Well, at least they picked up the series win, right? There's a positive for you, because last night's late loss against the Pirates was a bit of a heartbreaker. After Alex Wood had one of his best performances of the season, the bullpen entered the game in the 8th inning. Jordan Walden gave up 2 runs in the 8th inning (granted, he entered with 2 runners in scoring position so that was a tough situation to inherit), and David Carpenter eventually gave up the game-winner via sac fly, which came after 2 brothers had a communication error in the outfield, because that makes a ton of sense. So ends the Braves 5-game winning streak, while the Nationals continue to win as if wins are on clearance and being sold by a loud, bearded man.
Although writing this article during a 5-game winning streak seemed a bit odd, it became extremely relevant after the Braves only managed to push 2 runs across all night. The topic? The Braves offense being worse over this season than it was last season. Why's that? Ben's got some ideas:
The Braves have a 109 wRC+ against left-handed pitching and an 87 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. It looks like the lineup should be good, with a solid amount of talent across the diamond, but one of the biggest issues the team has had is being too righty heavy in the lineup.
In the extreme short term, though, the Braves offense has done pretty well as of late, as evidenced by the pleasant win streak that we watched. One of the big reasons behind that turnaround is that Justin Upton is starting to go on his routine late-season tear. A few days ago, people were talking about how Justin needed to turn it up on the road. So far, so good (at the plate, at least). He's also been getting help from Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, but Heyward let David O'Brien now that Justin's the main focus, here.
"[Justin]’s been locked in," right fielder Jason Heyward said. "He wants to be in the big spots. He’s not backing down and he has some good guys around him who can help him go up there and relax."
Earlier this week, it was pretty easy to predict that Shae Simmons would probably have to spend more time in the minors on rehab assignment after he got shelled during an appearance with the G-Braves. Unfortunately, Shae may not be ready to even do another rehab start, as he was scratched from his latest appearance due to his shoulder still being sore. There's no word on when his next rehab appearance will be.
We're getting close to the end of the 2014 regular season, which means that it's time to start casting a realistic eye to 2015 and who will be making the jump to the big league squad from the farm. One of the guys who is probably going to be a Major Leaguer next season will be Christian Bethancourt. The catcher has been MLB-ready on defense for a while now, and there'd be no reason to keep him down for another season. Another name who could be up next season: Jose Peraza. There's been talk of a September call-up for the man who is probably the Braves' 2nd baseman of the future, but the team has admitted that they're reluctant to call him up if he's just going to pinch hit. Still, it appears that 2015 should be the season where both of those players make an impact for at the top level.
It's Thursday and people are still baffled by the bullpen management of Fredi Gonzalez on Sunday, which is when he brought in James Russell (a lefty) to face Josh Donaldson (a righty). The fans were confused, Donaldson was confused, everybody was just flat-out confused. But is it a viable strategy for the foreseeable future? I'm just gonna flat out spoil it for you: No, it is not, and Fredi is playing Russian Roulette with the Braves playoff chances if he keeps this up. But please, check out what our friends at Beyond The Box Score have to say about this because it's, as always, good analysis.
The Braves and Chipper Jones go together like spaghetti and meatballs, like squirrels and moose, and anything else you can think of. But what if the Braves decided to plunge our universe into the Darkest Timeline and decided not to draft Chipper and add him to a core that eventually won a World Series title and had a chokehold on their division for nearly 2 decades? Tim Kurjian theorized as to what would have happened in that sad scenario:
The Braves had great pitching, but without Jones, maybe the New York Mets would have won the division a few times, in 1999 and 2000, or maybe the Philadelphia Phillies would have won division titles in 2001 and 2005...And maybe if the Braves hadn't been perennial winners, Greg Maddux wouldn't have signed, and thrived, there as he did, meaning the historic, Hall of Fame threesome of Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz wouldn't have been as dominant and famous without Jones.
For the first time since 1986, an MLB team had their protest upheld by the Powers That Be in baseball. After the Cubs basically blew it when it came to getting the tarp on the field, what should have been a relatively quick rain delay led to the game being called in favor of the Cubs due to MLB rules. However, the Giants protested that the game should have been suspended, and eventually, MLB agreed with them. The game will resume today at the point where the game was called; with the Giants down 2 against the Cubs. Jeez, Cubs. After this and getting blown out last night, thanks for nothing.
Last night, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. They're now 9 games ahead of the Blue Jays for first place (the largest lead in baseball), and it's looking more and more like they're going to finally hang up a divisional title banner for the first time since 1997. A big part of their success this season has been Nelson Cruz, who has already tied his career-high in single-season home runs with 33. We're in August.
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