A full slate of games last week as the Braves welcomed both the Giants and Brewers to town. Let’s dive in.
June 19, 9-0 WIN vs. Giants
Mr. Ryan Cothran recently pointed out how R.A. Dickey‘s splits-by-month improve once the temperatures warm up. Last Monday, he made Cothran look really good with seven masterful frames. He yielded just three hits and walked one while striking out a half-dozen. The game was a close one heading into the eighth, but things got nutty as the Giants’ pen imploded. Danny Santana had the big knock of the frame with a three-run pinch-hit homer that may still be in orbit. Matt Adams also hit a homer, his 11th, and was one of four Braves to notch multi-hit games.
|Jeff Morris – Follow on Twitter|
June 20, 6-3 LOSS vs. Giants
Like the previous day, the eighth inning saw a lot of action. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of action the Braves needed to see. Julio Teheran had breezed through seven innings before a Dansby Swanson error on what should have been a double play was immediately followed by a three-run home run. After another hit and a sacrifice, Ian Krol entered and another two errors (charged to Krol and Adams) helped to pad the Giants’ lead. Atlanta got one back in the bottom half on a Matt Kemp ground-rule double, but the Braves couldn’t scratch across any more runs across. Johan Camargo finished a homer short of the cycle.
June 21, 5-3 WIN vs. Giants (11 ING)
With former Brave Cory Gearrin on the mound, Matt Kemp delivered a two-run homer in the eleventh as the Braves won in walk-off fashion. The homer provided some solace for the Braves after wasting a 3-1 lead in the late innings. It was Jim Johnson‘s fifth blown save of the year when he surrendered a Hunter Pence game-tying solo bomb in the ninth. Atlanta won despite only managing seven hits because three of them went screaming toward the stands. In addition to Kemp’s 12th homer, Matt Adams hit his 12th as well and Tyler Flowers smacked his sixth. Sean Newcomb‘s third start was solid. He scattered three hits, including a RBI triple which was the only blemish on his record. He walked just one and K’d a trio.
June 22, 12-11 WIN vs. Giants
A wild one was played after a nearly 90-minute rain delay to begin the night. Jaime Garcia got lit up to the tune of a half-dozen runs over 4.1 innings. Still, a crazy fifth inning gave the Braves just enough offense to win this one. Down 6-4, Brandon Phillips smacked the first pitch he saw of the frame for a homer. After a pair of singles chased Giants starter, Matt Cain, Matt Adams brought home a run on another single to tie it. The theme continued with a go-ahead RBI single by Kurt Suzuki. Johan Camargo made the first out of the inning count with a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded before Lane Adams gave the Braves their second pinch-hit three-run homer of the week. It was Adams’ first homer of his major league career. Danny Santana, who entered as a pinch-runner for Matt Kemp earlier in the inning, finished the scoring with a RBI single to plate Phillips (who had walked in his second PA of the inning). All told, the Braves scored eight runs and sent 13 batters to the plate. It was nearly not enough as the Giants fought back to score three off Ian Krol (a costly Lane Adams error led to two of those runs being unearned) and added two more runs off Jim Johnson, but the Braves closer finished the game with his 14th save. The long night was even harder on the Giants, who had a game the next day at home. The rain delay kept the game from starting until 9:01 and it ended around 12:30 AM. They left the park about 90 minutes later and hopped a cross-country plane. Jet-lagged and exhausted, the Giants would lose to the Mets the next evening, 11-4.
June 23, 5-4 WIN vs Brewers
Braves built a pair of three-run leads but had to hold on for a one-run win without their closer available in this one. Mike Foltynewicz was good, though had some big-pitch innings. He finished with 9 K’s in just 5 innings and only one run allowed. He walked three and threw 104 pitches. The Brewers scored a run off Sam Freeman and added two more against Jose Ramirez before Arodys Vizcaino pitched around a leadoff double for his first save of the year. The defense played a big role in the final two frames. With runners on first-and-second and only one out in a one-run ballgame, Jesus Aguilar rocketed a ball toward third where Johan Camargo fielded it cleanly and quickly got the ball over to second. Brandon Phillips turned a flawless double play from there to end the threat. In the ninth, following the leadoff double, Dansby Swanson ranged to his right to field a grounder and didn’t hesitate on a strong throw to third to cut down the leading runner. The next Brewers hitter smacked a long fly ball that would have scored the runner. Swanson also caught a dying liner to end the game. Brandon Phillips homered for the second consecutive game, a solo bomb in the first. He added a RBI double later in the game to spearhead the Braves’ attack.
June 24, 3-1 WIN vs. Brewers
Stay hot, R.A. Dickey. The knuckleballer tossed seven superb innings and the bullpen had an uneventful night for a change. Brandon Phillips did it again, homering for the third consecutive night. His two-run bomb broke a 1-1 tie and was all the edge Atlanta and Dickey would need. The first inning was a weird frame. It included a questionable balk call and an ejection of Milwaukee Brewers utility man, Nick Franklin, for arguing that the Braves were given too much time to decide whether or not to challenge a play. They ultimately didn’t, but it still meant Franklin had an early night even though he wasn’t playing. In all of the chaos, there was the Brewers only run, which scored on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice. Atlanta would tie it in the first on a two-out single by Tyler Flowers. The Braves catcher was down 0-2 against Matt Garza, but worked the count full before rocketing a single through the infield to plate Phillips.
