Braves 9, Cubs 4

Remember way back on April 1, when the Braves limped home from Philadelphia after being swept in a three game series?  The season was DOOMED, and given the miserly owners, the team would never be competitive again.

Here we are, three games later.  This team is a juggernaut—the offense is clicking on all cylinders, the rotation is going to be fine, and with all the youth in the field and on the mound (with the greatest kid of all locked up for a decade), this team is a dynasty that will not only win it all this year but probably for the foreseeable future.

Of course both of the above are over-reactions.  But I’ve got to tell you, right now I’m feeling like the second is a lot likelier than the first.  I’m loving this team (maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement—we’ll discuss the bullpen later).  With Thursday’s 9-4 victory over the Cubs, the Braves have pulled back to .500 on the young season.  It was a very satisfying series against the Cubs.

But the story of this game, and the main reason I’m feeling so optimistic right now, is the starting performance by Max Fried.  He was perfect through 5 and two thirds, finally giving up a single with two outs in the 6th.  Chip at one point referred to a “command performance” by Fried.  Command is the word.  Leo always insisted that fastball command is the key to effective pitching; with it, you don’t need much else, and without it, it doesn’t much matter what other pitches you throw.  You may remember that young Max has one of the best curves in the game.  But his success tonight was all about the heater.  He was throwing it in the 96 to 97 mph range, but most importantly, he was painting the corners with it, and moving it up and down in the zone. He also snapped off several beautiful hooks, and threw an 85 mph change up on the corner whenever he wanted to. It’s true he didn’t give up any hits through 5 2/3, but I’m even more impressed with the lack of bases on balls.  Shane Carle was given the ball next.  Given how the pen had performed so far, I was more nervous than I should have been in a 6-0 game.  Fortunately, Carle added two shutout innings to Fried’s six. 

It was actually a very tight game until the bottom of the fifth, when Markakis broke it open with a bases clearing three run double.  Speaking of Neck, maybe AA knew what he was doing, keeping him rather than acquiring Brantley, Pollock, or McCutcheon.  Markakis had a phenomenal night.  5 for 5, 5 rbi’s, 3 runs scored, 3 doubles, and 8 total bases. The team had 13 hits in total; Ender, Ozzie, and Dansby had two hits each. BMac drove in the first Braves run in the 4th with a single over the head of the right fielder.  Brian was always slow, but it’s kind of absurd how slow he is now.  But it appears he can still hit.  He drove in a run with a sac fly in the 7th–missed going yard by a couple of feet.  That gave the Braves 7 on the evening.  (I guess Brian didn’t get the memo.  I thought the plan was to honor of Bobby Cox by scoring exactly 6 runs in every game the rest of the season.)  Another Markakis double in the eighth pushed the Braves total to 9 for the night.  It turned out those last three runs were needed, as Chad Sobotka pitched the ninth with a chance to give the Braves staff two shutouts in the three games against the Cubs.  Instead, Chad promptly gave up 2 homers and 3 runs. After another hit, Snitker turned to the just activated AJ Minter.  He showed signs of rust, walking a couple of guys and allowing another run.  All of a sudden I had a PTSD flashback to that game in Wrigley almost exactly a year ago, when the Braves blew a 10-2 lead.  Fortunately, Minter recovered and finally ended it.

Ok, the bullpen is still a big question mark, but everything else is looking pretty great. Oh, and Folty is getting close; he threw 5 no hit innings in the Gwinnett season opener.  We need some starters who can go deeper into games, or else an entirely new bullpen.

Marlins in for the weekend.  We need to take care of business and sweep these guys.  Gausman makes his season debut on Friday. 

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

72 thoughts on “Braves 9, Cubs 4”

  1. I will have to give credit to Roger. He has been singing the praises of Fried for quite a while now. It is still a very small sample size, but Fried’s start tonight was impressive. If he can keep putting together starts similar to this one, he could be a very special pitcher.

  2. He just needs to stay healthy and find a way to maintain that command. That stuff will certainly play.

  3. I really want Fried to do well. I like the kid a lot. It’s time we stop yoyoing him and give him the chance to prove that he can be a fixture in the rotation.

  4. Same as last year, this looks a team with good offense and inconsistent pitching. But with the starters only going 5-6 innings every night, we need long men in the bullpen. And that’s exactly how Bryse and Kyle Wright should learn to get major league hitters out.

  5. Midst all the glory – are Fried’s blister problems behind him, when did they last feature? The Chicago faces couldn’t hide how shocked they were at what they were facing.

    And JD’s defense, swooping in like an eagle on hard it short hops. Utterly unafraid of the bobble, he has better hands apparently than Ozzie!

