A few weeks ago I was gloating about how the Braves’ Wednesday record was much better than the other days of the week. But then Drew Smyly started each of the last two Wednesdays. No more gloating from me. This Wednesday brought another miserable loss to the hated gNats, this time 5-3.
Smyly is a problem, but it wasn’t just him. This loss is on the bullpen. After a dramatic two run double by Ozzie in the 7th to tie the game at 3, Minter and Martin each gave up single runs in the 8th and 9th, and the Braves did not get a baserunner in either inning.
After a 1-2-3 1st, Smyly gave up a run on 3 hits in the top of the 2nd, but Swanson hit a solo shot in the bottom half to tie it at 1 apiece. The Braves went on to get runners on 2nd and 3rd, but couldn’t plate another run. Smyly loaded the bases in the top of the 3rd, but managed to escape unscathed. In the 3rd, our guys had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out once again but again came up empty. We all knew that would come back to bite us, but I didn’t stick around to see the consequences.
We’re keeping our grandkids this week, and the third inning was already past their bedtime. I agreed to put them to bed and read their bedtime stories. I can say that Ramona the Pest and The Magic Treehouse are a lot more enjoyable than watching this team.
I returned to the television in the middle of the 5th inning, right after Smyly had faced the top of the order for the third time. As even the grandkids might have predicted, Turner doubled, Soto homered, and it was 3-1.
It remained a 3-1 game until the bottom of the 7th. The Nationals stayed at 3 thanks to two things I thought I’d never type: Luke Jackson got 5 up 5 down on just 9 pitches, and Edgar Santana pitched a 1-2-3 7th. (In a way Smyly and Jackson combined for a quality start.)
In the bottom of the 7th, Almonte had a pinch hit double, and with 2 outs Freeman walked. When Ozzie hit one to the gap in right center plating them both, I let myself hope.
I should have known better. This is 2021. As so often happens, we lost another game that was tied in the 8th. The crazy thing is that to my eye both Minter and Martin looked sharp. Minter gave up a solo shot on an 0-2 pitch to Gomes. And Martin hit Robles with 2 outs in the 9th, who promptly stole second and scored on a Turner seeing eye grounder up the middle.
I keep thinking the breaks will even out and we will rediscover that late inning magic. I’m a hopeful fan by nature, but this team is driving me crazy.
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Right now, I’d much rather think about Braves history than the 2021 Braves.
You probably heard that Wednesday was Lou Gehrig Day throughout MLB. There are few greater or more inspiring players in baseball history than the Iron Horse. June 2 was the day Gehrig broke into the Yankees lineup in 1925; June 2 was also the day that he succumbed the illness that came to bear his name, in 1941. As famous as he is, Gehrig will always be remembered in conjunction with the Babe Ruth.
Speaking of the Bambino, I was shopping at Home Depot over the weekend. The guy checking us out noticed my Braves cap, and asked, “you a Braves fan?” I said of course. He said, “Let’s see how much you know about baseball history. Who is the only player in history to spend his career for one franchise but play at home in three cities?” Without hesitation, I replied “That would be old 41, Eddie Mathews—Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta Braves.” “OK, you seem to know the Braves. What three Braves hit over 500 home runs?” I had to think about this one for a few seconds. Mathews and Aaron, of course, and then I remembered Ruth. He had tried to stump the wrong guy about Braves history.
Actually, I suspect most of y’all would have been able to answer those questions. You probably know that the Sultan of Swat spent his last season with the Boston Braves. You may not remember that the Babe’s final game was June 2, 1935. Ruth’s brief time with the Braves was not a happy experience. He didn’t hit well, he didn’t feel well, and he argued with the team owner, Judge Fuchs, constantly. On May 25, he hit 3 home runs in a game (numbers 712, 713, and 714), but over the next week he went 0-13. Ruth wanted to be named manager, and when it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, he announced his retirement on June 2. Ruth remained bitter about his time with the Braves and team ownership.
The Braves were terrible in 1935, finishing 38-115. Many of the Boston years were like that—no hope from the beginning. I suffered through many such teams like that in the first 25 years of the Atlanta Braves.
What’s worse about this year is that they ought to be better. It’s not unreasonable to expect them to compete for the division lead all the way to the end. As someone (was it Game, Blauser?) noted in comments in the last day or two, it’s been a while since a Braves team underperformed. The last three seasons we exceeded expectations, and the three before that no one expected anything good. This kind of season is harder to take.
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there. Still just 4.5 out of first place, but things aren’t improving and the Dodgers are coming to town. Before that, the Braves can salvage a split of this series with a win in Thursday’s noon game behind Tucker Davidson.