Braves sweep Nats, and All’s Right with the World

Two wins, but two very different games.  Game 2 was a classic pitchers’ duel.  Strassburg held the Hammers to one hit and no runs through six.  Fortunately, new Folk Hero Kung Fu Panda came through with his second pinch homer of the young season, a game winning two run shot in the seventh following a Dansby single.  Because Boxcar, Sliderman, and Newk tossed a two hit shutout (I’m not making this up), the Braves won 2-0.

 In game 1, our ace Varsity Fried surrendered 8 hits and 5 runs in 2 innings.  It was a nightmare first inning for Varsity. The first five batters reached, the Nats batted around, Max tossed 32 pitches and surrendered 4 runs.  Turner hit a bomb, but the other four hits in the inning were two bloops and two seeing eye grounders.  Truth is, though, Fried clearly didn’t have good command.

Then in the second, Max gave up 3 more hits and another run.  One of the hardest hit balls was a shot from Soto off Fried’s ankle, which fortunately turned into a fielder’s choice, cutting Turner down at third. See, luck does have a way of evening out.  OTOH, Fried would probably tell us that it didn’t seem so lucky to him; it had to smart.  In fact, after that shot to his leg he gave up two more hits and a run.  Discretion was the better part of valor and his day ended after those two innings.

(After two starts, Max has an ERA of 9.00.   I’ve watched most of Max’s two starts.  He’s been a little off, but he’s going to be fine.)

Fortunately, the Braves did what they always do against Eric Fedde, which is to get hits and score runs. After a run in the first, they scored five more in the second.  So despite Fried’s struggles, our side held a shaky 6-5 lead after two innings.  I say shaky because it felt that way to me, but Tomlin, Nate Jones, and Minter no hit the Nats for the next 4 innings.  In the top of the 7th, the Braves got an insurance run on a wild pitch.  That run proved decisive as Will Smith (he’s neither fresh nor a prince at this point) gave up a run in the bottom half on 2 walks and a hit, but escaped further damage with a game ending double play.  Like Fried, Smith’s ERA is an even 9.00.  Unlike Fried, I’m not so confident he’ll be OK.  It’s early, of course (see my post earlier today for the dangers of generalizing from small sample sizes), but so far he looks more like 2020 Will Smith than 2018-19 Will Smith.

Back to the second game and the unlikely troika who twirled the shutout.  I’m feeling better about Ynoa.  They just might have something valuable in him.  Newcomb, however, has a long way to go to earn my confidence.  He struck out the side in the seventh for the save.  His stuff was great; he throws 97-98 mph gas with that easy motion.  He just needs to throw strikes.  But how many times have we said that over the past four years? I’m an optimist—I’m glad for him to get more chances.  Do this a few more times, Sean, and I’ll jump on your bandwagon.

Finally, we have a new folk hero! Kung Fu Panda Rules! (Added bonus: his nickname is much more family friendly than Brooks Conrad’s nickname) I’m one who was critical of keeping Sandoval for the bench instead of Lamb–on the ground that Panda doesn’t provide a home run threat. Fortunately for the Braves, AA doesn’t seek my advice on those decisions.

Off day tomorrow, home opener Friday, when we can start to even the score against the Phillies.

Author: tfloyd

Tfloyd was born on the site of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before the stadium was built, that is; it was then the site of Piedmont Hospital. It took the Braves another 11 years to arrive on what is now Hank Aaron Drive, but I‘ve always liked to arrive at the ballpark early.

40 thoughts on “Braves sweep Nats, and All’s Right with the World”

  1. If one believes that playoffs are somehow different than other games, then Fried’s performance would be seen as Foltyesque. In April, though, nobody cares too much. It’s the curse of brain-space leverage. Plus, we won the damn thing.

  2. Yikes not great news about Soroka being shut down for two weeks. Could end up being nuthin, but the old adage with pitchers goes something like “elbows end seasons, shoulders end careers.”

  3. Great night for the Braves. Would like to point out that after game 1, I called Luke to be the winner in game 2.
    In all the interviews I saw with FF5 during and after spring training, he kept saying that his mind is with his two newborn babies and that this has been a very weird spring training for him due to that.
    So once he is reunited with his family, he will start hitting. Go Braves!

  4. My take on Newk is that he was on the path to failure in his inning by focusing on the curve (hence the 2-0 counts). He ditched the curveball and became untouchable. There’s a lesson there for TdA for the future.

    I have mentioned before my skepticism of TdA’s pitch calling. He’s addicted to offspeed. Seems like he does a lot of reverse pitching (using offspeed to set up FB). Doesn’t work for some pitchers.

