn more in my career to take off 15 days instead of lose the month or whatever it is.”

  39. @38, My argument isn’t that we have a mediocre team. My argument is that it’s easy to get complacent about our record and place in the standings, but when you examine the two sides of our team’s performance, it’s hard to say what kind of team we have.

    When the Braves got off to a 12-1 start, we were all caught up in thinking this team was going to run away with things based on our flaming hot starting pitching, deep bullpen, and new acquisitions (plus found money in Gattis and the early hitting performance of Chris Johnson).

    Then we immediately went into a 10-17 tailspin where we rocketed back in the direction of .500.

    Now, after an 8-game winning streak, we’ve settled into a 3-3 run that doesn’t give any clear indicators what kind of team we have.

  40. Okay. So. During the recent 8 game streak, I see two games that you could ARGUE we deserved to lose: game 2 and game 5. In game 2, We trailed 1-0 in the 8th, and we got 3 runs on the Dodger bullpen. Game 5 was an extra inning game, that Freeman won with a walkoff hit.

    In the previous 10 game streak, I see two games that you could ARGUE we deserved to lose: game 2 and game 7. In game 2, we trailed 5-1 before we scored 5 runs in the 8th and 9th, including the Upton back-to-back homers to walk off. In game 7, we fell behind 4-0 after 2, then scored 1 in the 7th, 1 in the 8th, 2 in the 9th, and then Pena hit the game winning homer in the 10th to win 6-4.

    Now. All of that for this premise. We won most of the games in those streaks handily. Some were close and in doubt for most of the game, but, those 4 I will declare were “unlikely wins.”

    If we had lost ALL 4 of those games, instead of winning all 4, our record would be 29 – 26, and we’d have NO winning streaks longer than 5 games.

    As one of those wins that we made losses was against the Nats, they’d improve to 29 – 27.

    We’d still be in first place.

    Now, what are you trying to say here?

  41. “Now, what are you trying to say here?”

    I’m trying to resist the “Be happy to be in first place by 5.5 games and give Fredi credit” logic. That’s what I’m trying to say. If we were 3 games over .500 and 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals, that would be a good thing?

  42. And then it would only be fair to give us a couple of our defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory games back. I’ll take the Kimbrel blown save with back-to-back 2-out homers in Cincinnati back for sure, I’ll leave which other one we take back open to suggestion.

  43. Alright.

    Yes, that would be a good thing.

    No, you don’t have to conclude that Fredi is the reason.

    The team is slightly underperforming their first order adjusted (Pythagorean) record. They’re slightly overperforming their second and third order adjusted records.

    I see nothing in there that tells me Fredi is the reason we’re winning.

    I’ll put my thoughts this way: the area of Fredi’s job that we know he sucks at, is the part they put on TV. Bad luck for him. The fact that we’re winning is not evidence that he’s good at the other parts.

    The fact that we have a starting lineup that should be the envy of all of baseball is probably the reason we’re winning. The names on the jerseys come through in the end, even when a number of them are struggling mightily.

    I think, based on the talent level of this team, you could argue that the fact we don’t have 40 wins already damns the quality of the coaching staff. I’m not interested in making that argument. But I’m equally amenable to that argument as I am to “First place = Fredi Good” argument.

    But saying “We’re only winning because of win streaks,” is no way to make that argument. That argument boils down to “randomness.” It’s pretty clear to me that the randomness is in the dispersion of the wins against the calendar, not the fact that the wins exist at all.

  44. If you can’t be happy with a 5.5. Game lead, and not give fredi some credit for it, you are never going to enjoy baseball very much, and few managers will please you, but suit yourself.

  45. @ John R

    If Sam was trying to troll you, he’s succeeded spectacularly. If we had a different record than we do now, we’d feel differently about the team than we do now. That’s brilliant. Any other deeply philosophical truths you feel we haven’t fully considered?

  46. Thanks to Zimmermann for reminding us that we have no monopoly on shaky 3B.

    I’m no fan of Fredi, to put it mildly, but I do have to admit that we are doing well, and he has been willing to rotate the hitters in the lineup without somebody having an ego explosion, which speaks well of him. On the other hand, the group rates our pitchers get for Tommy Johns speaks poorly.

  47. Nope, he was safe if only because Maholm delivered the pickoff throw to the wrong side of the bag. Otherwise, Desmond would have been a goner.

