Hammers Prepare to Unfurl Yet Another Flag, Defeat the Phillies 7-2

After last night’s 7-2 win over the Phillies, the Braves lead is four and a half games with five left on the schedule. The magic number is 1.  They haven’t clinched the division, so there was not a champagne celebration in the clubhouse after the game (that is coming in the next day or two).  But we can all rejoice; you have my permission to go ahead and celebrate with your beverage of choice. 

Mighty Max, our own Varsity Fried, Pontifex Maximus, was dominant once again.  Perhaps not quite as sharp as his last two starts in which he gave up no runs, but we will take seven innings of two run ball (only one earned) any time.  Max and Charlie Morton will match up well with any playoff opponent.

The hitters did their job, scoring seven runs without any homers.  Leadoff man extraordinaire Jorge Soler reached base four times on two hits and two walks and scored twice.  Austin “MVP” Riley had a bloop single and an rbi in the first, and then had the biggest hit of the night in the seventh, when, with the Braves clinging to a 3-2 lead, he scorched a double that scored two. Dansby had three hits, including a double, and drove in two with a single in the 7th to put the game out of reach.  And Ozzie had two hits and scored twice.

By the way, Bryce Harper, the guy who probably deserves and will probably receive the MVP, went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts.  He, Realmuto, and McCutcheon went 0 for 12 on the night.

   *    *    *

After a maddening first half of bad luck, bad performance, and many injuries large and small, the 2021 regular season has worked out better than any of us had reason to expect at the midpoint.  There were plenty of doomsayers in this bar–and throughout Braves country–from April through July.  I prefer to season my fandom with a good dollop of hope, even when things aren’t going well.  If you look back at many of my recaps during those first four months (I don’t recommend that you do that, by the way), you’ll find me reminding folks (OK, reminding myself, mainly) that “it’s a long season,” “things can turn around,” blah, blah, blah.  Still, I sometimes succumbed to the doom and despair that was all around.

But the team kept plugging away, and thanks to the general ineptitude of our NL East opponents, the Braves were never totally out of the race even as they remained at or below .500 in July.  Remember, they were still three games under .500 on August 1. 

The run this team has made since then has been quite a ride.  They won 16 of the next 18, to go from 5 back to 4.5 ahead.  Despite a tough schedule over the remainder of August and September, including two west coast trips, they have maintained the lead throughout, so that they are now on the brink of winning the division and advancing to the NLDS against the Brewers.

Let’s give credit where credit is due.  Top of the list is Alex Anthopoulos.  He steadfastly insisted that the Braves were still in it, even after Ronald’s devastating injury, and he resisted calls to trade stars like Charlie Morton for prospects.  Even AA could not have expected the five July trade acquisitions to work out quite as well as they have (has anyone ever produced such a good haul at the trade deadline?), but he and his people in the front office had a clear idea who they needed and they got the job done—and without parting with any top prospects.

Brian Snitker deserves praise.  He has now won four division titles in a row.  The ability to keep a team focused and working hard is the most important attribute of a manager, and Snit clearly excels.  All of the bad breaks along the way could have led to recriminations and clubhouse problems, but there is never a hint of that under his leadership.

Among the players, the new additions were crucial, of course, but the guys who have been around all year also stepped it up the last two months.  For all the hyperbole of the MVP talk, Riley continues to improve and has been as good as anyone in the league over the second half.  Despite his very slow start, Freddie’s production has likewise been MVP caliber over the second half.  Fried and Morton are pitching as well as anyone over the last couple of months and Jackson and Matzek have been terrific in the pen.

I started to write about how the team is well positioned to succeed in October, but let’s slow down on that.  Today, I just want to appreciate the job they have done to get to this point. 

 *    *    *   

I realize I’ve been writing as if the division is won.  Of course it’s not over, but it’s kind of like leading the Super Bowl 28-3 in the third quarter.  Or it’s like being up 6-0 in game 4 of the World Series with a 2 games to 1 lead.  What could go wrong?

Sorry to bring those up.  Truth is, the Braves would have to lose the next four, the Phillies win their remaining four, and then the Braves lose the makeup game against the Rockies just to force a tie for the division.  According to Baseball Reference, there is a 99.6% chance the Braves take the division.  We can safely count on taking on the Brewers starting Friday October 8.

