The Braves Have Beaten the Dodgers

ESPN Box Score

Hey, a win! A real, honest-to-goodness win. A come-from-behind win, on top of that, and a win in which the Braves scored in not one, or two, but three different innings. While it is somewhat troubling that they only got single runs in each of those innings when two of them could (should) have boasted a crooked number, a win’s a win and to nitpick at a moment like this would take the focus away from enjoying said win, so on to the good stuff.

Ervin Santana looked great in the first inning, awful in the second, and then pretty good again through the sixth. He gave up both Dodger runs in that long second inning, which actually turned out to be a pretty good recovery considering the Dodgers collected five hits in the inning. His counterpart, Hyun-jin Ryu, picked up one of those hits, which brought the Dodgers’ starting pitchers’ batting average up to .950 against the Braves this season (okay, I kid, but only a little. I think I recall Joe saying something to the effect of Dodger pitchers being 6 for their last 10 after that hit. I think I’d rather face a DH at that rate.)

The Braves wasted no time chipping away at the deficit. In the bottom of the inning El Oso Blanco led off on his bobblehead night and immediately doubled to left-center. Chris Johnson sacrificed him to third (the fact that we were bunting runners over in the second is a sad commentary on our current offensive abilities, but, hey, it worked, and I promised no nitpicking, so I’ll give them a break). Andrelton Simmons, playing for the first time in a week, put the ball in play and scored Gattis on a groundout to second. Hopefully the time he just spent resting his ankle also helped the shoulder that’s been barking at him.

In the bottom of the 4th Andrelton solidified his status of offensive hero of the evening when he knocked another base hit to score Justin Upton and tie the game. The following inning Jason Heyward, who will probably bat leadoff for the foreseeable future since no one else seems interested in doing anything up there, got on base and came around to score on a Justin RBI single. I believe that puts Justin back in front as the Upton career RBI leader, a position I doubt BJ will ever hold again.

The Dodgers got a couple baserunners off of David Carpenter and Jordan Walden after Santana left the game but never really mounted a threat, and the Braves tried and failed to extend their lead after Ryu left the game with a leg injury in the 6th. They clung to their one-run lead as Craig Kimbrel entered the game, and his inability to command his fastball allowed the Dodgers to mount their strongest threat of the evening. A walk and Yasiel Puig’s fourth strikeout of the evening sandwiched between two hits later, the Dodgers had bases loaded with only one out, and grim melancholy fell upon the patrons of the game. Usually only the Braves manage to waste such opportunities, but Kimbrel managed to coax a double play ball off the bat of Matt Kemp, and the Braves are once more back in the win column. A win tomorrow afternoon and the Braves split this series, but that thought may just be me getting a little greedy, so I digress. I will keep my focus on the subject at hand—a Braves victory. We won tonight. We won tonight. That just feels so great to write.

Natspo(s) delenda est.

65 thoughts on “The Braves Have Beaten the Dodgers”

  1. Boy, sad to see the Byron Buxton outfield collision. It looked like he was lucky to escape with a concussion.

  2. Some evidence for my case against Fredi Gonzalez, as requested by several commenters, and in no particular order:

    Exhibit A)

    Exhibit B) Jason Heyward played in 128 games IN 2011, but only 106 of them as a starter because Fredi was counting on a daily Georgie Costanza’s untenable string of bloop hits throughout August and into the beginning of September. Jason Heyward, if he’s healthy and if he hasn’t played 25 games in 24 days, should always be in the starting line-up. It was true in 2011. It is true now. Fredi got very lucky that Georgie hit for as long as he did.

    Exhibit C) Evan Gattis, who crushes lefties and also hits righties at a rate 15% better than league hits righties, cannot hold up throughout an entire season if he catches every day. The Braves have played 120 games so far. Evan Gattis spent 18 of those games on the DL. He started 74 of the remaining 102. So that leaves 28 games in which he has been available off the bench. This team carries 3 players who can play catcher. This team has a problem scoring runs. Evan Gattis should be the first option as a bench bat on days when he isn’t catching. He has only appeared in 8 of the 28 games in which he has been available off the bench.

