Braves Are Taming The Wild Card

This series could not have started off any better for the Atlanta Braves. There certainly seems to be a lot of magic inside the Ted as of late with back to back walk off wins for the Bravos. Any time you can win close games it gives your team a boost and at the same time begins to slowly suck the life out of the opposing ball club. Heart breaking loses on back to back nights must be eating the Giants a live. To know that they could easily be 4.0 games back instead of 6.0 must be a tough pill to swallow.

Game 2 of this series marked the return of young Randall Delgado, who was making just his 2nd start of the year. His previous outing this season was against the Texas Rangers, a team that in Delgado’s defense is a very good hitting ball club. He managed to go 4 innings while giving up 3 earned runs on 7 hits. Not a terrible outing but he was certainly looking to impress the Braves management this time out and he certainly made a statement.

Delgado went 6.0 innings. Giving up just 1 run on 1 hit. He walked just one batter and struck out 4. Not to mention that the kid had a no hitter going into the 7th inning. Unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be as Cody Ross lead off the 7th inning with a long home run down the right field line, which certainly let the air out of Turner Field.

For the rookie pitcher it was a disappointing end to what had been a magical night. Cruising a long through the first 6 innings with a very reasonable pitch count. The tough part to swallow for Braves fans was that Delgado would not be able to earn the “W” after his outstanding efforts. The Braves just couldn’t muster any offense against the Giants bullpen who were forced to enter the game in just the 3rd inning due to an ankle injury suffered by Sanchez.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning Delgado would prove that he could handle the bat a little bit, helping himself out at the plate. Constanza reached base ahead of him and Delgado was able to successfully sacrifice him over to 2nd. That was a huge play as the next Braves batter Michael Bourn would single him home to give the Braves an early 1-0 lead. That run proved to big, as this game would be tied at the end of 9 with the score being just 1-1. If Delgado doesn’t lay down that bunt to move Constanza over to 2nd maybe the Giants win this game 1-0 and even up the series.

Now again I find myself writing a recap of the game which you’ve all already seen and heard about. So let’s get onto my take on this ball game. I noticed 2 things that were hurting the Braves as the game went a long.

The first one was horrible base running. It started with Michael Bourn trying to get to 2nd base on his RBI single that scored Constanza in the 3rd inning. Now as you read my articles you will notice a trend. I try to never criticize a player for striking out or giving up a home run on the mound. If I could out play these guys then I’d be on the field, not behind a computer writing articles. I love the game of baseball but am no where near the level of a major league player. One of my pet peeves is writers who criticize players for the physical part of the game when we know darn well that they couldn’t do any better themselves. However I will critique players on 2 things. Those things being effort and decision making. I know the game well enough to justify a comment on a decision being made. Just because I couldn’t actually steal that base I’m well aware of when a good time to steal is. I hope you guys will respect me for that and appreciate the fact that I’m not a critic on things that I can not do myself.

Bourn’s base running blunder was a mistake for one simple reason. Constanza was the guy rounding 3rd and heading for home. Ross had NO chance of throwing him out and I believe that the infielders were well aware of this as well. I was fully expecting that ball to be cut off which would mean I wouldn’t have tried to get to 2nd base. Granted Bourn put in a great effort once he got in the run down, the point is he was hung out to dry when attempting to get to 2nd base. If that base runner is Chipper Jones, Brian McCann or even Dan Uggla and you know that throw is going to make it to the catcher, then yes by all means try to take the extra base. Always consider the runner when making this decision.

The next two are actually worse then the base running mistake mentioned above. In the innings to follow Brian McCann our home town hero got caught napping at first base. Where was his head at? He looked like he was on another planet. The routine pick off by Mota caught McCann completely off guard ending the inning. I have 2 issues with this play. The first is that McCann is not a base stealer by any means. Why was he napping out there? It’s not as if he was thinking about swiping the bag and making sure he had a good lead to do so. That couldn’t have been the case. The other issue is that Freeman was at the plate. A guy who could easily put the ball either in the gap or over the wall. That’s not the time to be getting picked off. That’s such a rally killer because it was an out given to the other team.

Freeman would eventually be guilty of bad base running himself. Smacking a ball down the line in the later innings he got a little to anxious when rounding 1st and got caught being too far off the bag. The Giants made a heads up play seeing that Freeman had taken such a wide turn and nailed him at first base.

Between all 3 of those base running plays the Braves gave away 3 outs. That’s a full half inning of baseball. In a sense they were only playing with 8 innings worth of outs if you think about it. The other thing the Braves continued to do was play to the pace of their pitcher. What I mean by that is they were going down at the plate as fast as Delgado was setting them down the Giants hitters. Were they eager to get the game over with? Did they think the 1-0 lead would be enough for the win? Or maybe since Delgado was cruising along they thought they would just keep the game moving and not leave him sitting in the dugout? Could be 100% coincidence but the Braves hitters were first or second pitch swinging almost every at bat for 3 or 4 innings straight. I think they should have tried to work the count against that Giants bullpen.

So what can we expect from game 3 tonight? Well the Braves will have a healthy Jair Jurrjens on the mound. The thing to keep in mind about Jurrjens is that this is not a guy who likes to pitch hurt. When he’s sore or hurting his performances goes way down. We saw the drop off in production from him last year when he was battling some injuries. That would explain why he’s been struggling since the all-star break. Maybe he just needed a couple of weeks to get healthy. This would be a huge win for Atlanta as it would clinch a series win and give them a dominating 6-0 record against the defending world champions.

What can we expect from the Giants? I don’t know how this team can not be hurting inside after letting 2 straight games get away from them. This can only be to Atlanta’s advantage but we’ll see how much heart this Giants team really has. After putting both Romo and Beltran on the DL yesterday this team is really banged up. Injuries are apart of the game and this club will need to respond in some way shape or form. If they don’t they will find themselves 7.0 out of the Wild Card and that’s dangerous territory as we head into the middle of Aug. The Giants bullpen will be strapped for the rest of this series. They pitched almost 8 full innings last night. There’s no way anyone can tell me that Bouchy won’t be hesitant to go to that pen tonight. They will need an all star effort from right hander Matt Cain if they want to have any shot of winning tonight.

By: Bob McVinua

 

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