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Braves Flashback/Recap: June 3

A huge game for Big City, and yet another Braves-Reds down-to-the-wire-fest

Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Does anyone have feelings about back-to-back flashbacks/recaps from the same season? I initially set out not to do it unless I had to, but then I broke that rule for whatever reason in mid-April. I’m not sure it really matters, but we’re going right back to 2017 for the game right after Devin Mesoraco’s walkoff homer today — if we weren’t, we’d go to this game in 2009, but I think this one was more fun. Why? Because it was a Matt Adams shining moment, his most substantial game as a Brave.

The gist: Down by a run after R.A. Dickey allowed a solo homer to Jose Peraza, the Braves erupted for a five-run fifth, as Matt Adams connected for a grand slam. The Reds, though, tied it at five-all in the sixth, as Dickey and Jason Motte endured a mini-collapse. Most of the rest of the game was just a series of wasted chances on both sides, but in the 12th, Adams connected again for a game-winning solo shot.

Box scores: Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs

The set-up: For most of the seasonal context stuff, see yesterday’s flashback/recap. The Braves had lost the first game of the series and were at 22-30 afterwards; the Reds sat at 25-28.

The Braves were again starting R.A. Dickey; we’ve covered two of his 2017 starts already in this series. Dickey was still not faring well, with a 113 ERA-, and less-meaningful-for-a-knuckleballer-but-still-really-irritating-to-watch 145 FIP- and 129 xFIP-. He was coming off a pretty horrific, seven runs (six earned) in six innings outing in which he walked five batters.

The Reds had 34-year-old Scott Feldman going for them. Once upon a time, Feldman was a fine, average-y pitcher, but he declined fairly rapidly, and in 2016, ended up unable to secure a rotation spot for most of the season. He signed a one-year deal with the Reds ahead of 2017 season, vying for a starting role, and ended up being their Opening Day starter even though he only got a rotation spot because of an injury to Homer Bailey. As weird as that was, though, Feldman seemed to be returning to his league-average ways through the first two months of the season, putting up a 96 ERA-, 95 FIP-, and 96 xFIP- through his first 11 starts as a Red. If there was any concern, it was that he seemed to be very inconsistent, even moreso than expected for a pitcher over 11 starts — a lot of implosions but a lot of great starts as well.

How it happened: Early on, this game had a lot of baserunners. The Braves put two on against Feldman in the first with a single and a walk, but Matt Kemp hit into a double play to end the inning. The Reds did the same against Dickey, but three groundouts got him out of the inning. Both pitchers allowed one baserunner in the second, but nothing else. Kurt Suzuki nearly took Feldman deep for a two-run homer, but hit it to straightaway center, where it was caught by a jumping Hamilton on the warning track, 402 feet from home plate. Another double play, this time off the bat of Nick Markakis, ruined another two on, one out chance for the Braves in the third, spoiling a leadoff single from the Braves’ pitcher and Brandon Phillips getting hit with a pitch on the knuckle. Dickey, meanwhile, allowed a two-out double to Joey Votto in the bottom of the inning and then walked Adam Duvall on four pitches, but got a weak popup to escape that small jam.

In the top of the fourth, Feldman once again allowed action on the bases. Matt Adams hit a one-out single, and a Feldman pitch speared Suzuki in the ribs with two outs. At that point, Feldman pitched around Dansby Swanson to get at Dickey with the bases loaded, and the latter lined out to second on the first pitch. In the bottom of the inning, the Reds got on board in an unlikely fashion:

The light-hitting Jose Peraza had never hit more than five homers in any calendar year; this was his second of the season, and he’d finish with five on the year. (Peraza would somehow hit 14 bombs in 2018.) Devin Mesoraco, last night’s Cincinnati hero, followed with a double down the line, but was stranded there after two quick outs on just three pitches.

That homer seemed to open the floodgates, as the game transformed to “lots of baserunners, no runs” to “lots of runs, too.” Feldman had given up enough baserunners that the Braves were facing him for a third time in the top of the fifth. Their rally started in a really weird way: Brandon Phillips his a routine grounder to third, the type of ball that Suarez had plenty of time to gather, plant, and make a quotidian throw to first. But, for whatever reason, his throw was way high, and Phillips ended up on second. A walk to Markakis and a hard-hit Kemp single through the left side loaded the bases for Matt Adams, who promptly unloaded them:

This was the first Braves grand slam of 2017, and actually, their first slam in over two years. Jace Peterson had the most recent one, in May 2015. The Braves weren’t done yet, either. Adonis Garcia followed with a “double” that was really a routine single to center that hit off the heel of Hamilton’s glove and bounced away into deeper right-center, allowing Garcia to move up to second. That was it for Feldman, who had another gross outing in his strobe light-esque start — a 1/3 K/BB ratio and that grand slam allowed, plus two hit batsmen. In total, Feldman allowed 12 baserunners while getting 13 outs, which is terrifying.