June 25, 7-0 LOSS vs. Brewers
Julio Teheran didn’t have to wait long for his day to implode like he did earlier in the week. He retired just nine batters and was charged with all seven runs. He walked two and K’d three during his short day. Luke Jackson allowed one of those runs to score after he inherited it, but that was the only bad thing anyone could have said about Jackson’s outing. He went four shutout innings, scattering two hits, and striking out four. He didn’t walk a batter. Ender Inciarte had two of Atlanta’s five total hits – all singles.
This Week’s Record: 5-2
Season Record: 36-39, 2nd Place in the NL East, 9 GB
Minor League Week in Review (Briefly)
Gwinnett: 3-3…38-36, 2nd Place in the South, 7.5 GB
Mississippi: 2-2…2-2, 2nd Place in South (2nd Half), 1 GB
Florida: 2-4…2-2, 3rd Place in North (2nd Half), 1 GB
Rome: 2-2…2-2, 2nd Place in Southern (2nd Half), 1 GB
Danville: 2-2…2-2, 3rd Place in East, 1 GB
GCL: Opens play this week
DSL: 3-3…8-10, 7th Place in Northwest, 2.5 GB
Three Last Things
1) Things Are About to Get Tough
Sunday marked the 24th game of June. Atlanta has done well with a 14-10 record. All but six of those games came at home via a quirk in the schedule. Further, only a half-dozen of those games came against teams with a .500 or better record. That will change soon.
Following an off day today, Atlanta heads out west for six in California with the Padres and A’s. Then comes a buzzsaw that includes 2 vs. HOU, 4 @ DC, 3 vs. ARZ, 3 vs. CHC, 4 @ LAD, and 3 @ ARZ. The Braves will finish July with four games in Philly. As they arrive in the City of Brotherly Love, we’ll know a lot more about this team. To this point, only 20 games total have come against teams with a .500 or better record (they’re 9-11). In July, they are scheduled to have 19 games against those kind of teams. They’ll also play 21 games on the road between now and the trading deadline and are 16-19 on the road this season. For reference, the four-game set in Washington comes right before the All-Star Break.
Some people are buying in. They believe the Braves are better than advertised and will surprise some people. If they are right, July has to be just as impressive as June despite a much tougher slate of games. If you want the Braves to be buyers, they need to continue their recent success against the Astros, Nationals, Diamondbacks and so on. They’ll need more games like Friday and Saturday when they took down an impressive Brewers club, and fewer games like Sunday, when their “ace” was blasted for seven runs.
2) Jose Ramirez is Finding Out Regression is Tough
Despite being one of the most trustworthy arms in the pen this year, many were slow to buy in on Jose Ramirez as a true asset. Those that waved off the bandwagon over-and-over may have made that right call. Over his last 14 games, Ramirez has allowed eight runs in 10.1 ING, blown two saves, and walked ten compared to just seven strikeouts. He’s also allowed two homeruns.
But we had to see this coming, no? His xFIP heading into June was above 4.00 despite strong WHIP numbers. The belief was that he had been very lucky to this point with a super-low BABIP helping to hide some of the warts. In June, those warts have come out in full force with a 9.02 FIP/7.84 xFIP. While short sample size concerns negate too much value being placed on those numbers, Ramirez has struggled considerably with his control and after some early-season success in inducing weak contact, he is no longer able to rely on that.
Ramirez needs to adjust quickly. He’s walked a batter in each of his last seven games, which resembles the guy who was cast to the minors during the first few games of the 2016 season.
|Jeff Morris – Follow on Twitter|
3) Oh, Julio
I’ve always been a big fan of Julio Teheran. Back in 2010, when he climbed from Rome to Mississippi, I was anxious to see him dominate in the majors. I even stayed positive during his iffy 2012 campaign where he struggled as the Braves tinkered with his delivery. And I was rewarded for my patience with four seasons and a solid major league pitcher.
Sure, he wasn’t an “ace,” but he was still very good. His 9.9 fWAR between 2013 and 2016 ranked 35th in the game. He was a durable second starter who simply needed an ace to team with. The Braves were never able to find that, of course, as they cycled through Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Shelby Miller. Nevertheless, if you are rebuilding and putting a focus on starting pitching, the reasonable belief is that one of those flamethrowing kids would take the ace mantle and run with it. That would push Teheran back and the Braves could roll with a solid rotation.
But…this season happened.
I don’t really know what is wrong with Teheran. There’s nothing in his release point or movement that really stands out. His frequency of using one pitch over another is not too far removed from last year, though I’ve never understood why he stopped featuring his curveball as much after 2014. His velocity is about where you expect it to be and he can still reach back and hit 96 mph when he wants to. If you ignored the actual results on the field and just scoured the pitch data, you wouldn’t come away thinking anything was too out of the ordinary. But nobody pays a pitcher for a consistent release point or velocity. They pay them to take those things and turn them into positive results and right now, there simply is none to speak of for Teheran.
And it’s really difficult to understand why his numbers are just so awful. The strike% is right there. His first-strike percentage, the pitch we are told is so important, is at a career-high. About a quarter of his strikeouts end in the backwards K, a career-high. He’s pitching ahead as frequently as ever with only 31% of his matchups ending with the batter ahead in the count (right in tune with his career).
Perhaps he’s hurt. Perhaps he’s in his head. Perhaps he’s throwing rather than pitching. Perhaps the dismissal of Roger McDowell has had an effect. Perhaps it’s mechanical. Perhaps SunTrust Park just doesn’t work for him.
Whatever the case may be, the Braves aren’t going very far this year with this version of Teheran. And it’s just damn ugly to watch.