Tonight, Ian Anderson gets his final start before the playoffs.  Let’s go ahead and make it official and pop those corks tonight.

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.

64 thoughts on “Hammers Prepare to Unfurl Yet Another Flag, Defeat the Phillies 7-2”

  1. Thank you, T, for hammering the lid on the loving brothers.

    There are no weak links in the Braves Journal recap lineup. Each is better than the last. Right now, today, Tfloyd is the staff ace.

    Let’s win our way into the postseason today. What a lovely way to cinch that would be.

    Roll over, Phillies. Play dead.

  2. JC’d
    Woof indeed…there was a single performance last night that we were all waiting for and, finally, was delivered. An excruciating few weeks prior came to an end at the plate from a series of at bats that excited memories. Solid contact, power to the opposite field, dashing base running. Dansby was his old self and should no longer have to justify his presence simply by his brilliant defense. Something has clicked back in for him that he won’t forget, I have every confidence in the games ahead.

    We need that bat, and back higher in the order. Neither Freddie or Riley have looked comfortable these last two nights, there has been little hard contact from either and both have a multitude of strike outs. Riley’s double late last night was his first meaningful contribution to the party. We need Freddie to look more comfortable at the plate. Both these needs will likely be met if they see Dansby back in the power fold.

    Oppo, oppo.

    PS..Watching Max blow Harper away, repetitively, was pure excitement. Wow, that must be a huge thrill. JTR too. One, two, how do you do.

  3. JC’d
    The only Philly hitters that scared me last night were rather a surprise, to put it mildly.

    Little Boy Blue with his 10 for 20 for one. Joe brought him along from the Yankees which speaks well, in this instance, for his judgment. You look at him, he is a tiger.

    As is the tall young man playing first base in the majors for the first time. And also making a quiet name for himself with the bat. Hard contact, I am beginning to seek it out, obsessively.

  4. @76, yep and yep. The regular leadoff hitter is Odubel Herrera, he of the .316 season OBP. The offense has gone pretty pear-shaped for them: McCutchen’s been okay, and Segura and Realmuto have been pretty good, and Hoskins was good but they were devastated by his injury. However, Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius suffered truly catastrophic seasons that lead one to question whether they’ll be productive major league hitters again. And Ronald Torreyes is Ronald Torreyes. The team has really poor depth, partly because they traded away all of their high-rated prospects in a desire to win now, and partly because of the Klentak regime’s awful draft record, capped by the Mickey Moniak 1-1 bust.

    Actually, the draft misery goes back a long ways before that. Since taking Cole Hamels with the 17th overall pick of the 2002 draft, here’s what they’ve gotten in the first round:

    2003: None. (They gave up this pick to sign Jim Thome.)
    2004: Greg Golson — .458 OPS in 41 career at-bats.
    2005: None. (They gave up this pick to sign Jon Lieber.)
    2006: Kyle Drabek — he was the centerpiece of the Roy Halladay trade, so clearly a win for the Phillies, but he blew out his arm and tallied a 5.26 ERA in 43 games in the bigs.
    2006, supplemental: Adrian Cardenas — .552 OPS in 60 career at-bats.
    2007: Joe Savery — another one ruined by injuries. 3.83 ERA in 44 games in the bigs.
    2007, supplemental: Travis d’Arnaud — He’s been injured a lot too, but a very good hitter when healthy, and he was another key component in the Halladay trade. This counts as a win.
    2008: Anthony Hewitt — never made the majors.
    2008, supplemental: Zach Collier — never made the majors.
    2009: None. (They gave up this pick to sign Raul Ibanez.)
    2010: Jesse Biddle — you remember him. A bad concussion derailed his career. Sadly, his rookie year in the Atlanta bullpen in 2018 was his only good season.
    2011: None. (They gave up this pick to sign Cliff Lee.)
    2011, supplemental: Larry Greene — never made the majors.
    2012, supplemental: Mitch Gueller and Shane Watson — they made two supplemental round picks this year, nothing in the primary part of the first round (I can’t figure out why), and neither made the majors.
    2013: J.P. Crawford — centerpiece of the Segura trade. Pretty good player.
    2014: Aaron Nola — number one starter.
    2015: Cornelius Randolph — he’s in Triple-A. Still only 24, but he hasn’t really hit.
    2016: Mickey Moniak — .432 OPS in 47 big league AB. Still only 23, but he hasn’t really hit in the minors and he was dreadful in a cup of coffee.
    2017: Adam Haseley — .716 OPS across 531 AB. A good hitter at UVA, he has regressed since his callup, receiving 242 PA in 2019 but only 92 PA last year and just 21 this year. Already 25, his career appears at a crossroads.
    2018: Alec Bohm — also 25. He was terrific last year, finishing second in the ROY vote, but his OPS tumbled 200 points this year and he earned a ticket back to the minors. His career is also at a crossroads.