    Ultimately, the big difference between Newk and Fried is that Fried is a top notch SP because he can throw his awesome CB for strikes. Newk can only be a top notch reliever because he cannot throw his curve for strikes.

    Maybe we should give AJax a little part of the credit for Huascar’s great performance.

  5. To be celebrating baseball cards, Newk’s fastball, Ynoa’s mound presence and Ajax’s defense makes for a happy morning after.

    Meanwhile we must thank the Macon Messenger for what will be only the first of his many estimable summaries from deep in the heart of all things Braves Country.

  6. It’s never good to hear about a young ace and any sort of shoulder issues. These are the kind of days where I have to fight the urge to just mentally write him out and start the grieving process just to make it easier emotionally.

    PS. They should have signed Gerrit Cole

  7. @4

    I know he’s not here anymore, so this is largely irrelevant, but compared to Tyler Flowers, d’Arnaud is a pitch-calling wizard. Maybe you’re right to some extent, but that style of pitching also definitely does work for some guys, so it’s probably just a matter of knowing which guy you’re catching and switching it up.

  8. @10–you may be right about Soroka’s future. Shoulders are a lot more difficult to fix through surgery than are elbows. But I remember feeling just this way in 2019, when his shoulder acted up in the spring after having shut him down entirely in 2018. Fortunately, he rested, recovered, and had an excellent season, right on through his one (#%&!) October start.

  9. @12 I make no claims about Soroka’s future. It’s the way modern MLB seems to function with starting pitchers largely biting the dust left and right except for about 5 elite arms in the league. If anything, it’s my opinion that MLB needs to figure it out and fix it, because starters used to pop some PEDs and pitch right through these minor shoulder ailments and you’d rarely hear anything about it because they were hyped up on miracle drugs.

  10. @10 @12 We were told before that Soroka had some sort of tricky shoulder naturally and he just needed to modify some of his exercise rituals (or something like that). This may be part of the same thing if he’s pressing to get ready.

    Plus I recall some guy named Smoltz who had something wrong with him darn near all the time until he finally went all TJS on us. He did OK in the end. I feel like Soroka will too. There’s a difference between tearing something and stressing out from over-work. So far, it’s been characterized as minor.

  11. The thing is, shoulder injuries and elbow injuries work very differently. As my doctor uncle once explained to me, the issue is the shape of the joint — the elbow is a hinge, so there’s really just one direction of movement, which makes it much more straightforward to fix. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint with about 360 degrees of movement. That makes it exponentially more complicated to fix.

  12. It’s probably just an inflamed shoulder. Some people are a lot more prone to inflammation. Plus, it’s baseball. It happens a lot to baseball players. He has an adjusted set of exercises to help him manage it. I think he’ll be fine.

    I’m still dealing with a bit of PTSD from the last time the Braves had a stacked rotation of young studs (ie. Minor, Beachy, Medlen, and Wood) and it disappeared like snow on a sunny winter day in Alabama.

  13. It’s pretty dang silly that we’ll spend almost an entire work week not having a baseball game when people aren’t working.

  14. Thus far, though, there’s nothing to fix. It’s just inflamed. Until (hopefully unless) there’s actual structural damage, this whole Shoulders are a Problem to Fix conversation isn’t as relevant as it seems. The process for inflammation is very similar for both shoulders and elbows.

  15. Is Ynoa your fifth starter? Hard to make too much of the second game of a doubleheader in April, but wow.

  16. Ynoa is another great reason that living and dying on spring training stats is not a good idea. He was 1-2 with a 7.79 ERA over 17.1 innings and 6 outings. Not the kind of stats that usually win you a roster spot.

  17. @20 It’s hard not to notice that the Nats couldn’t hit anyone not named Max Fried yesterday. Can’t help but wonder if Max was somehow tipping his pitches.

  18. @21 td, actually watched a handful of Ynoa games in spring. He looked as dominant as he did yesterday for a couple of innings and completely fell apart for one inning. Not yesterday though. I had thought he was perfect for long relief.

  19. @7 thanks or sharing! I’m always up to read about baseball cards. I’ve got 11 of the cards on that list.

    It’s odd that they didn’t choose any Donruss or Fleer cards. I’d say the 1984 Donruss Mattingly is much more iconic than the Topps card they chose. And as much as I love my 1957 Topps Henry Aaron card, the 1984 Fleer Glenn Hubbard was truly iconic.

  20. The Flying Bernard, that’s awesome! How have you decided which cards are worth buying, worth keeping, etc.? Are you doing this strictly as a hobby or do you consider these investments?

  21. It’s just a hobby for me. I was majorly into cards in the 80s, so I’ve got a bunch of worthless cards from the boom times when cards were majorly overproduced.

