Braves 8, Dodgers 1

This one was a blowout. It was almost a very different game.

Mike Minor got into trouble in the first inning. Yasiel Puig led off with a single because that’s what he does and if you missed grabbing him off your fantasy waiver wire by an hour like I did a couple weeks ago you’re probably kicking yourself. Nick Punto dragged a bunt into the no-man’s land between the mound and first base to put two men on, and Adrian Gonzalez worked a walk.

Bases loaded, no one out, Minor struggling with his command… potential bad times. But Scott Van Slyke hit a weak grounder to third that forced Puig at home, Minor struck out Luis Cruz, and although the Dodgers got one run on a Skip Schumaker swinging bunt that no one had a play on, nothing else came of that inning. Or the rest of the game, for the Dodgers.

In the top of the second, Dan Uggla walked and Ramiro Pena struck out to start the inning. The Braves hear your cries about bunting, but they have decided to go the other direction and embrace the tactic not as baseball strategy per se, but as absurdist performance art. Jordan Schafer, intending to discomfort his audience and point out the futility of the human condition, bunted Uggla over. This served to bring  up the pitcher with two out; that inning didn’t end profitably.

The third was better for the Braves. After loading the bases with one out, Evan Gattis hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Say what you will about Uggla, but you can pretty much guarantee that he’ll launch a batting -practice fastball over the left-field foul pole. Matt Magill threw Uggla such a BP fastball, and the Braves led 4-1.

After having thrown 31 pitches in the first, Minor settled down and finished out six innings, striking out six and giving up only the aforementioned run. He didn’t need any more runs after Uggla’s first blast, but the Braves got them anyway; Freddie Freeman cleared the bases in the fourth with a double, making it 7-1.

You’d think the Dodgers would have made a note about putting a flat fastball in front of Uggla, but Ronald Belisario threw him basically the same pitch to lead off the fifth. Uggla parked it over the left-field fence again.

That was it for scoring; Alex Wood and David Carpenter took the Braves home, and they got out of L.A. with a split. Pending tonight’s Nationals game, Atlanta leads the division by eight games. On to San Diego next, where Fredi Gonzalez has announced the club’s intention to bunt seventeen randomly placed times in one game this coming Tuesday as commentary on the alienation of the individual in the modern digital world. Is this hubris? Perhaps, but I can’t argue with the results thus far.

65 thoughts on “Braves 8, Dodgers 1”

    (He turns to Vladimir.) Let’s go.
    We can’t.
    Why not?
    We’re waiting for Gattis.
    (despairingly). Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure it was here?
    That we were to wait.
    He said by the ravine. (They look at the ravine.) Do you see any others?
    What is it?
    I don’t know. A former flagship franchise.
    Where are the pennants?
    They must be with McCourt.
    No more weeping.
    Or perhaps it’s not the season.
    Looks to me more like a bush-league team.
    A flagship.
    A—. What are you insinuating? That we’ve come to the wrong place?
    He should be here.
    He didn’t say for sure he’d play.
    And if he doesn’t play?
    We’ll come back tomorrow.
    And then the day after tomorrow.
    And so on.
    The point is—
    Until he bats.
    You’re merciless.
    We came here yesterday.
    Ah no, there you’re mistaken.
    What did we do yesterday?
    What did we do yesterday?
    Why… (Angrily.) Nothing is certain when you’re about.
    In my opinion we were here.
    (looking round). You recognize the place?
    I didn’t say that.
    That makes no difference.
    All the same… that dugout… (turning towards hill) that sign…
    You’re sure it was this evening?
    That we were to wait.
    He said Saturday. (Pause.) I think.
    You think.
    I must have made a note of it. (He fumbles in his pockets, bursting with miscellaneous score cards.)
    (very insidious). But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? (Pause.) Or Monday? (Pause.) Or Friday?
    (looking wildly about him, as though the date was inscribed in the landscape, next to the THINK BLUE sign). It’s not possible!
    Or Thursday?
    What’ll we do?
    If he started yesterday and we weren’t here you may be sure he won’t start again today.
    But you say we were here yesterday.
    I may be mistaken. (Pause.) Let’s stop talking for a minute, do you mind?

