Avenging the Curse of Hrbek: Braves 11, Twins 7.

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.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

49 thoughts on “Avenging the Curse of Hrbek: Braves 11, Twins 7.”

  1. For anyone upset about our starters not being able to go deep in this series, take a look at what the Twins lineup did to our bullpen, and try to appreciate how well the starters did with that framing in mind.

    Incredible to pull out a series win against a group this good, on their turf.

  2. Snitker just said in the postgame press conference that Riley was out of the lineup today because he hurt his knee yesterday in warmups and will have to go on the IL.

  3. @3 Welp, that explains that. OF is dropping like flies.

    Would be a shame if they had to go ahead and call up Pache…

  4. They need another backup IF. They may have to add Andres Blanco to the 40 man and 25 man roster. Blanco is an older guy who has had a really good year at Triple A (along with a lot of other hitters) but has been a career backup in the major leagues. At least he has experience.

  5. @3

    Honestly, I don’t think he’ll be missed for a little while. Let Camargo play. Let Duvall play. See what you got. Plus, these long seasons have got to be hard on all of these young players. I know we tend to talk about workload with pitchers more than hitters, but Riley has never played more than 129 games in a season, and he may be asked to play in 162+ this year. This goes along with the narrative that the whole team was a little gassed by the time we got to the playoffs last year.

  6. Braves14, would love to read a post about managing our SPs based on TTO, or however you’d structure it. If you’d like to write it, you can send it to me at braves journal rob at gmail dot com, and I can post it as you.

  7. Bravo, JonathanF. Not the lurker I used to be, but you made me feel I hadn’t missed a beat. Vintage BravesJournal.

  8. Two memories from this game…

    …the terrific catch by Ender early on running flat out to his left and at full stretch when they had two on in scoring position.

    …and that bizarre single they got much later. The hitter hit the ball hard high on the wall only for it to rebound almost as rapidly close to second base. Love to know the ev.

    Tomlin giving up 4 runs in the ninth is patently absurd. Luke’s physical appearance has deteriorated to the extent I believe the hitter is laughing at him. HAIRCUT!

  9. JonathanF, are you descended from Grantland Rice? You sure tell a tale well. Thanks.

    Being a Braves fan sure is fun. Go Braves!

  10. #11

    The single Cron hit that Duvall played off the LF wall? I think Chip quoted Statcast with a 115 mph exit velocity.

  11. @15 bullpen ERA post ASB, 2nd worst MLB

    1. Rockies 7.14
    2. Braves 6.63
    3. Nationals 5.84
    4. Brewers 5.48
    5. Orioles 5.38

  12. If anyone has heard the rumblings, there was a leaker in the Braves reddit today that gave the Riley news well before it was reported. There’s bad news in here about Dansby’s health. The post and account were deleted, but I went into the web archive and snagged the original post.

    Take with appropriate grains of salt.

    Here are some braves notes from the front office:

    Austin Riley is hurt and the MRI is today. Thought to be very serious. Expect something within the next day or two.

    Luke Jackson is not comfortable in the 9th inning. Prefers middle relief.

    Braves have had discussions to bring Donaldson back, but do not believe they will be able to because of how thin 3B market is.
    Braves have 28-32 million AAV to spend next year.

    AA had discussions with Blue Jays about Aaron Sanchez and Stroman. AA offered Blue Jays what he thought was an overpay and Jays still declined. Didn’t bother making another counter offer.

    Marlins asked for Pache, Riley, and Anderson in any deal for Realmuto. Braves thought they would be able to resign Realmuto.

    AA doesn’t want to give up big prospects unless he feels he can resign any player.

    Braves has discussions for Greinke but we’re just checking in. Diamondbacks were only willing to eat 8 million a year with the Braves and still were not close. Deal with Astros came out of nowhere.

    A lot of teams called about Luke Jackson but
    AA is very high on him and his league minimum he is making.

    Expect Culbertson to get more starts at SS
    Dansby’s heel is not progressing. Expect him to be back late August or early September.

    Mods if you need any verification DM me, but I think once you see Riley’s injury announced I speak for myself. Feel free to believe me or don’t.”

  13. Bowman and DOB both said that the Braves will probably call up a pitcher in Riley’s place. So expect Webb back.

    My phone autocorrected “DOB” to “SOB.” Good one, phone.

  14. There’s a bit of a “sky is falling” sentiment on Twitter right now. It’s certainly not ideal that Dansby, Kakes, and Riley are all out at the same time, but c’mon, that’s why they agreed to pay Duvall $3M to potentially sit in AAA all year. That’s why we didn’t trade Camargo for bullpen or rotation help. That’s why we didn’t DFA, trade, or fire Ender Inciarte into the sun. Demeritte is 3-26 with Detroit. I don’t think I’d be feeling significantly better if we called up Demeritte to sit on the bench. You still have 9 really good players, and one of Dansby or Riley will be back within a couple weeks (hopefully), and Kakes will be back in mid-September. I don’t even hate Matt Joyce playing a corner spot every now and again.

    I like Ryan’s idea of calling up Alex Jackson so you can use the back-up catcher as a bat off the bench.

    I just can’t go from being frustrated that Camargo couldn’t even sniff the field to being worried we don’t have enough on the position player side. We were simply that deep. And if the fit truly hits the shan, then just call up Pache and let him struggle at the plate and play Gold Glove D for a couple weeks. This is why teams rebuild; so you can wake up one day with the equivalent of Medlen, Minor, and Beachy injured and your season’s not wrecked.

