Braves 5, Tigers 3

If we can’t enjoy watching our team in the playoffs, at least we can break everyone else’s toys. The Braves are on an incredible 11-2 run in which they swept the Mets and took two of three from the Nationals, who were assured of a playoff spot but not of home field advantage, and two of three from the Marlins, who still had slim mathematical hopes of the second wild card. Tonight, we dealt a grievous and likely fatal blow to the Detroit Tigers’ playoff hopes.

(As I write this, they are now tied with the Mariners, 1.5 games out of the second wild card with two games to play. The Mariners are still playing a late west coast game right now. If they win, they’ll be one game back with one to play; if they lose, they’ll be two back with two to play.)

The Tigers made an elementary mistake: they pitched to Freddie Freeman with a man on. In the fourth inning, Adonis Garcia led off with a single, and then Jordan Zimmermann threw a low change-up to Freddie, who promptly deposited it in the center field bleachers. There’s just one game left in the Braves’ season, and the Tigers may just want to intentionally walk him for the duration.

But the real story of the game is Little Handsome himself, Aaron Blair. To say that he had the best start of his major league career would be, if anything, an understatement. Flashing a low-90s fastball but largely relying on a curveball and a truly nasty slider, he struck out ten men in six innings, only walking one. I don’t have a count, but he may have thrown more breaking balls than fastballs. And if he can do what he did tonight — throw his breaking balls for called strikes, then move them off the plate and get swinging strikes — he just might have a future as a starter.

Batting 8th, Dansby Swanson got two hits and a walk, and helped to ice the game with a truly gorgeous double play in the eighth inning. After Mauricio Cabrera walked the Bases loaded and Chaz Roe struck out Miguel Cabrera, Swanson laid out to his right to stop a hotshot off the bat of J.D. Martinez, then made a long throw from his knees to Jace Peterson at second, who then threw on to Freddie at first to nail Martinez by a couple of steps, end the inning, and keep a run from scoring.

If that ball had gotten through, it would have been a 5-4 game with a men on first and second; if he hadn’t been able to release it as quickly as he did, it would have been 5-3 with men on first and third. Instead, the Braves took a 5-2 lead to the bottom of the eighth.

Dansby is really, really good. Aaron Blair might even be pretty good. This team is starting to look like it could be interesting.

32 thoughts on “Braves 5, Tigers 3”

  1. Definitely a playoff atmosphere tonight. Lots of Tiger fans there. Blair had a tremendous outing and it seemed like he started off a lot of hitters with offspeed pitches.

  2. Every single one of Blair’s strikeouts was swinging, and I think all but one were breaking balls. Pretty incredible to see from him.

    Stu, they got any more like him where you come from? Maybe we better make Vandy our new Curacao.

    Co-sign, Rusty S. I think AAH is an excellent Braves Journal name for him.

  3. @Smitty, csg-

    Me too. My first and only game of the season. I was sitting out in center field where I had a pretty good view of each pitch. Blair was dealing. It was really funny to look from the guy on the mound over to the 7.8 ERA on the board. He wasn’t perfect–missed his pitch by a few feet a couple of times–but he kept the ball down, and it seemed like he had a lot of life on everything. Fine outing; I hope it carries over.

    Between pitches at one point I yelled over to the Heffalump to look alive. Sure enough, base hit down the line, and he lets it roll all the way into the corner. Whatever. As long as he hits like Carlos Delgado he’s fine. Turner field memory: I really miss the Prado-Bourn-Heyward outfield we had a few years ago. It felt like they never let a ball hit the damn wall.

    Speaking of Turner Field memories…Well, let me back up. You all probably know they unveiled the All-Turner Field team. All the guys you expect: Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Hudson, Teheran, Kimbrel–Prado–Javy, Chipper, Freddie, Marcus, Furcal–Klesko, Andruw, and…Brian Jordan? Look, I know he’s got heart and everything, but Gary Sheffield and–some other guy, can’t think of his name right now–should have been the only two choices.

    Anyway, but Brian Jordan. Lovely to see his cardboard cut-out there, because he was responsible for my all-time favorite moment at Turner Field. Of the ones I was in the building for, anyway. Two Mets fans were trash talking from the second deck of the Chop House all the way through our 9th inning runs. And then when Jordan crushed that ball–I looked up and the guys had already disappeared. Lovely.

    Here’s to the best, youngest, most functional ballpark anyone ever decided to send into early retirement.

  4. Just watched the condensed game from last night. Some of the swings were downright silly. Where did this performance from AAH (love it, Rusty) come from?

