Collapse in Cincinnati


Through five innings the Derek Lowe kept the ball on the infield and the Reds scored once. In second the Braves loaded the bases and after Alex Gonzalez failed as usual with RISP, Derek Lowe drove in two runs.  Then Martin Prado walked and with the bases loaded and one out Jason Heyward popped up and Brian McCann flied out. In the fourth inning with two on and no one out, Prado, Heyward and McCann again failed to drive anyone home. Then came the sixth inning.The Reds suddenly caught up with Lowe who had been cruising even though the  field temperature was over 100 at game time and hadn’t abated. Fredi Gonzalez went to George Sherrill to get one out and Scott Proctor who amazingly got two more without allowing any runs and the Reds were up by two.The next inning the Reds caught up with Proctor.

Proctor, who’s fastball is now very flat and easy to hit, hasn’t fooled anyone in his last three outings. After two runs scored the Skipper went to get Proctor.  Cristhian Martinez fresh from Gwinnett came in and allowed five more runs to score though two were charged to Proctor. By the time the dust had settled the Reds had blown the game open.

Fans on Twitter, Facebook, and I’m guessing in living rooms across the country had been cheering Lowe on until the sixth and suddenly they wanted to know why he had started the inning. In fact there was not much cause to yell at Lowe. His five innings were superb and he was the only Brave with an RBI. That he ran out of gas in the heat should and probably was anticipated. That it happened so quickly might not have been.  The trouble was made worse when we had to go to the pen before the eighth inning and all that was available was George Sherrill, Scott Proctor and Cristhian Martinez.

I’m sure fans screamed at Fredi Gonzalez loud and often for the choices he made today but of course this wasn’t all Gonzalez’ fault. The structure of the bullpen and the offense’s inability to drive in runs against a pitcher who is on the ropes is the reason Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel lead the majors in appearances.  When your bullpen contains only three consistently dependable pitchers, three pitchers past their best and a long man who is at his  best when starting an inning or entering with no one on base, your hands are tied. So, Gonzalez can’t win. If he uses the big three exclusively he’s accused of over working them and risks injury to their arms. If he doesn’t he’s accused of surrendering the game through bad bullpen choices.

During the off season the we traded for Linebrink who had not performed well in Chicago, signed Sherrill who had failed miserably in L.A. and resigned Proctor even though 2010 was bad.  We were told that Linebrink, Sherrill and  were going to provide the experience to guide the youngsters through the season. Proctor’s spring was so bad he was cut, then surprisingly offered a minor league contract he eagerly accepted. Of the three, Sherrill has surprised many by getting better over time and performing very well in the last two months. Linebrink’s performances have been inconsistent and Proctor’s downright awful. In his last ten appearances Proctor has thrown 8 2/3 innings allowed 13 hits and 14 runs for an ERA of  14.55 and a WHIP of 2.540. Those numbers shoudl qualify him to join the unemployment line for he is now no good to us at all.

I believe management thought that Stephen Marek was a viable fallback option this spring but he had to have Tommy John surgery. So when Peter Moylan went down Proctor was called up instead.

Jairo Asencio was tried and hammered.  Cory Gearrin was tried and when used correctly, wasn’t that bad.  He was rejected however and sent down. Now we have a dilemma. There are only a few days to deadline and fewer good arms available. Any that are out there will demand a higher price because everyone needs bullpen help.  We cannot continue to expect the big three to do all the work nor can we depend on Proctor or Linebrink. Sherrill is at his best when used against lefties only and for an inning or less.  What’s the answer?

We could call Arodys Vizcaino, Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado but I  don’t believe that will happen.  Those young arms – and young is a key word there – are so valuable and the Braves fear slowing their progress as starters or injuring them through over use. Vizcaino is already an often injured young man.  You might see Anthony Varvaro come up or perhaps Jaye Chapman, J.J. Hoover or one of the others we haven’t heard a lot about. In the end however that will not be enough. Even with Moylan returning in a few weeks he may not be back to his old self quickly and we certainly don’t want him re-injuring himself  by using him too much.

As I wrote a few days ago, our post season run needs – along with a versatile right handed bat – an experienced right handed arm like Grant Balfour of the A’s or maybe Tyler Clippard who the Nationals made available this week to replace Proctor who is clearly done.

These are the days when the GM’s earn their money. The decisions they make on which pieces to add for the stretch run will play a big part in making the championship a reality. Who would you like to see?

Next Braves Game View full schedule »
Tuesday, Sep 22 Sep7:10Philadelphia PhilliesBuy Tickets

Tags: Derek Lowe George Sherrill Peter Moylan Scott Proctor

  • MikeJolly

    I agree on the Bullpen. First it was the poor offensive performance that inevitably caused their over use, now its the pitching staff as it strangely struggles out of the gate after the Allstar break. We need another quality reliable arm and we need it fast. (Clippard would be great!)

    We also need a bat. Heyward is just having a poor year, Gonzo sucks SO BAD (we really need to find a SS in the offseason cause his offense sucks – he is basically an automatic out), Schafer is really just not ready yet, and Mclouth is no better that a 4th outfielder. I dont feel comfortable on our offense yet and that extra quality bat feels like a must. It amazes me how our outfeild again continues to be a weakness of this team. Whats that like 4 plus years in a row now?