  2. Hyper-literate baseball-cultural mashup is the new sports blog market inefficiency.

  3. Look, can’t we just blog about the little things? Make a productive blog out?

  4. Bethany needs to slip you a little dinero on the side for product placement.

    Something like:

    I must have made a note of it. (He fumbles in his pockets, bursting with miscellaneous Eephus League scoresheets.)

  5. You think? I’m pretty sure Tuesday night’s recap from San Diego is going to a blog sacrifice of some sort or other. Right now the wire-frame for that game recap is “the Braves played someone in California, who still have no idea how to control the sun and play games in the middle of the damned night.”

  6. So happy with splitting this series. Especially with only scoring 3 runs in the first 3 games. At least Freeman and Uggla showed up.

  7. Washington hung on and swept the Twins to heroically return to .500, only 7.5 games behind us. Expect the ticker tape parade tomorrow.

    (I’m sorry, but longform parody isn’t my format; I prefer the pithy observation with a soupcon of wit.)

  8. @ajcbraves: Pena is day-to-day with what #Braves think is mild shoulder contusion or bruise. From his second diving defensive play

  9. @ 1 just… nice. 12, thanks for the link, this is truly why I read Braves Journal. However I’m left wanting to read the early-period Scandinavian epic about Sicnarf Loopstok.

  10. Awesome recap, awesome first post. Also, awesome game. Way to escape from LA with a split, Braves!

    Incidentally, I got to LA about the same time the Braves were leaving. Absolutely gorgeous. But seriously, why is there traffic at 7PM on a Sunday? Does that even make sense?

  11. @19

    Same reason the Downtown Connector can get choked up at 11:30 p.m. Too many cars, too few lanes.

  12. @19 If everything is awesome, then awesome is the new average.

    @1 thanks for that

  13. Hate to say it, but the pumpkinization of Schafer and Pena at the plate may be underway..

  14. @ 25 If we could get an average of .743 from now on from Uggla, Heyward and BJUpton, Fredi will be much smarter.

  15. @20 – the connector is a 16 lane monstrosity. The problem is never too few lanes.

  16. @24 – the benefit of having a lineup full of stars, top to bottom, is that when one slumps, the other steps up. It’s like a law of conservation of Upton. If the Braves ever get the entire lineup going at the same time…

    Let’s do that during the playoffs!

  17. @26,
    I really think that Heyward and BJ are better than .743 OPS guys (Heyward especially). I expect Heyward to at least be at .850 for the rest of the season. BJ close to .800.

    For Uggla, I don’t expect that much. But if he continues to walk + hit for power then he’d be a valuable part of this lineup as a 7 or 8-hole hitter.

  18. I continue to be the only Uggla partisan here, mostly because I love the fact that his frustratingness is so much greater than his numbers that it shows who really trusts the numbers and who doesn’t. There is, at the moment, no evidence that Uggla isn’t an 800 OPS player. Since that’s more or less what we paid for (OK, maybe a hair less, but I don’t want to quibble) we should just sit back and worry about the guys in the 500s and 600s. Just sayin’.

  19. @31 – Uggla’s OPS by year since coming to Atlanta: .764, .732, .743. Projection systems peg him for roughly a .230/.330/.420 line (.750 OPS) for the remainder of ’13, which seems like a pretty good guess. However, I think he’ll continue to walk at his new higher rate of ’12 – ’13, and if so we might see .230/.360/.420 the rest of the way, and I’d take that in a heartbeat.

  20. I continue to worry that Uggla’s production is against demonstrably weaker pitching – none of which he’ll see in the playoffs.

    @16 – agree wholeheartedly! The recap and @1 are two of many reasons why I loveth this bar.

    If it’s not too few lanes, it must be too many people. How many should we shoot?

    Good grief, Vandy. I was counting on you.

  21. Godot? Wow.

    If LA was doing that Carmageddon thing (a weekend closing of a portion of the 405 freeway), then that could be a reason.

    It’s been my experience that Angelinos just freak out at anything that interferes with their routines. You should see how drivers react to a little bit of rain. It’s like they’re stuck in 2nd gear.

    But otherwise, traffic is just part of the culture there.

