MIL 6, ATL 5—A Braves Fan’s Odyssey

As you, loyal Braves fan, set out on this journey that is the 2015 baseball season, you expected valleys (a lot of them), mountaintop experiences (hopefully), and some unexpected twists and turns. Now that that deep June valley is behind you and the promised September valley still far enough away you don’t need to worry about it (yet), you are able to enjoy some scenic views and brush off those rough spots on the path that trip you up.

But today nothing can touch you. You can feel it in your bones. Optimism that has lain dormant for awhile. The Braves are in a position to sweep, and they are playing a terrible team and so it could actually happen. Julio Teheran is pitching and, you never know, but Good Julio may choose to show up today (even if the team is on the road). The sun is shining, the breeze is soft, and you whistle a little as your journey starts.

You stumble a little in the first inning, and your whistling stops. Bad Julio emerges from the dugout and issues two walks before recording his second out. If you play will fire you will get burned, and Julio is juggling, swallowing, and walking through fire all at once. He somehow emerges unscathed, and a little bounce returns to your step. This is our series. You just know it.

Good Julio emerges from the dugout for the second inning, followed by the Braves offense in the third. Cameron Maybin hits a three-run home run to put the team on the board, and Kelly Johnson follows with a solo shot. Up 4-0 and the smile will not leave your face as you meander on.

Julio is looking better, but in the 4th he issues another walk and this time he can not get off the hook. He then surrenders a home run to Khris Davis to break up his no-hitter and shutout, but the Braves still have twice the runs the Brewers do, so you don’€™t even miss a step. Julio then breezes along for another two innings before giving up a solo home run to Carlos Gomez in the 6th, which meant his line for the day was the rather interesting, part-excellent, part-not-so-great 7 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 2 HR.

The Braves still lead, though, and even manage to tack on an extra run in the 7th on a Nick Markakis double that scores Jace Peterson. You take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh, cool air.

Up by two runs going into the bottom of the 8th, the optimism is holding fast. This sweep may actually happen! Then Braves broadcast put up a graphic showing how effective the Braves bullpen has been over the past three weeks—8th best ERA, fewest home runs allowed, most double plays and saves. With the Braves motley crew out there, those numbers are too good to last, and suddenly in the back of your mind the thought emerges that Fox SportsSouth just jinxed the team. It’€™s July, though, and not June, so you push that thought away quickly and carry on.

Shane Peterson starts the bottom of the 8th by picking up his third pinch hit of the series, but it is the bloopiest of all bloop hits that he just dumped into left field and no real harm was done. It was more luck than anything Luis Avilan did, so the optimism remains. Then Gerardo Parra follows that with an even bloopier hit to right field and suddenly the optimism flees and you are left with only acceptance. Gone are all the thoughts of a sweep, a record above .500, catching the Mets, or a happy flight to Denver. In their place come the realization that a home run will put the Brewers ahead, and then you know. The who is still up in the air, but the what is written in stone.

Avilan strikes Jonathan Lucroy out looking for the first out of the inning, but the ugly presence of pessimism refuses to leave. You know. You just know. Carlos Gomez strolls to the plate and promptly gets ahead in the count, and then the foregone conclusion manifests itself into reality. His hit is no bloop, and you find yourself sprawled on the ground taking a moment to wallow in self-pity. As Braves fans, we are allowed this much.

Arodys Vizcaino comes in and restores order, but the damage is done. The lead is gone and the Braves bats only have three outs to try to regain it. Per the rules they have to play the top of the 9th, but you know there is really no need to. Acceptance has taken a firm root within you. Pedro Ciriaco reaches on an infield single to start the inning, but he is erased after he steals second base and is called out, an erroneous call that is upheld with a review (while it is possible the umpires got it right, this is a Braves pity party here, so, therefore, the umpires were wrong). That is about all the excitement the Braves can muster. A meek flyout and it is finished.

You tell yourself that you’€™ll settle for a series win in a season where expectations are just a memory, but, really, this one stings. It was in the bag, but then it popped out of the bag rather quickly and the Braves just did not have the time to stuff it back in there.

The team heads to Denver to finish out the “first half” with a 4-game set, then all but Shelby Miller will get to enjoy a nice, long 4-day break. Speaking of which, things I hate: spiders, hurricanes, Tommy John surgeries, and the All-Star Break (why? Because it always falls in July, right when baseball has just started to be enjoyable again following the patented June Swoon, and then real baseball is taken away from me for days on end and I remember what a sad thing the offseason is.) Things I love: a freshly baked loaf of bread, Andrelton Simmons with a glove on his hand, Cameron Maybin, and Alex Wood‘s sinker (may it be sinking well tomorrow in Denver’€™s thin air).

