Braves 7, Nationals 6

Sometimes it’s better if you just watch the good parts. Walk into the stadium, stand in line for a burger, look out toward the field just as that particular combination of boom and anticipatory crowd-noise and people getting three-quarters of the way out of their seat foretells Justin Upton‘s 20th home run, even if you can’t track the ball’s flight path from the concession line.  Hey, a 2-0 lead. And, eventually, a burger.

Take your burger back to the railing behind the 200 level, because if you don’t mind standing up that’s the best damn general admission vantage in the house, and anyway rain is coming and you’ll be in great shape once the rain begins, nestled under the upper deck’s overhang. Watch Ervin Santana on point, coaxing weak contact and getting timely strikeouts.  Marvel at the statistical improbability of B.J. Upton, of all people, taking Stephen Strasburg deep to make it 4-0 by the second inning. But marvel also at the seeming inevitability of the Braves owning Strasburg, author of three starts against Atlanta now this season, all of them bad. Of all people, indeed.

Watch Freddie Freeman put an exclamation point on it with another two-run homer later that inning. Hell, watch Tommy La Stella throw some weird emoji on top of the exclamation point with his first MLB home run. 7-0, end of five. Rain’s coming down now. While you weren’t looking, the Nats got a run; annoying. And then, apparently, a three-run homer. 7-4 in the sixth. Concerning. But the rain arrived a little while ago, and now it has camped out over the ballpark, with force. Who knows how long it will last, or whether you’ll want to stay standing (though happily dry) during a rain delay that could last a while.

Walk through the now-abating rains to a MARTA train packed full of Falcons fans who picked, as their Friday sporting event of choice, a type of football game in which only the injuries count toward the standings. Wonder what this means. Unbeknownst to you, there is baseball on the field again, and you’ll learn later that it was a difficult thing to watch. Don’t have watched it. To confront and measure all twenty-seven of the outs necessary to avoid a nine-game losing streak is to invite an unhealthy anxiety in which failure is visible around every corner. Best to turn it back on after the damage has been done, but Craig Kimbrel is around to clean the mess up and restore a bit of order. 7-6, and it’s final.

Acknowledge logically, through careful reconstruction of the box score, that the Braves took a sure thing and walked it to the brink of disaster. But refuse to acknowledge it emotionally, because you missed all the bad parts, and frankly the parts you did see were pretty damn inspiring from a team that looked dead and gone last time you checked in with them. It goes much better if you just watch the good parts, and the streak is W-1 now.

158 thoughts on “Braves 7, Nationals 6”

  1. what a great post. i was not there, did not walk through the rain, but so many times i have felt the same way……
    baseball is fun, losing is not fun, but baseball is always fun…

  2. Fell asleep sometime in the 7th–woke up and the post-game interview was on, with Fredi more bemused than anything talking to the reporters, as if he never knew winning was possible, as if he doesn’t expect it from his players.

    Fredi Gonzalez is a sham of a leader. I’m a coach and a captain and an organizer and I’m sure some of y’all are coaches and captains and organizers, too, and Fredi is an insult to everything I’ve learned about leadership.

    Managers are important. Managers are important because at every level the players are told managers are important. They will watch him and listen to him and try to get in line with his program and take cues from everything he does. Fredi’s best attributes are keeping an even keel and not shaking things up in the clubhouse unnecessarily–but those are b- and c-level attributes. They are ancillary attributes. They do not matter unless joined with a belief in winning and a willingness to put the team in the best position to win.

    This team is not a team of world-beaters, but they’re pretty good–good enough to play to win most nights. But their manager makes it clear every night that winning the ballgame is lower on his list of priorities than keeping his staff and his roster comfortable. Ease is contagious, and it doesn’t win baseball games. Time to rip this easy weed out by its taproot.

    Fire Fredi Gonzalez.

  3. By the way, WCG, wonderful recap.

    I haven’t been around here long enough to say for sure, but is that the first time we’ve seen the word “emoji” in a recap? And used with such effect!

  4. I think part of his job is to lead the media and fanbase too, but @5 is a fair point.

    The key to our success will be for pretty much everyone in the lineup to hit a homerun in the same game. I like our chances when that happens.

  5. No, they don’t. But it set me off and got me steamy about the past three seasons of his lackadaisical approach. I’m fed up.

  6. I will admit that Fredi comes off as a bit cavalier at times, and I don’t love it. But, while I realize this is a false choice, would you rather have Matt Williams’ approach to the media? Calling players out publicly, then lecturing the media when they report it?