  22. I continue to worry that Uggla’s production is against demonstrably weaker pitching – none of which he’ll see in the playoffs

    You are talking about extremely small sample sizes, and a generalization that I am not convinced holds up under inspection – for example, Uggla has hit Strasburg, Locke, Hamels,and Leake quite well.

    Uggla v pitcher 2013

  23. @33: Nice example of moving the bar. Now whatever he does in the regular season, we now worry about what he’ll do in the playoffs. So these games are sunk. I predict an 800 OPS for Uggla in the rest of the season, barring injury. That won’t get him to 800 for the season, obviously, but only the incremental production matter, right?

  24. anyone have any good links to draft recaps? Are there any BJournal player profiles in the works?
    From what i’ve read, most “experts” are puzzled by our draft.

  25. @39

    I’ll reiterate what Game, Blauser said: Uggla hasn’t posted an 800 OPS since getting to Atlanta. Why would he suddenly do so in his age-33 year old season? I’ll join the aforementioned and set my sights on what the projection systems predict: a 750 OPS, and about 1 fWAR the rest of the way.

  26. Why are the experts puzzled? Admittedly, we have two MLB catchers and Bethancourt, and we drafted two more catchers. If McCann is not the future catcher, then Gattis probably is, and if they both aren’t, then perhaps Bethancourt is, so why draft two more?

    Other than that, I feel like the Braves drafted the way they normally do, and they addressed some needs based on timelines of current players’ development.

  27. @42. We seems to be pretty good at developing pitchers and catchers in the past few years. Maybe they are just staying with their strengths. Personally. I would prefer the team drafting more power bats, but they seems to be happy with drafting through the middle of the field.

  28. @43 I agree. We also like drafting through the middle of the field and moving them out. Perhaps these catchers won’t be catchers long-term, but that’s just speculation.

    Speaking of that, I did not know Justin Upton was drafted as a shortstop. I can see why BJ was, but Justin didn’t strike me as a shortstop. Of course, looking at late-career Chipper, you would never think he was a shortstop.

    I read a list of the #1 draft picks over the last 30 years, and it is definitely true that there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect, and there’s almost no such thing as a prospect, period. By my evaluation, I felt like only 4 of the last 15 players drafted overall reached elite status. It was like a bunch of Jamarcus Russells on the list.

    Drafting 18 year olds is a hard gig…

  29. I’ll reiterate what Game, Blauser said: Uggla hasn’t posted an 800 OPS since getting to Atlanta. Why would he suddenly do so in his age-33 year old season?

    That’s not what the man said –

    I predict an 800 OPS for Uggla in the rest of the season, barring injury.

  30. Also, regarding Uggla, the difference, over three and a half months, between a .750 OPS and an .800 OPS is pretty small. I think either is perfectly plausible. I really liked the comparison to 2007 Andruw Jones. Not a great ballplayer, but you live with him, and every so often he hits a three-run home that puts the game away, like yesterday.

  31. Uggla is also streaky as hell. If he locks in, he’s a force to have in the second half of your lineup. The only problem with Uggla is his contract.

  32. It’s possible Uggla and BJ will start approaching the value of their contracts the rest of the way (and I sure hope they do), but that’s a whole bunch of underperforming asset on a cash-challenged franchise.

    And how long has Justin been stuck at 29 rbi?

    This is when I miss having “an owner”. If there is pressure on Wren to not make catastrophic, long-term mistakes, I don’t see where it’s coming from.

    He’s been great with a lot of the “smaller” moves. I guess you just don’t give some guys a credit card.

    We’ve got some re-signing to do in the near future. I’m kinda resigned to losing McCann, but if we can’t afford to keep (in no particular order):


    because of the Braves version of the Pujols contract … well, that’s just incompetence.

    I get real tired of hearing how great the Cardinals approach is, but their champions have a point. For a team with a Braves-level budget, you don’t see them tethering themselves to longterm deals with ageing or dubious talents.

    (Btw, they’re managing to do quite well without Dark Lord LaRussa, aren’t they?)

  33. If Uggla has a Dave Kingman-like year–somewhere around .200 BA, but 30+ HRs–I won’t quibble too much. At present, he’s on pace to hit 33.

    Bat him 7th or 8th & hope he wrecks a game here & there, like he did the last couple days.

