If I had to say one nice thing about the Braves this morning, I would probably stammer for a while and then mention the fact that Bobby Cox has won a lot of games as a manager. Otherwise, it would be damn near impossible. The past three games have been the unofficial "stick a fork in 'em" games for the team. The Braves have allowed 34 runs in the three games and have allowed 10+ in three straight games for the first time since 1986. (Incidentally, the starters for those three games? Rick Mahler, Craig McMurtry, and Zane Smith. The three losses came in a July 4-6 series against Montreal. Oddly enough, the Braves had won seven of eight coming into that series and were only 1.5 games out of first. The sweep by the Expos triggered a vintage stretch for the '84-'90 Braves in which they lost 11 of 12, including a three-game series against the Mets in which the Braves were outscored 26-2. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.)
The lineup last night could have doubled as Bobby Cox's concession speech. Mark Kotsay was signed to be the #8 hitter, but he was hitting clean-up last night. The starting lineup included Gregor Blanco, Omar Infante, and Clint Sammons. And that's before we get to Jeff Francoeur, who is still a favorite among the parts of the crowd who aren't bothered by a .287 OBP. Charlie Morton was the starting pitcher. Morton and Jo-Jo Reyes are doing their best to disabuse Braves fans of the optimism that we had weeks ago when it looked like we had the makings of a good, young pitching staff. After the team's experience this year with older starters (punctuated by Tim Hudson's elbow injury that will likely keep him out for the rest of the year), a collection of young hurlers seemed like a good idea. Not so much when the youngsters are doing things like allowing seven earned in three and two-thirds innings.
Opposing teams can look forward to facing a Braves team that has been gutted of its starters. They can also look forward to coming to the Ted and being greeted by a bevy of their own fans. The crowd last night was at least one-third Cardinals fans. Braves fans have a tendency to not support a bad team (the horror!) and instead focus on college football when the calendar turns to August and the Braves aren't good. Don't say I didn't warn you when the Cubs come in later this month and then the Mets arrive in September. Hell, I'm a pretty committed Braves fan and I'm ready to start thinking about Georgia's fullback situation instead of the local baseball collective. I'm no masochist.