There are certain moments that can feel like turning points: frozen instants like Jeff Winger tossing a six-sided die into the air to see which of the Community study group is going to go downstairs to get the pizza from the delivery guy, nodes from which a multiplicity of possible fates branch off and can be realized. These moments can be found on the microscopic level (like, say, a ground-rule double incorrectly ruled a run-scoring triple, at least partly facilitating a 6th inning Braves pitching meltdown). Or they can be found on the macroscopic level (like, say, whether the season-ending injury to a team’s most veteran leader demoralizes said team or inspires them to go out and beat the Toros for Timmy Lupus [yes, I will never tire of that reference]).
Whether last night’s possibly even career-ending injury to Tim Hudson will have functioned as such a decision point on either level remains to be seen with the benefit of hindsight. Early returns are mixed. The Braves were well ahead when Hudson went down and went on to win that game easily, despite their demoralized mood; today’s getaway tilt, however, went the other direction. Significance? Uncertain.
What is certain is this: Alex Wood, making his second start with the big club and facing, as in his first, the Metropolitans of New York (who hopefully burned their garish orange “Los Mets” jerseys after last night’s game in a good-faith effort to rid the world of the evil curse clearly woven into their polyester), didn’t pitch particularly well. On the other hand, by the end of the day he could take some solace in the fact that he was far from the worst pitcher in an Atlanta uniform. Small comfort, I’m guessing.
Wood was staked to a 1st-inning, one-run lead on what should have been a routine strikeout of Evan Gattis but quickly devolved into an IWOTM-style defensive meltdown allowing ReEd Johnson (not Ed Johnson) to score on throwing errors from both John Buck and pitcher Zack Wheeler. In his sage wisdom, Wood spit on that lead and, in the bottom of the 3rd, allowed four Mets runs on four singles and an Evan Gattis error. To be fair, he got pecked to death, but when death is the result the cause matters little.
A two-run blast from Dan Uggla in the 4th and a solo shot by Fab 5 Freddie Freeman leading off the 6th suggested the Braves might be up to the challenge of bailing the rookie out. But such hopes would be dashed by the misadventures of the bottom half of that frame.
Kameron Loe, a terrible pitcher by any measure who had already been released by two other teams this season before being signed to the Braves by Frank Wren (who really needs to ask his GP for a Xanax prescription because that was a totally unnecessary panic move), had been brought in to relieve Wood mid-5. Apparently Fredi Gonzalez figured Loe’s ability to get two outs in that inning meant he should be left in to pitch the 6th, even after he started it by giving up a double to Andrew Brown, sending Brown to 3rd on a wild pitch, and serving a single to Daniel Murphy that allowEd Brown (not Ed Brown) to score the go-ahead run. At this point, you would think, an astute manager would want to cut his losses, try to preserve a good feeling about the guy’s first appearance as a Brave, and bring in a more trustworthy reliever to see about setting up a double-play or something. Apparently you would be wrong (or maybe Fredi wasn’t astute; discuss), because Fredi left Loe in and David Wright proceeded to hit the aforementioned ground-rule double that wasn’t.
Now I think we can all understand that umpires make mistakes, and young Chad Fairchild made a doozy (or a Duesy, for you fans of early-20th century art deco automobile design). That he mistook what was, on replay, a clear bounce off the black above the new fair stripe on the outfield wall is merely human. That he refused to ask for help from his fellow umpires was anything but divine, especially after Fredi asked him to do so and then got tossed by the kid for quite justifiably criticizing his obstinacy. But let’s be fair: the real crime committed in this comedy of errors (aside from leaving Loe in that long) was that, as the ball bounced back over his head, Reed raised his arms to signal the ground-rule double – and Evan Gattis, apparently forgetting that Reed is not in fact an umpire, just let the ball roll away instead of hustling it back into the infield. Murphy adroitly kept running because he was quick enough to know the difference between an official and a member of the other team and because, incredibly, no one belonging to the former group was doing a damn thing to stop him. Because, I guess, fraternal solidarity. Or something. (I’ve never understood the tendency of too many umpires to value immovability over accuracy; they seem to have their own version of omerta.)
Nonetheless, Loe looked like he might get out of it with just the two-spot, by striking out first Marlon Byrd and then Justin Turner. But John Buck hit a run-scoring double and that ended that dream. The Braves played the last three frames with a palpable sense of wanting to just get the hell out of Dodge; if the Mets had had Matthew Kaminski (@bravesorganist) on the organ, he probably would have played the sad Charlie Brown music they use on Arrested Development when depressed characters walk away with their heads down.
Anyway, there are worse outcomes in a four-game road series than a split. But the trip overall went 3-4, and of course the Huddy injury casts a pall over everything. Will Wren go after the few decent starters available (Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana)? Word is he’s no longer interested in bidding with the rich folk on impressive Cuban defector Miguel Gonzalez, and surely he’d never pry Cliff Lee away from the Phillies, even if Ruben Amaro, Jr. (not Ruben Amaro) were in a selling mood, which he says he’s not. Or does Wren have another trick up his sleeve, especially as the Braves were already rumored to be in the market for left-handed relief help and maybe another bat?
Toss the die into the air and see what happens. (And then go check yourself in the bathroom mirror to see if you’ve suddenly grown an Evil Spock goatee.)
Now is the summer of our discontent made furious winter by this son of Young. Plots may Wren lay, inductions dangerous. Dive, thoughts, down to my soul – here the deadline comes…