Lifeless Uninspired Braves Lose to Nationals

Today’s loss by the Braves (made worse by Carlos Marmol forgetting what the strike zone was in St. Louis) shouldn’t surprise anyone. The offense has been boom or bust all year and in close games recently, mostly bust. They look excited about the game only when they have a big lead and have strung a bunch of hits together and are already winning. That hasn’t happened that often this season.

Today Brandon Beachy continued to be the worst Braves starter in the last month not named Derek Lowe. In his six innings today Beachy allowed four runs on five hits, walked four, threw two wild pitches and struck out nine. His 108 pitches included 65 strikes.Three of his walks eventually scored. He was easily as bad as Derek Lowe has been of late yet I heard  no one calling for his head. I’m not either I just find it odd.  It would be easy to blame everything on Beachy; easy but completely incorrect.

The lineup was uninspiring and impotent, managing only six hits and going 0-1 with RISP. That we only got one runner in scoring position through nine innings is sad commentary on a team seeking a post season birth. Our run came from Freddie Freeman’s 21st homer of the year. But solo home runs seldom disturb a pitcher who has four runs in one pocket and the opposition lineup in the other and Wang owned the Braves today.

Fredi Gonzales told David O’Brien over at the AJC They did a nice job keeping us off-balance, Wang and [the bullpen] . . .

What did the Braves do to knock him off balance Skipper?

When a pitcher has you down it used to be that players tried to do things to shake him off their back. Step out on him to break up his rhythm perhaps, move up in the box and get that sinker before the bottom falls out of it, hit and run or bunt for a hit. We didn’t do that today and haven’t all year. It has to be frustrating for a pitcher who isn’t having a good day anyway when his team gets a man on first and immediately starts swinging for the fences instead of playing catch up one run at a time.

Not once did I see Bourn try to bunt for a hit nor did I see any attempt to hit and run or hit behind the runner. Instead we did what Wang wanted, swung as hard as they could and popped up that sinker or beat it harmlessly into the ground. When Brian McCann attempted a steal of second I was shocked and commented that it was not a smart play. Looking back it may well have been his way of trying to fire his teammates up. I still think it wasn’t the right time or way but at least in retrospect I understand a little what he may have been doing.

Aside from leaving runners on first and a long fly ball from Heyward that brought a great catch from Rick Ankiel, the Braves never looked like causing trouble until the bottom of the eighth.

Brooks Conrad walked and Michael Bourn followed with a single putting runners on the corners with one out. Bourn was thrown out trying to steal second and Conrad stayed at third like a statute instead of forcing an error prone defense to make a throw.  When Bourn was called out on an obviously blown call the Skipper sat in the dugout chewing his gum instead of running out there to defend his player and take a bite out of that umpire. The call wouldn’t have changed but the team and the fans would have at least seen a sign that he know a wrong had been done and was going to let his feelings be known.

Maybe he would have been tossed out; Bobby Cox would have but that’s beside the point. So what if he is tossed? He wasn’t doing anything that changed the game anyway.  Later Skipper Gonzalez said he gave Bourn the okay to steal to try and spark the offense. He should have tried to spark it earlier than the bottom of the eighth in my opinion. Having waited that long however and with the post season on the line, why not go get your money’s worth on that bad call as a way of firing them up instead of quietly chewing gum?

Throughout the year our fundamentals – specifically moving runners into scoring position once they get on base – have failed us. That happened again today.

Beachy was unable to bunt Wilson to second when he singled.  Chipper was left at first in the fourth after his one out single and Uggla watched from first after walking in the seventh while McCann and Wilson failed to advance him. failing to do the fundamentals correctly falls on the hitting coach and the manager. Larry Parrish has been a disaster and needs to find other work next year, perhaps somewhere they still think waiting for the three run homer wins games is the right approach.

Throughout the game the Braves bench were as flat and lifeless a bunch as I’ve seen actively trying for a post season spot. They looked more like the Cubs at St. Louis, quietly sitting on the bench, waiting for it to be over and uninvolved in the game; waiting for something to happen instead of making something happen. One thing that I learned early on in management is that perception is truth.

If the fans don’t see how much a player cares it makes no difference how much internal angst just he endures, they still won’t believe he’s invested in the result. I’m not talking about sulking or throwing batting helmets and beating up water coolers, that just silly. They want to see you leave it all on the field, up on the dugout rail when the chips are down and picking teammates up when they are down.

Keeping an even keel, not getting too high or to low, is a great philosophy for sanity but it doesn’t impress the public. There are times however when you have to show people that you care. That time has to be chosen correctly and carried out appropriately of course. The right time is when the umpire blows it and everyone in the park knows it. Like today with Bourn at second base. I’ve watched all year and my recollections of Fredi Gonzalez taking on the umpires is that almost every time he argued I thought the umpires had the call right to begin with and that having decided to make a point he never raised a sufficient amount of ire for the team or the fans to get fired up and get back in the game.

Tomorrow is another day – of the four we have left – and I don’t expect our team approach to change. I do hope that, as I was told by Twitter follower, they do care enough to be ashamed of their play when the chips are down. I hope they get mad enough to take the considerable frustration I want them to feel right now and I know their fans feel and bludgeon the Nationals with it. I want that anger and frustrations to carry forward into the Philly series and drag a victory out of the game on Monday.

The magic number is still 3 and the Cardinals are two games back with four to play. We need to stop waiting on help from the hapless Cubs and the hopeless Astros and win this thing ourselves.

Tags: Brandon Beachy Brian Mccann Chien-Ming Wang Freddie Freeman

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