    Exhibit D) In 2012 BJ Upton posted an on-base percentage of .298 over 633 plate apperances. In 2013 BJ Upton posted an on-base percentage of over 391 plate appearances. Completely ignoring that significant precedent, in 2014 Fredi has batted BJ Upton 1st or 2nd in the line-up more than 75% of the time.

    Exhibit E) I don’t know how to search for the numbers to prove or disprove this one, but I think Fredi doesn’t use his best relievers consistently in late-game innings where we’re down by 1-run. Even with this offense, playing for a run is never out of the question. Playing for 2 or 3 or 4 is a lot to ask, though, and every time a worse reliever puts the game out of reach I get pretty frustrated.

    When I say that Fredi doesn’t take winning ballgames seriously enough, that’s what I mean. That is evidence. As for my pro-Pendleton stance, I admit I don’t have more than a hunch–but an interim role would be a great chance to find out what he’s got.

  3. Edward, I’m not a huge Fredi fan, but I don’t think there’s a manager in baseball who you couldn’t make similar arguments against. IMO your strongest case is Exhibit D. Only thing is there seemed to be improvement for a short time when he started batting leadoff again. I will bet the percentage of time BJ spends at leadoff will decrease significantly over the next few months.

  4. So, your argument against Fredi is that he used his bullpen in last year’s playoffs the way he had successfully deployed them all year, but that Juan Uribe got his fat into a hanging curve, and that he didn’t play Jason Heyward the year that Jason Heyward was injured and horrible.

    This is a joke, right?

  5. I guess anytime you can call up a LH reliever who has an overall 5.04 ERA in AAA and who lefties are getting on base on an average of twice per inning, one must do it.

  6. I’m not convinced Fredi is ever going to take this team to a world Series but honestly would it matter who the manager was at this point? Would this team hit better if Tony La Russa was managing? Or Bruce Bochy? Bottom line for me is this baseball team cannot hit the ball consistently and none of them really seem to change their approach at the plate to try and fix it. That falls on these Major League players not the manager.

  7. @8

    -A win-or-go-home game in the playoffs is not at all the same situation as any regular season game–except perhaps game 162 from our 2011 season. So no, that is not a joke.

    -Heyward was a 2 to 2.5 WAR player in 2/3 worth of a season of starts in 2011. That is not horrible. There is no possible argument that he was not one of our three best outfielders that year.

    So…are you the one making a joke?

    I mean, were you on board with Georgie? Did you want Carpenter there in the 8th inning last year? Should Gattis not get more at bats when he’s not starting this year?

    Honestly, Sam, what the hell is your position? I’d love to know what you value in Fredi’s management. It seems to me like your position is just to knee-jerk disagree with me. You’re an excellent knee-jerker.

  8. Sorry Edward, I think Sam is right. I don’t think you made a very strong case above. I have wanted to see Fredi fired at times and would like to make a case for it. Last year I felt like he lost a little control of the team (with the bean balls and other incidents), and I think there would be a strong case for his firing if that would have continued – I haven’t seen it. There are a lot of problems with this team, I don’t think a new manager will fix anything significantly.

  9. @12 – This isn’t ‘evidence’ that ‘Fredi doesn’t take winning seriously.’

    All you are really stating is that you disagree with Fredi’s in game management skills. Ok, so what? Yet another arm chair manager.

    But what the hell:
    Take a look at the monthly splits for Constanza and Heyward in 2011 and tell me which guy should have gotten the most 2nd half playing time.

    You can make a case for Kimbrell for the two out save but how many times had he done it that season?

    Doumit isn’t a catcher anymore. He’s played 2 games there.

    Upton went through a stretch at lead off where he sucked less. For a short period of time Fredi looked like a genius. He had Upton not hurting the team as much as he had been. What the hell do you do when your team has 3 to 4 candidates for 8th place hitter?

  10. Perfect. Walk a bad hitter with two outs and a worse hitter takes you deep.

    That’s your ballgame.

  11. So why should I keep watching this game? Is ‘will we be shut out by ex-Fausto Carmona’ drama enough to keep my attention?

