Tuesday night, the Braves hit 4 solo home runs in the second inning. Eighty-eight teams have hit four or more homers in an inning. The Braves have done it 8 times. But only 16 teams have hit four solo shots and the Braves have done it only once before: on May 20, 2001 Andruw Jones, Brian Jordan, Javy Lopez and Wes Helms went solo yard in the 7th, all off future Brave Alan Embree. For a team with Quilvio Veras and Rico Brogna, that’s some pretty good hitting. (I’m clearly having too much fun with my new database.)
This got me thinking about the 2001 Braves and reminding myself how lucky we were to have three Hall of Fame pitchers in the starting rotation. (Actually, Smoltz was the closer on that team: the rotation was Maddux, Glavine, Millwood, Odalis Perez and John Burkett.) This was a team that had 24 position players on the roster at one time or another, and only three had an OPS+ of 100: Chipper (who had one of his best seasons all by his lonesome) Brian Jordan and Julio Franco. I’m not counting Steve Torrealba who hit .500 in two plate appearances. What we’re learning now is just how talented an offensive team you need to have to succeed with even an above-average pitching staff. (I wrote this before Chip made this point in the broadcast: I’m mortified.)
On to game 3 of the series with Pirates, the two middle games of which were not started by Joe Musgrove. Instead we were treated to Mitch Keller. Who is he and why am I saying terrible things about him? (No one under 60 will get that reference, and I doubt many over 60 will get it either.) Mitch Keller is the first winner in MLB history of the “look younger than Mike Soroka when you pitch against him” contest. (For the record, Keller is older.) He also seems to have a good live fastball. But not quite live enough. He gave up three runs in the first inning. In the top of the second, he bunted into a double play to hold the Pirates scoring to two runs. He then gave up another run in the bottom of the second, and another two in the third on a single by Old Man Soroka. So that’s who Mitch Keller is. Better luck in the future, young fella.
Meanwhile, Soroka appears to have pulled a reverse-Samson: hittable when he has facial hair. He would have given up more than two runs in the first three innings without good plays by Freddie and Josh (on the bunt double play) and by Ozzie (to stop a ball from going through the infield) and Dansby (on a blooper by Melky.) Two more in the fourth kept the game close, and a homer to Starling Marte in the 5th pulled the Pirates within one. He left after five with a one run lead. I recommend any barber but Smitty’s and this hair thing can be fixed.
With the youngsters done pitching (it was past their bedtimes) the game belonged to the bullpens. Tomlin didn’t pitch badly in two innings of work, but gave up the tying run in the top of the 6th. An hour of rain came in the bottom of the 7th. If I were faithfully reporting on the game, I’d make you all read irrelevant things for an hour, or watch the third period of the Stanley Cup Finals, which is what I actually did. Minter came on in the 8th and survived a runner in scoring position. But Luke’s hand turned cool in the top of the 9th – a Josh Bell homer gave the Pirates the lead.
But these are your resilient Braves, right? Austin Powers a homer to dead center off Crick to lead off the 9th. Webb pitched the 10th and 11th, finishing with a noisy out to Melky. And it finished in bottom of the 11th: Riley on a HBP scoring from first on an Ozzie double. 8-7 win with another game in less than 12 hours.
The “disagree with Chip without showing him up” train continues:
Chip: “Another two strike foul. I don’t know if they keep this stat, but the Pirates surely lead the National League, if not the majors.”
Glavine: “Well, they’ve certainly had a number of those in this series.” Brilliant. There’s absolutely no way I could challenge Chip that passively.
Idle Chip question: I wonder if he knows what a “Screaming Mimi” is? He uses the term constantly.