Well, that didn’t end well.
I was planning on beginning this recap with a bit of a rejoinder to the folks who on Friday were talking about us still being inferior to the Dodgers. It has a bit less force now that that happened, but I do still believe that we are not. I don’t necessarily mean that the Dodgers aren’t slightly better than us on paper. They may be. But the kind of existential dread that used to wash over us when we were about to play the Dodgers is gone for me, and it should be gone for you. We are essentially their equal. It honestly may be the best current rivalry in the National League. And as with any roughly equal rivalry, we got a series that was completely up-for-grabs from the first pitch.
It looked like the Braves were about to take the series, and then suddenly they didn’t. Kenley Jansen had two outs with a 2-0 lead in the ninth, and two strikes on Gavin Lux. Lux had a good at-bat and ripped a ball to right field for a base hit to keep the game going. Chris Taylor, representing the tying run, singled on the next pitch and then stole second on the tortoise-like delivery of Jansen to put the tying runs in scoring position. However, at the plate was Trayce Thompson, and he had absolutely nothing. He had no chance against Jansen, and it was very clear that this was the case. Jansen induced a wounded duck of a line drive to first, which Thompson didn’t even see off the bat. Yet somehow, it found it’s way into right field to tie the game. For the record, Olson was playing way too far in on it, and I have no idea why he was. But regardless of where the fault lay for that, it was suddenly 2-2. Michael Harris made a great play to end the inning, but the game was now a toss-up.
The Braves did nothing in the ninth. I’m tempted to treat the scoring of the Manfred Man (I’m gonna start using that name for it now, too) as status quo in extra innings, because it essentially is. Freddie Freeman drove in the Dodgers’ Manfred Man in the 10th, which of course the network fixated on. The Dodgers didn’t score anything that was actually likely to win the game, though, as Matt Olson made clear in the bottom half of the inning. The Braves actually had a chance to win it, though, putting runners at first and second with one out and the score tied. Arcia struck out, though, and William Contreras hit a fly ball to the base of the wall in center, but Cody Bellinger ran it down. The Dodgers did actually score the all-important second run in the 11th, and the Braves had no answer.
The ninth-inning collapse wasted an outstanding start by Spencer Strider. He went six innings of shutout ball and allowed just five hits and struck out seven. He didn’t walk a soul. He was particularly impressive wriggling out of a second-and-third, one-out jam as he tired in the sixth. He induced a fielder’s choice groundout, as the Braves caught Freddie Freeman trying to score on the contact play. He then absolutely screwed Justin Turner into the ground with a series of sliders to end the inning.
I actually think both sides are right in the ongoing conversation about whether Strider should stay in the rotation or move to the bullpen. It’s clear that we do need some bullpen help at the moment, particularly right-handed bullpen help. Snitker has to do something about that hole, even if it’s promote Collin McHugh to late-inning work, but I know that’s not what anybody has in mind. On the other hand, how can you demote Strider back to the bullpen if he’s capable of what he showed tonight and in virtually every start since his promotion? Answer: You can’t. Not right now, anyway. We have to find another solution. It’s getting close enough to trade season where it might be possible to swing a deal, or if not, the current bullpen can probably hold on another couple weeks until that possibility opens up. Either way, it’s clearly an area that needs addressing.
On a final side note, I thought ESPN did a pretty good job last night of chronicling Freddie’s weekend and throwing in the mild dyspepsia with the whole thing that seems to be building in the Dodgers camp. I alluded to this a couple times over the weekend, but I don’t know how you’re supposed to process everything that happened if you’re a Dodger. It was way over-the-top, and Freddie made perfectly clear that he’d rather still be here than where he currently is. I mean, what exactly are you supposed to do with that information? There’s not much to do at this point except move on and be glad that the teams don’t play each other very much…and hope that by the next time they do, Freddie will have compartmentalized a little more successfully. And he very badly needs to work on doing that, or to coming to better terms with what happened.
Anyway, let’s go to Philly and wash this bad taste out of our mouths. This road trip features three in Philly and three in Cincinnati, and I want 5-1 after last night’s failure. If they come home 4-2, I’d shrug and take it.