With the redesign of the website and the cognomen “The Cheers of Braves Blogs” I should mention that, unlike what I take to be the typical life of an Internet writer, I actually get out to real bars every now and again… by which I mean just about every day. My main local is a bar where the regulars engage in usually amiable Yankees-Red Sox banter, the Giants are a NY football team, and success in random betting pools are what pass for bragging rights.
In that milieu (as in so many) I am a bit of an outlier – a Braves fan in a world in which the NL barely exists, except to provide rueful hilarity with Mets anecdotes (And PS: I find nothing in their recent run to convince me otherwise.) But they humor me, and I’m a free agent in the Yankees-Red Sox wars, sometimes switching sides to whomever bought me the last Bourbon (for those of a historical bent, that would be Henri, Comte de Chambord, unless you’re holding out hope for Prince Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou. Speaking of liquor and dynasties, have I mentioned that I was really holding out hope for Pedro Borbon, Jr? Alas, twas not to be.) When push comes to shove, of course, I have to take the side of the Red Sox against the team that employed the Worst Man In The World, Jim [insert appropriate expletive] Leyritz. But as I said, it’s an amiable bunch, and there’s very little pushing, much less shoving.
Anyway, ESPN and their firm insistence that baseball is just the Yankees and Red Sox notwithstanding, the barflies have actually begun to realize that the Braves might be an interesting team. As this series began, a Yankees fan said to me: “Well, I don’t think you can beat the Dodgers, but if you can hold your own in Minneapolis you might have a team there.” Hey, I’m not confident we can beat the Dodgers either, but as a card-carrying member of the “Playoffs are a Crapshoot” school of baseball I know it’s a reasonable possibility. And while three games against Minnesota can’t prove anything one way or the other, I approached this series in the same spirit as my pinstriped friend.
Going into this third game, the Braves are clearly capable of playing with the Twins. Neither Odorizzi nor Berrios shut the Braves down, which is really the main thing you worry about when you face another good team. And Berrios wasn’t effective at all, the kind of performance that is exactly why the playoffs are a crapshoot.
So, satisfied with the notion that, whatever happened, I was going to be pretty satisfied with where my team was, I realized that my self-satisfaction won’t cut it in an argument with a Yankee fan. We need to win the series. Max took the mound against Marty Perez, who played short for the Braves in 1971-1976, where he put up a whopping 72 OPS+ while fielding slightly below average. He was one of a long run of below-average shortstops for the Braves in that period: Sonny Jackson, Gil Garrido, Craig Robinson…. But he’s 73 years old now, so I was a little surprised to see him pitching for the Twins. Nobody on the broadcast mentioned his previous stint with the Braves, but I have to admit he looks great for 73.
Not good enough, however, to get a fastball past Ozzie or Freddie, both of whom hit homers, and Gwinnett Penicillin 2.0 (I’m going to stick with it for a bit longer) scored the third run after singling and scoring from first on a double by the Folk Hero who got a very rare early game hit.
In the third, the Braves put another three on the board while only once getting the ball out of the infield. The highlight of the inning, however, was a bases-loaded around-the-horn triple play off the bat of Flowers. When Tyler came to the plate, I was anticipating the double play, but I underestimate Flowers’ offensive ineptitude at times.
Hibernation mode was briefly interrupted in the 6th with Ozzie’s second rally-killer of the day to make it 7-0. 7 runs given up, though is pretty good for a 73 year old shortstop. Indeed, if the Twins could have just held them there, we’d have gone to extra innings.
On the other side, Fried was perfect the first time through the order, striking out 7, but ran into trouble in the next three innings stranding runners on 2nd and 3rd in the 4th and 5th, finally breaking through in the 6th as Max gave up a run and then gave way to Luke who double Gryboed Max with a stuck landing. (For those new to BJ through our pivot to new quality content, that means the Twins scored 3. Check the glossary.)
Swarzak pitched an uneventful (but still not completely clean) 7th.
Acuña, who fouled a ball earlier off a tender part of his leg, realized that a home run relieves him of the obligation to run, so a two run mammo put the Braves back to 6 in the top of the 8th.
At this point, I would normally think the game is over, but I’m still waiting for a competent performance from the new guys. Martin was given the 8th, and he emerged unclean but unscathed, lowering his Braves ERA from 10.8 to 6.75. Hey! Single digits!
Claude knocked in 2 in the top of 9th for no obvious reason other than to invalidate Chip’s praise of Kohl Stewart who pitched the last three innings for the House of Hrbek. Kohl pitched 2 and gave up 4. Tomlin emerged unclean and scathed in the 9th, but an eight run cushion allowed him to absorb a lot of punishment. In this case, punishment = 4 runs. For reasons that are not quite clear to me, Snit brought in Melancon with two outs in the 9th, bases empty and a 4 run lead. But — clean and unscathed (for one batter.) Final 11-7.
Chip Watch: (A) “X is in scoring position when he comes to the plate” is dumb, of course, and doesn’t get any smarter when you keep saying it. If Chip is going to insist on saying it, though, he should (a) stop talking about the lost weapon of the stolen base; and (b) use every one of Acuña’s, Ozzie’s, Freddie’s and Josh’s at bats when calculating batting average with runners in scoring position. In fact, since just about anyone can hit a homer today, batting average with men in scoring position is just team batting average. (B) There was a moment, when I criticized his use of “Screaming Mimi” only to see it leave his vocabulary, that I thought maybe he was reading BJ, but the inanity of “first pitch may be the best one you’ll see” continues, so maybe not. (BTW, I have lots of synonyms for “missile” if you need one Chip. If you’re reading this, try using “thunderbolt.” I’ll be listening.)
The Braves head down to
Ugly Centerfield Sculptureland Land of Banished Ugly Sculpture Owing to Jeter Hissyfit for 4. I’m heading down to my local for Happy Hour. I believe there’s a Yankee fan who owes me a couple of Knob Creeks.