    I’m mostly into old cards, so I’ve got almost none of the new stuff.

  22. @27 Yeah, it’s a small shame that the 80s and 90s were so heavily over-produced, but then it was a highlight of my childhood to hit the Big-Lots in town for entire box sets at like $5 or $10. I should have known then and there that all my rookie cards for guys like Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez were going be worth about $5 at best. Never was lucky enough to get my hands on the truly rare mis-prints or error cards.
    I guess the card business corrected itself, though. They’re back to selling sealed packs with the possibility of getting $700 cards again.

  23. @24 I wish this brought me more happiness than it does, because I’m just not too happy with MLB and its handling of the evolution of baseball. Maybe it was the live ball they put into play a few years ago that left me feeling spurned on behalf of pitchers everywhere, but to go on these witch hunts for pitchers playing dirty seems a bit spiteful when you consider everything else they have had to adapt to in part thanks to technology and in part thanks to Manfred’s desire to relive the home run chase.

    Seriously, when does this Manfred vacate the commissioner’s office? Is it a set date or his for life?

  24. Sorry to see the team get a reliever who served a PED suspension last year. I always prefer rooting for players I like, and/or who I think aren’t cheating. Probably naive on my part.

  25. @29, Manfred’s job is basically to get paid a lot of money to be a guy wearing a suit sitting on top of a dunk tank, redirecting fans’ ire away from the owners who actually are the source of everything awful about the game.

    As a lawyer with an elastic sense of personal integrity and an imperviousness to humiliation, he has the only qualifications he needs for the job. I’d say it’s his at least until Freddie Freeman’s kids retire.

  26. Speaking of ‘80s baseball cards: https://tinyurl.com/Bill-Ripken

    In 1989, I was working in a military convenience store that sold baseball cards. When the infamous Billy Ripken Fleer card came out, we had a couple of crazy collectors on the base who’d come in every other day & buy the entire box off the shelf and then ask if we had “any more in the back.” I think we sold about 20 boxes until 1 “mistake card” showed up.

    You wouldn’t think Fleer did that on purpose, would you?

  27. @31 Yeah you’re hitting the nail on the head. The sport is run by a bunch of rich suits who mostly don’t give a rip about the game anymore.

    It totally wouldn’t be a bad idea for a new professional baseball league to form. Despite the obvious talent gap that would exist, it wouldn’t be hard to put a better product on the field and on TV.

    Just saying that MLB needs some new competition.

  28. @33 Which begs the question: what would we, as fans first and fantasy GMs/owners second, like to see this New Baseball League do differently?

    I’ll start with slightly moving the batter’s boxes away from the plate (only an inch or two, opening up the outside corner a little bit), not granting timeout to a hitter unless a bee or vulture is attacking him, and limiting pickoff throws.

  29. @34 That is a very good question. There are some qualities of the game I would like to see come back, but I’m not sure of the best steps to get there. Things that I would like to see… DH or no DH for all teams. Both/all leagues would have the same number of teams. A new league could potentially define a wider strike zone or change the dimensions of the plate to allow pitchers more room to work east/west. The new league could add better regulation around where defenders can position prior to the pitch such that we don’t see extreme shifts–I actually liked baseball better when defenders mostly stuck to their natural area of position instead of seeing a corner outfielder basically standing in center field. I would also like it if the players got more say into how the game is led and other types of decisions like the baseball that goes into regulation.

    I still find it bewildering that the ball is something the owners can basically choose without any say from the MLBPA, and the pitchers just show up one day and discover a strange ball they’re expected to throw with any amount of command. It feels as though there is some transparency lacking as to even what ball any given series is given or whether both sides are even given the same baseball. I mean, who really knows?

  30. Ban all substances that allow for a better grip on the bat/ball. You cant control your 98 MPH pitch, slow down, more balls in play, game gets interesting.

  31. Are the Nippon league and the KBO doing anything worth adapting for MLB? Are the owners any different over there?

  32. #30 – I’m not saying that he gets a free pass and maybe there’s some homerism coming out, but I’m a little more forgiving when someone is trying to aid in recovery from injury. I don’t know if it’s the case, but I know Santana had a very long road to recover from Tommy John surgery.

  33. @32 I would never put it past them, but their big selling points back then were the “inserts” as opposed to the regular baseball cards. IMO, the misprints and errors were truly the only rarity to be had back then, no matter how cool the inserts were. I felt like it even took me forever to get some inserts and even they’re not worth much more than the pack of cards they came in.
    I think I must have gotten at least 5 of the Jim Thome Gold RC Topps cards but it’s the special misprint that is worth anything. eye roll Heh… to be a kid collecting baseball cards, what a wonderful existence it was.

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