    And Markakis, all you ageists should be ashamed of your dismissive off season long posturing, you were utterly wrong. It should have been obvious last year’s second half he was overplayed, got no rest, our fault not his. For Pete’s sake we must not repeat that this time. He is a major asset, currently and consistently makes the best contact on the team. Wow for him.

    Fried though. Finally an ace has jumped out of the pie. Well done Roger.

  6. Midst all the glory – are Fried’s blister problems behind him, when did they last feature?

    I don’t know how to count the cut on his finger this spring. Health has always been the primary concern with Fried IMO.

    And Markakis, all you ageists should be ashamed of your dismissive off season long posturing, you were utterly wrong. It should have been obvious last year’s second half he was overplayed, got no rest, our fault not his. For Pete’s sake we must not repeat that this time.

    I’d feel better if we had a backup plan that’s not Duvall or Waters.

    But with the starters only going 5-6 innings every night, we need long men in the bullpen. And that’s exactly how Bryse and Kyle Wright should learn to get major league hitters out.

    I have nothing to go on but pedigree here, but while I don’t care what happens to Bryse, I want the Braves to let Wright stay stretched out and build innings. AA should find a better way to address the bullpen challenge.

  7. A better caddy than Duvall for Kakes is one of the easier mid season trade goals.

  8. tfloyd, thank you. Fried reminded me of an early 90s lefty whose career ended too soon. I only hope Mac’s body holds up better.

    Scoring nine runs a game cures a lot of pitching ills.

    Go Braves.

  9. @6

    16 years @ 1 million, 2M, 3M and so on annually till 16M in the last year.

    Creative accounting that owes nothing to actuarial tables. Everything to the imagination.

    Oh. And a one million signing bonus. Symbolic appreciation.

    Total? AAV? No idea, way above my pay grade, anyone pse?

    And Sam – a caddy for Nick. How about Pache?

    On the bench. Starts at least one game a week for him. Pinch hits. Pinch runs, much better defense. Camargo 2 with pace/pache. Yes! He’ll learn more about the game he must play doing that than riding buses.

  10. Surprised to see Acuña running hard and having fun again last night after getting robbed of a hundred million dollars or more.

  11. Re: keeping young starting prospects stretched out as a starter (in the minors or otherwise) vs. using them at the majors in relief, I’d always intuitively guessed that the former would be preferable, I guess mostly so as to minimize how much you’re screwing with routines/processes/motions/everything if they project as a starter long-term. But I thought this quote from Fried in today’s AJC was interesting:

    “I’m not going to lie, me going to the bullpen was something that helped me a lot with my mentality,” he said. “It helped me go after guys. I just said, ‘Here’s my stuff. Hit it if you can.’ I’m going to go after you. I’m going to do everything I can. And I’ve tried to adapt that and put that in my starting routine too.”

  12. As far as I see it, Fried just nailed down a rotation spot until he loses it, which will hopefully be more than 10 years from now.

    As soon as Soroka is ready, I’d give him the nod as well.

  13. Pache needs to play. If he gets called up Kakes or Ender becomes the fourth OF.

  14. Breaking in a young starter via the pen is tried and true for centuries of baseball.

  15. Yeah, but you also want Wright ready to make a full contribution next year. I don’t know what Wright’s innings goal is this year, but I’d like to see him get to at least 160.

    The same way it shouldn’t be hard to upgrade on Duvall, it shouldn’t be hard to upgrade on Sobotka either.

  16. Camargo can spell Neck once a week or so. He needs to play almost every day anyway. We’re better with him in the lineup.

  17. @14 I wouldn’t call Pache up. He should progress through the system; which means picking up more AA time, and a stop in AAA.

  18. I’m not as worried about the innings, honestly. Put him in the pen, let him play long relief and swingman and throw him a 5-inning spot start every few weeks. He’ll pitch something like 50 games, 10 of them starts, around 100 innings total, and they’ll all be against major leaguers. Then next year they can focus on getting him 25-30 starts, working around the inevitable midsummer dead-arm shutdown.

  19. By the time Markakis wears down, it’ll be stretch-run time. Finding someone who’s dependable (e.g. not a rookie) is the whole point of getting him a caddy anyhow.

  20. @13 I prefer Wright over Sororka for the last spot, going 5 man. Both might be better than Newcomb? Too much pitching ain’t a bad problem to have though.

  21. Going to the pen could do Wright a lot of good. Soroka should be back up here in a couple more weeks, and he could also end up in the pen. These aren’t the worst possible things to have happen considering by that time we should have Folty back. If Fried has won the 5th spot, there’s no harm in allowing the others to replace struggling relievers.