    That’s quite a decade and a half. The only clear successes are Nola and Crawford, in back to back years. Drabek and d’Arnaud served as valuable trade chips, as did Crawford. Bohm still has a chance, though this year was a terrible setback. And that’s about it.

    Woof. No wonder Harper doesn’t have anybody to drive in.

  5. I’m not just pumping up here, if you read recaps anywhere else, you know, our lineup’s weakest link (who even is that?) is better than any other outlet’s best. It’s truly amazing.

  6. It is interesting to look back and remember how many people wanted to tank the season and trade away our chances for middling prospects. Let this be a lesson: If you’re going to do that as a GM, you’d better be damned sure that you’re right and that your team has no chance. Also, when calculating this, never forget that the Phillies and Mets both suck.

  7. How bad was the Phillies farm system? Lean back and enjoy, or, at the very least, breathe a sigh of relief that there but for the grace of God go we:

    Multiple members of the organization described a “toxic” culture in player development. There was backstabbing and browbeating. There were not just mixed messages, but messages that were designed to mute certain employees. There was working for credit — and credit only — and those who fell into job-preservation mode. There were people, both tenured and newer employees, who no longer felt empowered to coach. Player development blamed scouting for a lack of talent and scouting blamed player development for a lack of progression. Bryan Minniti, who was fired in August, was in charge of both departments. The players were caught in it all — cogs in an organization that could not articulate an actual player-development philosophy.

    https://theathletic.com/2857705/2021/09/30/the-phillies-have-a-new-farm-director-now-they-need-to-fix-a-dysfunctional-culture-in-the-minors/

  8. wonderful recap, tfloyd. Always enjoyed your recaps during the tough part of the season. You always kept things in perspective.
    We all deserve to celebrate the next few days until October 8. This was one of the most unlikely seasons for the Braves. And this is what makes them so dangerous in the playoffs. If I was the Brewers, I wouldn’t want to face these Braves. Devin Williams obviously thought so as well.

  9. Let’s celebrate clinching tonight. However, let’s stay away from lockers. We’ve already had a bad incident with one this year.

  10. By all rights the Acuna injury should have been a death blow to an already struggling and seemingly snakebit team. Remarkable how well they’ve pulled it together. It’s a testament to the culture the organization has created.

  11. This team is not the same team that played the first half; you really can’t judge our chances based upon the whole season (same for the Cards, apparently). We are 41-27 in the second half and that projects out to 97-98 wins which is where we were in 2019. We have played well under our Pythagorean win projection on the whole but I think we are now capable of living up to it.

    With regards to next year as I think about it, with Morton and D’Arnaud already signed and, hopefully, Freddie back, we will get both Acuna and Soroka back sometimes during the year (hopefully, early). Everyone else in the infield and the major components of the pitching staff are all controllable. The only thing to worry about is making sure we have a decent OF and bench. To me, it seems like Soler is the answer to Ozuna – especially if the DH comes back. If we can ditch the cost of Ozuna then we can afford at least two of our four new OFs without any additional cost. The more I think about it, the more I think Rosario is low man on the totem pole because Joc is a better fielder. We also have Pache, Waters, Harris, Franklin, etc… in the wings. Also, the list of pitchers that are ready is pretty long too – Muller, Touki, Davidson, Elder, etc… (along with some interesting relief prospects). Seems like a couple of one or two year contracts would be perfect. Even the bench with Adrianza and Heredia with whatever OF is not starting that day is pretty good.

