Hammers 14, Bucs 3

My 4 year old grandson was with us this afternoon during the game.  After the first inning, he asked me who was winning.  I told him the Pirates were leading 3-1.  He responded, “The Pirates are really good! They always win!”  So far this week (his frame of reference), he’s been right about the Bucs.  Fortunately for the Braves, in the top of the 6th the Pirates remembered who they really are.  The Braves scored 5 in the 6th to take a 7-3 lead, and then in the 8th they scored 8 to stretch the lead to 14-3.

Drew Smyly went 5 and got the win, his 5th straight.  He surrendered a 3 run homer in the first, but limited any further damage the rest of the way—despite 9 hits and 3 walks!  The guy is a winner.  Our other starters need to take lessons from him on how to get more run support.

There was conversation in today’s game thread about the feast or famine nature of this Braves’ offense. Whatever the stats would show overall, it sure seems lately this team either scores two runs or less or 8 runs or more.  In the series that concluded in Pittsburgh this afternoon, the Braves saw that tendency and raised it. They averaged more than 5 runs per game, but only took 1 of 3 because 14 of the 16 runs they scored came in one game.  As satisfying as today’s result is, they blew a great opportunity in Pittsburgh to win another series and finally go on a roll.

 *   *   *  

Thirty years ago today the Braves lost to the Dodgers 5-3, falling to one game under .500 and 9 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.  July 7 was the final game before the All Star break.  After a promising start to the season—at the end of May, the Braves were six games over .500 and only a half game out of first–a 12-17 June and a 2-4 July had brought them back to Earth.  Remember, this team had averaged 96 losses per season over the past six years.  Although the first half had been a marked improvement over previous years, there was little reason to expect anything special the rest of the way.

On July 11, our family arrived in Grand Teton National Park for a much anticipated summer vacation.  (Well, it was a vacation for our kids and me; my wife was leading a several day conference, but she was able to join us for some of the hikes and other activities.)  Our room at the lodge did not have a television.  Of course, this is long before the internet and all of the ways we stay in touch today.  I didn’t expect a lot from the Braves in the second half, but I was a fan and I like to keep up. So every morning between 6:00 and 7:00, I walked from our cabin to the gift shop to get coffee and a copy of USA Today.  I pored over the boxscores of all the games and looked at league leader stat tables (more detailed stats appeared once a week for each league).

I recall so clearly the anticipation and excitement as I opened the paper to the sports page to find out how the Braves did the previous night. On the morning of the 12th, I learned that the Braves had won the first game of the second half against the Cardinals.  Each morning I made the same walk, and I learned that the Braves swept the four game weekend series with the Cards.  They lost on Monday against the Cubs (against Maddux—no shame in that), but they went on to win the next two against the Cubs.  By the time we left for home, the Braves had won 7 of 8, and had cut the Division lead to 3 games.

If you’re reading this blog you don’t me to remind you how the Braves finished the 1991 season. 

I’m not relating this story to convince you that the Braves still have a chance to come back and win the division.  The 2021 Braves are the bizzaro version of 1991.  Instead of an exciting team that greatly exceeds expectations, this year’s team lets us down and frustrates us every time we start to think they are turning it around.  But this is baseball, and I learned long ago not to make any predictions, especially about the future.

No, I told the story about July of 1991 to evoke a time when the information we had about games and how we followed baseball was so different.  There was something to be said for not knowing instantaneously what was going on.  Waking up and getting a newspaper, then opening it to see if your team’s score made it into that edition, brought a particular kind of pleasure. I’m not suggesting for a minute that things were better then.  I love having up to date info at my fingertips and knowing that I can turn to Baseball Reference whenever I am curious about any particular game or player in history.

But the memory of this week in 1991—despite the lack of internet, TV, or radio–remains one of the fondest in my long years of baseball fandom.

On to Miami for a three game series to finish the first half.  Sweep them and they could get above .500 for the first time this season and head into the break with momentum.

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.

35 thoughts on “Hammers 14, Bucs 3”

  1. This is one strange team. I hope Snitker took notes about using a position player to pitch when you are down by 12 runs in the 9th.

