Winning the games you have to win: Braves 5, Nats 4

The All Star Game is a traditional time to take stock of a season. Looking at the standings at the start of today, a few observations.

  1. Every team in AL East is above 0.500. Yes, even the Orioles. In an unbalanced schedule, this is really hard to do. It’s even harder to do when the team at the top of the standings has the best record in baseball. The last time every team in a division was at or above 0.500 at the end of the season was the 2005 NL East, in which the last place Nationals finished 81-81. But the first place Braves (90-72) had the next-to-worst divisional record. That was the year that the Padres snuck in with an 82-80 record. There’s still a long way to go, of course, but what is happening right now in the AL East is pretty remarkable.
  2. The new CBA had provisions aimed at eliminating tanking, most notably invreasing the number of playoff teams, but it certainly isn’t working this year. The Nationals, A’s, Reds, Cubs, Royals and Tigers are horrible, and the teams just above them (Pirates and Rockies) will probably be giving up pretty soon. That’s 8 teams winning at below a 70 annual game clip (OK… 7. The Rockies are aiming for 72.) 0.500 ball has you just short of a Wild Card spot at the moment, but there aren’t that many teams with a reasonable shot at it.

The only conclusion I draw from this is that it is absolutely imperative that you beat up on the bad teams. And after dropping two out of three from the Mets, the pressure to rough up the Nationals is there. Note that when I say “rough up,” I don’t mean you have to beat them in laughers. To be tied in the late innings and exert your mastery through a superior bullpen is plenty good enough.

I was surprised to see the Nats start the Ghost of Seasons Past, Anibal Sanchez. (Cue Chip’s pronunciation here.) What I was not surprised to see was the the Braves up 2-0 after two hitters, when Dansby homered, scoring RAJ. Lookin’ good. But this was not going to be a 10-0 walkover. Kyle Wright gave up a homer in the bottom to Josh Bell, and another scratch run in the bottom of the 2nd that could have been a lot worse without some pretty wrigglin’ by Kyle.

But by the 5th it was still 2-2. And I’m not worried. And I shouldn’t be, because Michael Harris II took over, hitting a 2 run homer in the top of the 5th and saved a run with a fantastic throw home. The Ectoplasmic Sanchez gave up a homer to Olson to make it 5-2, Kyle Wright exited after 7 pretty good innings, and Minter gave up a run in the eighth to make it 5-3.

So then we get to the bottom of the ninth and Jansen returned. He may have a heart condition, but that’s his problem – Hancock gives me a heart condition. Jansen pitched an inning in garbage time yesterday afternoon, but he returned as the Designated Closer™. A 9 pitch strikeout to lead off the inning was a bit nervous-making. The towering homer by Maikel Franco two pitches later used up his “welcome back to closing” room. A popup by Lane Thomas brought up Luis Garcia, who singled to bring up Josh Bell representing the winning run. Victor Robles, running for Garcia, promptly stole second as everyone does against Jansen. (A great closer can let everyone steal second… a merely good one can’t. I’m not sure what can be done about this, but if the alternative is Hancock, I’ll give up the steals.) This is what closers are paid to do, right? Jansen strikes out Bell on a ball about a foot outside and we’d done what we needed to do. Another win against a bad team.

Chipwatch

This isn’t really a Chipwatch… it’s an entire broadcasting teamwatch. The way everything that they said about Pablo Sandoval, idiotic as it was, has been hauled out again in the service of the apotheosis of Robinson Canó. I’m actually going to give Chip some credit here. He started one sentence: “Look. We don’t know how long Robby Canó is going to be here….” And I know you have to try and say something nice. But the Braves started winning last year exactly when Sandoval’s great bench presence and fantastic rapport with Latin players exited stage left.

And then when Chip says: “We didn’t see this coming but he was playing well in El Paso so the Braves took a chance…” that’s just ridiculous. My mother could hit in El Paso, and she’s 88. He does still field better than my mother, but like I said, she’s 88 years old. I’m not positive why we got him, and it might work out, and taking at bats away from Arcia isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world… but for Pete’s sake… stop blabbering on about it like it was actually an important move.

