Braves 5, Brewers 2

ESPN Box Score

Today’s game had some of the same attributes as yesterday’s game, but a much better result.

In yesterday’s game, the Braves starter held the Milwaukee offense in check with a bit of luck and a bit of skill. Alex Wood was better today than Julio Teheran was yesterday, as the Brewers only managed four hits off him after Carlos Gomez hit a leadoff home run, but he still walked three men, so the Brewers had men on in nearly every inning. (You’ll take that every time from your starter, but if the Brewers had sequenced their hits better, they could have wound up with another run or two, just as they did yesterday.)

And just as the Braves didn’t have much offense yesterday other than a couple of near-home runs that went inches foul, for much of the game, the Braves didn’t have much offense today beyond a couple of huge blasts that fortunately stayed fair. Then they piled on a bit more, and it became a much more enjoyable affair.

Through the first four innings, it looked like a redux of Opening Day, as Gomez hit a leadoff home run (fortunately, this time he sprinted around the bases) and Kyle Lohse held the Braves scoreless. Part of the reason the Braves were scoreless was that, after a Freddie Freeman single, new third base coach Doug Dascenzo tried to send Freddie home from first on a two-out double by Dan Uggla. Even with Freddie running on contact, Freeman is a big hulking guy who could no sooner score from first on a double than grow wings and fly. He got thrown out by about five yards.

Jason Heyward gave the Braves their first runs of the season with a bomb in the fifth inning, and Freddie Freeman piled on with solo shots in the 6th and 8th. The final run came on an Andrelton Simmons sacrifice fly in the 9th, allowing the Kraken to strike out the side with a three-run lead.

(Kimbrel couldn’t locate his slider at all and couldn’t locate his fastball much either, going to a 3-2 count on each of the first two batters he faced before striking them out on a 96-mile an hour fastball somewhere in the vicinity of the middle of the plate. The good thing about having unhittable stuff is it’s unhittable even when you don’t know where it’s going.)

Dan Uggla’s two doubles were wonderful to see, and the Braves are going to win a lot of games when Heyward and Freeman go 5-8 with three homers. But B.J. Upton is still oh for the season. It seems clear that Fredi is batting him second to try to help B.J. get into a good groove and help the team without feeling too much pressure.

He still looks lost at the plate. His first two at-bats were strikeouts, one looking and one swinging; his last two at-bats came on the first pitch of the at-bat. It’s a long season and it’s just two games. But B.J. is in midseason form, and that’s worrisome. The rest of the team looked pretty good tonight, though, even Evan Gattis, who got his first hit of the year on a hanging slow curveball that he banged to the opposite field for a single.

The rubber match is tomorrow at 1:10 pm, so this will be the game thread. God, I’m glad that baseball is back.

146 thoughts on “Braves 5, Brewers 2”

  1. Exhibit A why, as a manager, you try not to allow the big inning early in the game.

    No score, bottom 1st inning, Astros batting with one out & a runner on 3rd. For some reason, Yankee manager Joe Girardi brings the infield in, as if it were the late innings.

    Of course, the hitter sneaks one through the infield’s left side, on a ball that would’ve been a routine 6-3 putout. You get the out, give up the run & you’ve still got 2 out, bases empty, down 1-0 to a club that lost 111 games last year.

    Instead, the inning gets out of hand from there. Runner steals second, McCann airmails the ball & you’ve got a runner at 3rd again, one out. Routine grounder to Teixeira gets thrown away to home plate. A homerun & it’s 4-0.

    I generally don’t get worked up too much about managers, but I just don’t get that one. (It ain’t exactly the Dead Ball Era.) That’s Baseball 101.

  2. I got the feeling that Dascenzo sent Freeman because he was trying to make something happen. It sounds like Girardi tightened up and did the same stupid thing. It’s always fun to see the Yankees lose to the worst team in baseball.

  3. Just got back from the game. That was fun!

    For the first few innings, the most entertaining event was a dude that ran out onto the field. Well, he was barely jogging, but the event staff must have been asleep. He gave Braun a high five and made it to Gomez who was playing along for a better high five, and then the first event staff dude caught up with him. He seemed surprised that he had gotten so far.

    Jason and Freddie were on it, but I was most encouraged by Uggla’s at bats.

