Sometimes baseball comes with subliminal messaging. The manager doesn’t have to actually say something to tell you something.
For example, when Brian Snitker decided to let Drew Smyly face the 2-3-4 in Milwaukee’s lineup in the sixth for a third time tonight with 92 pitches, he was telling you he doesn’t trust the bullpen. It’s hard to blame him right now, but that’s definitely not a decision he would’ve made last season.
He also told you he didn’t feel good about Dansby Swanson’s bat when he asked him to bunt with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh.Again, it’s hard to argue with that given the way Swanson has been swinging the bat, but it’s another decision he absolutely wouldn’t have made last season.
In both cases, his gut was right. Smyly navigated the sixth inning thanks to a big 4-6-3 double play, Swanson got another run home on the squeeze bunt, and the Braves came out on top 6-3 in the game.
We all know this Braves team has some pretty serious defects. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the flaws. But seeing Snitker acknowledge those same flaws and thinking a little bit outside the box to accommodate them was a nice change of pace. Hopefully it continues, and hopefully eventually the gaps will be filled enough where he doesn’t have to.
- Drew Smyly is…back? Maybe not completely, but this is a lot closer to the guy the Braves invested $11 million in. Everything this season for Smyly has been based on getting ahead in the count. When he falls behind and can’t go to his curveball as much, that fastball isn’t going to be enough to save him. Tonight Smyly only fell behind 2-0 in the count twice to 23 batters. He only walked one, and as you might expect that was a recipe for success. When he gets ahead in the count, he’s a valuable asset to this starting rotation.
- Is there anything more beautiful than a slugger smashing a home run off the opposing team’s scoreboard, admiring it, and slowly rounding the bases to boos from the home crowd? Marcell Ozuna got under some skins in Milwaukee tonight, and it was beautiful. I hope he pounds one off that slide deep left field tomorrow.
- Obviously Austin Riley’s two-run single in the third inning was a very lucky bounce off Adrian Houser’s shin into center field, but you make your own luck in this game. The Braves drew three walks in that inning to get Riley a chance with the bases loaded, and it ended up knocking Houser out of the game early on top of plating two runs. Houser has had walk issues in his career, but this season he was only averaging 2.7 walks per nine innings entering tonight. For the Braves to work five off of him in three was an excellent sign that didn’t go unrewarded.
- Ender Inciarte’s bat is still a pool noodle, but his glove was very valuable in center field. That catch he made to rob Luis Urias in the seventh was really nice.
- The catcher hit a triple? In that ballpark? In this economy? Yep, William Contreras tripled and scored in the eighth.
- Will Smith is back on the beam. Maybe. We’ll see. It’s a developing situation.
- Dansby Swanson’s road wRC+ is now a ghastly 36. He’s a really solid 116 at Truist Park, but his slashline away from home is .164/.250/.230. Add that to him committing his second error in three games tonight, and the value at shortstop is really low right now. Snitker doesn’t have a ton of options there, but it’s hard to watch right now.
- It was fun having a 36-year-old soft-tossing former starter who somehow managed to stop the bleeding in blowouts almost every time, but I think we’re about tone here with Josh Tomlin. The numbers speak for themselves.
- The Braves had to use Will Smith for the second day in a row, so he’s probably out of the picture tomorrow. That shouldn’t happen in a 6-1 game, and it might come back to bite them Saturday night.
Former Brave Of The Day:
Oh, what could have been. Adam Duvall hit a three-run home run off Clayton Kershaw tonight at Dodger Stadium, and all I can do is wonder if last October ends differently with a healthy Duvall. Sigh.
Quote Of The Game:
“The players make the manager, it’s never the other way.”
— Sparky Anderson
The 2019 Braves were exactly 18-20 after 38 games. In game 39 they started a 12-4 stretch over the next 16 and never looked back on the way to the postseason. Tomorrow is as good a day as any to start a 2019 reprisal.