For those of us who have been Braves-addled since 1966, some of the run from 1991 to 2005 has aspects of a blur: some things, like 1991 and 1995, have a sharp presence and can be recalled with minimal effort. Others, like the 1992 World Series loss to the Blue Jays are, at least for me, indistinct. Looking back at the box scores of that series, and particularly the 6th and final game, the memories just aren’t there. When I think of Charlie Leibrandt, I think of Kirby Puckett’s homer in 1991, not Dave Winfield’s double a year later. Indeed, when I think of Toronto in the World Series, I think of Joe Carter’s homer the next year off Mitch Williams. Something deep in me is oddly anesthetized by a second straight World Series loss. The 1991 loss is completely memorable: I was thankful we got there, the series was one of the greatest in WS history and there’s very little about it I would or could forget. The truly traumatic (1996-1997) sticks just fine as well (may Eric Gregg rot in hell, joined by Jim Leyritz when he’s finally dead.) The mildly traumatic appears to have been blissfully scrubbed away by years of Bourbon, as have a lot of things, I suppose. Tis a minor blessing, I guess, but not if you’re thinking about Braves-Blue Jays history. In regular season history, counting last night, the Braves lead Toronto 25-24; if you count 1992, Toronto leads 28-27. In the initial meeting, Denny Neagle and Roger Clemens both pitched complete games in a 3-0 Braves victory. The game took two hours and 15 minutes.
The other great connection between Atlanta and the Great Northern Colossus is, of course, Bobby Cox. Toronto was the site of his temporary exile from 1982-1985, having bequeathed a team to Joe Torre that would make to the playoffs after Cox was fired in 1981. (A great Ted Turner line when Cox was fired: “If Bobby wasn’t here, he’d be one of the leading candidates for the job.”) Cox then returned as GM from 1986-1990. It’s interesting to think of Bobby as a GM. He had the savvy to correctly rate Chipper Jones, and he engineered the Smoltz-Alexander trade, but he also hired Chuck Tanner and Russ Nixon. His period as GM was the sorriest run of wins in the team’s history, and the history had some pretty sorry runs, including 1976-1979, four last place finishes managed by… Bobby Cox (and Dave Bristol). At that point, he became one of the few people in history to conquer the Peter Principle, demoting himself from GM to Manager, in the process demoting himself into the Hall of Fame. (That’s the way I’m telling it. I realize that the actual history may have been a little different, since he apparently wanted to keep the GM job as well. But suppose he had kept the GM job and hired another Russ Nixon? He’d probably be as famous today as, well, Russ Nixon, and just as close to the Hall of Fame.) Keep getting better, Bobby.
Finally (and this starts the recap) there is yet a third connection between Atlanta and Toronto. In 1971, the artist John Waguespack was born in Atlanta. You can see his work here. The apparently unrelated (is that even possible?) pitcher Jacob Waguespack (an Ole Miss alum from Louisiana) started for the Blue Jays tonight. If you have trouble remembering his name, it’s an anagram for “Beau wags jock cap.” Hope that helps.
I’ve been noticing lately how out-of-fielding position Folty appears to be when he finishes a pitch. Frankly, if he pitches well enough, it’s a price worth paying, but he made a blind stop with his butt in the first inning to save a run.
The top of the order went meekly in the first, as they have lately, but in the second Joyce hit a long one, Hech hit an infield single (called an error), Cervelli walked, Ortega doubled, (Cervelli tweaked a quad instead of scoring) Acuña doubled, and Freddie doubled to plate 5. Could this be the laugher we’ve been waiting for?
Nope. Folty was nowhere near as dominant as he was the last start against the Mets, and kept dodging threats, but allowed two in the fourth, the second scoring on Flow’s 835th passed ball of the season. The third scored on a double from Grichuk. Folty had exactly zero clean innings and was done after 4 2/3. Coincidentally, though, he had been pitching at that point for two hours and 15 minutes, so it was just like Neagle’s complete game in 1997, except for the number of batters faced – and the shutout. Luke extinguished a High Foltage fire (don’t use water!) and we were once again in a close game.
Luke unstanched the bleeding in the 6th to reduce the lead to 1. (Shakespeare used “unstanched,” and now I have, though his use was ribald: “as leaky as an unstanched wench.” You won’t see similes like that in the #MeToo era.)
At that point, though, Toronto ran out of pitchers. Adam loaded the bases on an HBP and two walks, and getting to the potent part of the order, the part nobody liked a couple of weeks ago. Joyce and Hech singles scored 3 and it was back to a four run lead.
Three innings to go. Martin: first clean inning! 3 Ks. Greene: Clean inning! Freddie hit a dinger off a guy fresh from the Mexican League to complete the scoring. Blevins with a five run lead (the Blevins Bulge): Clean inning!
Chip Watch: (a) Right up there with Chip’s nonsensical insistence that pitchers are under more pressure than batters (a thought pulled out highly selectively, by the way) is his observation, which he said in this broadcast he’s said “a million times,” that batters need a time through the order when facing a pitcher for the first time. I believe the better characterization would include the word “sometimes.” This game was a good example of “not always,” but, as always, Chip doesn’t revisit these claims when they prove wrong, which just convinces him they are self-evident. (b) “that ball is whacked off the mound” put me in a Beavis and Butthead frame of mind, but that was, I’m sure, just me. (Insert snicker.)
Day off tomorrow to get through customs, then the White Sox come to town, but without the worst announcer ever: Hawk Harrelson. He Gone.