Austin Brice came on to try to keep the Braves from adding a fifth run, but didn’t succeed. His first order of business was to hit Kurt Suzuki (again), this time on an 0-2 pitch that hit high off his arm. Dansby Swanson followed with another liner into center that Hamilton kicked around a bit, allowing Garcia to score easily, and Suzuki to move up to third. Two groundouts ended the inning, but the Braves went from trailing 1-0 to leading 5-1 in the span of ten batters and three outs. Ender Inciarte grounded out to start the inning, as well as to end it.

Dickey followed with one of his cleaner innings of the game, giving up a two-out walk to Duvall, but otherwise getting three flyouts. He was helped by a nice sliding catch by Ender Inciarte to take extra bases away from Suarez in the right-center gap. Brice followed with an easier inning of his own. Phillips worked a leadoff walk but got gunned down trying to steal second, Markakis was robbed of a hit by a diving Scott Schebler catch, after which Schebler had to leave the game, and Kemp flew out to center to end the inning.

Dickey would not escape this game having allowed just the Peraza homer, however. The Reds rallied and knocked him out of the game in the sixth. After a lineout (sliding catch by Markakis) to start the inning, Dickey plunked Peraza. Mesoraco followed with a routine bouncer to short, fielded by Swanson and relayed to Phillips at second. However, Phillips messed up his footwork and didn’t touch the base, putting two men on. Dickey followed with a walk to pinch-hitter Patrick Kivlehan, bringing the tying run to the plate. Up next was Arismendy Alcantara, who had come into the game in place of Hamilton in the fifth, and he got the Reds closer:

That was it for Dickey, who fared only somewhat better than Feldman, having allowed five walks and a hit-by-pitch in 5 13 innings of work. It was a second consecutive five-walk game for Dickey, and a third straight game in which he walked more than he struck out.

The Braves inserted Jason Motte in Dickey’s stead — Motte was nearing the end of his career, was below replacement in 2016, and had bad peripherals so far this season but hadn’t managed to allow many runs of his own. He also pretty quickly gave up the game. First up to face Motte was Zack Cozart, and Motte walked him on six pitches, forcing in a run. It was now 5-3, and the tying run was on second. Next up was Votto:

Let’s recount: hit by pitch, weird fielding mistake, walk, sub-80 mph exit velocity RBI single, walk to drive in a run. sub-80 mph exit velocity game-tying 2 RBI single. Awesome stuff, Braves. Motte recovered to end the inning with no further damage, including a nasty strikeout of Duvall on a cutter that skidded away from the plate, but the game was now tied.

And it would stay tied for a long time, as it entered into its third phase. The first phase was lots of baserunners with few runs. The second phase was lots of runs. This phase was, well, a series of effective reliever carousels.

Michael Lorenzen came on for the top of the seventh, and allowed only a one-out single (that probably would’ve been an out if Peraza were taller). Ian Krol, despite being his 2017 cautionary tale version rather than his 2016 good reliever version threw a perfect bottom of the seventh. Lorenzen stayed in and got the next three batters as well, and then Arodys Vizcaino came on for the Braves, got two strikeouts, and ended the inning on a flyout. That sent the game to the ninth, where Raisel Iglesias appeared and dispatched the Braves easily on 10 pitches.

For the bottom of the ninth, the Braves apparently decided that being walked off on was kinda fun, so they inserted Jose Ramirez. (Again, I’m being somewhat overly mean to Ramirez, who was actually okay through this point in 2017, though everyone had to know very nasty stormclouds were on the horizon given his track record.) Ramirez very nearly lost the game for the Braves right then and there. He started the inning by walking Votto, and after a foulout, moved him to second when Suzuki flubbed catching a routine pitch inside. Suarez followed with a grounder through the right side that luckily was hit hard enough to force Votto to stop at third (despite Markakis being the fielder who came up with the ball). It was up to Scooter Gennett, who had replaced Schebler in right, to try and walk it off with a hit, well-placed grounder, or medium-depth fly ball, or even just standing there while the ball got past the catcher. But, Gennett didn’t do any of those. Ramirez started him with a low changeup and got a whiff. He missed with a changeup outside, and then went to his 99 mph fastball, getting a whiff down the middle. A third changeup, on the outer edge, got a third whiff. It was now up to Peraza, but he hit a grounder right to Phillips to end the inning. Ramirez and the Braves survived... for now.

Drew Storen came on for the tenth and once again sat the Braves down in order. The Reds’ relief corps had sat down 11 straight Braves at this point. The Braves then went to Eric O’Flaherty despite no lefties being due up until fifth in the inning. O’Flaherty issued a leadoff walk, allowed pinch-hitter Bronson Arroyo (lol, but better than asking a real pinch-hitter to bunt) to bunt the winning run to second, got a strikeout, issued another walk, and finally struck out Votto to end another scary inning. The strikeout of Votto was pretty cool, with two called strikes followed by a slider in the dirt that drew an ugly swing.

