The Braves and Yankees were some series 1990s nemeses, but by the 2000s, this state of affairs was basically over. Still, these two teams would tangle in the regular season from time to time, including a series loss at Turner Field in 2000, a series win at Yankee Stadium in 2001, and a sweep in the Bronx in 2006. Another series loss in Atlanta followed in 2009. After that point, the Braves and Yankees hadn’t met at all until 2012... when the Yankees came into town and swept the Braves. A few days later, the Braves were off to New York, but they dropped the first game of that series, giving them six straight losses to the Bombers. This was the game they got some revenge.
The gist: The Braves fell behind 2-0 early on Nick Swisher’s double, but stormed back to the lead in the next two innings, thanks to some walks, Chipper Jones, and Andrelton Simmons. A defensive lapse by Chipper led to a tie game, but the Braves re-took the lead on Jason Heyward’s infield single in the sixth. From then on, it was O’Ventbrel time in earnest, as the bullpen (including Chad Durbin!) allowed just two baserunners in four innings to seal the win.
The set-up: The 2012 Braves were mostly rolling before the Yankees came to town, earlier in June. They had gone 6-2 to start the month, and were just two games back in the division. Unfortunately, that Yankees sweep put them in a spin that saw them lose seven of eight, meaning that coming into this game, they were 35-32, now in third place, and 4.5 games back. New York, meanwhile, had the best record in the AL and the second-best in the majors at 41-25, holding a 2.5-game lead over the Orioles. They had won ten straight coming into this game.
The pitching matchup was a good one. The Braves had Tim Hudson (100 ERA-, 82 FIP-, 93 xFIP-) going for them. Hudson had missed the first month or so of the season with injury, but was mostly rolling, having allowed just two homers all season. The Yankees got him for three runs in six innings in his last start, but Hudson posted an 8/0 K/BB ratio. In that outing, he faced Yankees offseason acquisition Hiroki Kuroda, who was also the scheduled starter for this rematch. The Yankees won that game 3-2, as the Braves got five baserunners in three innings against their bullpen but couldn’t push a run across after Curtis Granderson hit a two-run go-ahead homer off Hudson in the sixth. Kuroda was good-to-great as a Dodger (88/89/89), and he was doing that same thing again in New York, for the most part, with some bad HR/FB outcomes so far in 2012: 82 ERA-, 107 FIP-, 99 xFIP-.
How it happened: The scoring in this game was a little odd. Some timely hitting, but not much, as the pitchers mostly cruised. Kuroda started the game with a ten-pitch inning, and Hudson walked Derek Jeter after a ten-pitch battle to start his outing, but then followed with two strikeouts (Granderson swinging, Alex Rodriguez looking with a blown call and/or good framing by Brian McCann) and a groundout. Kuroda then needed just eight pitches to get through the second.
The second was Hudson’s one bad inning. Mark Teixeira lined one up the middle for a leadoff single. Raul Ibañez followed with a ripped double down the right-field line, and Nick Swisher’s fly to center got Michael Bourn all turned around to drive in both runs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP_rOrlraxg.
(get it together, MLB, why can’t you embed stuff from 2012 but you can from other years?)
Bourn should’ve had the ball, as he got a glove on it, but we don’t all get everything we should. Such is life. Hudson stranded Swisher on the bases, but the Braves were in a hole early.
They did get at least one of those runs back right away. Jason Heyward led off the third by jumping on a 2-0 pitch and hitting it into right-center. The ball took an odd hop against the base of the wall away from Granderson, and Heyward took advantage by legging out a triple. He scored on Andrelton Simmons’ groundout to short on the very next pitch, but the Braves didn’t get anything else in the inning.
Hudson responded with a very brief, nine-pitch third in which he again struck out Rodriguez, this time swinging. The Braves then had a big rally. Martin Prado led off the frame with a single (Jeter dove for it despite being nowhere near it), moved to second on a wild pitch that was somehow behind McCann, and reached third on McCann’s deep fly to center. Kuroda struck out Uggla on a slider, but then walked Freeman to bring up Chipper Jones. On a 1-2 pitch, Chipper hit it past his old teammate Teixeira, tying the game with an RBI double: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZ_O3gXFHZo. (In a twist of fate, had Teixeira simply continued to hold Freeman at first, it would have been an easy groundout.) After a walk to Heyward, Simmons gave the Braves the lead on what ended up being a weird play with no individual video for some reason.
