Rays 5, Braves 2

The Braves really needed a good start from young Kyle Wright on Tuesday.  All of a sudden, what appeared to be a strength for this Braves team—depth in starting pitching—looks like the Achilles Heel.  Mike Soroka and Max Fried are off to excellent starts on the young 2020 season. But you’ve heard about the travails of Mike Foltyniewicz; after one lousy start, he’s been DFA’d (what an ugly verb).  And the guys who were to bring the veteran presents showed up to the party empty –handed; King Felix decided not to play, and the left arm of Cole Hamels is apparently deciding the same.  And Sean Newcomb, who was a good reliever last year, as a starter looks like nothing so much as Newk the starter from two years ago. In his start Sunday he needed 82 pitches to get through three and a third.

So as good as Soroka and Fried are, the Braves obviously need some folks to step up.  Fortunately, the great rebuild of the past five years was based on the premise that although TINSTASPP, if you get enough pitching prospects some of them will work out. (You know the idea; of course one monkey–or even several monkeys–can’t write the works of Shakespeare, but if you get enough of them typing away, eventually you’ll get the entire corpus of the Bard.)

Thanks to this strategy, the Braves do have several more highly touted young starters to fill the holes in the rotation.  First to audition was Kyle Wright, the first round pick out of Vanderbilt three years ago.  There is a reason he was drafted number five overall.  He’s got great stuff, he throws several quality pitches, and he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. In brief major league action before this year he struggled, but it takes even the greats a little time to settle in.  (See Greg Maddux’s rookie year.)

Well, given the rotation struggles, they needed young Mr. Wright to be Mr. Wright Now.  And he did not disappoint!  Wright had a terrific start. 

By start, I mean the first two innings.  In the first, he got them 1-2-3 with two punch-outs; ten pitches, nine strikes.  By the end of the second, Wright had tossed 21 pitches, with 18 of them strikes.  That’s Maddux-level control.

I wish I could stop there.  Suffice it to say that Wright’s third inning didn’t go so well. After a lead off walk, he retired the next two Rays, but then walked the bases loaded and allowed three consecutive two out hits.  He left the game after 2 and two/thirds, having surrendered five runs.  His third inning consisted of 17 strikes and 16 balls. That’s Sean Newcomb-level control.

That third inning was pretty much the ball game.  The Braves pen (Tomlin, Jackson, Matzek, and Greene) held them scoreless the rest of the way—only 3 hits and no walks in 5 and 1/3 combined. 

But our Braves only managed two runs on six hits.  Alex Jackson did get his first big league hit and followed with another.  His batting average of .286 is exactly the same as those of Acuña and Freeman combined (.143 each).

Yes, the offense is struggling (12 more strikeouts today, BTW).  Don’t worry about that.  RAJ and Freddie will hit.  If you want to worry, be concerned about the starting rotation.

But don’t worry about the home opener on Wednesday.  Mike Soroka goes against old friend Charlie Morton.  Soroka is an absolute pleasure to watch on the mound.  I wish these other guys could emulate the control, command, and composure of the young Canadian.  If I were the Braves pitching coach, I’d just tell them all to be like Mike. 

Seriously, guys like him come along once in a generation.  Enjoy him while you can. Given the state of the world and the pandemic, your opportunities to watch him may be especially limited.

28 thoughts on “Rays 5, Braves 2”

  1. An elegant construct, thank you tfloyd…

    Rob…your recent post on your wife’s problems administering and supervising nasal swabs in this instance is a timely reminder for all of us here that this pressure goes on 24/7 for all our health workers, there is no respite. Please tell her how much we admire and respect what she is doing.

  2. You do have to wonder what the Marlins are doing. I check MLBTR religiously looking for news about positive tests in MLB. It’s been super quiet across MLB… except for the Marlins.

  3. @1 It used to be said that Atlanta teams were a good gambling value in home games on early Sunday afternoons, on account of the nightlife temptations the city has to offer. Opposing players would occasionally suffer a sudden bout of “flu-like symptoms” on game day. It’s sad to see that, while the euphemism may persist, the meaning has changed.

  4. @ 4,

    Yesterday I saw an article that over the previous week MLB had gotten back 6400 test results and had 0 positives other than on the Marlins and their staff.

    @ 5,

    Atlanta is also still the shoe stop for NBA and somewhat NFL players. A shoe shop owner in Fairlie Poplar started ordering designer Italian shoes in sizes 15 to 20. Being he was 3 blocks from the Omni, it went over well.

