The 2015 Atlanta Braves entered a game in late July in a position to sweep the almighty, NL West-leading Dodgers, proving that no matter how things look on paper, you still gotta play the games. A good team may have the advantage when facing a bad (or mediocre) team, but, as a broken clock is right twice a day, even the worst major league teams will win 50 games. On top of that the Braves lucked into a series against the “pray for rain” portion of the Dodgers’ rotation, which definitely helped even things up a bit.
Julio Teheran was the Home Julio (or should that be the Jome Julio?) and looked sharp. He started the game in a dominant fashion, recording strikeouts for five of the first six outs he recorded, and getting a pickoff at second base for the sixth. Tom Glavine pointed out how confident Julio’s body language was on the mound, and it was a valid point. There have been games where his emotions on the mound have been obvious, and it looks like he just wants to throw a temper tantrum out there. Today, though, he looked ready to pitch as soon as he caught the ball and treated us to a vintage Julio game. Neither his defense nor his offense, however, seemed inclined to want to take advantage of that.
A day game on a hot day combined with the Braves “A” offense still on the disabled list led Fredi to start his “J” offense to support Julio, and the results were pretty predictable. KJ, CJ, and AJ went a combined 1-for-9 in the heart of the order (add J. Peterson‘s 0-for-3 and J. Terdoslavich…JT?…’s groundout as a pinch hitter and today’s “J” team ended up more resembling jolly jokers learning jujutsu than ballplayers.)
Mike Bolsinger looked vulnerable in first few innings, and, in hindsight, the Braves should have taken Chip’s sage advice from last night when he said, “if the Braves want to think about early offense, perhaps they should do so in the first inning” (yes, Chip, that very well could be a good time to think about early offense).
The Braves recorded hits in each of the first two innings, then looked to be in serious business in the 3rd when Andrelton Simmons led off the inning with a single with Julio coming up to bunt him over. Julio couldn’t get the bunt down, though, and with two strikes hit a line drive to shortstop that Jimmy Rollins leaped up and appeared to snag. In his haste to turn a double play, though, he didn’t close his glove all the way and dropped the ball, and then proceeded to kick it away from him. Although the play produced a better situation than a successful bunt would have, Fredi appeared bummed that the inning might not include a good bunt, and so, as any self-respecting NL manager and advocate-of-the-bunt would do, he ordered his leadoff hitter to bunt the runners over. Jace did what he was asked, and the Braves nicely handed the Dodgers an out.
When you play for one run you rarely get more, and sure enough, the Braves picked up their only run of the game that inning. Get ’em on, error ’em over, bunt ’em over more, and score on a groundout is good ol’ fashioned ABE Baseball, NL style. Following that, Bolsinger was dominant, allowing only a walk in the four more innings he completed. The Braves couldn’t get a hit off the Dodgers bullpen, either, so they really should have thought about early offense in the first inning.
Julio was striking everyone out and pitching merrily along until the fifth inning, when Yasmani Grandal hit a ball to right field that Nick Markakis misplayed so badly he couldn’t even be charged with an error on the play. The ball ended up over his head and Grandal ended up with a leadoff double. Julio couldn’t pick up his right fielder, and following a groundout that advanced the runner, he gave up a single to, naturally, former Brave Alberto Callaspo that put the Dodgers on the board. A Rollins double and Joc Pederson single later, the score stood 3-1 and the damage was done.
The Braves bullpen continued their stellar post-All Star Break work and kept the Dodgers off the board over the last two innings, but some offense is mandatory for winning and the Braves had none of that over the last six innings (which, apparently, was the Dodgers fault for throwing too many curve balls, as AJ and the Braves bench appeared to start whining about in the 7th inning.)
Still, the game might have ended differently had this not been the year of Former Braves Coming Back to Exact Revenge Against Their Former Team. In the 9th Cameron Maybin walked to start the inning and Markakis followed that with what seemed destined to be a double down the third base line. Before you could fully formulate the thought that the Braves might have men on second and third, no one out, and down two, Callaspo made an amazing play to stop the ball and get Nick out at first. Of course he did.
The Braves are off tomorrow and open a series in St. Louis on Friday. If they couldn’t manage to get through a Dodgers series without Callaspo—Alberto Callaspo!—beating them, I shudder to think of the damage the Braves are going to experience this weekend at the hands of Jason Heyward.
Hurry back soon, Freddie. Pretty please.