  22. @22 It’ll take a few miles of bumpy road for Newcomb to drop from the rotation. He’s quite likely the current #5 in a lot of minds, but he’s surely #4 where it counts even if he’s #2 out there on the mound every other start.

  23. Thankfully, this is one of the many instances where arguing on the internet will have no bearing on what happens in reality because you’re all wrong!

  24. @24 That’s the thing, the inconsistency is a bit maddening. That’s just my feeling on the issue, though. I’d rather generally know what I’m going to get from a guy, versus have him flipping between looking like an ace and a mediocre back end guy.

    Newcomb has all the talent in the world though, and it’s magnificent at times.

  25. King, I agree. I really can’t see him losing a rotation spot this year unless he is just having an awful half. I’m also feeling that way about Teheran after he had such a solid first start. For him to come into Sun Trust and have lost his feel for his slider is just nuts. Why does that seem to be the case when pitching at home in that park? SMH.

    That said, I like our 3-5 starters better than anyone else’s when we’re talking about Teheran, Newcomb, and Fried.

    @25 Adam, you’re not wrong.

  26. Interesting tidbit from Rosenthal:

    Still, Acuña Jr. was in position to say no to the long extension.

    Earlier in his career, according to sources, he had received a loan, believed to be approaching $10 million, from RockFence Capital, a company that provides financial products to players that hedge against long-term performance risk.

    If a player reaches the majors, he pays back the loan at a high-interest rate. If not, he owes the company nothing. The RockFence arrangement is strictly a loan, as opposed to other deals with companies that advance players money in exchange for a percentage of future earnings.

    Interesting. I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  27. @27, if Adam isn’t wrong, then all of us are wrong, including you, and hence you must be wrong to say that he isn’t wrong.

    However, if he is wrong to say that all of us are wrong, then it’s still possible that some of us could be wrong even while others of us are not wrong.

    Hence, I believe that the only logically consistent way to resolve both @25 and @27 is to say that Adam and DS are wrong and the rest of us probably aren’t.

  28. @29 You’re also not wrong.

    You are totally thwarting my effort to cause a fatal exception in the matrix and shut down…

  29. Maybe the one thing everyone agrees on is that leaving Bryse Wilson in the ‘pen for a while seems fine.

    I base this on nothing but his lack of pedigree and ten innings’ worth of my untrained eyeballs’ attention.

  30. @9–you’re right, Coop. Max looks a lot like Avery out there. From 91 to 93, Avery looked like he could be turn out to be even better than Glavine or Smoltz. Like Fried last night, he could pound with the heater and drop a nasty hook when he needed to.

    Of course Avery burned out too soon. He pitched a ton of innings; by the time he turned 24 (a full year younger than Fried is today), he had already pitched 750 innings in the big leagues. Maximum (or do we call him Varsity?) has only logged 67 big league innings.

  31. And while we’re comparing young Braves to old ones, Bryse Wilson reminds me of Pat Jarvis. JonathanF will know what I mean.

  32. Obviously, they think there’s a way to harness Duvall’s power potential, or they wouldn’t stick with him.

    I feel like at least half of AA’s decisions don’t make any sense, but so far the product on the field produces, so…

  33. @28

    If that’s true, wow, a whole new economy. Must find out more. Rosenthal presumably did his homework. Would love to know the ‘high’ interest rate. Thanks for the info.

  34. @9 @33 That’s right; it’s the baby face. Both have/had it. Avery did burn out by pitching way too much under 25. By having his TJS under 25, Fried may have survived that kind of burnout.

    So Wilson has been sent down to start. Makes sense as he’s the youngest. He’ll be back when he gets more consistent. Gausman’s activation caused Carle to be sent down. Now, I’ll wait to see what happens when Folty’s activated but seems to me like Wright may go the middle relief route. And I think that might be OK for him. He’s a little older than Bryse (23) but not old enough that you want him to pitch 200 innings. He could easily benefit in the same way Fried says he has – and he’ll be better than Carle anyway.

    The two no-options guys are Jackson and Tomlin. I’d say the Braves are not serious about making any long term moves until one of them is DFA’d. I think the next guy to go out will be Sobotka and Wright can take his place in the pen.

    Hopefully, Viz and Minter can be a solid closing duo. The rest of the pen has not really stepped up yet. Biddle and Parsons have been OK. Assuming Wright joins the pen, Venters, Jackson, Tomlin, and Wright will need to step up or get replaced.

    Again, there is one guy that could change this whole calculus.

    What to do with Soroka is another conundrum.