  12. @18, as a WatchESPN commercial once said, “Live sports at work? That’s a lot better than work at work.”

  13. @14

    You and Johnny can be “right” because you’re actually having a discussion. You might even be right without any quotation marks at all. Sam, on the other hand, cannot be “right” until he offers anything other than vitriol.

    @15

    re:Georgie/Heyward. I did look at the splits. Georgie tore it up there for a minute, but it was all awfully lucky. (I was reading a lot of Peter Hjort over at CAC back then, and he laid it all out really well. I wish the archives were still up over there.) And Heyward’s splits in September, when he put up a .257/.375/.364, are relevant. And it’s never just his bat he’s bringing to the game. If you’re managing the team, you trust the better player. Fredi either got very lucky with Georgie’s performance, or else he and Cleo had an enlightening chat in July.

    re:Doumit. I mean as an emergency catcher. That way you can always deploy Gattis to pinch hit and then if Laird gets injured you’ve still got someone who can go in there for an inning or two.

    I wonder what y’all like about Fredi Gonzalez as a manager. Something more compelling than “at least he’s not Bobby Valentine or Kirk Gibson” please.

  14. I disagreed with benching Heyward for Constanza. I wrote this at the time:

    That said, the Braves’ decision probably has to do with more than the Braves’ inconsistent offense and the slumping Jason Heyward. Fredi Gonzalez is a first-year manager, and I think he is trying to send a message and set a clear precedent that will last for the rest of his tenure in the Braves clubhouse:

    1. No one receives special treatment, not even Jason Heyward.
    2. This is not a team where superstars play by a different set of rules: you can play yourself into the starting lineup, and you can play yourself out of the starting lineup.
    3. Even if you’re a callup on nobody’s radar, and you bust your ass and you produce, then you can earn some playing time even if Kevin Goldstein doesn’t think anything of you.

    If that’s what Gonzalez is signaling, that’s the kind of message that is heard loud and clear by marginal prospects and organizational players, by the 12th man in the bullpen and the last man off the bench. If they all believe it, that can lead to greater clubhouse cohesion. Gonzalez is probably also reacting against the last team he managed; his last club, the Marlins, was essentially torn apart because of a superstar who didn’t play by the rules, Hanley Ramirez.

    But a message is one thing, and strategy is another. Gonzalez is playing a dangerous game with Heyward’s development. Slumps happen, and the only way to work through them is to play — as the Braves admirably demonstrated by allowing Dan Uggla to play through his slump earlier this year. No one views him as a permanent platoon player, but the only way to prevent that is to let him get the experience at the major league level, and make adjustments as needed.

    He’s a very intelligent hitter, with a very advanced knowledge of the strike zone, and he’s going through what may well be the hardest time he has ever had in baseball in his entire life: it’s hard for a playoff team to swallow his growing pains, but he’s going to have to have them either way, and postponing the inevitable is often suboptimal. He has been saying the right things, expressing frustration with his slump while saying he understands why the manager has benched him, but the benching clearly isn’t helping him, even if the team has benefited from Constanza’s fluky performance.

    Heyward has not been good this year. He hasn’t been punished by an evil stepmother: he has seriously regressed, and it’s not clear why.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/wally-pipping-jason-heyward/

  15. There’s not much to indicate that Fredi is better or worse than other managers. But whether or not he has — or could reasonably be expected to have — an impact on the team’s performance, the public expectation is that he can have an impact. And the other big expectation around this team this year is that they would be more competitive than they are. So, whether it’s fair or not, it can’t be too surprising if Fredi is held accountable. I don’t know what else there is to say…

  16. @23, kinda ironic that the rationale for benching Heyward was to send the “no one gets special treatment message”…fast foward to the last two years where Uggla and BJ got nothing but special treatment.

  17. I mean, were you on board with Georgie? Did you want Carpenter there in the 8th inning last year? Should Gattis not get more at bats when he’s not starting this year?

