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.
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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