    Edit: I see you’ve responded to the basic point. I just wanted the excuse to trash Williams’ firing-squad approach to management….

  7. We’re not going to win every game where we take a one run lead into the bottom of the 7th, but it’s the way to bet.

  8. Nice tribute to Pete from Ernie Jr. on TNT just a bit ago. It’s pretty clear everyone loved Pete.

  9. I was at the game, too. Unfortunately, I stayed through the rain delay. I’m not sure that it was good for my health. I think I frightened some of the families around me when the Nats put the tying runs in scoring position with one out in the seventh. Oh well…you can’t be too picky about the manner of win at this point. We definitely looked good through the first five innings.

    Also, Rosenthal just said that we almost traded B.J. Upton and an unknown starting pitcher for an unknown return at the deadline. Didn’t do it because we didn’t feel like we were getting enough return. Says we might revisit during the off-season.

  10. wonderful recap, thank you…

    Our Braves…

    ‘when love congeals,
    it soon reveals
    the faint aroma of performing seals.’ CP

  11. Bonifacio at short tonight. Of all the positions Bonifacio can nominally play, that’s the one he’s bound to be weakest at. But I’m glad Fredi’s going out on a limb with it. The safe play is “Pena’s the backup shortstop.” Let’s get some guys on and maybe get a few in.

  12. Has anyone seen a well-written analysis of the David Price or would anybody like to weigh in on their opinion? As a St. Pete resident, I’m inundated with people that think the Rays got completely fleeced. I definitely don’t think they got fleeced, but I’m starting to think that they got a better return for Price than Boston got for Lester, considering the Red Sox also sent Jonny Gomes.

    Anybody want to weigh in?

  13. The reason it’s not a fleecing isn’t because of the return the Rays got, but because Price is going to get an arb salary of like $20 mil next year, which is his walk year. If you’re a small market team, you have to ask yourself, are you sure you can flip him and that salary in the offseason? So it limits the bidding to teams that can afford him, like Detroit.

    He’s a great player, but strictly as an asset, not super valuable.

  14. Wait, we were worried about the return we would’ve gotten for BJ Upton? As long as the un-named pitcher wasn’t Teheran I wouldn’t have cared. Addition by subtraction.

  15. The heavy rain is probably going to last half an hour more, after that it looks like there might be a chance. If they do play I bet we don’t start until at least 9pm.

  16. They will have to wait a while longer. A double header tomorrow seems likely, and given our pen I don’t like that.

  17. If they are willing to start at 10:30 then I think that’s the best we can hope for tonight. I don’t think they’d play 2 tomorrow since the Nats are coming back here in September. There’s a stretch there where we’ll play them 6 times in 10 days (7 times if they push this rainout back until then).

  18. Man it is just bucketing down here – I live close to the Ted. The outfield is going to be a mess

  19. The Nationals have a black center fielder who wears #2, just like us. But he doesn’t suck. (And I thought the idea behind Bonifacio was that we played him instead of the useless guys, not Andrelton.)

  20. Yerp, BJ can still swing a foot under a pitch after waiting for four hours. Just if you ever wondered.

  21. Helluva catch by Heyward. Wow.

    I didn’t realize tomorrow was an 8pm start, so playing late tonight seems less crazy now.

  22. Jason Heyward is a spectacular right fielder. Now let’s see if he can knock in a couple runs.

    Edit: Damn batted ball information. Desmond played Heyward up the middle.

  23. @26

    Jazz Classics is just the best. Introduced me to Lester Young and Eartha Kitt.

    If any of you ever spend any time in Philly, a guy named Bob Perkins does a wonderful jazz show weekday evenings on WRAS, the Temple U. station. It’s BP with the GM, Bob Perkins with the Good Music. Something like 6 PM to 9 PM.

  24. Good thing we’ve got Chris Johnson in the line-up. The offense might get uppity about their abilities if all the guys who get on base stay on base.

  25. Chris Johnson has 17 GIDP in 89 PA’s with a man on first and less than 2 outs. He’s 20% for a double play.

    EDIT: 20 last season, in 102 PA’s. So it appears that’s his true GIDP talent level.