    The real difference between the two series with the Cubs and Phillies is that Wilson and Wright did not pitch as well as Newcomb and Fried. They just did not seem quite ready for prime time. Hopefully, with Folty, Gaus, Newk, Julio, and Fried we could only lose a very few games….

  35. @38 Hopefully, with Folty, Gaus, Newk, Julio, and Fried we could only lose a very few games….

    I’d like to see them try a six-man rotation with Soroka when he’s ready. As solid as Newcomb, Julio, and even Gausman are, we really need someone like Fried or Soroka to make it to another level. Someone in this bunch, including Folty, needs to become that 6+ WAR type of staff ace.

  36. I’m quite confident we’ll go to a six-man once the days off start getting sparse. We play 10 straight days now, I think we have something like 3 off-days in May and 3 in June, and I think we have 2 off-days outside of the All-Star break in July including something like 2 different 10-12 straight game stretches. Right now it’s just not that big of a deal, but it will soon. I would imagine within the next week we’ll also start seeing Johan doing his best Marwin Gonzalez or Ben Zobrist impression.

  37. tfloyd,

    Good job on this.

    I was scared your Pat Jarvis reference might be from professional perspective. After re reading, I was convinced it was from a seasoned Braves fan’s perspective.

  38. The best line from the piece AAR linked to: “He faced 19-year-old Gary Nolan of the Reds in a classic pitching duel completed in under two hours, including a rain delay.”

  39. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I think Kyle Wright’s poor performance in his first start isn’t quite enough to relegate him to middle relief just yet – conditions in Philly were tough for pitching.

    Granted, with the return of Gausman and Folty (and Fried deserving of a continued spot in the rotation) then Wright might get crowded out for now – however, I think he’s the most likely young arm (after Fried) to throw a bunch of quality IP this season for the Braves.

  40. I don’t disagree, but he’s going to have to compete for time with Soroka later this month.

    I really don’t care who pitches as long as they can pitch through the 6th on fewer than 90 pitches.

  41. Sean Newcomb is 26. He is merely two years younger than Julio Teheran, and he has yet to have a single season in MLB that would crack the top 5 of Julio’s career. His best season to date was last year’s 104 ERA+, which is more or less Julio’s floor. There is no rational argument aside from contract to keep him in the rotation but constantly agitate to trade Teheran.

  42. And lest we think Julio’s on the clear and obvious downward spiral while Newk could “get better,” Julio posted a 124 ERA+ last year.

  43. I need to be clear that I was comparing Bryse to Pat Jarvis the pitcher. I have absolutely no reason to compare him to post-baseball Jarvis.

  44. Who is agitating to trade Julio?

    I picked him to be one of the better pitchers in the rotation. He’s regained some velocity. If he has his slider more often than not, he’ll be really good.

  45. How to make the FSN broadcast worse? Make it a constant advertisement of concessions rather than focusing on the game.

  46. It’s almost as if having 2/3 of your presumed starting rotation on the “not quite ready for reasons and shit” list coming out of spring training negatively impacts the rotation, which means you have to go to your young and flaky bullpen too much against a really good lineup and OH MY GOD CRAIG KIMBREL IS THE ONLY ANSWER REGARDLESS OF THE QUESTION!!!!

  47. Caray and Francoeur are talking about the infamous Blooper Burger.

    And for those curious: They said the Braves sold 65 Blooper Burgers during the SunTrust home opener on April 1.

  48. 7 innings. 2 hits. 2 walks. 89 pitches. Kinda nice to have another real pitcher out there again.

    And I also think it will be good to have a six man rotation. If Wright starts being a quality starter then Soroka makes seven…… Something has to give and I think it will be Wright as a middle reliever.

    The reason to trade Teheran was that his ceiling was about as high as his floor. And he had the biggest contract on the itching staff and we were hoping that some more “financial flexibility” might help bring in an ace or a slugging RF. And then just as now, we have an abundance of pitching talent that can be consolidated into a star.

  49. The starting rotation at Gwinnett is Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, Kolby Allard, and Bryse Wilson, with Luis Gohara joining the rotation after he gets off the injured list. It would be awesome to see those 5 develop close friendships and have a friendly competition like Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux used to have. That could be a pretty special rotation.

  50. And the Mississippi rotation is strong. It includes the three 2016 draftees Anderson, Mueller, and Wentz plus Weigel who had already advanced to AAA before his TJ surgery.

  51. winning cures everything. Now let’s get back Folty and get Josh going.

    I am quite confident that we will sign Kimbrel eventually. Maybe signing him in mid to late May to save some money and save his arm. If we continue to win, I am sure he would like to come back.

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