  48. He’s certainly not helping himself. Can’t throw, can’t catch.

    I am so tired of pitchers who can’t play baseball.

  49. Remember that play around, oh next March 25th when one of these millionaires inevitably complains about the drudgery of spring training drills during their half-day’s work before hitting the golf course.

  50. I think Fredi and Frank Wren both have a bit of a tinkerer’s spirit in them.

    Fredi, like Bobby before him, loves playing matchups, pinch-hitting, situational relief, changing his lineups, moving around the defense, and so forth. (I don’t think he double-switches or engages in straight platoons as much as Bobby did, but it’s a different era; neither does any other manager in 2013.)

    And Wren likes to make waiver claims and low-level trades and improve the roster incrementally. For example, in retrospect, the trade of Gregor Blanco, Tim Collins, and Jesse Chavez for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth probably wasn’t all that necessary, and it probably didn’t make the team much better; he probably could have just DFA’ed Chavez. But a lot of Wren’s little moves — like picking up Ramiro Pena, for example — have worked out a lot better than we could have possibly thought. And, on balance, I’d rather have an active GM than an inactive GM.

    Both Fredi and Wren may be overactive at times. But they’re passionately engaged with the team, and they appear to have the respect and trust of the players, which is crucial. On balance, I think they’re both quite good.

  51. I think Davey Johnson will pull Karns and piece it together if that’s what it takes. I think Fredi will leave Maholm in to throw 6 whether he straightens it out or not.

  52. Joe and Chip: “blah blah blah Braves strike out too much blah blah blah yap yap put the ball in play and good things will happen blah yap yap.”

  53. Fastball straight down the pike, and Bupton didn’t swing through it for a change.

  54. Bat speed!

    Joe Simpson: “That towering home run is really the only thing he can do in this funk he’s in. Once we see him fighting off duck snorts to right field, then we’ll know that his swing is working and where he wants it. Putting the ball over the outfield fencing fails to put the ball in play.”

  55. Boy Chip, it must have been hard for Pena to hit the first pitch of the afternoon in to the seats in right, what with him being the second batter of the bottom half of the inning..

  56. Not quite sure I understand Joe’s “BJ does it all the time logic”..

    At least not this year.

  57. Justin may have the engines firing again, too. If we can get everyone playing at the level that they can, this lineup will bust some heads.

  58. Interesting. The ump is calling the low outside strike, but not the low strike down the middle.

    At least Dan hit that hard.

  59. Do you really think Maholm tried to “drill” you with an 83 mph pitch, Espinosa? Just take your base and be happy.

  60. @64, This all started with grousing about poorly designed and executed tactics employed by Fredi that didn’t help us win. There’s a small but vocal group of people here hostile to this. “Fredi’s not to blame and you should be happy we’re doing so well.”

    I don’t buy into that philosophy. When we’re bashing people’s brains in on the scoreboard, Fredi doesn’t have to manage. But when we’re playing things tight, his in-game management sucks.

    For the record, I want to beat the competition going away so that we don’t spectacularly collapse in September or only merit a one-game play-in that we lose, and I’d like to do it with a bullpen that hasn’t been mangled to shreds by overuse in previous years, and with a recognition that Laird is not the future of the team, nor the present when the likes of McCann and Gattis are producing. I’d like all that and fewer bunts, please, and no it’s not too much to ask.

  61. I don’t have the game on where I’m visiting in Texas, so is BJ’s approach and swing really different? Does it also compare to last night?

  62. well BJ so much for success … nah just kidding ….. small steps small steps …

  63. I’d like to score a few runs here. All game it’s felt like we’ll inevitably break out against this guy. If we don’t do it this inning, he’ll be pulled at the first time of trouble.

  64. I mean seriously, what a great at-bat. You could almost see his approach change right through the AB, what he was looking for and what he intended to do with it if he got it. What a professional AB.

  65. I’m REALLY going to miss McCann next year. I’ve so loved watching him in a Braves uniform.

  66. He hit that ground out harder than a lot of swings he had to start the season…baby steps

  67. Hey I’ll take it. If they held us there, Johnson would go with his good relievers. I believe scoring just one right there increases our chances of scoring more later on, because now Johnson is more likely to a) save his good relievers for a closer game, and b) leave relievers in there in trouble rather than going with matchups.