    I was in line for my second brat when Freddie got Dascenzoed. sheesh.

    In one of the late-inning breaks, dance cam was out. They found a dude with a big mustache and half his gut hanging out of his shirt getting his moves in. He was the embodiment of Wisconsin. (I say that affectionately, though, as I’ve come to love this place.)

    In the 8th, I surprised myself by how many times I asked my buddy and the universe: “Why would you throw Juan Uribe a slider?!”

    The life was sucked out of the home crowd when Kimbrell came in. They all knew there was no chance. It was good to see Kimbrell strike out the side, but worrisome that his sliders only made it about 55 feet.

    All in all, very entertaining game.

  4. @3

    I have timed visits to the in-laws in Wisconsin with Braves trips in recent years, and after Monday’s shutout, I was questioning the wisdom of this tactic. A palpable sense of relief washed over me in an awesome wave as J-Hey’s homer dropped over the fence; I was starting to irrationally think the struggles here were my fault, and not that of the supposedly haunted Pfister Hotel at which the Braves occasionally lodge.

    Definitely a mixed reaction for Ryan Braun in Game 2. Tuesday’s crowd was a die-hard following — the people most likely to feel hurt/betrayed by his deception. The sellout throng Monday had more casual fans. I know the devoted Brewers fans among my in-laws who were in our party Monday did not stand and cheer Braun’s appearances, and no longer wear their Braun T-shirts and jerseys.

    The mass exodus of people and energy as Kimbrel entered didn’t surprise me. There is little optimism and faith in the unexpected among Brewers fans, and I can’t say that I blame them: four postseason bids in 44 seasons, and the star in which they placed their trust and allegiance let them down — and they’re stuck with him until 2020. But I’ve found Brewers fans to be a fun lot; in the summer, particularly on weekends, the crowds are energetic, the atmosphere lively and the aroma from the tailgates is heaven-sent. They’re much more accepting of their place in the MLB universe than I would be (although my in-laws are not shy in reiterating their assertion that I am spoiled).

    Uggla’s plate appearances fill me with optimism, as do those of Regression! The ball is screaming off Uggla’s bat consistently in a way that recalls his 33-game streak. The same cannot be said of B.J. Upton; I’m looking hard for the difference between last year and this year and not seeing it. Perhaps it’s just my view from the stands.

    Dascenzo’s decision to send Freddie was astoundingly bad. Bobby Petrino-as-Falcons-coach bad. Maybe even worse than that. I was too shocked to say a word. The Brewers fans in my section were laughing.

    Back to Miller Park later today. (The advantage of a job where at this time of year, I set my own hours.) I will be the one sitting a few rows behind home plate who is not waving his arms like an idiot to get on TV and not talking on his cell phone.

  5. Cause Regression said that was his base, not TP’s, and then when TP tried to argue, Regression bowled a helmet at him. Pendleton toppled like a wicket.

  6. @8 – Because he was such a good base stealer in his day, he brings so much as the 1b coach?

    Well, he played on the same team as Vince Coleman and Willie McGee, anyway.

  7. “(You’ll take that every time from your starter, but if the Brewers had sequenced their hits better, they could have wound up with another run or two, just as they did yesterday.)”

    That’s obviously true,but this sort of assumes that hits are random and that teams can decide how to “sequence” their hits. Surely, Wood’s pitching had something to do with the Brewers not being able to sequence their hits. Let’s give Wood some credit rather than simply saying the Brewers didn’t sequence correctly.

  8. Not sure how putting BJ in the 2 spot allows him to get his groove without pressure. It would seem the #7 or #8 spots would be much better places for that (plus he might actually help(ish) by laying down a bunt or two).

    Now you are left with a guy who will need to be demoted in the order after failing to right the ship in a high leverage spot putting more pressure on a spotty offense.

    Having said that, not sure what would fix him at this point. gotta try something.

  9. You hit BJ second because 1) Heyward gets on base and 2) Freeman is behind him, thus forcing pitchers to throw him more fastballs. That’s the theory, at least. If he can’t hit the fastball, it’s all moot, but the point is to get him fastballs in the zone more often. You bat him 8th and all he’ll never see anything to hit, and never get a chance to fix himself.