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82 thoughts on “MIL 6, ATL 5—A Braves Fan’s Odyssey”

  1. Well crap. I spent the day rooting against the Mets at AT&T field. Degrom was pretty awesome and had a nifty 99 pitch, 2 hit shutout thru 8. The Giants kicked it around a little and the mets were up 4, which was 1 too many runs for the mets to go to familia, so they went to another guy to make it a save situation for their closer. They played with fire and almost got burned. A run was in and buster posey was on deck as the winning run had the final batter reached.

    The Giants could’ve pinch hit posey one batter earlier as the tying run, but that would’ve subbed him in for the backup catcher and posey would’ve had to then catch the next inning with a bad hammy in the event of a tie. I thought worrying about a tie was questionable, but it was probably just as likely as a walk off win, so it was probably the right call.

  2. Greetings from Mexico City. I just got to my hotel planning to watch the last game of the sweep. Apparently, however, the entire game was played while I was at 32,000 feet. This one’s my fault.

  3. We face our long time nemesis tomorrow…Kyle Kendrick. He is 3-10 with an ERA of 6, but we always struggle against him.

  4. It’s been really fun to root for Cameron this year. I know it might not be the best option for the team’s future, but I hope they don’t trade him.

  5. Not sure why we have to move Maybin. He’s not that expensive and his bat/defense is good enough to move to LF eventually

  6. Preach it, Rissa.

    Another bullpen job. Unbelievable. According to baseball-reference, only Oakland’s bullpen is worse, and that is by a hair.

    RELEASE

    THEM

    ALL

  7. So the Padres may be looking to move Upton and Kimbrel now. Don’t forget even if they do they will still be stuck with Melvin. Get job Mr Hart.

    Now find a taker for CJ and lets keep Maybin around

  8. There’s a nice analysis of what the Braves need to do heading into the trade deadline over on Tomahawk Take. Mr. Cothran presents his typically well-reasoned point of view.

  9. @17
    Thx coop. This position the Braves are in is maddening. I mean, on one hand they’re 1 game below .500, seem to be weeding out the weak links out of the bullpen, and are in a weak division. The temptation to buy is serpentine.

    On the leveler head, the Braves need to build for the future and there are a ton of veterans that could be traded to help that process. Heck, there’s 7-8 guys that could bring back a B-/C+ prospect.

    And to go completely asinine, the Braves could do both: build for the future by trading the 4-5 of the 7-8 veterans, trade a young pitcher for a LF bat, and challenge the Nats for the division that way.

    I do not envy John Hart, although it’d be a ton of fun to make 7-8 teams your shopping list and 12-15 teams your shipping list.

  10. I don’t think Hart will jump of course. We may not be the sellers that we thought we would be, but we won’t be buyers unless it makes sense long term

  11. This is going to go against everything I’ve said about this year’s team…but hear me out. If you have a chance to make the playoffs — you take it. Period. End of discussion. I’m not saying you mortgage the future, but if you can add a piece from the outside, or call a few guys up to shore up this gawdawful bullpen, then you do it.

    I don’t think we have a good team. Far from it. But our division sucks. It’s freaking terrible. Rolling the dice on a few short series is fine by me.

  12. Your lips to the Johns’ ears, csg. Do not trade a promising tomorrow for a slim chance today.

  13. @20, the same reasoning should have applied last October. The core of the team that won 96 games in 2013 and lost 83 games in 2014 probably could have contended for the second wild card in 2015. But the team decided to blow up the core and rebuild for the future.

    We firmly decided against playing for the second Wild Card then: we decided to be sellers, not buyers. I don’t think we should change our minds half a year later.

  14. Got to believe all the Bowman-speak about the Braves being OK with next year’s number 15 HAD to get Allard to sign on the dotted line.

  15. More Damage to the NL East: It’s reported that the Mets’ new pitching phenom Steven Matz will be out “several weeks” with a lat injury.

  16. @22 The off-season plan worked better than expected. The plan was to be good in 2017, not to be bad until then.

  17. @ 22 Well put.

    I’d like to know if the moves the front office have been making are driven by Coppolella. Is Hart merely doing quality control/mentoring or is he really the ideas man?

  18. The only thing worse than a game that starts at 8:40, is a game that starts at 8:40 and then has an immediate rain delay.

  19. @32 – Pretty sure he gave up a three-run homer after walking the first two batters. Seems to have settled down nicely…

  20. @29
    I remembered hearing on a podcast some time ago from someone who knew Coppalella (Law or Keri or some nationally relevant baseball writer) that he is REALLY into young pitchers. So with that floating around in the back of my head, I’ve kindaa imagined that these were mostly Coppy moves. Also, Hart’s Indians and Rangers teams always seemed to have mediocre pitching and monster offenses.

