Last Place Team 4, First Place Team 0

ESPN Box Score

How in the world is this team still in first place? Is the NL East seriously that weak?

For the first time all season the Boston Red Sox have won three games in a row, and all three of those wins have come against the Braves. The problem is they haven’t dominated the Braves. The Braves have more self-destructed and the Red Sox had simply taken advantage of every single gift the Braves have given them.

The lone bright spot of this game: the Tommy La Stella Era has started for the Braves, and he already has more hits than it feels like our second basemen have had all season. He went back up the middle in the 5th and 7th to collect his first two big league hits. Not bad for a major league debut.

Gavin Floyd started for the Braves, and he gave up two runs, one “earned” and one “unearned”, although really the Braves handed the Red Sox both of them. However, Floyd wasn’t exactly effective, throwing over 20 pitches in every inning except the fourth, and he was pulled after five innings and 106 pitches.

The Red Sox scored their first run in the 2nd (the officially “unearned” one) after Ramiro Pena committed a throwing error to allow Jonny Gomes to reach safely, and Gomes came around to score on a double play. In the 3rd Xander Bogaerts hit a popup to shallow center, and BJ Upton and La Stella looked at each other while the ball dropped in between them and Bogaerts made it into second with a double. He then came around to score the “earned” run. Floyd certainly did not have his best stuff tonight, but he could have easily left the game without allowing any runs.

Of course, handing the Red Sox two runs doesn’t really matter when you fail to score any, since winning 0-0 games is slightly difficult.

Alex Wood relieved Floyd in the 6th, and he really did not look sharp. He gave up 5 hits and 2 runs in 2 2/3 innings, but, again, when you don’t score any runs, it really does not matter how many runs the other team scores.

The Braves offense collected nine hits, but coupled those with eleven strikeouts and utter futility when it actually mattered. Our best scoring chance came in the 7th, when a two-out BJ walk loaded the bases for Freddie Freeman. The Offense, however, grounded out to second and that was that.

Justin Upton should have had a homerun in the 6th, but Fenway ate the blast and he settled for a double and was naturally stranded at second. Getting hits with runners in scoring position is, after all, something Braves’ hitters obviously can’t be bothered with.

Tomorrow night is the last game of this split home/away four game series, and we are dangerously close to being swept by a last-place team who came into the series on a 10-game losing streak (a possibility kc predicted before the first game; it is sad to realize this team is so predictable). To avoid that, Mike Minor needs to not give up a half dozen solo home runs while he’s in the game.

On a somewhat related note, the Red Sox honored their 2004 World Series championship team on the field before the game tonight, and I realized just how much of a life I did not have as a teenager because I could still name every single member of that team that I saw. Still reeling from the throes of a Braves’ NLDS defeat against the Astros that year, I found the comeback those Red Sox had in the ALCS against the Yankees to be the tonic I needed. Every single friend I had at the time who liked baseball was a Yankees fan, and I loved that they were forced to share my misery that October. I had not realized that those eight straight games the Red Sox won that year to win it all had cemented that team so clearly in my mind, but seeing those guys tonight made me realize (1) 2004 was a long time ago. All of those players (except for David Ortiz, who still looks the exact same) looked so much older. It certainly put a decade into perspective. And (2) I was really spoiled to have become a Braves fan in an era where the real question in Spring Training was who would we face in the Division Series that year? There was some rumblings in 2004 that The Streak would have to end at some point, but those were still easily disregarded and the main focus was on how far into the playoffs we would make it, and not whether or not we would make it there. Last year’s ride to regain that division title was fun; I vote we start a new streak.

Natspo(s) (and Red Sox and Marlins) delenda est.

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35 thoughts on “Last Place Team 4, First Place Team 0”

  1. I was on that 2004 Red Sox ride too. Mostly because I took up for the 2003 Red Sox as a Yankees-antagonist after the Braves were eliminated, and welp.

    The ’04 Red Sox to today’s are proof that “every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

  2. Amen to that.

    I think I used to could name those guys, but I couldn’t any more. Let’s see. Without looking, here’s who I can remember. Going around the infield, Bill Mueller, Orlando Cabrera, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jason Varitek — Mark Bellhorn, right? — Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, er… who was the rest of the outfield? Was Trot Nixon still on the team? They would’ve had Schilling and Beckett pitching, and, um, Keith Foulke. I don’t know who else. Pedro, was he still there? He was, wasn’t he?

  3. Not Beckett. Schilling and Pedro and pray for rain. Bronson Arroyo and Derek Lowe (!) had some big starts for that team IIRC.

    Pedro had that relief appearance in Game 7 in Yankee Stadium where they kept yelling “who’s your daddy” at him and he didn’t wilt. If they’d just shut the operation down after that, it would have been remembered fondly into eternity.