  15. Wait, we could always call up Lane Adams. Forgot about him, though he’s not listed on the AAA roster.

  16. @21 Agree, I’m not understanding the panic. We have two healthy backup SS’s right now, and if the nuclear option is bringing Pache up before he might be ready, is that really a “sky is falling” scenario? We’re just fine.

  17. @17, thanks for reposting that, I saw that on reddit too, not ideal but not the end of the world either. Dansby being back in early September gives him a lot of games still to shake off any rust. Our fill-ins can hold down the fort.

    OF depth has taken a hit but we have several options. We just need Ender to not totally suck, which might be asking for too much, but so far so good I guess. I expect Lane Adams to be on any playoff roster as a pinch-runner, cuz that’s how Snit rolls.

  18. I don’t think Lane Adams is in game shape yet.

    Personally, I don’t like going with only 1 backup IF for 3 positions. But assuming it’s Webb (who was great) coming back I’m ok with it.

  19. 25 — Clarifying what I mean, Camargo is the lone backup for Donaldson, Culberson, and Albies. (Duvall in addition to Camargo has experience at first)

  20. JonathanF’s invocation of Marty Perez got me to remembering all the Braves middle infielders of the 70’s and 80’s. A very undistinguished bunch. Jeff Blauser was a much better shortstop than any of his Atlanta Brave predecessors at the position. You realize that Swanson this season has already tied the ATL season record for homers by a shortstop.

  21. We have a four-man bench right now: Culberson, Joyce, Riley, catcher. If Riley goes to the IL and they call up a pitcher, that will be a 3-man bench, and I would agree that that’s a little uncomfortable. That’s where I would at least call up Jackson and let McFlowers pinch hit.

  22. @2

    ‘Incredible to pull out a series win against a group this good, on their turf …’

    Exactly.

  23. It looks like we’re on pace for not a single starting pitcher to exceed 180 IP this year.

  24. Per FG, our bullpen is back to #30 in the league. The good news is that our starters are up to 15th in the league. To me, that’s an indication that we have pretty much solved the rotation issue. Assuming Folty’s performance is repeatable, we have 5 guys who can at least get us to the 5th.

    I agree that the bullpen has been awful, but it seems to be mostly that trying to integrate three new guys has thrown everyone off kilter. And our catchers and coaches need to figure out how the new guys pitch best (I mentioned yesterday how effective Greene’s high slider seems to be).

    Even the last few days, we’ve seen better performance from Swarzak, Martin, and Melancon. And I don’t think Blevins has done anything wrong. I believe Newk’s blowup was a one-off. Tomlin’s too. Luke needs to get back into a comfortable role and get back to pitching the right pitches at the right time.

    I was wondering why MIN didn’t have more wins considering they have top hitting and top pitching. My guess is that they have done a lot of what they did to the Braves – score a lot of runs in hopeless situations (wins or losses) against relievers just trying to finish a game. Sano seems to be an expert at it.

    The Marlins may be just what our bullpen needs to get themselves straightened out. I am ecstatic that the Braves pulled off the series win. By all rights, should’ve been a sweep. If we can get on a roll against the Fish (just like the Mets did), maybe we can parlay that into strong showings against the Mets then the Dodgers. Considering the pitching both teams have, we might not look like such great hitters but we just need to get enough runs to win.

  25. @27 I liked Marty Perez. He was one of the better ones.

    Rafael Ramirez, Glen Hubbard, and Blauser are the only middle infielders the Braves produced in that 20 year period who could actually start for a good team. The ’70’s and ’80’s teams were mostly collections of backup players.

  26. MIN mostly bludgeons people to death, and pitching is going to be a problem for them in October, as it will for NYY. I like Berrios, but Perez and Odorizzi have been trending downwards for a while now.

    The Astros terrify me on that front.

  27. Alex, those “Ozzie Albies is hotter than” jokes are great. Keep ‘em coming.

  28. Year 19 of teaching Elementary School starts today! Since we have 2 kids under 4, this will be the first time that I’m not a full-time teacher so I can help with pickup and drop off of our kids. It’s weird not being there when students arrive and leave the building and something feels incomplete about the profession when that’s absent, but I keep reminding myself it’s just a season of life.

    Good luck to all of you who have children beginning school this week or very soon. May the 2019-20 school year be a year where they thrive in their environment.

  29. @ 36,

    Quite an observation. Without some mysterious luck or injuries, the Astros are the true juggernaut.

  30. @41 There is nothing about Ozzie I don’t like. That kid is an amazing ballplayer and an amazing human.

    @36 I am NOT going to complain about losing a WS. After getting there all bets are off. The Dodgers are still not that far behind the Astros. Get by them and nothing is impossible.

  31. Did anybody else notice Ozzie slid about 30 feet into home yesterday? Watching him and Ronnie run the bases is a beautiful sight to behold.

  32. I’m concerned that the Riley injury could mean a couple of things. The first one hurts this year and seems like it might be a near certainty: Braves will be without Riley for the rest of the season. The second one concerns next year: they’re seeking second opinions, and DOB sees this injury as a potential consideration for whether the Braves will be interested in re-signing JD. This seems much less certain (ie. he should be back for next season).

    I don’t get the fascination with planning a big league lineup around not blocking rookies (Pache, Waters) who’ve never taken a big league swing let alone proven themselves ready. If you’re one of the best teams in baseball, do you let JD walk because you don’t want to block an unproven rookie? Is that just DOB being dumb or is that real baseball nerd thinking?

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