The Braves defeated the Mets 9-6 Friday night in the second game of this five game series to even the series at one game apiece and cut the Mets’ lead back to three and a half. Our guys also thereby continued the season-long streak of never losing three in a row.
The Hammers scored four in the first and four in the second to take an 8-0 lead. That certainly silenced the crowd that had been so loud the night before. Rosario capped the four run first with a three run blast. Michael Harris led off the second inning with a solo homer, and they went on to score three more, including Rosario’s fourth rbi of the night on a double to left.
But with Ian Anderson on the mound, we knew that lead was not as secure as we might hope. Jethro had been excellent in his last start, perhaps the best start of his career, but his start immediately before that was one of his worst. For most of this season he has not been good, throwing too many pitches, walking too many batters, and not going deep into games. What we got tonight was something between the last two starts. Anderson only gave up one run though the first four frames, but it could have been much worse. In the first, Ronald robbed Pete Alonso of a two run homer with a leaping catch over the right field wall. In the second, Harris gunned down a runner at the plate with two outs, in what otherwise could have been a very big inning (the Mets scored only one). Man, I’m glad we have those two roaming the outfield, and so is Ian.
Anderson did give up three runs in the fifth to make it an 8-5 game. Actually, he allowed one run and left two on when Snit finally relieved him. Dylan Lee (who is showing signs of coming back to earth) surrendered a Darren Ruf double which scored both baserunners; all of a sudden it was 8-5, and Anderson’s line ended up pretty ugly: 4 and 2/3, with four runs surrendered on seven hits and four walks.
Meanwhile, the Braves offense went into hibernation mode after the explosion in the first and second. But the Braves bullpen held the Mets scoreless in the sixth, seventh, and eighth. AJ Minter looked sharper than he has in a long time, going an inning and a third with three K’s (he got the “Win”), and Raisel Yglesias made his Braves debut in the eighth and struck out two. William Contreras hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth to give the Braves a ninth run and to keep Jansen from getting a save. I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to forego a save for our closer any time the team wants to grab a four run lead.. Jansen did get the Atlanta Save (see the Glossary), although he allowed a two out solo homer to McNeill for the 9-6 final score.
Lots of offensive highlights. Most encouraging of all was that Acuña had four hits, all singles. Rosario appears to be approaching where he was last fall—he just needed some time to get his timing down after the long layoff from surgery. Swanson and Olson each had a single and a double, and Harris had the homer and a single, after a couple of hits the night before.
What a satisfying and fun win. In fact, throughout the game, Chip kept talking about how it feels like October. Well, it was 98 degrees today where I live, but we know what he means. The games this weekend in Flushing have taken on extra significance and the corresponding tension does make them feel different than any of the games up to this point.
Truth is, though, it’s August and not October. And that’s OK! I love October and playoff baseball, but a great pennant race in August and September has its own charms. Our team is playing well in a pennant race, and there aren’t many things in life much better than that.
There are differences in August and October baseball. In October, you do all you can to win every game you play. In August, of course you want to win every game, but you also need to maximize your chances to be successful in the many remaining games. Last October, the “night shift” pitched pretty much every game. In the regular season, you’ve got to get your relievers regular rest. As JonathanF pointed out in comments this evening, a baseball manager must keep his eye on the many games still ahead. A great example was how long Snit stuck with Jethro. Even though Anderson had given up only one run though the first four innings, he had thrown an inordinate number of pitches, as is his wont, so he was facing the top of the Mets lineup for the third time in the bottom of the fifth. We all know how Ian struggles the third time through the order. Despite what some commenters here seem to think, Snit and the other coaches are not unaware of that history. As Rusty S. pointed out in comments, with an 8-1 lead and a double header tomorrow, it made sense to see if he could get through five himself. That’s mostly to save the bullpen, but also to challenge him and see if he could do it and help the team decide what to do with him going forward. If this were a playoff game, he would have been lifted after four innings.
Speaking of wise commenters, ububba wrote last night:
“if you can’t enjoy a season where your team isn’t holding a title trophy at the end, you’re just another boring frontrunner. Why bother to even pay attention? You’re just primed for disappointment. There are joys in every sport — it’s up to you to find them. …[I]t’s that unknowing quality about sports that can make it fun, and last year was the small miracle that always seemed to elude us.”
Following two talented teams going back and forth for many weeks in August and September, and not knowing how it’s going to turn out, is one of those joys of baseball. I was a Braves fan for the first 25 of the ATL years (the pre-1991 period), and they were only in three real pennant races—and most years they couldn’t see the front runners with a telescope. I will never take for granted when my team plays meaningful games in August and September.
These games are indeed meaningful—and fun. And we have three more with the Mets in the next 48 hours. And four more with them ten days later. And then the final home series of the year is three more with the Mets. Obviously it will be much better to overtake them and win the division—not just for pride, but to earn that first round bye. I like our chances, but I also have a lot more respect for these Mets than any Mets team in decades. It’s that unknowing quality that will make the next couple of months great fun.
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As Braves fans, I hope you already know the answer to the question: Which brothers hold the record for most career home runs in major league history? It’s not the DiMaggios, Alous, Waners, Delahantys or Boyers. It’s not the Uptons, Boones, or d’Arnauds. It’s Henry and Tommie Aaron, with 768–755 by Henry and 13 by Tommie.
August 5 is the birthday of Tommie Aaron. Henry’s younger brother by five years, Tommie played parts of seven seasons with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta. He was never a full time regular, much less a star, but he was a part of the Braves organization for his entire career. He was in fact a very good player for the AAA Richmond Braves for several seasons. After his playing career was over he managed the Braves AA and AAA affiliates, becoming the first African-American Manager in both the Southern League and the International League. His success as a player and manager for the Richmond Braves led to his election a few years ago to the International League Hall of Fame (I hadn’t known there was such a thing—see International League Hall of Fame – BR Bullpen (baseball-reference.com). Tommie was an on field coach for the big league club from 1979 to 1984. Unfortunately, Tommie died tragically of leukemia at the age of 45 during the 1984 season. Had he lived, there is a good chance he could have been called upon to manage the Braves some time during the 1980’s. I can pretty much guarantee he would have been better than Eddie Haas and Chuck Tanner.
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On August 5, 1973, Phil Niekro pitched a no hitter in a 9-0 Braves win over the Padres. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I listened to the game on the radio as I was driving somewhere. I got home shortly after the game ended, and exclaimed to my dad “Niekro just pitched a no hitter!” Without missing a beat, he replied, “Did they win?” Given the state of the Braves at that time, it was a reasonable question.
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Day/night twin bill in Flushing tomorrow. Odorizzi and Peterson in the afternoon, and Fried and Scherzer in the evening. Then Sunday deGrom faces Strider. However it comes out, we are all fortunate; with the uncertainty comes joy. Still, I’ll be a lot more joyful if the Braves take at least two of the three.