In the words of Ian Anderson (the other one), “And the train it won’t stop going; No way to slow down.” The Braves have put the Hammer down and are rolling again. Wednesday night in the desert, the Braves defeated the Snakes 9-2 for their fourth straight victory. The lead remains 3 over the Phils, and the magic number is nine with twelve games remaining.
For my money, the best thing about the game was the performance of Ian Anderson (the pitcher). After surrendering a run on a walk and a double in the first, and allowing a single in the second, he proceeded to retire every batter he faced the rest of the way through seven innings. His line was 7 IP, 2 hits, 8 Ks, and 1 BB. If he has regained that kind of form, you’ve got to like the Braves rotation of Fried, Morton, and Anderson against anyone in the playoffs.
The hitters were just as impressive. Albies, Riley, Freeman, and Duvall all left the yard. In a bizarre turn of events, though, Duvall’s shot in the first only counts as a single. With runners on first and third, Adam hit a drive to center that the fielder leaped for; the ball bounced out of his glove and into the stands. Home run, right? No, because the umps did not make a call on the field, Riley feared the ball was caught and scrambled back to first. As he did so, Duvall was trotting to second. When they passed each other, by Rule Duvall was out. His hit counts as a single.
As many of our commenters noted, this one is on the men in Blue. It’s their job to make a call, so that the runners know what to do. They failed. On the bright side, it could have been worse. Since one of the umps was Sam Holbrooke, we should count ourselves fortunate that it wasn’t called an infield fly. (No, I’m not over it.)
By the way, Duvall hit a liner off the wall in left later in the game. Because it was hit so hard, he was thrown out at second, so all he had was another single to show for it. I’m pretty sure nearly 800 feet is the longest combined distance for two singles in major league history. Oh, and the umps blew this one also. Duvall clearly beat the throw, but of course the replay officials refused to overturn the call.
Ozzie’s two run shot in the third gave him 30 homers and 100 rbi’s on the season. Those are nice round numbers that have prompted a lot of searching the record books. Suffice it to say that this kid is special and we are fortunate to see him play. Riley’s and Freeman’s homers were the thirty-first for each. Both are now locked in at the plate. Feel free to debate in the comments which of them is the league MVP.
It may seem like a small thing, but Soler reached twice on bases on balls. He really seems to have embraced his role of getting on base in front of Freddie.
If I wanted to put a damper on this evening, I could point out that the Diamondbacks are fielding a AAA team right now, so perhaps this modest win streak is not what it appears. But I won’t do that. It’s a pennant race in the last two weeks of the season, so I’m going to enjoy every win.
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Often when it’s my turn to recap, I comment upon something significant that happened on this date in Braves history. Sometimes I reflect upon a former Brave whose birthday falls on the date.
I noticed in Baseball Almanac that September 22 is the birthday of Wally Backman, the Mets infielder of the 1980’s. The scrappy second sacker didn’t hit for power, but his excellent on base skills at the top of the lineup contributed to the success of the mid to late 80’s Mets teams managed by Dave Johnson (that’s a tenuous Braves connection, but that’s not the point of this story). From 1984 through 1988, those Mets averaged almost 98 wins per season, and Backman was a regular starter, albeit often in a platoon role.
My memories of Backman don’t relate primarily to the Braves. Our guys were pretty miserable from 1984-1988, and the Mets were in the other division. I did follow those Mets teams, mainly because I was a fan of Davey Johnson, who I believe is a highly underrated manager. He had learned a lot from Earl Weaver, whom I had learned to appreciate through Bill James, who himself came to prominence during this same period.
In 1993, at the tail end of his career, he signed a minor league deal with the Braves, but he was cut in Spring Training. Anyway, what prompts me to think of Backman isn’t about the Braves; it’s more of a family connection. In 2007, when our son was in college, he came home for the summer. He got a job with the Macon Music, the local team in the independent South Coast League. His primary job was writing up game recaps for the website, and every now and then he did the radio broadcast.
It was a fun job. As a newly formed independent league, there weren’t future major leaguers on the roster, but the manager was ex-Padres slugger Phil Plantier and the pitching coach (and part-time reliever) was former big league reliever Bryce Florie. Cecil Fielder was a roving hitting instructor for the league. My son talked with these guys, and he got a kick out of their stories of the big leagues.
Our son’s most memorable night in the radio booth involved Wally Backman. After his playing career, Backman was a successful minor league manager in several leagues. Based on those successes, in November 2004 he was named manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He never served in that role, though, because the team fired him four days later after the New York Times ran a story about legal issues in his past that he had not disclosed to the Diamondbacks during his interview. If you want to know all of the sordid details, see Wally Backman – Society for American Baseball Research (sabr.org)
Trying to work his way back to the show, Backman became the manager of the South Georgia Peanuts in the South Coast League in 2007. Backman was a great interview subject for a young reporter. He was blunt and colorful. For example, he was known more for his offense than defense in his playing days, but he spent a good deal of time insisting to my son that he was a better fielder than Tommy Herr.
Anyway, my son was in the radio booth for a game between the Music and the Peanuts. It was a wild game, and at one point he said, “all this game is missing is a benches clearing brawl.” At that point Backman had already been ejected for arguing balls and strikes; when he was ejected, he had littered the field with 22 bats. After the ejection, he was having a beer with the team’s GM in the area behind the visitors’ dugout. Then the Peanuts pitcher beaned a Music player because he had stolen a base while up 5 the previous inning, and sure enough the benches cleared. At that point Backman consulted with his bench coach, yanked his team from the field, and forfeited the game. He did all of this while still holding his beer.
Despite all this, Backman was always a successful manager in terms of wins and losses. He was the Mets AAA manager for several years in the last decade, and was a finalist for the job when they hired Terry Collins. As a Braves fan, I was a little disappointed. They may not have won any more games if they had hired him, but they would have been even more Mets-like.
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The Braves complete this four game set in Phoenix with an afternoon game. Charlie Morton faces Madison Bumgarner. I think the Braves are due for a few hits against Bumgarner. Let’s keep it rolling.