  26. If Chip would do the entire game in the voices of his father and grandfather, he might be useful.

  27. Now that was a pretty-looking play by La Stella and Bonifacio. I fear that it only delayed the inevitable, though.

  28. The joke was about Harper smearing the A – “Tomorrow they’ll put an H out there… What, I meant Alger Hiss!”

  29. Whew. Walking the tightrope again. And Gattis is still backhanding balls in the dirt with a guy on third.

  30. @38 You beat me to it! I just did the whole team.

    BJ Upton – 5/72, 6.9 % (Good!)
    Tommy La Stella – 5/36, 13.9% (Room for improvement)
    Freddie Freeman – 12/104, 11.5% (C+)
    Justin Upton – 7/73, 9.6% (Alright.)
    Jason Heyward – 2/60, 3.3% (Wonderful!!)
    Evan Gattis – 6/52, 11.5% (C+)
    Chris Johnson – 17/89, 19.1% (Aw, jeez Chris.)
    Andrelton Simmons – 17/82, 20.7% (Good lord!)

    Bonifacio – 1/33, 3.0%
    Doumit – 1/20, 5.0%
    Laird – 4/23, 17.4%
    Pena – 0/25, 0%

    ATL average 10.8%
    MLB average 10.7%

    Gold stars for Heyward, Bonerface, and Pena. Boy Simmons and Johnson are a drag.

  31. That drive by Heyward had the look of a home run off the bat. Must have just died in the atmosphere.

  32. This team is just terrible at ALL fundamentals. The entire coaching staff should be fired.

  33. I thought maybe BJ was gonna pick everyone up there. I think he’s just saving it for the playoffs.

  34. We led off that last inning with two singles, and still managed to go down on 9 total pitches. That’s just unreal.

  35. After it became apparent that the Braves have no interest in scoring tonight, I made the comment that Harang was going to get out of some jams and then give up a run or two in the sixth inning and be hung with the loss. This team is the model of consistency.

    Also, LOL Harper!

  36. @47 – That’s funny, I got curious too, and worked on my own project. I don’t know if there’s an easier way to find “double play percentage,” so I just took all the guys with more than 14 GIDP and calculated them all manually.

    Here’s the worst, ranked by percentage, not total GIDP. I also put their OPS in GIDP situations, just for fun.

    Casey McGehee: 21, 22.34% (.782)
    Martin Prado: 18, 22.22% (.661)
    Andrelton Simmons: 17, 20.73% (.660)
    Matt Dominguez: 17, 20.48% (.838)
    Dayan Viciedo: 17, 20.48% (.723)
    Miguel Cabrera: 16, 19.75% (.750)
    Albert Pujols: 21, 19.62% (.710)
    Salvador Perez: 18, 19.57% (.660)
    Michael Morse: 16, 19.28% (.639)
    Chris Johnson: 17, 19.10% (.668)

    Basically, the worst guys in baseball to send up with men on and less than 2 outs are Michael Morse, Salvador Perez, Martin Prado and then our two losers.

  37. Plus, you know, all those AB’s given to Dan Uggla and BJ Upton, and you have to wonder how this team ever scores.

  38. Albert Pujols only has a .326 on-base percentage. How did it get so bad? All this from a guy who had six straight seasons of 90+ walks and a bb/k ratio way better than 1. Baseball is weird.

  39. @64 – I’m not a big anti-PED’s guy, but I always just assumed Pujols was using whatever the best stuff was. Judging by what guys have gotten caught for lately, I guess that would be synthetic testosterone. But a simpler explanation might be “old.”

  40. @65

    He’s got 21 homers this year, so the tank’s not empty on the power front. The guy had 9 seasons of +.400 on-base percentages. .326 seems pretty drastic.

  41. This team sucks at situational hitting. Really, situational everything. Or, I guess, they just suck at everything.

  42. @74 – Nobody has ever shouted you down for criticizing Fredi Gonzalez. Only for criticizing him for being Latino.

    If you’re going to act like nobody here will criticize Fredi Gonzalez, you’re just making things up.

  43. At least we scored one…that’s progress. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to score again after clearing BJ next inning.

  44. @79

    With all of his argued strike calls, we can call it “clearing the *itcher”

    (self-censored for propriety’s sake)

  45. The BJ at leadoff thing has to be reaching critical mass. It’s gotten to the point where even DOB is asking Fredi, very politely, if, ya know, maybe, uh, there might, ya know, be other, I dunno, just, options, I guess.

  46. I would absolutely love to hear the Wren/Freddie discussions about BJ. I think that might be the most interesting thing about this team.