  21. Assuming the Braves made an informed decision and were aware of the market last offseason, I wonder if Punch and Judy Markakis was the only affordable outfielder with power’s cost now being inflated. Some have inferred that the Braves were trying to collect athletes with less power, whereas others have said that those were simply the best talent available in the current marketplace. What if Markakis was simply the best we could do with our FA dollars? That concerns me going into this offseason. Is a guy like Justin Upton going to command close to $30MM per year?

  22. Ok…back to the room from way too many tequilas ububba, but ready to concentrate. Thx for the delay.

  23. And we’re back, with Jake Brigham on the hill and three games left in this series to get over the loss that will inevitably ensue.

  24. They’re restarting this game, though God knows what’s coming next since the Rockies apparently are unfamiliar with the witchcraft that is weather radar. Oh well, I’m sure the Old Farmer’s Almanac is good enough most of the time.

  25. A whole night with the grease-fire ‘pen, against an ex-Brave destined to throw seven shutout innings just because. Skip’s words about walking the dog and patronizing the sponsors apply here.

  26. @35 — I’m one of those people who inferred that the Braves might be deliberately collecting low-power hitters. The game is changing in a way that’s unfriendly to the boom-or-bust offenses Frank Wren favored, and I saw their offseason as trying to get ahead of the curve. You don’t put together an offense that’s this low-powered by accident, and Freddie Freeman is the only guy with reliable power in the whole system, even after the draft and international signings. (Before anyone says Braxton Davidson, his isolated power is only a touch higher than Ozzie Albies’s, a kid about whom the sentence “He’ll probably never hit for power” is usually the first thing uttered.) They want a batting average/speed offense.

    …It’s good that while I was typing that up, Brigham ensured that I don’t need to stay up to watch this game.

  27. I didn’t even know Jake Brigham was on the Braves roster. (Edit: I remember him now, but I never, in a million years, would have been able to guess his name had I been trying to list the 25-man roster.)

    I wonder who will start for the Rockies tomorrow night. Hale was scheduled to. I can’t believe they started this game and we burned Wood on two pitches.

  28. I’m at the game. The top of the first was mildly justifiable but the bottom of the first should never have happened. It was pouring as Wood warmed up. Umpiring malpractice strikes again.

  29. @46

    Yeah, but there’s no way that wasn’t on radar before the game started. It was a freaking monsoon. So the obviously correct thing to do was to not start the game even though it wasn’t gonna start raining for 10 minutes or so. And that’s on the Rockies, too, as it’s up to them before the game. Responsibility only passes to the umpires after the game starts. Frankly, the umpires were right to try and play through it as long as they could to see if they could do anything to work their way out of the idiotic morass that the Rockies front office threw everybody down before the game.

  30. @47

    Cromulent points, because the Rockies organization is the failing cult of MLB: insular, deaf to criticism and completely clueless on all matters related to baseball. But they have the 1927 Yankees of marketing departments and have made the park and experience itself the draw.

  31. Hale v Brigham is a much better match-up for Colorado than Kendrick v Wood. The crew had a hell of a time with that tarp.

    Also, as an non-Georgia native, I can tell you that production value on the Georgia State Lottery commercials is insane.

  32. @51-
    With luck, our game’s at an end.
    Oh yes, it’s raining again.
    When will our pen ever mend?

  33. I’m here for the duration. If there is another rain delay I will regret those words.

  34. Rain this hard finally stopped it in the first. But now we play on, leaky boats beating against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the bullpen.

  35. There would be no greater poetic justice than this game getting rained out before it becomes official. It’s no less than the Rockies deserve.

  36. @53

    I’m not saying that the Rockies intentionally did that. After all, never chalk up to conspiracy that which can adequately be explained by incompetence. But, I am saying that their incompetence is about to give their team a free win unless this gets rained out in the next inning. And that’s bullshit.

  37. @everyone

    Can’t decide what’s worse: throwing yourself under a train, being shot in your own backyard, or watching an entire game of 2015 Braves bullpen pitching.

  38. @75, you think it’s brutal now, just wait til we flip Johnson and Grilli for prospects. Then we might prefer being shot out of a cannon off the Green Monster into the hapless arms of Hanley Ramirez.

  39. It’s almost like social commentary, or performance art. Like they are satirizing the very notion of not letting your starter complete his own games, or the preposterous idea that the bullpen provides “relief.” At the end of this year, someone should edit together our bullpen appearances, set it to Philip Glass music, call it “Meaning Without Purpose / Purpose Without Meaning,” and screen it at the Whitney Museum in New York.

  40. @77 I only entertain literary demises.

    Plus Hanley would never catch me.

    @78, I’ve heard the new building is fantastic! Wouldn’t that be a wonderful/completely pitiful reason to go.

  41. Someone mentioned Maybin earlier, and I agree he’s a great story, but I’m also tickled that Juan Uribe has been very nearly the team’s most valuable player since he was acquired. What a stupidly good trade that was.

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