  5. Over at Talking Chop, Blair’s dad posted this:

    “This will be my final post of the season
    and I don’t think I’ll reply to anybody, whether it’s Aaron Haraang or he can’t pitch in the big leagues.
    First things first. Aaron had never thrown a slider until he was sent down the 1st time this season. He was told to work on it while he was down. As you know, his “down” time lasted 3 innings because of rain. He was then back in the bigs trying to throw a new pitch to big league hitters. It didn’t go well. It really came around when he and Roger worked on his mechanics, and by that I mean more than just the body turn in the windup. He shortened his stride, which allowed him to not only stay “behind” the ball but also stay on top of the off speed pitches. It worked well against the Mets but he also developed a bit of a blister towards the tail end of that start. It really caused him problems in the Miami start but he tried to pitch thru it. He had a couple of extra days off after that start so his blister had heeled coming into this start. Funny thing was, we were both on the same page after watching Kindler ambush Wisler’s first pitch fastball Friday night for a foul ball home run. When I dropped him off at the stadium Saturday afternoon, we had a conversation about Jake Hager, who is now in AAA with Tampa. In high school, he was known as “The First Pitch Ambusher”. Aaron ALWAYS threw an off-speed pitch to Hager leading off a game. Well, tonight, he not only threw a 1st pitch slider to Kinsler for a strike, he proceeded to go curve ball and another slider for strike 2 and strike 3. He pretty much kept that pattern up the rest of the night.

    It was a joy to watch and despite giving up the Upton home run, it was very emotional seeing him walk off the mound and getting a huge ovation.

    There was a reason why he won back to back Pitcher of the Year in the Diamondbacks organization and I think this was a great way for him to finish this season off.
    Thanks for giving me a forum to write this. Until next season, thanks again!
    Craig Blair”

  6. Braves enter the last game of 2016 with a lot of 2017 draft positioning on the line – the Twins are in deadest last with 58 wins, followed by the Rays at 67 – 94 and the Braves at 67 – 93. A’s, Reds, Padres and DBacks enter today at 68-93. The general draft order is the reverse order of the previous year’s standings. If two teams finish with identical records, the previous year’s standings of the two teams is the tiebreaker, with the team having a worse record receiving the higher pick.

    As best as I can tell, here is the Braves’ 2017 draft slot given various outcomes for todays’ games:
    1. Braves lose, Rays win: Braves pick #2
    2. Braves lose, Rays lose: Rays pick #2, Braves pick #3
    3. Braves win: Braves pick anywhere between #4 – #6*

    *A Braves win would mean a 68 – 93 finish; three of A’s, Reds, Padres and DBacks could lose and finish 68 – 94 (the DBacks and Padres are playing each other, so one of those two teams will be forced to win a 69th game – and one will lose and finish 68 – 94).

    One last note to end on: Even if the Braves lose today, they’ll finish with a better record than the 2015 Braves (67 – 95). Personally, I’m rooting for the first outcome listed above even if it means the team finishes its Turner Field era on a loss; your mileage may vary.

  7. Great game. The bottom of the eighth was big league baseball. Chaz Roe was, for at least this game, a great reliever; and Dansby Swanson is okay for a Commodore.

    Thanks for the recap, Alex. Let’s lose today for the pick!

  8. How much slot money is on the line if we went from #2 to #6? My limited understanding is like $3.5M. Yeah, let’s lose.

  9. @9 The only guy on the staff with an ERA north of 7 is having his daddy explain his issues. I’d be doing better if Craig Blair would let his son’s pitching do the talking. Stop arguing about Trump with Twitter idiots and having dad explain why you haven’t pitch well. Just pitch.

  10. Was not aware that JJ and McDowell have a strong relationship, but that certainly makes sense when you weigh his Atlanta performance vs. non-Atlanta performance in the last 4 years.

    I like him as insurance for if the harder throwers aren’t in a position to take the closer’s role. And if one of them does, having him as a setup man and veteran leader is really helpful too.

  11. How many ABs today would disqualify Dansby for next year’s ROY contention? Or is he already there?

  12. @10

    Wait, if the Braves and Rays both win (Rays are leading in the top of the 7th), then the Braves would finish with a worse winning percentage. The Braves would be 68-93, and the Rays would be 68-94. It doesn’t seem like we’re competing with anyone other than the Rays for the #2 pick. All those other teams are out.

  13. Gee Rob, I actually think this is a great privilege to get that inside scoop on Blair, one which would’ve been inaccessible before internet sports forums. Give the kid a break.

  14. So, Julio finishes the year either 6-10 or 7-10, but with a 3.21 ERA in 188 innings pitched, a 1.07 WHIP and a 4.1 K/BB ratio. And he’s still just 25. After parts of six years in the bigs, he’s thrown 821 innings with a career ERA of 3.39.

    Kid’s a good pitcher.

    EDIT: Make that 7-10.

  15. Ballgame over, season over, ballpark over.

    Kinda cool to win the last game at The Ted 1-0, considering all the great pitching performances that happened there over the years. Also cool to have some reason for optimism heading into next season.

    Go Braves!

  16. @21 – Won’t the Pads and Rays both have worse records than us? I see us picking fourth. I’d love to be mistaken.

  17. It’s always more fun to win, even when our draft position got scuttled. Justin Upton should’ve clobbered that last pitch but he watched it. Tigers go home!

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