  5. Thanks blazon.

    At some point, how do these outlier events where Marlins players do harm to themselves not fall on the organization? Exactly one player in recent memory has accidentally killed himself while on coke, and that guy played for the Marlins. The Marlins are the only team getting positive COVID tests. They make terrible trades. It’s been a looooooooong time since they’ve had a good team. They’re a terrible organization. At some point, does it turn from sympathy to the misfortunes happening to the players to scorn for this organization? They seem to be inept. I refuse to accept that Miami can’t be a good baseball market if the team were run well.

  6. Thanks, tfloyd. I’ll try and right the ship tonight, though, as you say, it helps immensely to have the Reitsma protege, Maple Maddux, on the mound.

    The “monkeys at a typewriter” trope has the minor problem that it takes the age of the universe to produce even one Shakespearean sonnet. I don’t have that long to wait. Though to be fair, I’d be happy with an ode to Fried: “Shall I compare thee to Sandy Koufax? Thy curveball is not quite as wicked great, But thy elbow is destined to survive.”

  7. @7 It’s like the Marlins are what the Clippers used to be in the NBA and the Lions in the NFL…They can’t help but step on their own foot at literally every opportunity.

  8. It’s nice to see the bullpen pitching effectively. Other than Touki, the bullpen is rocking it. Touki allowed 6 runs in 2.2 innings, for a 20.25 ERA. Everyone else has allowed 3 runs in 20 innings for a 1.35 ERA.

  9. @JonathanF

    I’m curious as to the genesis of your comment late in the last thread asking if anyone doesn’t know how to find Mike Trout on TV. Was Chip whining that baseball’s best player was essentially hidden away in a box because he’s on the West Coast or something?

  10. I hate that we have to play the Rays two more times. They are just a weirdly good team. They’re the type of team that excels with a 30-man roster.

  11. @12

    Playing the Rays is just a huge pain in the butt. Their lineup is really good and they’ve pretty much perfected their piggy-backing pitchers strategy to where it’s a huge plus for them, especially against teams like us who don’t face them 20 times a season. And when you play them in their place, you’ve got the walk-in pinball machine factor (sue me, I liked that phrase when I used it the other night and so I’m using it again) to deal with, as well.

    It would not at all floor me if they won the AL East, especially in this 60-game season.

  12. Re: the Marlins. Typical ‘leadership’ by Donnie Bushball.

    Nice writeup tfloyd. per your usual!

  13. Tough to win much with a faltering rotation and your top 3 in the lineup hitting .172

    But, I sure am grateful baseball is back. And have enjoyed all the discussions and recaps thus far on Braves Journal, here in the first week.

    Thanks all.

  14. @11: Yes. Not that we haven’t heard it from Chip before, but he went on for at least 10 minutes about it. He wants to play fewer games in-division and more games with the other league, “so Braves fans can see Mike Trout every year.” He thinks that the reason Trout isn’t more famous is that NL fans don’t get to see him live very often. That probably explains why LeBron James is so obscure on the East Coast. (OK to be fair, James played a long time on the East Coast, so let’s say Kobe Bryant.) Glavine manfully pointed out that this means less urgent league rivalries, but Chip just kept coming back to it. For reasons that are entirely unclear to me, Chip thinks baseball can’t “grow the game” unless every regional sports network gets their pound of Troutflesh every year. If only ESPN and Fox covered baseball. More importantly, if only the Angels were good enough to make the playoffs. This year, of course, you don’t have to be very good, so this could be his year!

  15. Right… due to modern technology & cable television, baseball fans can see Mike Trout as much as they want. I know this because (as an Andrelton Simmons fan), I actually do watch the Angels a bit.

    But yes, one of the biggest reasons why a lotta folks don’t see Mike Trout so much (in big games, anyway) is that his team just hasn’t been very good. In his 10-year career, he’s played in exactly 3 post-season games. His club got swept by KC in the ’14 ALDS (a series in which he went 1 for 12, FWIW), and that’s been the extent of the big stage that he’s occupied.

    The Marlins Outbreak: Just one team out of 30, but with some (apparently) cavalier behavior, suddenly more cases than the rest combined. Sound familiar?

  16. Schebler, d’Arnaud, and Flowers activated; Contreras, Sobotka, and Alex Jackson optioned to the alternate site.

  17. We are assembling a hell of players who are all basically do the same thing: hit one handedness of pitcher kinda sorta well.

    I would file the Kakes news under “players aren’t very smart”. Why even come back now? He’s so far behind, I doubt he’s major league-quality for more than 35-40 games.

  18. Good point above about @24 about Kakes’ conditioning

    Braves gonna need some innings eaten a lot more than another OF at this point in time.

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