The Braves did stop their outs streak at 14 in the 11th, but it was just a two-out single off Wandy Peralta. They got nothing else, and Jim Johnson, the goat of the prior game, came on for the bottom half. His inning, too, was terrifying. Unlike Ramirez and O’Flaherty, Johnson started his afternoon with a leadoff single (to Duvall, on an 0-2 pitch) rather than a leadoff walk. The walk came later, after Duvall had stolen second. Johnson had very little margin for error at this point, but he somehow ended up operating within it. Gennett was once again the victim in a big spot — he tried to bunt the runners over twice, failed, and then took strike three. Johnson and the Braves then got... I don’t really know how to describe it. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t a “break” in the traditional sense. Peraza lined the first pitch he saw back to Johnson. Johnson knocked it down (good), but a real break would have been him letting it go for an inning-ending double play. He successfully picked the ball up and threw to second for an out (also good), but Swanson fell across the bag attempt to turn the double play, meaning that Johnson still had more work to do, against Mesoraco. The latter could not end the game for a second consecutive night, as Johnson got him to pop out to preclude another walkoff threat.

Onto the 12th, where Blake Wood was the new (and final) Reds reliever. Wood got a groundout from Kemp to start, but Matt Adams had decided “enough” at this point:

Adams’ second homer wasn’t hit anywhere near as well as his slam, and was more one of those “fly balls that happens to be a homer” as is wont to happen at Great American Ball Park here and there. Still, the Braves had their first lead in what felt like forever (probably around two hours). They threatened for more afterwards, as Garcia hit another single and stole another base, giving him four hits (one double) and two steals in the game, but a Suzuki lineout to third got him doubled up to end the inning.

The Braves just left Johnson in there to seal the victory, despite his perturbing 11th. This inning, though, went much more smoothly. First came a two-pitch pop-up, followed by a six-pitch strikeout. Cozart was the Reds’ last hope, but all he could do was ground to short and end the game.

Game MVP: Very clearly Matt Adams, who was responsible for five of the Braves’ six runs in this game. For Adams, this still the highest WPA game of his career, by a decent margin (.62). Amusingly, Adams’ two highest WPA games both came as a Brave, within two weeks of one another. It was Adams’ first multihomer game, and first game with five or more runs driven in, since June 2014 — he’d have another two-homer game just a few days after this one. It was the first grand slam of his career (the second would come in 2019). Adams had a huge June (159 wRC+), and had a 150 wRC+ overall through his first 30 or so days with the Braves. Unfortunately, he kind of hit a wall after that, with just an 85 wRC+ the rest of the way, meaning that he finished his 2017 with just a 111 wRC+ and 1.2 fWAR in 367 PAs despite the strong first impression with his new team.

Game LVP: Honestly, Scooter Gennett. He didn’t even start this game, but he was brutal for the Reds after being inserted. He made two outs before extra innings, and then had two terrible strikeouts with a chance to walk his team off. Despite this, Gennett’s 2017 was still a bounceback (2.2 fWAR in about 500 PAs, a new career high after combining for 2.1 fWAR over his past three seasons), but even so, it was his worst game ever, by WPA, with the Reds.

Biggest play: Matt Adams’ mercifully-game-shortening second homer of the game off Wood.

The game, in context of the season: Again, see yesterday’s flashback/recap for most of it. Aside from a few hiccups, Dickey was actually much better after this game: 116 ERA- through this one, 87 ERA- after, 97 ERA- on the year. This game pushed all of Feldman’s minus stats to a tiny bit above 100 (they were around 95 before). He’d continue pitching okay, racking up 0.8 fWAR in 111 innings by season’s end, but had everything cut short by a knee injury that’s also kept him from pitching since.

Video:

Condensed game:

Recap:

All the highlights: click here

TC Recap: https://www.talkingchop.com/2017/6/3/15735666/braves-vs-reds-final-score-matt-adams

TC Game Thread: https://www.talkingchop.com/2017/6/3/15734894/atlanta-braves-vs-cincinnati-reds-game-thread

TC Commentariat Zeitgeist: Naturally, Matt Adams praise was the main theme. But, also, complaining about Brian Snitker! (You thought you were safe. You weren’t.)

Anything else? This was the second (and last, so far) four-hit game of Adonis Garcia’s career, and also his only two-steal game ever. Garcia spent much of 2017 injured with different ailments, but only managed a 60 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR over the course of the year. The combination of him, Adams, and the ineffectiveness of other options is probably what led the Braves to consider, and ultimately implement, the “Freddie Freeman, third baseman” experiment.

Small sample fun: Matt Adams has a career 107 wRC+, but a career 168 wRC+ at Great American Ball Park. He’s homered around once every 22 PAs as a major leaguer, but has 12 homers in 121 PAs in Cincinnati. He has never a season where he played at least one game in Cincinnati and didn’t hit a homer there.

The Reds had two outfielders leave this game with the same injury (shoulder strain).

This was the first time in two years that the Braves walked 10 batters in a game. Prior to that, they hadn’t done it in around four years. Since this game, they’ve done it six times, including twice more in 2017, three times in 2018, and once in 2019.

Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about June 3: In 1889, this was the date of the first long-distance transmission line for electricity in the United States, in Oregon.