Posted: 9:08 am Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
By Mark Bradley
In a way, it wasn’t that bad a loss: Cole Hamels started for Philadelphia and was superb, which Cole Hamels often is. But Hamels exited after seven innings, meaning that the Atlanta Braves had nearly that long — six innings — to work against five Philly relievers. The Braves managed one run, that on a rally comprised of two bloop hits and a wrong-way ground single. They lost 6-1 to a last-place team, which wound up making it …
A bad loss.
This made twice in three days that the Braves fashioned a tying rally in the ninth only to lose by five in the 13th. Both times the losing pitcher was David Hale. Both times the Braves should have won long before the 13th arrived. On Saturday they were thwarted by a game-saving catch from Kole Calhoun. On Monday they left two runners aboard in every inning from the seventh through the 10th. (The Braves were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, a far cry from the 10-for-30 of the series against the Angels.)
Before you ask: No, I wouldn’t have had Tommy La Stella bunt with men on first and second and nobody out in the ninth. I’d have thought about it — he’s a deft bunter — but I’d have done as Fredi Gonzalez did and let him hit. (He’s also a good hitter.) My reasoning would have been the same as the Braves’ manager’s: If La Stella bunts, the Braves probably wind up with one run and head to extra innings. That’s actually what happened, but I don’t mind Fredi G. playing to win.
“I didn’t want to tie the game,” Gonzalez said, speaking early Tuesday morning. “I wanted to take a shot at it.”
La Stella lined a Jonathan Papelbon pitch into the glove of third baseman Reid Brignac. That can happen when you don’t bunt. But if the ball is three feet to Brignac’s left or right the Braves have a tie game with men on first and second and then you can bunt the winning run to third. If you bunt with La Stella, you have second and third with one out, which means Andrelton Simmons gets walked to load the bases, which would have left the game to one of the Braves’ pinch-hitters, who aren’t very good. (We saw as much when Ryan Doumit batted after Simmons’ tying blooper — he struck out. Braves pinch-hitter were 0-for-3 on the night; they’re 16-for-77 on the season.)
Another chance was botched after Freddie Freeman’s one-out triple in the 10th. (Given the way left fielder Domonic Brown misplayed — or didn’t play — the ball, a faster man would have had an inside-the-park home run. Which isn’t to fault Freeman, who fell a home run shy of the cycle Monday.) Evan Gattis was walked intentionally. Justin Upton popped out in foul territory. Chris Johnson struck out, which Chris Johnson has done 68 times in 68 games.
That was the Braves’ last real chance. The Phillies, who entered the game hitting .240 to the Braves’ .244, weren’t knocking down any fences, either. Through 12 innings, their only extra-base hit had been Ryan Howard’s second-inning home run off Julio Teheran, who was great yet again. (In his career, Ryan Howard has 45 homers against the Braves.) It stayed 1-1 long enough to make us wonder if penalty kicks might be needed to settle this, but in the end a mistake did the deed.
Ben Revere walked to open the 13th. He stole second. He advanced to third on Jimmy Rollins’ fly to right. Chase Utley was walked on purpose. That left it to Howard, who — even with his 45 homers versus Atlanta — is always apt to strike out or hit into a double play. The Braves got the grounder they needed, but Freeman saw it skitter between his legs. The error untied the game. The next four runs were window dressing.
It was only yesterday that we wondered, tentatively so, if the Braves’ hitters weren’t starting to hit. They managed 12 hits Monday, albeit to little avail. Said Gonzalez: “We had some opportunities; we didn’t score. We had opportunities with the right people up … We need to get on a little roll, put the ball in the air.”
As was the case last season, the Braves are indeed a different team when they hit the ball over the wall. They’re 26-12 when they hit a home run, 10-21 when they don’t. They’re not very good, to use a Fredi phrase, at keeping the line moving.
“I thought we were going to get it done,” Jason Heyward said. “I thought we were going to get that hit, get that sacrifice fly.”
They got one run. In 13 innings. And lost yet another winnable game. The Braves are 6-19 when they score two or fewer runs, and that’s the story of the season. In 25 of 69 games – 36.3 percent, or more than one in every three — they haven’t managed even three runs. Through 12 innings, two would have been enough to win Game No. 69.
From myajc.com: Gattis to LF, Bethancourt to the bigs? Not just yet.