  4. Was at ALCS Game 7s at Yankee Stadium in ’03 & ’04. That was the peak of the rivalry.

    After that, it seemed to be less about baseball — we just tended to count the fights in the stands.

  5. Trying to stay on the bright side, here.

    Maybe a team will flip a reliever that they undervalue (and that we can fix) for Pastornicky.

  6. Thanks, Rissa. Scoring runs would definitely improve our chances. Our Js (B and C) need to hit or sit and CATCH THE DAMN BALL.

  7. Great recap. I hate losing to the Red Sox. I hate the Red Sox.

    I’m starting to develop a mild distaste for our team. On the plus side, I’m glad that La Stella had a positive start to what I hope is a fruitful MLB career for him.

  8. Two different styles of approach at the plate. I hope the front office was paying attention.
    This is a prime example of why we fail in October.

  9. BJ is pretty much impossible to root for. Last night’s glare at TLS after the popup fell is just another in a long list of little things that bother me about him.

    I didn’t know La Stella was so small. He looked like a little leaguer up there. Hopefully his on-base skills will be put to good use in the 2nd spot in the lineup. And BJ can bat in the “never” position.

  10. We tend to experience a positive, unexpected offensive contribution from someone almost on a yearly basis. Same thing with pitching, whether it’s a reliever who comes out of nowhere and dominates or a journeyman starter who has a string of strong starts that helps to create a run for the team. As for the offense, guys like Constanza, Charles Thomas, Brooks Conrad, even Evan Gattis just kinda come out of nowhere and provide a spark for our offense. Unfortunately, everyone to this point has either performed to the expectations or below them offensively (with Harang being really the only pitcher who has out-performed expectations), and we haven’t had that person who provides the spark. Hopefully Tommy La Stella is that guy.

  11. It’s funny. I was with you guys in kind of openly rooting for the Red Sox after we got dumped during those two postseasons (2003-04). Those two LCSs are two of the greatest playoff series I’ve ever seen and the 2003 Game 7 remains one of the very few times I’ve ever experienced a mild gut punch feeling while watching a game not involving my team. (The Alabama-UGA SEC title game a couple years ago is the only other one I can think of at the moment.)

    But now, the Red Sox are absolutely insufferable. I actually dislike them more than the Yankees. The way the media fawns over them; the way they complain about every single call no matter how frivolous; the fact that they engender bandwagon-hopping fans to the point where we had people cheering for both teams at the same time during our series… (Incidentally, if you’re not from New England, don’t have parents who are from New England, have never been to New England, and are rooting for the Red Sox, you deserve a kick in the groin.)

  12. I echo the Red Sox hatred. I find it hard to believe but I believe they have surpassed the Yankees for my most hated team (probably because we’ve had to see them more lately) and the stupid Bill Hahn game. Their hitters have the approach I wish our guys would have, work the counts, foul off a bunch of pitches, make the other guys work, but when you couple that with the frequency with which their hitters step out, it is mind-numbingly slow and borders on unwatchable.

  13. The only thing of value the Red Sox ever had was being the Not-Yankees. They are no longer the Not-Yankees, thus they are to be abhorred. I really, really dislike David Ortiz, in much the same way I dislike Derek Jeter. And I abhor the “Big Papi” name as much as I abhor calling Jeter “The Captain.”

    There aren’t any really good guys to root for in the AL East. BOS and NYY are horrific. No one should ever root for the O’s. Tampa is in Florida, and Toronto’s Canadian.

  14. @18

    St. Petersburg is also in Florida, and that happens to be the city in which the Rays play. (Sorry, but I am extremely anal about this; I lived a dozen years in St. Pete.) They’re easily the most likable team of that bunch, because Joe Maddon far outweighs the Yunel Factor.

  15. Of all of those, I have no problem finding sympathy for the Rays and Blue Jays. Unless I’m mistaken, Toronto has the second-longest playoff drought in baseball, ahead of only the royals. Plus, Canada is a sort of adorable country in many ways — they’re basically the John Candy of the United Nations. And then the Rays have the whole thing about competing with the Yankees and Red Sox despite a bad home stadium and much worse local revenue streams.

    The Red Sox are just the worst. They used to be neck and neck with the Yankees; they’ve long since zoomed past.

  16. Melky Cabrera plays for the Blue Jays and inexplicably doesn’t suck for them. No sympathy.

  17. Ted Williams was my dad’s favorite ballplayer, and I became a baseball nut the same year that Jim Rice and Freddie Lynn took the AL by storm as rookies. Boggs and Pedro are two of my five or so favorite non-Braves of all time. And with all that I still loathe the Red Sox now more than any other team. Such is the power of their detestable fan base.