    I was one of the few people on this board supporting the decision to play Constanza over Heyward at the time. Jason was absolutely lost, had no idea of the strike zone and no functional swing or approach at the plate during the second half of that year. And he wasn’t “playing his way through it.” He was just broken. Like BJ Upton is broken now, but with the hope of true youth on his side. I fully supported the decision to run with Constanza while he was hot, at the time. And I fully stand by that move now. Peter, and Alex, were wrong. Fredi, and I, was right.

    I fully supported going with your shut down RH K artist (Carpenter) in the 8th of that game, against Uribe and the RHP heavy hitters behind him. I preferred then, and maintain now, that Kimbrel start the inning fresh against Crawford and Ramirez and the top of that Dodgers order. Carpenter hung a breaking ball. Bad shit happened. Fredi made the right call in having Carpenter, who was a monster against RHP last year, pitch that inning.

    I’d love to get Gattis more at bats. Unfortunately, he’s a horrible defensive OF, there’s no real benefit to replacing BJ Upton with Gerald Laird, and that reduces the number of “extra” at bats you can find the Bear to late inning PHs when he’s not starting, and DH games.

  18. @23, kinda ironic that the rationale for benching Heyward was to send the “no one gets special treatment message”…fast foward to the last two years where Uggla and BJ got nothing but special treatment.

    This is projection, IMHO. How did Uggla or BJ get “special treatment?” They played when they sucked, but there weren’t a lot of alternatives. Until LaStella developed as a viable alternative we didn’t have any real options but Uggla. They tried Pastornicky, until he was destroyed running into Jason Heyward on a pop fly.

    If they developed a young, reasonably useful alternative to BJ, they’d use them. We don’t have one of those. We had Jordan Schafer, and now we have Emilio Bonifacio.

  19. Is that Grantland list for just this year? I wonder how having the shittiest bench in the league drives PHing tendencies. There aren’t a lot of times you think “dammit, we need to get Ramiro Pena into the box here!”

  20. @27, all I can say is that, when you are the worst player in the league, literally every possible replacement for you is a viable alternative.

    I don’t like Fredi because he bunts too much and does stupid shit like letting the pitcher hit and then pulling him the next inning. I will fully concede that he’s been dealt a bad hand. Our roster isn’t his doing. Our payroll limits aren’t his doing.

  21. Just look at today’s lineup. That’s a 100-loss lineup. You can walk Freeman and JUpton every time they are up, and nobody else is going to hurt you. I’d wouldn’t expect a lineup like today’s to ever score more than a couple of runs in a given game.

  22. The link to Grantland above, if I’m reading it right, suggests that Fredi is below league average for bunting.

    @27, all I can say is that, when you are the worst player in the league, literally every possible replacement for you is a viable alternative.

    Is this about Uggla or BJ? Regardless, WHO ELSE should play? Phil Gosselin? Todd Cunningham? Until LaStella came up, with Pastornicky out with the torn up knee, Dan Uggla was the best option we had. Before acquiring Bonifacio, BJ Upton was the best option we had. The manager can’t create better player options out of thin air.

  23. @35, Constanza was good enough to replace Heyward but not good enough to replace BJ.

    I’m not going to argue that Wren hasn’t built a shitty team. He has.

  24. We’re only a bloop and a blast and another bloop and another blast and another blast away from being right back in this game.

    Oh, heck, we’re doomed…

  25. Yep, Wren had the opportunity to make a few moves at the deadline and change this teams chemistry. We didn’t do it and we’ve played ourselves out of the playoff race. This team might struggle to stay at .500 for the season. We stayed put last offseason, I don’t think we can do it again.

  26. When you think about it the 2011 Constanza for Heyward ‘controversy’ (in the blogosphere) really proves how much Fredi ‘takes winning seriously’. He was willing to ride the hot hand, putting wins ahead of Heyward’s development as a player.

    I am pretty sure you can ask Dan Uggla if he got ‘special treatment’ Call him at his house. I do recall that BJ was benched last year. I wish Schafer or Doumit had displayed just the slightest proclivity for not sucking this year and I am sure BJ would have been benched this year too.