  34. justhank, we have the second-best record in baseball. Honestly, take a walk or something.

  35. Hank, would those be the same Cardinals who have a $116,790,787 payroll for 2013? Who are paying Matt Holliday $17m per year through 2016? Yadier Molina $15 mil per through 2018? Carlos Beltran $13 mil through 2013? Chris Carpenter $15 mil to rehab this season? Adam Wainwright $19 mil per forever?

    By comparison, the Braves 2013 payroll is $90,039,583. That’s a difference of roughly $26 mil. Or another two paychecks equal to BJ and Uggla.

  36. Molina is the best catcher in baseball. Beltran has certainly earned his money and Chris Carpenter was an ace who got injured and is likely covered by insurance.

    Holliday? Meh. Ya got me there.

    And I’d place the Cardinals and the Braves in roughly the same budget set. (I still think the Braves are too low for their gross revenues – but I can’t prove it.)

  37. Justhank – I would agree that the Cardinals are a well-run franchise, but for the most part their success come from home-grown players, just like the ’90’s Braves. The Cards have, for the most part, avoided catastrophic FA pickups, trades and albatross contracts – letting Pujols go was gutsy but obviously the right move (at the time and especially in hindsight). Their FAs have by and large done well – instead of, say, Jayson Werth, they ended up with Matt Holliday.

    By the way – I too would like to see the Braves lock up a number of good young players, in particular Heyward, Freeman and Simmons. However, as many people have pointed out before, it’s quite possible (likely, actually) that Heyward and Freeman have been approached about extensions and simply won’t make a deal with the Braves at this time. I would hope that the Braves have the funds necessary to offer those deals, but consider that as we sit here today, the Braves have done amazingly well by going year to year with just about everyone, which affords you the flexibility to react as players emerge and fade.

    @55 I just checked Cots, here’s a startling payroll comparison for you – in 2000, the Cardinals payroll was $63,900,000, and the Braves $82,700,000. In 2013 – Cards $116,790,787 , Braves $90,039,583.
    The Braves’ highest-ever payroll (106,243,667) was ten seasons ago.

  38. In all fairness, the Cards have only been considerably outspending ATL for the past 4 seasons, but damn that money would have come in handy. And owners that spend often make disastrous decisions that can cripple a team. There are certainly limitations to what an executive-run team can do on 90M, but I ‘d say the Braves performance relative to payroll is a data point in favor of the idea rather than a demerit.

  39. All you’re doing is writing off the Cardinals massive payroll advantage ($26 mil this year) because you think Liberty is cheap. Liberty may very well be cheap, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wren and company are limited to far fewer free agent options with a $90 mil payroll than the Cards are with a $116 mil payroll. You can’t count money you think the Braves should be spending when it’s not actually there.

    And you’re writing off very questionable Cards contracts…just because. Molina’s a time bomb waiting to happen. They’ve only survived the Carpenter contract _because they can buy another contract to offset that miss._

    The Braves and Cards are not comparable payrolls. If the Braves had the Cards payroll they could resign Brian McCann and extend Jason Heyward at $14 mil per year and still come out even.

  40. The Cardinals also have a ton of their $116M payroll on the DL – they will pay a combined $30M for Carpenter, Garcia, Furcal and Motte this year.

  41. Mets send Ike Davis (161/242/258 in 207 PA) & 2 others down to Triple-A Las Vegas.

    On another Mets-related note, the Marlins have won only 18 games this year–8 have come vs. the Mets.

    We have 5-game series at home vs. NYM next week. It would be a shame if we didn’t get fat on these bums.

  42. @48 Thanks for those links on the draftees. It’s nice to get some idea about what is in the pipeline.

  43. I watched a bit of the Mets game a day or two ago, and saw Davis at the plate. What a horrific mess. He waggles his bat (presumably as a timing mechanism) before the pitch comes, but then as the pitch comes he has to cock his bat, and his bat cock takes him so long that he’s invariably late on everything.

    Honestly, it reminds me a bit of one of Adam LaRoche’s oh-for-the-first-half seasons. They’re going to have to completely rebuild his swing, because he has absolutely no timing, and he badly needs to stop moving his hands so damn much.

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