  18. I hate Toronto for a couple of reasons. First, they have that thing where they do something in the Rogers Center to turn journeymen nobodies in 40 HR per year monsters. I believe it to be air conditioning related, personally. Second, when I go to Toronto, they make me use fake money. It’s annoying. Not “Big Papi” annoying, but “Joey Bats” ain’t far behind.

  19. But that Canadian 20 dollar bill with the clear sections is cool! Clear money you can see through is just neat.

  20. Is it the money I have in my pocket? Then it is annoying. Other nations should cater to my convenience. Especially other nations that aren’t really nations at all, just upjumped 51st states with a complex.

  21. @19

    Where did you live in St. Pete?

    And while we’re on the St. Pete subject, I defy anyone to tell me a better place to watch a ball game than at the Trop. It’s super cheap, the weather is always 75 degrees, the product on the field is almost always great (especially the last 6 years), and you can usually sit wherever you want. We don’t deserve to have this team, and I won’t be surprised when they move. I am not for a new stadium in Tampa Bay for these guys. They’ve got it made in the shade already (get it?).

  22. Been to every current stadium and the Trop was in the bottom 5 for me, hated watching a game there and I’ve been on 3 separate occasions. I even like the Rays a bit and I don’t argue it’s convenient but it’s a terrible place to watch a game.

  23. I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument for why it’s not at least a good place to watch a game. It’s unique, I think the field looks pretty cool, when it’s full the place is very electric due to the dome, and the Rays themselves are typically a fun team to watch. If you’ve been this year, you’ve got the bar out in center field next to the Rays’ tank, and it’s not outside! I mean, the Marlins built an outdoor stadium like 2 minutes from the equator in a swamp. I haven’t even been there yet, and I’ve driven to Turner Field from St. Pete twice in that time.

    /salespitch

  24. I defy anyone to tell me a better place to watch a ball game than at the Trop.

    A baseball stadium.

  25. If I had to like an AL team, it would be Baltimore, although the Angelos regime has certainly dampened most of that enthusiasm over the years.

    As a young kid, the Orioles were my AL team because I liked Brooks Robinson.

    Why? When my dad was in Viet Nam, instead of sending home letters, he’d send reel-to-reel audio tapes, and on one of them he got some sports figures (who were on a USO tour) to say a few words back home. O’s 3B Brooks Robinson was one of them, Yanks announcer Mel Allen was another.

    And very coincidentally, the 1970 WS — O’s/Reds with Brooks as MVP — was the first WS I ever watched. A family friend owned an RCA/Magnavox TV dealership across the street from my grade school and, after school let out, I’d watch the games there, sitting on the floor before a row of gigantic TV sets. (All day games back then.)

    Now, I’m glad that the O’s are kinda good again. I like going to games at Camden Yards and I’ve always been a Buck Showalter fan since his days in The Bronx.

    The Yanks/Sawx rivalry was fun for awhile to see up close, but then it got stupid beyond redemption. And I hate to say it, but I found it true: Most of that was on the Sawx fans coming into Yankee Stadium & acting the fool.

  26. The Trop looks terrible on TV but I could see it being kind of a fun dive bar experience for actually attending a game. Cheap and populated by only those who really want to be there. Since I’m feeling a bit dystopian about Celebravestion, Georgia, the concept of a dive park does have some appeal.

  27. I’m pretty “meh” on most AL teams, but I do enjoy seeing the Rays do well against the big spending teams and I think Joe Maddon’s craziness is weirdly cool. If I had to have a favorite AL team, though, it would probably be the A’s or Tigers.

    I actually tried to root for the Red Sox in the World Series last year, for several different reasons (the biggest of which was I was rooting against St. Louis), but I really just found myself thinking that the beards all looked really hideous and wishing they would just shave. The 2004 Idiots identity had been kind of endearing, but the bearded brotherhood thing was as annoying as most of their fans. The annoyance I’ve had with the BoSox the past three days, however, well exceeds any annoyance I had with the beards last fall. I find it hard to believe that an entire team can carry on like big babies all the time as they do. Lester’s mannerisms on the mound on Tuesday night were downright embarrassing, and when David Ortiz broke his bat while running down the line on a groundout, I got mad that our announcers just went on about how strong Ortiz was to break a bat like that and didn’t mention how doing that can be dangerous (as they were quick to do when Chris Johnson threw his temper tantrum last week).

    Speaking of Lester, when he was griping about every single call the umpire made, Smoltz was quick to place the blame on David Ross and where he was setting up (saying that Ross was making those pitches look like balls). He did seem to be almost behind the left-handed batter’s box at times. I always thought of Ross as being pretty good defensively when he was on the Braves. Am I misremembering or was Smoltz’s reasoning off track?

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