  10. I didn’t think Wood pitched a particularly good game. He was having a lot of trouble locating, and his fastball was sitting at 90. I’m not worried or anything, but I put his 1-run performance down to a lot of luck and hope to see more out of him in Washington.

  11. It’s just 2 games but Uggla does look better and BJ looks the same. We talked all offseason about other guys playing 2B, but I don’t think we really seriously considered what to do if BJ has to sit. I don’t think we want to see Success in CF every day.

  12. I thought Wood was pretty good. He got in a jam early, but did a great job of pitching out of it.

  13. 15 – He was sitting right at 90 all night on the stadium gun. For whatever that’s worth.

    Wood did settle down and do well. I was glad to see it after Gomez’s no-doubter on the first pitch.

  14. My friend that came along last night doesn’t follow the Braves (but as a Twins fan, he gets in plenty of Hrbek jokes). In BJ’s first at-bat, as a side note, he mentioned that it looks like BJ’s bat is way too big for him. I don’t really care what size bat he uses, unless it’s affecting his bat speed.

  15. The few times I got to see some spring training baseball it looked to me like BJ had removed quite a bit of movement from his swing and while he was at the plate. The swing looked simplified from the horrible swing mechanics he had last year. So far in the regular season I have mostly only gotten to listen to the games but I have seen two at bats from BJ and both of them look to me like last year and not like spring training this year. It seems to me he has some mental problem which is preventing him from changing during game time. I recall reading a quote from Walker during spring training where he said something like “1/3 of the time BJ backslides into his mechanics from last year”. Apparently in real games he backslides 100% of the time. I find this kind of problem really frustrating because it is all mental and just seems weak to me that someone can’t mentally be the boss of their body during game time.

  16. @14 – you know what, I will concede the point. You are right, especially the “If he can’t hit the fastball, it’s all moot” but your point is well taken.

  17. I still think that BJ’s problem is it takes him too long to load his swing, thus making him late for all kinds of pitches. I’m glad he worked on his legs, but his upper body still looks a mess.

  18. Braves are the free game on mlb.com today. And at 1pm, which is nice for those of us who live in Europe. (Thank you mlb.com)

  19. BJ’s swing is way too long. The only way he’ll hit a fastball is if he guesses right, and even then he’s often still late.

  20. So was my comment from last night deleted because Braves Journal frowns upon leaving links that adequately illustrate my exuberance when seeing Freddie go yickety or because it doesn’t agree with my 161-1 prognostication. Some clarity would be appreciated.

  21. @krussell
    I don’t think that his swing HAS to be long though. His hand positioning is very much forward, then he drops his hands, then proceeds to move his hands back; 3 movements of which are unnecessary should he position his hands further back. Or another approach would be to combine the last 2 movements where he’s dropping his hands, then moving them back, to one single fluid motion at a 45 degree angle.

    In my opinion, his swing seems long only because his load is long.

  22. This will never happen-I’m sure BJ would never agree-but he needs to go to the minors to work on his swing. He’s never going to get it together in the majors; there is too much riding on every at-bat. He needs to totally restructure his swing. I think that, psychologically, he needs to go where there is less pressure because his problem is probably as much mental as physical at this point. It would be humbling for him to go to the minors, but I have to believe it’s pretty humiliating to be one of the worst players in the majors.

  23. @28… But I don’t think that will work because like I said it seemed he had completely changed his swing in spring training (where there is less pressure just like the minors) and it looked like he had it mostly sorted out (even Walker was saying similar things). At least to me he looked a lot “quieter” at the plate and the swing seemed to have fewer moving pieces. But as soon as he gets to the regular season he reverts right back to what he was doing last year. I think he needs to go see Smoltz’s shrink and work on whatever is mentally making his swing revert as soon as it counts.

  24. Seeing Smoltz’s shrink probably couldn’t hurt.

    I’m starting to wonder if he was a PED guy and backed off due to the new testing.

  25. It’s been two real games. Can’t y’all wait a little while before pounding the panic button over Upton?

  26. 21: “I find this kind of problem really frustrating because it is all mental and just seems weak to me that someone can’t mentally be the boss of their body during game time.”

    This is really an unhelpful way of framing it. You cannot be consciously thinking about your swing when you’re attempting to hit major-league pitching. It’s not “weak” to be all screwed up at performing possibly the most difficult athletic feat; if anything, it just indicates a loss of talent, which is not a weakness but just a sad possibility for every player at every time.