  2. Thanks tfloyd. I remember up until about ’98 the guy running my fantasy league would buy the USA Today on Wednesday when they published the NL stats, then player by player compare to the previous week’s stats to get the weekly totals. Then around about Saturday, I’d get a big fat packet in the mail with the our team’s stats and the league standings.

  3. I’m on the fence about using a position player in a blowout. It seems they wouldn’t be used to consistently throwing hard or throwing breaking balls. I would think they would be at a slightly greater risk of blowing their arm out. When they carry 13 pitchers, including 3 or 4 that should never be used in high leverage situations, even though they are, I think I prefer using a regular pitcher.

  4. That was how I cemented myself to being a Braves fan. In 1993, we were in Kalamazoo for 4 months during the summer. I could listen to the Cubs radio and wait for Braves score updates, but usually I would find out the score the next morning when the USA Today arrived. I remember my 12 yr old self pouring over the box score each day, as the Braves chased down the Giants. Fun times. Unfortunately we left to go back to Australia before the end of the season (in early September) if I remember correctly. But it was alot of fun opening up the paper to see if the Braves had won the previous night. I’ve been following them avidly ever since.

  5. Bless you, tfloyd. Like coop said, this bar is the best part of the 2021 Braves season.

    This is one weird team. Not in a good way, but today was not a bad day. Instead of being despondent, for one night I’ll just raise my glass to all y’all.

  6. Awesome, tfloyd.
    Oh yes, the USA Today box scores. In the early nineties, that was the only way to get any kind of Braves (or baseball) information for a guy living in Germany. Went to the news stand every morning to check the Braves scores in the nineties. Mind you, those scores were always a day late in the European version of USA Today. Nice memories..

  7. Yeah, I got my USA Today in the Philippines when I was there from August 1990 to June 1992. I suffered through all the losing seasons in the 80s and when they start getting good (going from worst to first between 1990 and 1991) I wasn’t around to enjoy it. At least I was able to read about them 2 or 3 days later in the USA Today.

  8. I loved going to a hotel and getting a free USA Today. My grandfather lived in Houston and we would go to a lot of Astros games. If they were out of town, we’d drive to Arlington to see the Rangers. He took me to see Nolan Ryan when he got in the fight with Ventura. We spent the night and it was front page of the sports section of USA Today. That blew me away.

  9. I was going to Olivet College in 1991 and Olivet was small town that only would have the Detroit and Battle Creek papers available so I had to drive to a slightly bigger place (Marshall) where they actually had USA today paper stands ande I could buy one in order to get the Braves box scores and stats. Man how things have changed.

  10. I’m pretty happy that Acuna isn’t participating in the home run derby. Rest, our young superstar.

  11. @13 Agreed. I think that event can also cause some bad habits with participants swings and the derby itself looks like it is exhausting if you make it through to the end. We need him fresh for the stretch run.

  12. @4, I remember hearing a year or two ago from a former position player who had pitched in blowouts (most likely Francouer, but maybe someone else) that what really hurt him for the next day or two after pitching was not his arm but his glutes, which took a lot of unaccustomed strain from the repeated motion of pushing off hard. That made me think the injury risk would be at least as much to the hamstrings as to the arm.

    Definitely glad Acuna isn’t participating in the HR derby so he can rest and not risk messing up his swing. It really did seem like batting against Anthony Rizzo messed up Freeman several weeks ago. I wonder if anyone has looked at how batters who faced a position player did in the 10 PA after facing the position player compared to the 10 PA before. You’d have to find a way to adjust for the bias that the position player was only pitching because the batters had hit unusually well in the last few PA before. Maybe look at the game before the blowout and the game after.

  13. I agree re the HR Derby. I will also express my long-held position (that no one else agrees with) that I’d prefer it if my team’s players didn’t get named to the AllStar team either. Whatever interest the ASG once had is long-ago dissipated. I’d send Jacob Webb as our representative if it were up to me.