    @40 – nail on the head. Yeah Doumit sucks but he has gotten 125 PAs this year. Just as an example. I don’t know the cause and effect loop. Doumit doesn’t hit because he doesn’t get PAs or he hasn’t gotten PAs because he hasn’t hit. Bobby used to engage his bench more and Fredi has in the past.

  27. @35, Constanza was good enough to replace Heyward but not good enough to replace BJ.

    1. Jose Constanza can’t play CF worth a damn.

    2. Jose Constanza is no longer in the midst of a career year. (The entire point of riding the hot hand is that the hand has to be hot. If he could even kind of sort of face an OF spot I’d have been cool with giving Phil Gosselin a shot to play in place of BJ this year.)

  28. Fredi, with still more passive aggression: “This is the team you gave me, Frank.”

  29. I’m now most genuinely curious about the decision to recall Avilan. Surely they didn’t just base it on having a conversation with him in which he said “I’ve got my confidence back,” right?!? But his numbers at AAA were even worse than in Atlanta, so it was clearly not a performance thing. All I can figure otherwise is that it was decided that a lefty was required, and he was the first name on the list. Or he just did an amazing job convincing them of his rediscovered confidence.

  30. I would think that coaches and scouts look more at pitchers being able to throw certain pitches or work out certain problems they had before they were sent down. In Avilan’s case, whatever progress they thought he made in the minors doesn’t appear to have translated to the big club.

  31. Who makes these decisions? Who was involved in the decision to recall Avilan, despite going down and getting worse instead of better? Who decided to run him in to the game right when we got back in it, even though there are 4 other relievers available?

    Why should we not consider holding that kind of thinking accountable? You can always blame the offense. You can blame them for getting shut out, you can blame them for scoring 2 when we needed 3. Are you going to blame them for scoring 4 when we needed 5?

    At some point, the buck stops with the people putting the guys in uniform and the guys putting them in the game.

    You don’t lose 13 out of 15 or whatever the hell we’ve done just because you can’t hit, not when you had won more than you lost going in to that 15 game stretch. That’s a team that’s losing it.

    I don’t care about 4 inning saves, or Constanza over Heyward. I can’t for the life of me understand BJ Upton hitting leadoff as long as he did, but I don’t care about that either. The team has played BAD BASEBALL. They are are pressing, they are failing at fundamentals. They are under-performing as a UNIT. On whom can you place that blame?

  32. I wonder if our guys forgot that Chasen Shreve was still in the organization. He may or may not be better than Avilan, but I’d probably want him to show me. Avilan’s 2.0 WHIP should have been enough to give someone else a look.

  33. Time to break out the miserable loss index again. Coming back but not all the way back is as miserable as it comes.

  34. Freddie was about 6 inches away from tying it up there. We’ve played very poorly recently, but if weren’t for bad luck we’d have no luck at all over that time, too.

  35. Bobby took the team to the playoffs in 10. In 11, under Fredi, they were in position to go back, with an 8.5 game lead, before they went 9-18 in September. So they went the year before, they went the year after, and in 11, they had an 8.5 game lead on a playoff spot. So that establishes the team had the talent to go to the playoffs. But they fell apart anyway. That sounds like a failure to get the most out of your team. That’d be pretty easy to hang on the manager.

    BUT, they stuck with him, and the team went to the playoffs the following year, sort of. The year after that, they went again. This year, they were in position to go again, but the collapse started earlier, and was even more precipitous than the last collapse. (They played .283 ball for 27 games in 11. They’ve played .200 ball for 15 games now.)

    You can’t have a playoff caliber team 4 years in a row, and in two of those seasons have a month where you play .250 ball that knocks you out of the playoffs, and keep your job. It cannot work that way, or you’re saying that there just isn’t any reason to fire a manager.

  36. 7 games back in the loss column…that should about do it for the division. The play-in game is still within reach, so we got that going for us, which is nice.

  37. If it wasn’t for bringing Avilan in to the game to give 2 hits, a walk, and a HBP in the course of recording 2 outs, then they would have sent Jason on Freddie’s long fly ball, and we might have tied it up.

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