For the first time all year, the Braves won a third game in a row. This new three game win streak ends the longest streak of no 3-game streaks (winning or losing) in baseball history. As unprecedented and unlikely as it was (see JonathanF’s math lesson on that yesterday) I was getting pretty sick of that “streak,” so I say good riddance. The newly streaking Braves are now undefeated in the month of June and have carved two games out of the Mets’ division lead in the past two nights.
I agreed to do Friday recaps this year, largely because I’m not a party-on-the-weekend sort of guy. My wife and I spend most Friday nights watching the Braves anyway, so might as well do the recap. Tonight I had the opportunity to go out with family, including my two granddaughters, so I didn’t tune in until the end of the 8th.
Turns out I hadn’t missed a thing—there was no score after 8. Varsity Fried had tossed 8 onion rings (Varsity fried onion rings are too limp to be very round, but they are probably as round as a goose egg). Max was absolutely terrific, one of the best starts of his career. Eight innings, 72 strikes in 102 pitches, with only 2 hits and 1 walk. And all this in Coors Field! Fried is truly an Ace.
Problem was, the offense hadn’t dented the scoreboard either. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. They had 7 hits and 3 walks through 9 innings. Not only that, 6 of those 7 hits were by the top 3 guys in the order. How do you not score? Two caught stealings (one each by Ronald and Dansby) plus a GIDP by Ozuna go a long way to explaining that.
Turns out this was only the fourth game in the history of Coors Field to be scoreless after eight innings. It’s probably a good thing Chip and company weren’t broadcasting this one; after all the talk the night before about crazy offense in Coors Field, I’m not sure what they would have said about this one.
So I watched the 9th, and it was more of the same. Nothing doing for either team in the frame. AJ Minter had another excellent inning to send it to extras. This was only the second game in Coors Field history that was 0-0 after 9 innings.
In the 10th, with one out and the Manfred Man on second, Ronald drew a walk in an excellent AB. Dansby then was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With Ozuna at the plate, a wild pitch scored the first run of the game. In a game like this, you take them any way you can get them, especially since Ozuna promptly struck out for the second out. Even with a run in, the Braves were not in a great position. Given the stupid extra inning ghost runner rule, we all know a one run lead is not enough. Bud Black decided to walk Riley with first base open and bring in a southpaw to face Olson. The count went to 0-2. But on the next pitch, he drilled an outside pitch to left to score a couple. That was perhaps the biggest hit of the year, putting the Braves up 3-0, and giving them an excellent chance to finally end the absurd non-streak streak. Given all the wasted scoring opportunities in the first 9 innings, and the dominant performance by Fried, this could have been one of the most disheartening losses of the season, but Olson’s hit saved the day. The Rockies did indeed score one in the bottom of the 10th (all it takes is a single, you know), but Jansen shut the door to further damage and the Braves won 3-1.
The Braves could have scored more in the 10th. After Olson’s heroics, Contreras walked to load the bases (he had entered the game when TDA was lifted for a pinch runner). That brought Albies to the plate. I love Ozzie, but he is driving me crazy. With the bases loaded, he swung at a 3-1 pitch that was plainly inside. That would have made it 4-0. Instead, he fouled if off and then swung and missed the next pitch to end the inning. This AB especially frustrated me, because he had done something similar in the 9th , when he pinch hit for Arcia. TDA had just walked, and he never walks, so you know this pitcher is wild. The count went to 3-0. Sure enough, Albies swung away, flying out harmlessly to center. Had he taken the walk, the go ahead run would have been on second with one out. As I’ve said many times before, Ozzie could be a superstar, but he’s got to develop some discipline at the plate.
Swanson, on the other hand, has been terrific. He had three more hits on the night to get his BA to .280, after hitting below .200 for the first month. Ronald had two hits and a walk to bring his OBP up to .409. Marcell, though, was 1-5 and his OPS is .684. Why does he continue to hit third in the order?
Still, what a great win. Thanks to the Dodgers second straight win over the Mets, the lead is down to 8.5. Hey, it’s better than 10.5! You know, the 1991 team trailed by 9.5 at the All Star Break, and they won the division. The 1993 team trailed by 10 games on July 22, and they won the division. Both teams, of course, went on tremendous extended hot streaks to overcome those leads. So my advice to the Braves is to keep on winning. Enough of this mediocrity; now that the non-streak streak is behind us, why not win about 10-12 more in a row? I know, you’ve got to play them one game at a time. The Braves go for four straight behind Aragorn/Elessar (you probably know him as Strider) on Saturday.
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Sidenote to the Sidenote from JonathanF last night about altitude and National League parks: He and I remember well that for the first 27 years of the Atlanta Braves, they played in the ballpark at the highest elevation in the big leagues. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium was known as the Launching Pad for good reason; most seasons, it was the best hitters park in the league. Folks often credited the altitude for the fact that balls carried so well. For some reason, the altitude at Turner Field (identical to the old park) and at Truist (which is about 100 feet higher than the older parks) hasn’t rendered them great hitters parks. In any event, the park effect at Atlanta Stadium was nothing compared to Coors Field.