  14. @17 He’d be excellent pitching in the Home Run Derby.

    Now that would be funny. Sort of like that Hollywood award show where the worst of everything gets an award, each team should be able to send their worst pitcher to the All-Star Game to throw to Home Run Derby participants. And they’d be contractually obligated to throw lollypops to the hitters as punishment for their poor performance.

  15. @1 Except Culby is no longer a Brave. He was our best position pitcher.

    @11 Great story, Smitty. I never went to the Dome when the Astros were any good…… Kinda like going to Fulton County in the 70s….. But I did see the Ryan “bloody lip” game. I think it was the only game I ever went to at Arlington Stadium – moved to Oklahoma six months later.

    I, too, used to love perusing the USAToday daily stats when I needed to. I also used to pick up Baseball Weekly at the news stand for more in depth info. I hated that it was only a weekly since it took me about an hour to peruse every word.

  16. I too used to buy those Baseball Weeklies and I also originally played Fantasy Baseball via mail. You’d bubble in your lineups, mail them off and the entity would mail you results every week or two…

    In the early 1980s, my dad subscribed to Baseball America and that was the only way to even know who the up and coming prospects were and how they were doing. I used to cut out the Braves affiliates pages within and then compare the stats from week to week or whenever the magazine came out to see who was hot or not. Of course I also used to make cassette tapes of myself ‘broadcasting’ dice baseball games but I digress… :)

    It was a simpler time.

  17. Do you guys remember the National? The daily sports newspaper that I think was started by Frank DeFord and writers such as Jay Mariotti, Mike Lupica, Chris Mortensen. If I recall it was only around for a year or two in 1990 and 1991. I used to love reading that but it’s time was short and it kind of took the USA Today sports section up a few notches.

  18. #22
    I loved The National. When it began its short run, I had just moved to NYC & read it every day on my commute, along with the NY Times and (on Wednesdays) the Village Voice. Nuts to schlep all that around, but I felt lucky to have access to all that terrific writing.

    But, unfortunately, The National’s business model wasn’t sound & was doomed to failure. Great stable of (very well-paid) columnists, though.

    That’s why, when traveling abroad, we called it “USA Yesterday.”

    Nonetheless, I recall some serious early-’90s USA Today hunts in various foreign lands, especially during pennant races. Pre-internet/pre-cable-everywhere, that’s all you had if you wanted to get the baseball scores.

    Very occasionally, you’d find CNN International on a hotel TV & you might get a glimpse of some scores, but usually it was a real effort to get any American sports news, especially baseball. (But cricket? Soccer? Formula 1? No problem.)

    Kids, you have no idea… ;)

  19. Chief will be going with his beloved family (who loves him) to Philly at the end of the month for a game against our Atlanta 9 and pulling up his lawn chair at Citizens Bank LL Field.

    Any must eat places around the stadium, weigh in on Pat’s vs. Geno’s, any really cool downtown can’t miss spots?

    Any of you other yahoos live in Philly?

  20. I use to get a baseball magazine. It was small and I can’t remember the name of it. It was great though.

    The Astros were never that good when I went either. We watched Biggio when he first came up. We followed his career together. His last season when they came to Atlanta I bought tickets (I figured I owed my grandfather a few games) Biggio was only playing a few days a week and he came up as a pinch hitter. It was fun following a player through his career with someone. That is supposed to happen in baseball. It’s why I hope we resign Freeman, someone and their grandfather may have that experience.

  21. @28 There is a lot of great knowledge and perspective here that allows us all to happily reminisce.

  22. I spent the last half of the summer of 1974 bumming around Europe with a friend. In one of my favorite Small World stories, we were reading the International Herald Tribune while riding on the Paris Metro when we came to the (one day later) news that Eddie Mathews had been fired as Braves manager. I said: “Ohmigod. They fired Eddie Mathews.” and a couple sitting opposite us on the train looked up and said: “They fired Eddie Mathews? Why?”

    Not to notice the synchronicity, but they fired him just before the All-Star game after a disappointing series against Pittsburgh which left them one game over .500.

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