Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here I am, your Drama Queen

Thoughts on another comeback win:

1. The first Braves game I attended this year was the seven-run comeback against the Reds. I left at the start of the ninth inning. So last night (the third Braves game I've attended this year), when the Braves went into the ninth down 3-1 against Hong-Chih Kuo and his 0.88 ERA, I resisted the urge to get home. That was a good decision. The Braves scored three in the ninth without hitting a ball hard. Alex Gonzalez hit a duck snort to left. Brian McCann grounded into the hole between first and second. Troy Glaus popped out. Brooks Conrad walked. David Ross walked. Melky Cabrera grounded one into the hole between short and third (a ball that would have been fielded if the shortstop wouldn't have been at double-play depth). Three runs on three hits without hard contact. It was a fitting reward after the Braves had tagged some balls right at outfielders in the earlier innings. It was also a fitting reward for a team that has been patient at the plate all year. The bridge for the inning were the two walks.

2. I know that he had a homer and four RBI on Sunday, but Troy Glaus still looks lost. He had his big day against Vicente Padilla, who can barely crack 85 with his fastball. Glaus was overmatched yesterday against Billingsley and Kuo. You know that things are bad when you are hoping that your cleanup hitter strikes out with they tying runs on base in the ninth so as to avoid an inning-killing double play. When Glaus came up with runners on first and second against Kuo, I looked at my two friends and asked "if I offered you a strikeout right now, would you take it?" Both said yes.

I feel bad for Glaus. He might be coming to the end of his career and that cannot be an easy thing for an athlete to handle. With the way he was playing in May and June, I'm sure he could see a good contract waiting for him in the offseason. Now, he's looking at a paycut on an already-small salary (relatively speaking, of course). When I look at Glaus's facial expressions, I keep thinking of Sid Bream in 1993. There is one particular game that stands out in my memory. The Braves lost a Saturday night game in July to the denuded Pirates 4-3. The team was nine games back at the time and struggling to score runs. Bream had gone 0-4 to drop his average to .239 and he grounded into a double play in the sixth with the Braves trailing by a run. After the game, he was sitting alone in the dugout, looking forlorn. Skip Caray intoned "don't think for a minute that these guys don't care." Three days later, the Braves traded for Fred McGriff, rallied from 5-0 to beat the Cardinals, and then went on an epic 51-17 run to win the West in the last great pennant race. (How great would the duel between the Yankees and Rays be if only one of the two best teams in baseball could make the playoffs?) Bream barely played for the rest of 1993, then finished his career the following year by getting 70 plate appearances for the Astros. The moral of the story: it's hard for a baseball player to confront the end of his career and it's doubly hard when his declining performance comes in the context of a hot pennant race.

3. Last night's game illustrated that the Braves need Martin Prado back in the worst way. Brooks Conrad is a nice utility piece, but he's not a third baseman. When Prado returns, the Braves can shift Omar Infante to third base and they'll shore up the defense while improving the offense. Getting Prado back isn't quite like the Phillies getting Utley and Howard back, but it is important.

4. Don't look now, but Melky is hitting. His OPSs by month:

April - .508
May - .739
June - .710
July - .814
August - .833

After the Braves' annual struggles in getting production from the corner outfield spots, I'll take that. Additionally, Melky made a great throw to cut a runner down at the plate at the end of the top of the eighth. Without that throw, his single in the ninth would have tied the game instead of winning it.

5. If Bobby had a sense of humor, he would have brought Kyle Farnsworth in to face Brad Ausmus in the seventh.

6. Am I the only one who hears Octavio Dotel's name and immediately thinks of Octavio, the dancing mime who follows Richard Belzer at Club Babylon in Scarface? Yes? Never mind.


Anonymous said...

Fangraphs has Padilla's fastball average velocity at 92.3. Here's the link.

Anonymous said...

The Indians-ChiSox race in 94 would have been great even with the WC because the teams didn't care for each other. Similarly, the Reds-Cardinals race this year has been very exciting due to the animosity between the clubs.

Pirates and Royals fans must weep when they look at the standings and see Tampa and San Diego where they are.