    You know the Braves were always known for their hot second half. Except past year we faded in the second half. We went from a 7 game advantage to a 6 game deficit. I really hope this year that this inconsistent start to the “second half” isnt a sign of the same thing.

    What moves Wren makes may determine that.

    I shall cross my fingers.

  • MikeJolly

    Just to add…we have gone from 3.5 out, to 2.5 out, to 5 out in a very quick period. Philly is on a roll, and we are not. We are trading body blows and treading water. We seem content on accepting the Wild Card which is really agitating. Whenever you hear the front office or management talk they always say, but we are up such and such in the wild card. I always felt that you aimed for the division every time, and if you didnt make it then hopefully you ended up in the wild card slot. The Braves of old would always go for the division.

  • BobHorton

    @MikeJolly I am with you 100%. Plus, the wild card is not a sure thing. I think the pen is the biggest of two big needs. Bob

  • MikeJolly

    I agree on the Bullpen. First it was the poor offensive performance that inevitably caused their over use, now its the pitching staff as it strangely struggles out of the gate after the Allstar break. We need another quality reliable arm and we need it fast. (Clippard would be great!)

    We also need a bat. Heyward is just having a poor year, Gonzo sucks SO BAD (we really need to find a SS in the offseason cause his offense sucks – he is basically an automatic out), Schafer is really just not ready yet, and Mclouth is no better that a 4th outfielder. I dont feel comfortable on our offense yet and that extra quality bat feels like a must. It amazes me how our outfeild again continues to be a weakness of this team. Whats that like 4 plus years in a row now?

    You know the Braves were always known for their hot second half. Except past year we faded in the second half. We went from a 7 game advantage to a 6 game deficit. I really hope this year that this inconsistent start to the “second half” isnt a sign of the same thing.

    What moves Wren makes may determine that.

    I shall cross my fingers.

  • MikeJolly

    Just to add…we have gone from 3.5 out, to 2.5 out, to 5 out in a very quick period. Philly is on a roll, and we are not. We are trading body blows and treading water. We seem content on accepting the Wild Card which is really agitating. Whenever you hear the front office or management talk they always say, but we are up such and such in the wild card. I always felt that you aimed for the division every time, and if you didnt make it then hopefully you ended up in the wild card slot. The Braves of old would always go for the division.

  • BobHorton

    @MikeJolly I am with you 100%. Plus, the wild card is not a sure thing. I think the pen is the biggest of two big needs. Bob

  • FredOwens

    I agree on Gonzo but sadly all we hear is how great his glove is not how often he Ks in leverage situations. The Free Agent shortstop class is so thin it’s nonexistent. If we upgrade it will have to be a trade as Pastronicky is error prone and shows little improvement over time.

    Our outfield and our offense are directly tied to the signings being made because they were cheap rather than the best deal. When Garrett Anderson was signed instead of Adam Dunn it was a huge mistake. Dunn fields at least as well as the statue of Anderson and inserting his 38-40 homers, 100 RBI and 400 OPS would have made us a playoff team in 09 and maybe more in 10.

    All I hear is how great a job Wren is doing and to give him his due, he is good at stealing minor league pitching prospects as add-ons to trades and signing draft picks. Both of which depend more on scouting than money. His everyday player choices however are based on stealing a deal, finding a miracle rehab project or that one in a million guy everyone else has thrown away but is really great. In short they are awful.

    I REALLY want him to prove me wrong but the Jonny Gomes rumor I wrote about seems to say he’s still looking at cheap parts. Why would the post season seeking Reds trade Gomes who’s been in 70 games for them to a post season rival if he’s a valuable asset? Surely they can’t believe we will give them a quality pitcher for him and we have nothing in the way of quality bats to give. He may even wait for a waiver wire trade and no one of any quality will sneak through that with all the races so tight.

    I’ve waited for him to prove me wrong and make a good deal for an everyday player for 2 years. Sadly, I’m still waiting. . .

    @MikeJolly

  • FredOwens

    I agree on Gonzo but sadly all we hear is how great his glove is not how often he Ks in leverage situations. The Free Agent shortstop class is so thin it’s nonexistent. If we upgrade it will have to be a trade as Pastronicky is error prone and shows little improvement over time.

    Our outfield and our offense are directly tied to the signings being made because they were cheap rather than the best deal. When Garrett Anderson was signed instead of Adam Dunn it was a huge mistake. Dunn fields at least as well as the statue of Anderson and inserting his 38-40 homers, 100 RBI and 400 OPS would have made us a playoff team in 09 and maybe more in 10.

    All I hear is how great a job Wren is doing and to give him his due, he is good at stealing minor league pitching prospects as add-ons to trades and signing draft picks. Both of which depend more on scouting than money. His everyday player choices however are based on stealing a deal, finding a miracle rehab project or that one in a million guy everyone else has thrown away but is really great. In short they are awful.

    I REALLY want him to prove me wrong but the Jonny Gomes rumor I wrote about seems to say he’s still looking at cheap parts. Why would the post season seeking Reds trade Gomes who’s been in 70 games for them to a post season rival if he’s a valuable asset? Surely they can’t believe we will give them a quality pitcher for him and we have nothing in the way of quality bats to give. He may even wait for a waiver wire trade and no one of any quality will sneak through that with all the races so tight.

    I’ve waited for him to prove me wrong and make a good deal for an everyday player for 2 years. Sadly, I’m still waiting. . .

    @MikeJolly