  68. @115, I wonder if Brian assumed coming into the season that he’d have some leverage with the Braves that perhaps he doesn’t have with the seeming emergence (and massive popularity of) Evan Gattis. I wonder if he’s playing this season with some sense of resignation that this is indeed his last year with the team.

  69. I think even without Gattis most of us were assuming we wouldn’t either want McCann, if he had another poor season, or couldn’t afford him if he was back to his old self.

  70. The bottom is about to fall out – will be surprised if the game isn’t delayed soon.

  71. Props to Fredi for not just automatically sending Simmons out to bunt when the pitcher can’t hit the strikezone at all.

  72. @119, I certainly assumed that. I’m just curious what’s going on in McCann’s head. I’m not much on the drama that goes out outside the lines, but I am curious about that.

  73. Men on first and second, no out, one-run game, entering the later innings. The sixth inning is slightly early — I might prefer it to be the 8th or 9th — but it increases the odds that the team will score a run (though it diminishes the odds we’ll score more than one), and it’s a run we could really use.

    Oh — well, okay, then. That works too.

  74. Any discussion about whether Pena should have bunted there, with a lefty on the mound, needs to start with Pena’s career numbers against lefties. Because good grief, they’re hideous. Bunting was absolutely the right call.

    Edit: if you don’t feel like looking them up, in 96 PAs, he has hit .126/.172/.126.

  75. I can’t agree when the pitcher can’t find the plate and the batter has already homered today, AAR. Foruntately, Freddie seems to have made the argument academic.

  76. Saw it on MLB Network. That was a dinger. Off the top of the fence and bounced off the back wall.

  77. I’m ok with bunting to get a man on third with one out late’ish in games, though after Pena’s last bunt I was a bit hesitant.

  78. Yeah you either pinch-hit for Pena or have him bunt. Looking at his career numbers I’d say he should consider giving up the switch-hitting.

    I thought for sure that ball Freddie hit went out. Looked like the umps got it right.

  79. What’s the ground rule on that? If it hits the top of the padding it’s still in play? But if it bounces off the padding and onto the wall behind it, still in play or homer?

  80. Dammit, making Zimmerman make a play should have been more productive (and amusing).

  81. @140, homer if it hits the wall behind it. The one replay FSS had was basically looking head-on and it definitely looked like the ball hit the top front of the padding and bounced back. The only conclusive replay would’ve been from a camera looking down the fence-line – and for some reason MLB hasn’t mandated that we have those. Given what the umps had to work with I think they made the right call.

  82. Yeah I didn’t think that was a homer. The yellow line doesn’t mean homer. It has to hit something behind the yellow line.

  83. Okay, I didn’t realize the yellow line didn’t mean homer. Why paint it yellow to begin with? Why not paint the top of the wall under the railing yellow?

  84. They should just put a moat between the fence and the stands. It wouldn’t be hard to tell if the ball went into the water or not. Plus you’d get fans diving into the moat after homeruns, rather than breaking their necks on concrete. Win/win.

  85. 149 — also, then you could have crocs in there, and people would learn not to stupidly dive over railings.

  86. The yellow is just a visual aid. The only ballparks where “over the yellow but not out” are homeruns are places where the wall is 40 feet high, like centerfield in Arizona.

  87. @148, agreed. In general, I think that 2013 has shown that the Nationals are not quite as well-run a club as it seemed for much of 2012, and that the Braves are liable to keep contending for the division all year. At a certain point, considering that we’ve been in first place basically all year, you have to consider us the team to beat.

  88. And the Natinals have a losing record and trail by 7 in the loss column. I can live with that.

  89. In any non-blowout win we are going to use at least 3 relievers. Varvaro seems to be the 7th inning guy. Avilan the 8th. Kimbrel the 9th obviously. Plus we warmed up Gearrin and Wood today but they didn’t come in.

    On the one hand it’s awesome because it means we’re ahead late in a lot of games, but I do worry about this organizations use of the bullpen. I guess The Lisp and Ayala are nearly ready to come back, so the abuse can get spread out a bit more.

  90. Pena is a good defensive shortstop and he looks very good at third too, I don’t doubt that he’s the real thing in the field.

    Whether he can keep hitting is a different matter, but so far so good.

  91. I don’t think I would have predicted that after a third of the season Ramiro Pena would have more homers than Matt Kemp or Jason Heyward.

  92. Why all the praise for Fredi in this recap and thread??!? Didn’t he get ejected in the fourth inning of this game?

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