  47. Last 28 days leading into tonight’s game BJ has put up a .184/.279/.276 line. 61 OPS+ in that timeframe. 28 strikeouts in 87 plate appearances. Add in tonight’s 3 for 4 performance…Well what are we doing, really?

  48. @92 – I can’t imagine they aren’t on the same page about BJ. Rosenthal reported earlier that the club almost moved BJ at the deadline, so we have evidence that Wren wants out from under BJ. So the only way Fredi would be openly defying Wren would be if the Braves front office is SERIOUSLY dysfunctional, with Wren and Fredi being equally secure under John Schuerholz. And that just doesn’t sound like a ship John Schuerholz would be running.

  49. @94, Yeah I’m sure they are on the same page, but you gotta think at least one of them might have proposed something outside the box, such as not hitting him leadoff…lol. I just want to hear some of their conversations. I bet they are epic.

  50. @81, @Edward,
    Please observe that your very well thought out criticism was met with defensiveness from prominent members of this board. I encountered the same, and I have encountered it from Jeff Schultz whom I have emailed with personally about Fredi. I have been critical of a slew of managers of atlanta sports–bob Weiss, mike Woodson, Jim mora, Jerry glanville, etc. I have never in that time been met with the knee jerk defensiveness I have been when I criticize Fredi. This has caused me to speculate about why people think fredi is beyond reproach. Those speculations have raised an even higher level of ire and vitriol from the faithful. I may have been, and probably was, wrong in those speculations, but the question remains unanswered–why do people pretend Fredi is anything but an absolutely atrocious manager?

  51. Jason’s so good out there. Turns out being good really helps when it comes to being lucky.

  52. The reason people have defended Fredi Gonzalez, is because there’s an obvious problem: the hitters. The hitters have been terrible, and since Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t hit, he doesn’t catch a lot of flack for that.

    After the losing streak, and the sloppy play all over the field that contributed to it, the volume on the criticism of Fredi turned up all over, because, for the first time recently, there appeared to be problems that you could pin to Fredi.

    That’s not to say all the bunts and batting BJ leadoff and whatnot aren’t stupid and haven’t been. But they are overshadowed by how terrible the offense has been. But the order you place BJ, Uggla, Simmons and Johnson in doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that you’re batting them at all. And as much fun as it is to work up a lather about Fredi, until the losing streak, there just wasn’t alot to hang your hat on there.

    For my part, I’d fire the whole coaching staff and start over next season.

  53. I want to commend Aaron Harang for being the most unexpectedly good player on out team. Reminds me of john Burkett from a squad years ago.

  54. In a duel of bullpens, we are now left with nothing but dinner knives for a gunfight.

  55. @106, you aren’t the lone voice in the wilderness, Fredi gets criticized pretty much every single game – here and every other Braves site. The decision to play BJ and try to salvage some kind of value there is coming from the front office, there’s no way in hell that Fredi or anyone else would override that. We all know this, and that still doesn’t stop me from complaining about it. Lots. He’s not my pick for manager, but I don’t get a vote and all the bitching in the world isn’t going to change things.

  56. And now, the giant void in jersey No. 2, getting more plate appearances than anyone else.

  57. You just know what they’re going to throw BJ every single time. Fastballs, thigh high, middle away. He has to know they’re coming if I do. And still, he can’t hit them.

  58. @109, you may be correct, but I am not convinced. This defense has been going on for years, and the clamoring for fredi, when he became available, was irrational, given he was fired from a non-contender, and given the criticisms of him with the fish were the same we now have with the braves. He is likely the worst in-game strategist in mlb (and impartial espn writers have argued the same). That would be ok (maybe) if he were the same players’ coach (or comparable) as bobby cox, but by all appearances he is below average or worse there too.

    Yes, the hitters are awful and that is on them and wren and greg walker, but I’m talking about a record of fecklessness from fredi and a demonstrated lack of respect from his players that I cannot see as defensible. He should’ve been gone after the collapse of 2012

  59. BJ is just checked out. Whatever mechanical progress he’d made, if that brief flash of mediocrity can be credited to mechanics, he has obviously slid backward.

    Bonifacio needs to be in CF everyday until the end of the year, and BJ can spend the offseason AGAIN trying to figure out what the problem is.

  60. I have an idea: lets trade for bonifacio and bench him or bat him 8th while we maximize ab for bj.

  61. 118 — BJ will play everyday until at least September, and possibly the end of the season.