  27. I don’t see where PED usage correlates to lousy swing mechanics.

    It looks mental to me. Send him to Gwinnett in a few weeks if he’s still batting .000. Buy him a personal coach and a shrink. Do something you haven’t done before, because nothing tried previously has worked. Four more years of this.

  28. The idea that anything about BJ Upton’s problems are “mental” and not “physical” simply fails to understand the premise of swinging a baseball bat at a pitched ball.

  29. I’m not worried. He can always make up for a lack of hitting with leadership. Anybody else remember the Dave Bristol/Chuck Tanner days?

  30. To be honest, I’d thought getting just one out of BUpton/Uggla hitting properly would be a major “win” for this year. Didn’t have my money on Uggs, but that’s baseball for you!

    Hey guys, we got 7 good innings out of Alex Wood yesterday! Go Braves!

  31. @34, You’re absolutely right. Nobody in the history of baseball has had their physical abilities impaired by mental difficulties.
    Perhaps a strength and conditioning coach can solve BJ’s woes.

  32. When I think of the ‘mental’ argument, I remember Brad Lidge, whom seemingly everyone was saying was permanently ruined mentally after giving up a home run to Pujols in a playoff game.

    Then he had that perfect season with the Phillies.

  33. Romper Room Dept.: The Brewers break out their daytime clown outfits. Those tops look like something you’d find in a baby’s diaper.

  34. @34 – I know its not hitting but what about Steve Blass disease? Isn’t that a mental condition?

    Just two games. Just two games. Just two games. Can’t get too excited over Uggla’s game, can’t get to down on BJ….. yet.

  35. I want to give BJ the benefit of the doubt, but man is it frustrating to see him in basically the same place he was all of last year.

  36. BJ’s mechanics are just awful. He’s late getting his front foot down, so he can’t start his hip turn on time. His hands go back, before coming forward as noted above. All of which make him late most of the time. And when he’s sort of on time, seemingly by guessing fastball and speeding up, his back shoulder drops and he undercuts a lot of swings. Plus, I’m not sure he even keeps his head on the ball all the time.

  37. I think a sports psychologist could potentially be helpful for B.J. He is clearly fighting himself out there. I think that the problem is that he is thinking too much — when he takes a strike down the middle, it seems to be because he is trying to will himself to be more selective. When he swings at the first pitch, it feels like he realizes that approach isn’t working so he’s trying to be aggressive.

    There are a lot of problems going on, but I think they basically boil down to these:

    1) His mechanics are screwed up. His load, timing mechanisms, and swing all together are too long, which means that he can’t make good contact on the ball.
    2) He has lost confidence in himself and is second-guessing himself.

    He genuinely seems to have a good attitude about this, seems to be working hard, and from what I can tell by my bad eyeballs he is both very athletic — which means that his body can still be trained — and he does seem to have some bat speed left even though he can’t get the bat started quickly enough.

    So that’s why I’d advocate a sports shrink. He needs to get back to a point where he can 1) be short to the ball and 2) trust himself to do so.

  38. How can someone’s mechanics be messed up for a year plus? At some point don’t you just have to say he doens’t have the ability?

    If not, my mechanics have been messed up since I was 13.

  39. Scooter Gennett. Jeff Bianchi. Gerald Laird. Aaron Harang.

    Great-googly-moogly that is some straight up trash in the line-ups today. These guys look like somebody’s beer league infield.

  40. We need some hologram disguises to make this lineup work. Have Gattis go out there with a projected image of B.J., watch them pump him some fastballs. Have B.J. go out there with a Gattis image, tell him to lay off the junk in the dirt and work the walks. Problems solved!

  41. 47: In your mind, what is the difference between having messed-up mechanics and not having the ability? It seems like having correct mechanics is a major component of the ability to successfully hit a baseball.

  42. Jason Heyward is good.

    Because his swing mechanics HAVE been messed up for a year plus. All that bat waggling and elbow-cocking and leg kicking slows down his ability to get bat to ball. But apparently his mechanics were different this spring, and from video you can tall that they were different in Tampa Bay. He’s fighting himself.

    But still, Smitty, we may need you to get out your center field glove.