Simmons hit a fairly weak bouncer that still made it into center. Freeman scored easily as the go-ahead run, and Chipper headed home as well. Heyward tried to make it to third, but got gunned down by Granderson by a few steps. Unfortunately, the timing of that out actually precluded Chipper from scoring, costing the Braves a run.
That ended up being fairly costly. Ibañez and Swisher once again tormented Hudson in the fourth. The former reached base when Freeman tried to field a bouncer off his midsection, and it bounced away from him; the latter walked. Hudson struck out Eric Chavez for the second out, but the defense let him down afterward: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAwsCvOvBXw. In short, Russell Martin’s liner right at Chipper somehow handcuffed him (Chipper just whiffed the catch) and then rolled into left, allowing Ibañez to score the tying run. Hudson then walked Jeter, but struck out Granderson on his third curveball in four pitches to keep the game tied. For those keeping track, yes, the Yankees had scored all three of their runs on balls hit in the vicinity of Braves fielders that weren’t caught.
After Kuroda returned to form with a perfect fifth, it was again time for the Ibañez and Swisher show. Hudson issued an errant two-out walk to Teixeira, and then missed with four straight to Ibañez. Swisher followed with a single into right that could have given New York the lead, but Heyward had other ideas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ShfnDo3Am8. Heyward’s excellent throw gunned Teixeira down a few steps ahead of the plate, keeping the game tied. It wouldn’t stay tied for long.
Fresh off tagging out Teixeira at the plate, McCann led off the sixth with a double into left-center that really only happened due to a terrible route by Granderson. The ball hung up forever, but Granderson seemed to run the legs of a triangle rather than the hypotenuse, and the ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule two-bagger. The Braves looked like they might waste the chance, though, as Uggla struck out, Freeman grounded out, and Kuroda walked Chipper to get to Heyward. He even arguably got what he wanted after that — a ball hit at a fielder. But this time, it was the Braves’ turn to take advantage of an at-’em ball not being an out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HyXO1G6-Sw. Yes, this was the fourth run of the game scored on a ball near a fielder, and this time, it shot past Teixeira’s glove and caromed off his foot towards the second-base bag. McCann scored the go-ahead run. Kuroda struck out Simmons to end the inning, but he was once again behind.
The Braves did not bring Hudson back out for the sixth, given that he was already nearly done with the third time through the order, had thrown 105 pitches, and nearly gave up the lead in his last frame if not for Heyward’s throw. It was a strange outing for the veteran — three runs (two earned) in five innings, but with five each of walks and strikeouts as well. It was the second time all season that he’d failed to pitch into the sixth, and his first five-walk outing in over a year. Instead, the Braves went with... Chad Durbin?!? The righty was a horrendous part of a good relief corps (133 FIP-, 113 xFIP- coming into this game), but had somehow managed to avoid giving up a run since May 7. To be fair, Durbin was indeed pitching well in that stretch (51 FIP-, 88 xFIP-), and he’d actually pitch at least kinda-sorta okay after his bad start to the season (99 FIP-, 105 xFIP- after May 7), but still, it was terrifying. In this case, though, it was ridiculously easy — you may have spent more time reading this paragraph than it took Durbin to throw seven pitches and get out of the inning with a popout and two weak grounders to Simmons.
Kuroda finished his seven innings with a six-pitch frame of his own, getting three straight weak groundouts. He gave up four runs on nine baserunners with a 6/3 K/BB ratio, his first time giving up more than two runs in almost a month. For the bottom of the seventh, the Braves went with Jonny Venters to face the meat of the New York order. It could have gone better. Granderson led off the frame with a weak fly that dropped into right-center because Bourn was playing him to hit it the other way. Venters then walked Rodriguez, and a Robinson Cano groundout to first advanced the runners. On a full count, Teixeira hit one to Chipper, but once again, the Braves cut the tying run down at the plate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0OL1aKOkSk. Needing just one more out to escape, Venters got it by carving up Ibañez.
