The Atlanta Braves slogged through another night of frustrating baseball as the offense failed to score runs to support another dominant start by Alex Wood. What follows will be a complete summary of the action but really this tweet by Kevin McAlpin sums it all up:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Alex Wood has made 8 starts where he's gone 7+ IP and allowed 1 ER or none. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Braves?src=hash">#Braves</a> are 4-4 in those 8 games.</p>— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) <a href="https://twitter.com/KevinMcAlpin/status/510626549926604800">September 13, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
The Braves got on the board first in the third inning but were left feeling like they could have done much more. BJ Upton and Andrelton Simmons led off the inning with consecutive singles to put runners on the corners with no outs. Jason Heyward then grounded the ball to first in what looked like a surefire double play but Heyward managed to beat out the relay throw back to first. Upton scored on the grounder to put the Braves up 1-0 and with Heyward on the threat was still alive. Phil Gosselin and Freddie Freeman both singled to load the bases. Freeman's single barely eluded the glove of the Rangers defender so Heyward was unable to run on contact and as a result only reached third base. This left the bases loaded with one out. Justin Upton then struck out and Ryan Doumit grounded out to end the inning.
It was an inning that is very typical of what the Braves offense has done in 2014. The Braves had four hits but they were all singles, one of the better hitters got out in a big spot, and the big plate appearance fell to an incompetent hitter because the lineup is so shallow. One of the worst trends for the Braves offense in 2014 has been the lack of power. Far too often when the team has strung together hits they have all been singles. It is very difficult to put together big innings with only singles and it is difficult to score when hitters like Doumit come up in big spots. If the big hit doesn't come from Freeman or Upton it just isn't coming.
Alex Wood was in total command all night dominating the Rangers inept offense (glass house I know). Wood went seven innings, allowing only four hits and striking out nine batters. Wood has been one of the few brights spots for the Braves this season blossoming into a legitimate top of the rotation starter before our eyes. His unorthodox delivery will always be a source of health concerns with Wood but as long as he is healthy there is no reason to doubt his ability.
Sadly that one run is all Wood got to work with and he wasn't quite perfect the way he has to be if he wants to win a game for the 2014 Braves. Wood allowed JP Arencibia to lead off the sixth with a double which stings considering Arencibia came into this game having a worse season at the plate than Ryan Doumit. An Adrian Beltre single moved the runner to third and a Ryan Rua groundout tied the game 1-1. Wood escaped the inning without further damage but he wouldn't get another lead from his offense on the night.
The Braves threatened to give Wood a lead in the top of the 8th but came up short again. Freeman walked with one out and bizarrely stole a base successfully. Not only did Freeman steal second but he made it to third on the errant throw to second. Justin Upton struck out to bring up Doumit with two outs. In one of the more baffling managerial decisions that has been made this season the Rangers chose to intentionally walk Doumit to bring up Chris Johnson. Johnson hasn't been good at the plate in 2014 but Doumit is easily the Braves worst hitter so intentionally walking him to face a position player seems nothing short of deranged. Johnson forced a 3-1 count before watching a perfect pitch right down the middle for strike two and swinging at an awful pitch inside and around his hands to end the inning. Johnson certainly has the ability to make good contact when he swings at a good pitch to hit but his pitch recognition seems destined to always handcuff him.
Wood cruised through the 7th without any trouble but he was replaced by David Carpenter to start the 8th inning. Wood had thrown 102 pitches so there isn't too much reason to criticize pulling him but he breezed through his last inning of work without any difficulty. Carpenter came in and got two quick outs before things came apart. Carpenter was undone by three straight seeing eye singles through the infield none of which were hit particularly hard. The Rangers took the lead 2-1 when Robinson Chirinos' single scored Beltre. Carpenter was replaced by Luis Avilan who promptly walked Rougned Odor to load the bases because that is what Luis Avilan does. David Hale came on and got the third out to end the inning but the Braves now had one chance to tie the game.
As might be expected the Braves failed to generate the needed offense. Andrelton Simmons smacked a long ball that died barely short of the wall for the final out. Simmons hit the ball hard but to the exact wrong place in the ballpark and the Braves lost a game to the worst team in baseball. Their playoff hopes took a serious hit as the Braves cannot afford to drop games to teams as bad as the Rangers when trying to make up ground in the standings. Winning the next two would salvage something for Atlanta but things are dire make no mistake.