By now most of you will know the Braves hung on to win Thursday 7-6. This isn’t a game summary, I am sure you got that better somewhere else. This is just my take on actually watching the game.
Power returns to Atlanta: The Braves broke out their multi-homer clothes against the Nats as Chipper, Freddie and Jason all went deep. Chipper displayed his party trick; the running throw that guns down the runner on a dribbler down the line. He also snagged a hot liner (routine but it was good to see the reflexes sparkle) smacked a double off the right center field wall and smiled all night. . .well except when he was called out on strikes late. Freddie Freeman sparkled at first and launched a long homer very near where Chipper hit his. In the 6th I suspect Jason was tired of hearing that Freddie beat him to the first homer of spring when he sent a soaring drive into the right field bullpen.
Nate McLouth continued his torrid spring pace going 2 for 4 and scoring a run. He did get caught in no man’s land between 2nd and 3rd in the third inning on a ball back to the pitcher. That play went south in a hurry as Gonzales got caught in a rundown after McLouth and they turned it into a double play. But back to Nate. He seemed in control while in the batters’ box tonight and the swing that looked so much like a golf swing last year looked level and strong. As a result he hit the ball squarely and drove it instead of striking out. Before we get all excited and declare that the Nate of 08 is back, let’s remember that Nate has always been a first half guy who tails off after the break. Having said that his career line – .252/.337/.438/.775 – is significantly better than anything we’ve had in center lately. That would improve his WAR by about + three from the last year and a half and improve our chances of the post season dramatically. So let’s all hope that he is that guy and that the league doesn’t figure him out after once trip around the circuit.
Pitching was not perfect but showed the ability to adapt and that’s very good. Huddy started shakily, his sinker wouldn’t and the strike zone was moving around. Still he kept them off the scoreboard by getting double plays when needed and not allowing hits with RSIP. By the fourth the zone wasn’t moving and the sinker was. Strike outs started coming and hits stopped. When Kenshin Kawakami came on and immediately gave up a hit I feared the worst but he settled in and pitched two scoreless looking very effective and in control. That about wraps up the important good stuff.
Scott Proctor came on the relive Kawakami and the Nats beat him like a rented mule. He was wild in and out of the zone, giving up 3 hits and 5 runs and walked 2 in his 2/3 of an inning. I said the other day that – according to reports I read – Proctor was coming around. Sadly having seen him with my own eyes I do not believe he has or that he’s anywhere close to coming around. Nor do I think he should survive the final cut. The Braves will give him every opportunity to succeed of course but we’ve sent better to the minor leagues and on this performance both KK and Martinez are better options as well.
Jordan Shafer looked lost at the plate. The confidence everyone was talking about when he entered spring training was nowhere to be seen. With runners on base early in the game he swung at the first pitch grounding weekly to first. On the night he was 0-3 dropping his average to .170 and he left 2 on.
What is there to say about Dan Uggla? He is always awful in the spring. If we’re lucky he’ll start hitting before the end of April but it will probably be May. After that he will get his 30 and 100,carry the team during dry spells and drive in far more runs than he allows on defense. Tonight was a microcosm of that. He looked nothing like a power threat until Chipper homered, Freeman homered and Chipper doubled. As if to say I can do that too, his next at bat he smoked one deep into the gap for a double. Of course the next inning he made a good stop on a ball in the hole then threw it into the ground instead of just putting it in his pocket but no one scored.
Tonight the Braves showed all the good things and many of the holes we’ve all seen. The good news is the good far out weighs those holes. Strong leadership and good player decisions can fix the those holes and bring the post season closer to reality.