I wasn’t as focused on the Braves as I should be for a recap, but it’s not my fault the Georgia Bulldogs kicked off against Vanderbilt about the same time the Braves started. Turns out that was not really a problem. It was kind of like watching the same game on both channels. The Braves and the Dawgs both took big early leads, then shifted into hibernation mode, but held on to win fairly easily.
Indeed, the beginning of the two games was remarkably similar—both games began on The Bright Side of the Road. The Braves put up a 6 spot in the bottom of the first, and the Dawgs scored on their first three possessions to take a 21-0 lead. For a Braves/Bulldog fan, I’d call those combined starts a Sweet Thing—as sweet as Tupelo Honey. It turns out that a Wild Night Was Calling. (On this date in 1945, Sir George Ivan Morrison, OBE, was born in Belfast. Happy Birthday to Van the Man!)
I imagine you didn’t come here for a recap of the Georgia game, or for not-so-clever invocation of Van Morrison songs, so from here on I’ll focus on the Braves.
Dallas Keuchel had only given up one run in his last three starts. In the top of the first, he matched that total when he surrendered a leadoff single, that runner advanced on a groundout, and scored on a two out single.
Ozzie led off the bottom of the first with a sharp single to center (Acuña had the night off). Dansby followed with a double to the left field corner. Ozzie flew around third and slid under the tag at home. After two outs, Swanson scored on an infield single by Flowers, Ortega contributed a run scoring single, and Slugging Billy Hamilton stroked a ground rule double to the gap in right to make it 4-1. If the ball hadn’t bounced over the wall, it was an easy triple at least. Fortunately, that bounce didn’t cost the Braves as Keuchel singled home two more to make it 6-1 at the end of one.
In the top of the 2nd Keuchel allowed the first two to get on and the pitcher sacrificed them to second and third with one out. I was thinking this is the worst thing that could happen after a six spot, but Keuchel gets consecutive grounders to the mound to escape unscathed.
In the bottom of the 2nd, the Braves scored again, on a run scoring single by Joyce after the first two hitters reached. So at this point, they’ve scored 7 runs, with no outs in the second and two runners on. But Flowers lined into a DP, Ortega flied out, and Hibernation Mode was on. In fact, this was the Platonic Ideal of Hibernation Mode. (The Dawgs, by the way, put in their own version of Hibernation Mode after that 21-0 start, but the difference is that their bullpen didn’t make the game close.)
In the top of the 3rd Keuchel gave up one run on three hits. Although the Braves still led 7-2, Dallas was up to 55 pitches through 3 innings. He’d given up 7 hits through 3, but they were all singles with no walks. In the 4th he gave up two more base runners on a double and a HBP, but no score. Finally in the 5th he had a 1-2-3 inning, although he was up to 92 pitches. In the top of the 6th Keuchel allowed yet another lead off hit. (That reminds of tonight’s Chippism: When the lead off man in the top of the third reached and later scored, Chip said “So far, every time the lead off runner gets on he’s scored—except for the second inning.”) But Dallas managed to get through the sixth with no one scoring. Keuchel may not have been as sharp as he had been in the last 3 starts, but give him credit: he managed to get through six only giving up two runs.
Notice that I haven’t mentioned the bottom of these innings? Remember, it’s Hibernation Mode. Nothing happening there.
Gwyneth’s ex-husband came in to pitch the 7th, and he demonstrated why Hibernation Mode is such a dangerous thing. The Sox scored 3 runs on 4 hits and a 3 base error by Joyce. Newcomb had to come in to get the final out of the inning. Now what had been a cakewalk is a 7-5 game.
Fortunately, the Braves emerged from hibernation in the bottom of the 7th and promptly got those 3 runs back. They scored those 3 with only one hit, a single, but also 4 walks, a wild pitch, a balk, and a sac fly by RAJ as a pinch hitter.
The General contributed a much needed shut down 8th, and then Donaldson brought rain with a solo shot in the bottom of the 8th. (Josh, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?) Tomlin got them in order in the 9th and the Braves win 11-5.
Our team is on quite a roll. The gNats also won so the lead remains 5 ½. This has got to be frustrating for them. Those 7 games with them coming up will be exciting, but the bigger the lead we have going into them the better I’ll feel.
Julio goes for the sweep Sunday against Max Fried’s high school teammate.
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