  62. Damn. The nanosecond that pitch left Clippard’s hand, I thought Justin was sending us home.

  63. So now we need to get to the 12th before our hitters get another chance. Man, it’s tough to win when only 1/3 of your lineup is any good.

  64. Not sure I’d do that with the heart of their order up, but all of our options seem equally crap. We’re not going to score for 2 more innings at least so we have to somehow muddle through with the second tier of our pen.

  65. Not really any good options. Certainly not the consolation-prize lefty who’s allowing a .314 average to lefties. So it goes.

  66. I think you gotta bring in Jaime and pray for some K’s. We’re toast either way most likely.

  67. Get off my team, Varvaro.

    Of course, if the fifth run is taken off the board, he gets the Triple Grybo. So he could preserve a 3.00 ERA. And this is another example why ERA is worth as much as B.J. Upton.

  68. The only out Varvaro’s gotten was a baserunner trying to score on a double. Get him off the team.

  69. My theory is that if you can’t score it’s really hard to win. We don’t have enough arms to win in 15 innings.

    Gattis has to get hot. JUpton has to get hot. Chris Johnson has to somehow become mediocre. BJ needs to not play for a while. So many things have to go right just for us to have a league average offense.

  70. And here go Chip and Joe, beating the slow-action drum. As if that’s what anybody cares about right now.

  71. Well the good news is, if get two men on, BJ Upton will come up with 2 outs and a chance to end it.

  72. Well hey, every spot in the order had the same number of PA’s tonight. There’s that.

  73. Tomorrow is basically a must-win game. Let’s see how we react. I feel like I care more than the team does.

  74. Came down to another pitcher bunting in to a double play, and Gattis and Johnson crapping the bed after Heyward’s sac-fly.

  75. Gattis has left runners everywhere since he’s come back. I’m sure his timing isn’t back yet, but damn we need it fixed in a hurry.

    And Justin missed a game winning homer by a hair against Clippard.

    Such a frustrating thing to watch this team at the plate.

  76. Yeah Gattis looked pretty terrible tonight. His swing looks like he’s going out around everything.

  77. I want to see a super-cut of Fredi Gonzalez saying “we didn’t swing the bats” 50 times.

  78. Braves players are apparently bitching to reporters that the game was delayed 4 hours, instead of being called. “Shocked,” and “pissed.”

    Worry about hitting, losers.

  79. It was BJ and Freeman that apparently offered complaints about the late start. BJ’s lucky to put on a uniform.

    The team has lost 9 of 10 games and they’re comfortable complaining to reporters about the start time.

  80. Yes, I’m a pessimist. My posts are often the product of the worst side of my brain.

    Regardless, I spend over $2K a year to fly to two series, to watch this team when it comes near my town, to buy paraphernalia, etc. I have supported this team with my time, and, in adulthood, my wallet, for 32 years and counting. And if they are “pissed off” about the start time instead of being pissed about their recent form — and instead of saying, “Thank you,” to every fan who stuck it out tonight — then this bunch is unworthy of anyone’s time or support.

    Unless their comments were taken out of context, that sound is me, walking away for a while. A long while. That entitled garbage is worse than any loss.

  81. “We got some momentum going last night,” B.J. Upton said. “For us to sit around for virtually four hours when it’s been raining all day and kind of force the issue, it kind of blows my mind, especially when we could have gotten an extra day to build on things. I don’t think we saw that coming, for us to start a game at close to 11 o’clock and then get out of here at 3 o’clock. I’ve never seen it. I haven’t been around the longest, but that’s definitely a first for me.”

  82. What a lame loss. You know, if the late start bothers you so much take it up with the player’s union. It’s tough work in a coal mine, I get it. But otherwise, shut the hell up and play the game. Jesus.

  83. BJ “Blow Job” Upton needs to be hitting 9th or none at all. This team is sad and to think just a couple years ago everyone was excited about the potential of the lineup.

  84. I actually watched the post game show last night, I guess I can’t get enough punishment. The highlight had to be when Bowman asked Fredi why he used Russell for just the one left handed batter, especially when considering the splits. Fredi replied – that’s why we got him.

    I got beat down for hating on our deadline deal…but I’ll keep on it. We got a lefty that’s not a LOOGY and we’re going to use him like one because that’s the spot we needed to fill. Face-palm.

  85. It’s getting to a tipping point of our media guys are posting stuff like this.

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