    And that being said, I’m not sure we even need the “big trade” or FA signing any more (except Freddie, of course). If there is an opportunity for a Starling Marte or Bryan Reynolds, then, cool, go for it, but we sure don’t “need” it.

    This team is currently a 97-98 win team as constructed. Who knows how good it might be with a DH, Acuna, and Soroka in the fold.

  12. Do you guys think we may be better off going with Acuna and a 4 man rotation in the outfield going forward after this year? This may not be a bad idea for Atlanta but for several teams going forward. Of course you better have a good infield like we have and hope your outfield rotation can give you a combined OPS over 800.

  13. So, what ever happened to Folty after all? He is obviously still pitching for the Rangers, they seem to have moved him to a relief role this month. He just stopped striking people out. His walk rate is actually pretty great, he’s giving up a hit per inning but allowing 34 HRs this season. Does anyone know what happened to him? There are some similarities to Tommy Hansons career, I think.

  14. Yeah, it could be. Folty’s velocity in 2019 was a mile and a half slower than in 2018, and this year it’s about two-thirds of a mile slower than it was in 2019. He’ll turn 30 in a week, and it could be that he used up most of his bullets.

  15. It wasn’t like Folty was overused. He never threw more than 183 innings (2018). That was a steady increase from 154 in 2017 and 123 in 2016.

    Tommy Hanson went from 120 innings in 2009 to 207 in 2010. That’s a big jump. He dropped down to 130 the next year, injury if I remember correctly. I don’t think you’ll see an 80 inning jump for young pitchers these days. So yeah, Folty’s shoulder just isn’t up to pitching lots of innings.

  16. @9 I will readily admit that my private opinion at the deadline was that we should sell. I did not think either that we could improve so much for so little loss at the deadline, or that the pitching and Riley/Freeman could improve so tremendously, much less that /both/ would happen, and I’m happy to acknowledge that Anthopolous knew better than I, perhaps unsurprisingly.

    He has definitely earned some benefit of the doubt going forward on similar assessments.

  17. What more can you say about Soler? He’s been our new Josh Donaldson — he has given our offense a credibility, a depth, and a sheer potency that it simply didn’t have. My goodness, what a bat he has.

  18. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is such a great joke by @bravesorganist for Kyle Gibson’s at-bat.

  19. You know, I’m almost positive that Realmuto made an illegal play there. He did not offer d’Arnaud a lane to the plate whatsoever.

  20. It sure is apropos for the Braves to sweep the Phillies to end the year after they swept us to begin the year.

  21. I have not posted for a while but I just want to say couple things: i) chip has improved a lot working with frenchy. It’s a great combination and I actually start really liking chip after decades of struggle. ii). I have said it since he was hired and I will say it again: I love AA and in Alex I trust.

  22. Frank Wren was so bad, yet still has a lot of fans on the Talking Chop site. Coppy was too arrogant.

    Great job by Ian.

  23. @21 Folty showed up to spring training way lighter physically last year. Body changes can have a big effect on performance.

  24. 43 — I haven’t watched him but checked on his average fastball velocity and it’s rather average now. He doesn’t have good enough command or control to get by with average velocity.

  25. I normally don’t comment on recap days, but “Can’t Touch This” for Bohm is just too good to go unremarked.

  26. I knew that shit was gonna happen when I saw that lefty warming up .. Harper should be catching one in ribs next inning …

  27. We have some gutless .. pitchers .. with 2 outs .. Realmuto should have caught one in ribs . We don’t protect our guys at all …

  28. Will Smith is warming up…because Snitker wants his arm to fall off before the playoffs so he doesn’t have to use him?

  29. Credit where it’s due — that’s probably the most dominant inning I’ve seen Will twirl all year.

    But I’d particularly like to congratulate the real heroes here: everyone in this bar. Fly that flag high, y’all!

  30. I hope some of you doubters give Hancock credit for a perfect inning. He really threw all strikes.

    I luv these guys!!!

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