  43. It is a lot easier to have good mechanics than good ability. Mechanics can be taught; ability cannot. It is also possible to have the ability and lack the mechanics. That’s where BJ is right now.

    That’s also where BJ was when he came up as a shortstop and booted the ball all over the field. They shifted him to center and he became a pretty good center fielder. I think that this is the equivalent of that.

  44. The good Upton hasn’t hit a fastball all year, either. Neither for that matter has Evan Gattis.

    Can’t start panicking 10 or 12 ABs in to the season. I know as well as everyone else does how terrible BJ was last year, but alot of guys have been late on everything so far.

  45. 55: Remember that Jair Jurrjens during his busting-out-of-organized-baseball period once came up and pitched an absolute gem against the Red Sox. We just need Harang to fluke through two starts, then back to scrap heap with him.

  46. If Hap’s observations of spring training have credence, BJ made some adjustments simplifying his swing and they led to positive outcomes. We do not see those adjustments in major league play, however. He’s 0 for 10 with 6 Ks. (I know, small sample size.) That would indicate his difficulties are at least partly in the realm of Alex’s #45. Maybe he’s intimidated, lacks faith in his ability to adapt to something that totally reinvents what he’s used to, and what he’s had success with. At this point, it wouldn’t hurt to get a shrink involved to see if there’s anything there.

    Or maybe he just needs to do more pushups and wind sprints, or get fitted for glasses, because it’s completely physical.

  47. [We really need to get a jinx going here because something’s gotta give in this game…]

    Hey, look, Matt Garza is no-hitting us!

  48. Garza actually threw a no-hitter a few years ago with Tampa.

    But yeah, this game is about an inning away from becoming really ridiculous.

  49. It’s worth mentioning that Harang is throwing faster this year than he ever has. Odd at his age.

  50. Harang’s at 85 pitches, so I’m assuming he’s on a short leash. As soon as he gives up a hit, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got replaced.

  51. 74: Would that you were right, but Fredi seems unaccountably confident about Harang’s “abilities.”

  52. Harang better have a short leash. I’m nervous about him facing the heart of their lineup again…

  53. Nice counter from Roenicke (sp). Despite appearances, Avilan is not good against righties. (Then again, it is Rickie Weeks.)

  54. Luis Avilan! Prospero Anyo y felicidead!

    (Using “Ano” makes that a very different and unpleasant sentence.)

  55. Wait, was the trivia question about what right-hander did something, something strikeouts, and Simpson’s guess was Kershaw?

    Answer was Peavy.

  56. Avilan’s earned the benefit of the doubt to not be scared every time he pitches IMO. Any semblance of that left for me when he got out of the seventh inning of the game in which we were eliminated from the playoffs (of course, the less said about the eighth inning, the better). Carpenter, on the other hand…

  57. I think Alex has more clearly said what I was trying to convey about BJ’s problems being mental. I have coached a ton of people (not in baseball, but a physically demanding sport) who have had what look to me to be a similar problem as BJ. They can execute all day long in the various stages of practice but in competition will revert back to what they were previously doing. Almost always this turns out to be mental… as in “I don’t know coach, when I got out there I just forgot all the stuff we worked on and was just doing what I was used to.” That is mental and I consider that to be a weakness of the mind. But as someone said there’s a difference between mechanics and ability. In my mind ability encompasses all aspects both physical and mental. Maybe BJ has lost the mental ability to adjust his swing mechanics during real games (and maybe that ability is just being able to think about it less and let the good mechanics happen). Everything physical must begin with the mental aspect… if you remove BJs brain he is not going to do anything.

  58. To say something nice about BJ for a change: I like that he slides foot first on stolen bases. Don’t put yourself at risk, put the other guy at risk. And his success so far in his career shows it doesn’t slow you down any.

  59. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to prefer CJ at bat in this spot, really, over everyone else in the lineup.

    Edit: Well, at least it wasn’t a DP.

  60. I probably dislike BJ Upton more than everyone on this board, but I don’t know if we can continue to accurately and confidently dissect the mental and physical components of his ineptitude. This will dominate the board to no result. The answer is clear: everything with him is messed up.

    And if we let BJ Upton dominate the conversations on this board, we’ll miss the bigger story elements to this season.

