Much like Vladimir and Estragon, we Braves fans have been waiting for something good to happen. And like Beckett’s famous characters, we had almost resigned ourselves that it probably never will.
But after nearly 3 weeks, we are no longer stuck in an absurdist universe: the peculiar post-ASG streak of never winning or losing consecutive games has come to an end. And the team is finally back at .500, with a chance to pass that mark for the first time this season tomorrow.
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Over the last couple of months, Drew Smyly has been a winner, because he has demonstrated the most important skill a starting pitcher can possess: excellent run support. The Braves scored 7 on the night, although Drew wasn’t around to see most of those runs; he left the game after 4 innings trailing 3-1. Smyly surrendered 4 straight hits in the first, including a 3 run homer by Arenado. To his credit, Smyly kept the Cards off the board over the next 3 innings.
J.A. Happ, who had been just about the worst starter in the big leagues this year, baffled the Braves hitters through the first 3 innings. It sure looked like the post-ASB streak would continue. But in the 4th, they finally scratched against Happ–a Heredia double drove in Swanson who had singled to cut the lead to 3-1. Then in the 5th, Jorge Soler hit a solo shot to center to make it 3-2.
Let’s now praise Brian Snitker for a couple of excellent decisions in the 5th. First, he pinch hit for Smyly in the top of the inning, ensuring that he wouldn’t face the top Cards hitters for a third time. And I’m especially impressed that he chose to replace him with new addition Richard Rodriguez. Trailing by 1 in the 5th with Goldschmidt and Arenado coming up was a high leverage situation. I’ll admit it surprised me, because I thought he might think of Rodriguez as “an 8th inning guy” and because Snit has a tendency not to use his best relievers when trailing, even by a run. Rodriguez came through, getting the Cards in order in the 5th.
Adam Duvall put the Braves on top with a 2 run shot in the 6th (he plated Dansby, who went 4 for 4 on the night and has his average up to .254). The recently rejuvenated Tyler Matzek held them in the 6th, striking out 2. Somehow, some way, this much maligned Braves bullpen has become quite solid. Well, not so fast. Gwyneth’s ex surrendered a run in the 7th to tie it at 4. Martin didn’t pitch especially poorly, though. He gave up a hit, and then Edman stuck his elbow in front of an inside pitch. Martin still would have gotten out of it, but he allowed a double steal, followed by a sac fly. On the double steal, Martin never once looked at either baserunner who were both strolling toward the next base while he stared at the catcher. By the time Vogt received the pitch, there was no point in attempting a throw; both runners were there already.
But Martin’s antics put him in position to be the winning pitcher, proving that this really is a dumb stat (you can shut down the poll, Ryan). If Martin had held them scoreless, Rodriguez would have gotten the win. Anyway, Martin got the win because the Braves scored 3 in the 8th, Jackson and Smith held them scoreless in the 8th and 9th, and the Braves won 7-4.
If anyone deserves a Win for this game, it’s Alex Anthopolous. Six of the 7 runs were driven in by Soler, Duvall, Vogt, and Pederson—all July acquisitions who have greatly strengthened this lineup. Vogt had a big sac fly in the 8th to give the Braves the lead, and Pederson had a double to drive in 2 insurance runs.
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What an odd streak this has been. But it’s not the oddest I have witnessed. I was in college in 1974. Unless you were there, you would not believe how much the streaking craze grabbed the nation’s attention. From an article in American Heritage Magazine That Streaking Fad | AMERICAN HERITAGE :
“Streaking, or running naked through a public place, began on college campuses in the late fall and winter of 1973…. At the University of Georgia the phenomenon grew and grew until more than fifteen hundred people participated in a mass streak. Students finally had to parachute naked onto the Georgia campus to attract any attention. (Seventy miles west, in Atlanta, after a few people had streaked a city bus, the driver was asked if they were male or female. He replied, ‘I couldn’t tell—they were wearing masks.’)
By March streaking had become a nationwide craze. Time and Newsweek jumped all over the story, grateful (like National Geographic) for any chance to print photographs of bare-breasted women.
The fad reached its peak on April 2, at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. A naked man ran across the stage as David Niven was reading an introduction. Niven was shaken but recovered his customary urbanity fast enough to quip, ‘Just think, the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off his clothes and showing his shortcomings.’
Dozens of pop songs were rushed out to capitalize on the fad. Most successful was ‘The Streak,’ by Ray Stevens, which stayed on top of Billboard’s pop chart for an improbable three weeks.”
Click on the following at your own risk: Ray Stevens – “The Streak” (Music Video) – YouTube One of the strangest songs ever to top the charts, it was one of numerous “comedy” songs from Stevens in his long career.
Stevens—the self-styled Comedy King of Music City U.S.A–was born and raised in Clarkdale, Ga., in Cobb County, just 15 miles from the site of Truist Park. I haven’t done exhaustive research on the question, but I’d wager Ray Stevens is the member of the Country Music Hall of Fame (inducted 2019) who was raised in closest proximity to the Braves park.
I was no fan of streaking (the 1974 variety), nor of the Stevens song, and I became very tired of the odd Braves “streak” of mediocrity.
But I’m a big fan of real streaks–I’m all for extending the current Braves winning streak of 2 games. In Thursday’s game, it’s Toussiant vs. LeBlanc. Touki will try to put the last ugly start behind him and recapture the magic of his first two starts, while the Cards go with an antique southpaw for the third game in a row. I like our chances. Let’s sweep the series tomorrow, win a third consecutive game, and finally breach that elusive .500 barrier.