One last thing: With two outs in the bottom of the 9th and the winning run at the plate and Soto on deck, Chip said: “We want to see Soto tomorrow, not tonight. You gotta get Bell to make that happen.” I would just point that there was another way not to see Soto until tomorrow which Chip apparently forgot about. But it all worked out.

Author: JonathanF

Alive since 1956. Braves fan since 1966. The first ten years were pretty much wasted. Exiled to Yankees/Mets territory in 1974 --- bearable only with TBS followed by MLB.TV.

38 thoughts on “Winning the games you have to win: Braves 5, Nats 4”

  1. Glad someone else noticed Chip’s line about Canó and El Paso. I believe Canó hit directly into a 6-3 double play seconds later. Chip’s continued gainful employment as an MLB team’s primary play-by-play broadcaster is proof that nepotism, relatively speaking, is a pox upon society.

    Also, Jose Bautista played 12 games for the Braves in 2018. I don’t think Canó makes it that far. If he wants to keep coming to the park and getting paid to do it, it seems likely that Japan or Korea are his best options. He’s a AAAA player.

  2. Harris is already so fun to watch. He’s slugging almost .500 and plays some of the best defense you’ll find. If he gets his walk rate up he’s a superstar.

  3. From last thread. I think the Cubs will do about anything to dump Heyward, but I’m not sure if he brings any value for the remainder of the year. He’s been worse than Heredia over the last 2 years. It would be nostalgic to have Jason back, but the guy looks like he’s done.

  4. As someone who really doesn’t follow the 15 teams in the Junior Circuit, I would be very much obliged if someone would explain to me, how the hell are the Orioles over .500?

  5. The Orioles being over .500 is unbelievable. It puts the Angels futility with Trout and Ohtani into perspective.

  6. Like Jonathan said, Chip isn’t going to say something negative about a Braves player on the air. I’ll give him a pass on this one.

  7. @4 @5 Finally playing some good young players. Rutschman, Mountcastle, Hays, Mancini, Mullens, Santander makes for a decent lineup and getting as good a bullpen play as the Braves (from much more surprising players). Combined with occasionally decent SP, they have run off a streak close to what the Braves did. They even still have the best pitching prospect in baseball still in the minors.

    Trading Machado in 2018 kicked off their rebuild which is taking about 1-2 years longer than the Braves’ did. Kicking Chris Davis to the curb last year helped too. They may be surprising buyers at the deadline this year similar to what AA did in 2018. Add some interesting pieces but not going overboard.

  8. Also, if Acuna doesn’t get it in gear, he might find that he’s been replaced as this team’s sparkplug. Harris is competing for the job. It’s hard to believe that Acuna and Albies and Swanson and Riley are no longer the young up-and-comers even as they are just entering their primes.

  9. MattyO is heating up – Chip: “like Atlanta’s summer.”
    Kyle Wright with yet another strong performance. Muller also continues to do well in Gwinnett. 6 IP no walks – 7K’s and 2R.
    Nervous about Ian tonight.

  10. @9 Yeah, this could go poorly if he leaves the ball up in that park. He can make mediocre hitters look good.

  11. All the Braves closers are B+ at best. Not an A among the bunch. All will give you heartburn even while eating fish n chips.

  12. I see way too much AL East, but I always root for the Orioles — always have since the Brooks Robinson days.

    Seen ’em twice this year & they do have a few guys in the lineup (Santander, Mancini, Mountcastle) who can hurt you here & there, but nobody really scary. To me, the biggest difference this year has been their bullpen, which has actually been terrific.

    Like our winning streak, theirs has come vs. sub-.500 teams (save one game vs. MIN), but whatever… stack ’em up where you can get ’em… and yeah, it would be cool to see them keep it going & slip into an AL WC spot.

    Re: Ian
    By my count, Ian’s had 11 acceptable/good starts & 7 middling/bad ones. Six of his good ones were in his first 7 starts of the season. Since then, outside of a few relatively solid outings, he’s been mostly frustrating to watch.