    I will say, in response to someone above, that playing a mixture of Schafer/Terdo/Heyward in CF/RF if we benched BJ would work well. The benchmark BJ has set for the third outfielder spot is so low that there is an inconceivable amount of possibilities that can reduce better results. He sucks that bad.

  61. Release The Kraken.

    All I can say about BJ at this point is this: He’s really lucky that he plays in Atlanta.

    Edit: Gee, that Heyward guy in RF is pretty good.

  62. I’ll say this much about that at-bat from BJ. For the first time this season, it looked as if he wasn’t trying to do too much. He really stayed short, compact and really just had a nice swing…his best of the season.

    And Jason Heyward is good.

  63. For anyone wanting to discuss Craig Kimbrel’s mechanics with precise terms, let my wife help you.

    Mrs. Copenhaver: OK, before he throws the ball, he has the monkey arm. Then after he throws the ball, he’s got the crazy leg.

    If the Braves need a scout, sign her up.

  64. @109

    It’s a little bit better today than yesterday, I think, though still obviously not good.

  65. Yeah I don’t know what he scouts call it. I think Kimbrel actually calls it a curveball. But to my eyes, an 89 mph breaking ball is a slider.

    When his “breaking ball” is on, and he’s eliciting swings and misses… you can’t touch him. If he can spin it over for strikes, like he did twice today, he can kinda “cheat” to get you in a hole, like he did to Braun. Then he’s just plain old unfair.

    If he’s got no breaking ball at all, like last night, he’s another hard throwing closer. Good, for sure. But not Kimbrel.

  66. If you’ve only got one pitch you can consistently throw in the zone – a 98 mph heater with some movement isn’t a bad choice.

  67. @116 It breaks like a curveball but has the velocity of a slider. It’s an outlier compared to every other breaking ball in the game today.

  68. Can’t complain about that series. If you could get 7 innings 0-2 runs allowed from your starter three-quarters of the time, you could start printing playoff tickets. (That’s allowing that David Hale might not match what these guys just did.)

  69. Like I said going in, with Harang and Garza on the mound respectively, you’re looking at something like dueling no-hitters through seven or eight, man.

  70. @Rob – 110 – Was it your wife last year that did some of the recaps on here? I loved those and hope we get more of them this year.

  71. What did that game take, 2 hrs 5 min? I was kinda hoping it’ll fill up my whole afternoon. Now I gotta actually get work done.

  72. Hard to have a better Braves debut than Harang just had.

    And, it cannot be said enough, but we have some terrific defenders. There were 3 top plays (one by Simmons & 2 by Heyward) that really impacted the game.

  73. I spent the whole game in the county jail. By the time I got out, Kimbrel had locked it down. I guess I should just do that all season.

  74. Well, I’m a public defender and we have court tomorrow. So it’s not as wild a story as I teased it to be.

    But still, good luck charms are good luck charms. And they’ll let me walk in and out of there any time I want, so…

  75. Harang made a difference in one of our 162 games and for that I’m grateful. Way to go Braves!

  76. So Aaron H. pitches a great game in Milwaukee (former home of the Braves) while wearing a patch on his uniform commemorating the 40th anniversary of H. Aaron’s 715th. Good times.

  77. If Harang keeps throwing 92-94 he will be just fine. It was that 88-90 in the middle of the zone that caused all of the long ball issues.

  78. The thing about Harang is that he’s basically Derek Lowe, only we didn’t give him $15m per for four years. He was terrible in Seattle last year, but he’s perfectly capable of a 100 ERA+ this year. Or a 70.

  79. He just won’t be in the rotation long enough for it to matter. He’s here to hold the fort down until late April when Santana, Minor, and Floyd are all ready.

  80. Chris Johnson really went down and got that ball. Garza put it down and in, and Johnson didn’t miss it. For a guy that didn’t make many mistakes today, that was huge.

    How many starts are going to be made by journeyman, retreads, or non-prospects this year? Hopefully 10-15 or less? To get such a big performance by Aaron freaking Harang today was also huge. Games matter in April, and this may be a game we look back on and know that we stole it.

    So, Harang makes four more starts and then our rotation should be solidified as Teheran, Minor, Santana, Floyd, and Wood? It still seems too soon for Floyd to be back from his injury (didn’t they say June or July when he was signed?). I picked up Hale in my fantasy league but it doesn’t even look like we’ll need him.

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