One-time Brave Boone Logan sat the Braves down in order in the eighth. It was then time for the next part of O’Ventbrel: Eric O’Flaherty. After a flyout, the Yankees inserted Andruw Jones against his former team, pinch-hitting for Chavez. O’Flaherty immediately hit him on the foot with a pitch; Andruw was immediately pulled for a pinch-runner. It was, however, all inconsequential. Russell Martin broke his bat on a 2-0 pitch for a routine grounder to short, which turned into a very easy 6-4-3 double play.
David Robertson gave up just a two-out single in the ninth, and it was Kimbrel time. No drama in this one. Jeter: down swinging on four pitches (fastball at 99). Granderson: down swinging on three pitches (98 down the pipe after two curves). Rodriguez: 0-1 popout to Uggla on the right-field foul line to end it.
Game MVP: Jason Heyward was the real standout player of this game. He was the only Brave to reach base three times (two hits and a walk), saved the game with this throw, drove in the eventual winning run, and hit a triple to help get the Braves on the board. 2012 was Heyward’s best season as a Brave, worth 5.3 fWAR, and was a great mix of his hitting, defense, and baserunning, as showcased in this game.
Game LVP: Mark Teixeira — for one, the eventual winning run came because of his inability to get his glove down to his heel. For another, while Teixeira actually reached base twice and scored a run in the game, he was gunned down by Heyward at the plate, and his bouncer in the seventh allowed Chipper to throw Granderson out at home. 2012 was Teixeira’s first season since his rookie year, back in 2003, when he failed to clear 3.5 fWAR, finishing with 2.7.
Biggest play: Teixeira bouncing out to Chipper, who prevented the tying run from scoring by throwing out Granderson.
The game, in context of the season: After this win, the Braves would only clamber back to 3.5 games behind in the division, still in third place. The Yankees’ loss didn’t budge their lead at all. The Braves went on the clobber the Yankees with homers in the next game, securing their first series win over them since 2001. The Braves and Yankees finished with 94 and 95 wins, respectively — the Yankees’ 20-7 June was really the crux of their record, while the Braves really took off with an 18-8 July, though they never got too close to retaking the division lead.
Hudson’s season ended up being fine if not exciting — 1.6 fWAR in 179 innings, actually his lowest total since his seven-start season in 2009. He bounced back more in an injury-shortened 2013 (1.7 fWAR in 131 innings), his last as a Brave. Kuroda put up up a 3.4 fWAR year, his first of three nearly-identical seasons with the Yankees before he went back to Japan to finish out his career. Kuroda finished his career at 87/89/90 with 22.4 fWAR in just seven major league seasons.
2012 was, of course, Chipper’s final year, and it was a pretty good one! 2.6 fWAR in 448 PAs, with a 127 wRC+ that was his highest since 2008. If not for his baserunning, he would have definitely cleared 3 fWAR before retiring.
Condensed game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkSfAmmWLF8
TC Commentariat Zeitgeist: Praise for both Atlanta’s youth (Heyward, Simmons, Kimbrel) and their bullpen (O’Ventbrel, now with Chad Durbin!).
Anything else? The Yankees’ 10-game winning streak, snapped in this game, was their longest since May 2005. They haven’t had one since, though they’ve had multiple nine-game streaks. They haven’t won 11 in a row since 1985.
Chipper came into this game eighth on the team (position player-wise) with just 0.6 fWAR. Bourn was top five in baseball with 3.0 fWAR already; Uggla, McCann, and Prado were all above 2.0 fWAR.
This game featured Ibañez’ only hit in a seven-game stretch. The veteran had a 37 wRC+ in June 2012 as part of an 0.5 fWAR season while the Yankees were streaking.
Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about June 19: Okay, still baseball-related, but this was the first organized, recorded baseball game as played in 1846. The New York Base Ball Club defeated the Knickerbockers, 23-1.