    Last 2 starts (vs WAS & STL): 10.1 IP, 3 ER, 10 H, 5 BB, 8 K

    The 2 before those (vs PHA & LAD): 6 IP, 13 ER, 11 H, 5 BB, 7 K

    Overall, June was very bad — 2 good starts, 4 rough ones (though, the team went 4-2). The 2 in July have been good… so hopefully, he’s finding his way back.

  13. The biggest issue Ian’s had for much of his career is that he hits a wall around the fifth or sixth inning, which is also the time that the lineup turns around for the third time. He hasn’t quite found the extra gear that Kyle Wright found this year or that Max Fried found a couple of years ago. But as Ububba has said, he is clearly a fierce competitor and he’s shown that he’s absolutely nails when the chips are down. So I think that he has it in him to become a complete pitcher over a full regular season.

    But building stamina over an Atlanta summer is a hell of a hard thing to do, particularly for a kid from New York State. I wonder how much that has to do with it.

  14. What is the Tampa Bay Ray’s secret?
    They have a good major league team on the IL. The have a bull ben equal or better than any major league team on the IL. Plus some very good to excellent starters.
    They also have No money. They play in the best division and just took 4 from Boston. Does any executives pay any attention to the BEST organization and how they go about their BUSINESS?
    I don’t think so!!

  15. 13 — I’m not sure if it’s stamina or the lack of a deep arsenal. He’s not much more than a 2 pitch pitcher, his curveball is not rated well and he only uses it occasionally as a show me offering.

  16. Ed has an uncanny ability to get me all riled up and ready to argue over a rant, and then reel me back in with a follow up one-liner.

  17. @16 a 2 pitch pitcher that depends on location as well. If he isn’t spot on it can get bad in a hurry. It certainly due to lack of trying and he surely competes, it would just be nice to have that high end put away pitch to use if hitters aren’t chasing out of the zone

  18. @16 This is exactly right. He needs another pitch. He reminds me of Craig McMurtry, who came up and was effective right away and then faded fast. He had a good fastball and slider. And a changeup that was not so great. Essentially, he was a two-pitch pitcher. He didn’t last long.

  19. @19–I had also missed that until this article. I had also missed that he was, as Snit would say, “really good” before his TJ surgery. I’m cautiously optimistic that he will be very effective for us down the stretch.

  20. I see that in the fourth, our leadoff hitter scored from second on a single to center. When that happened to us yesterday, our CF threw him out. They couldn’t do it the same way?

  21. Anderson faltering the third time through the lineup. Who would have thought that might happen?

  22. @13, 16 – Is there any research showing that two-pitch pitchers have a greater than average TTO penalty? Seems plausible, and I assume it shouldn’t be too hard to check for someone with access to a decent database or two (not me).

  23. Harris is fading and striking out too much
    Arcia should be pissed off, being told Cano would be getting some starts
    Marlins stink offensively
    They gave the Nation Leagues best pitcher and they DeGroming him

  24. So we used to have IWOTM (It was only the Mets). Now I think it should be either IWOTN or IWOTG. I prefer IWOTG – It was only the Gnats. I have a feeling they are going to be embarrassing at a whole new level when they trade away most of their decent players just before the trade deadline.

  25. Don’t upset the juju by proclaiming another “IWOTx.”

    And no matter what happens, Will Smith will leave tonight with a WHIP over 2.00 in the last month. Woof.

  26. Will Smith still stinks in low leverage situations. This outing should end his appearances until after the all star game.

    Plus the dude acts like an ass hat when things aren’t going his way

  27. And this might make Minter unavailable for tomorrow’s game since he had to pitch for the 2nd day in a row.

  28. Win, win, win. Will Smith is a tire fire and maybe this will finally help Snitker see what has been obvious to the rest of us for some time.

  29. Well that was highly unnecessary. Good game otherwise.

    Amusingly, Smith seems markedly worse at all other relief roles than he is at closer. But I don’t think we can just hand him that back either. Oh well, even if this is a total crash-and-burn from him, we’ll always have last October to look back on.

  30. Someone mentioned that Dylan Lee could be the odd man out when Yates comes back. The dude has a 1.23 ERA and a .82 WHIP. That is not too shabby.

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