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Atlanta Braves

chopping on the edge for another day

Nobody ever said this would be easy: with no margin for error, the Braves extend their season by winning with… no margin for error.

193 pitches were thrown by the Atlanta Braves in last night’s 9-inning game. The Braves only recorded 4 hits in the game. They only had 8 base-runners. They struck out 11 times. They walked 9 Dodgers.  The closer threw 31 pitches by himself.  4 ‘starting pitchers’ were used.

Yet some how… some way… this team managed to hold the Dodgers at bay just enough to win.

That brings us to this afternoon’s contest… a quick turn-around at an odd time that could make for some difficult sun (especially in left field) and some difficult shadows (for the hitters).


The Challenges

The Braves need two things to happen for this contest to be sent back to Los Angeles:

  • Mike Foltynewicz really needs to get through at least 6 innings while keeping the Dodgers in the park.  Hopefully, his abbreviated outing in Game 1 provides enough knowledge – and stamina – to be able to fix the issues that plagued him then.
  • The offense really needs to get him some early runs against Rich Hill.

That’s it – that’s the formula for success.  It’s pretty simple to say… harder to do, given what we’ve already seen thus far in the series.

The crazy bit involves the Atlanta bats:

  • Game 1 – 4 for 28
  • Game 2 – 2 for 29
  • Game 3 – 6 for 33

That’s a total of 12 for 90, or a .133 average for the team. Only Ronald Acuna (.273) has anything consistent going at all at the plate (yes: even Freddie Freeman has a .167 average for the series… though you’d like to think that the key homer from last night should help).

But this .133 team average is a historically low number for this round of the playoffs since the divisional round was added in the mid-1990’s. The Braves could find themselves in the bottom 5 of team batting averages in that era… though they would also have recent company.

  • The Rockies – inexplicably – apparently left their bats in the humidor to soften up for their series: 4 for 32, 6 for 33, and 4 for 31 postings gave them a series average of .162.
  • Cleveland has been even worse: 3 for 30 twice in a row for a .100 average. That’s just not going to win very often.

Sure – the pitching is going to be better in the post-season, but is it really that much better?  In the cases of the opponents of these anemic-hitting teams… yeah – it has been between all of Houston, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles.

Maybe the Braves will get a break today:  Rich Hill will get his first post-season action today, which will mark the longest stretch of rest he’s had all year (8 days – last appearing on September 30th).  Pitchers being creature of routine tend to get a bit antsy when left to wait and watch for so long… at least that’s what I’m hoping.

The bad news? Over 7 innings vs. the Giants on the last day he threw, Hill shut them down on just 2 hits.

How Might the Game Have Changed?

It’s fun to play ‘what if’ sometimes… especially if you like the outcome that actually happened.

In this case, I’m speaking of the 2nd inning AB for Ronald Acuna in which an obvious “ball 4” call was actually recorded as “strike 1” by home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.

The call was so bad that the runners on base had started taking a couple of steps toward their next bases – which could actually have gotten somebody picked off had everyone else on the field not also been stunned at the call’s outcome.

But ‘what if’ that pitch had been called correctly?  Acuna would have trotted to 1st base, forcing in another run: thus a 2-0 lead for the Braves. From there, any of these things could have occurred:

  • The Dodgers might have take Buehler out of the game.
  • Ender Inciarte would have faced either Buehler (still with that deer-in-the-headlights look) or somebody else – but with the bases loaded and still 2 outs.

With the bases (and perhaps his mind) cleared, Beuhler was able to get Inciarte and then go on a run that saw him complete 5 innings…helping to save the Dodger bullpen a bit.

Had the bases still been full with SunTrust still rocking and chanting like never before, who knows whether that would have been the same outcome?

In all honesty, you want that ball 4 call. Despite this big miss, the Braves made the most of the extra pitch… probably… but clearly they needed every break they could muster on Sunday night.

Next: Where do they go from here?

That will remain the case this afternoon with their final home game… so far.

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