Chipper Jones was right about the lineup
Can’t say we weren’t warned. We had a lot of fun watching the Braves lineup beat up on Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay but it wasn’t so sweet seeing Cliff Lee pick them apart. Last night Carlos Villanueva (who?) did the same thing for six innings only to have his bullpen surrender his fine pitching performance to the thunder in the Braves lineup.
A Quick Game Summary
Cubs went ahead early as Julio Teheran struggled with control and consistency. Jason Heyward uncharacteristically misplayed a fly ball that was scored a hit but was clearly an error. That David DeJesus double scored the Cubs first run. Justin Upton answered with a homer in the bottom of the first but by the time Teheran was done with his five innings the Cubs led 5-1. Cristhian Martinez came in and steadied the ship for two innings following Teheran. He was followed by Anthony Vavaro for 1 1/3 innings. Varvaro left with the bases loaded and one out but was saved by Cory Gearrin who induced a shallow fly ball to center then racked up a strikeout to end the eighth.
In the bottom of the eighth the Braves were jolted into life by aggressive base running from Justin Upton making a single into a double. Freddie Freeman followed with a single scoring Upton then Dan Uggla beat a really silly shift by singling into right. Juan Francisco looked anxious to flex his muscles as he struck on a very high fast ball but Gerald Laird walked and Ramiro Pena doubled Freeman and Uggla home. Reed Johnson was jammed and popped up to Starlin castor to end the inning.
For reasons known only to him, Dale Sveum brought on Carlos Marmol to close the game. Marmol got behind BJ Upton then teed up a fastball down the middle and Upton buggy whipped it out to dead center. Jason Heyward hit a fly ball to left for the first out then Upton the younger flexed his muscles again and hit his second homer of he night to center. Here’s the video of the homers just in case you missed them.
This is the sixth time brothers have homered in the same inning, the last time was in 1996 by Cal Ripken and brother Billy. Dave O”Brien of the AJC reported that this is the first time one brother has tied a game and another brother won it with homers in the same inning.
— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves) April 7, 2013
Lineup Uptons and Downs (and More)
Justin Upton has been exactly as advertised, a stud number three hitter with a short powerful swing that drives good pitches a long way. His four home runs and six RBI in the first four games tied Fred McGriff for the Braves record and of course the two homers tonight made him sole owner. Brother BJ Upton had a rough week however. Before tonight he was hitless and his first hit tonight was a Baltimore chop that Castro couldn’t get handle on. He also had one walk, one stolen base and one caught stealing and nine strikeouts. He was booed on early Saturday . . .yes booed after five just games. . .in Atlanta. . .by Braves fans. Until the bottom of the ninth and Marmol.
Freddie Freeman continues to be an RBI machine, his work Saturday gave him seven RBI and one homer. The eighth inning single last night also saw him grabbing his side after getting to first base. I hope that was just a twinge and not an indication of an oblique injury.
Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis have also gone deep and Juan Francisco has three RBI. Speaking of Gattis he’s been a hot hitter and played well behind the plate throwing out a base runner on Friday night.He didn’t play on Saturday because Julio Teheran prefers throwing to Gerald Laird but he will get a lot of playing time He poses an interesting challenge for Frank Wren and company when Brian McCann is ready to return. These were fun.
Dan Uggla’s homer is one of only three hits for him so far including that satisfying opposite field single against that ridiculous shift. Laird joined the hit parade Saturday managing two hits and a walk. The fans love Gattis and miss David Ross but Laird, who had a stinker his first game, played well last night.
Andrelton Simmons had three hits in his 17 at bats and then sprained his thumb on a head first slide into second and will miss a few games as a result. In July last year just as Simmons was heating up a head first slide resulted in a broken finger and cost him six week and undoubtedly the Braves a few victories. Skipper Fredi Gonzalez was asked on Thursday if he cringed when Simmons slid head first. He said yes but “ what are you going to do? You can’t shrink-wrap him.” Well no Skip, but perhaps you could tell him that he’s far to valuable to lose because of a slide like that. You could point out the horrible Robbie Alomar or even the Jason Heyward injury that made 2011 a lost season for him and the Braves. You could suggest that perhaps he should slide the old fashioned way; you know, feet first. Or perhaps he could hold his gloves in his hands to remind him not to stick his hand and fingers out like that. He might have been out at second on Friday but he would have been playing Saturday and Sunday. You know Skip, manage your team instead of sitting by watching them do things like that. Okay, rant over. . .for now.
This is mostly about the hitting portion of the lineup but the pitchers have been roller coaster like as well. Tim Hudson started strong but needed help early. Paul Maholm threw a gem as did Mike Minor. Kris Medlen kept the Braves in his game even though his control was all over the place and Julio Teheran look good early but struggled through five innings with inconsistent control and hanging curve balls. We’ve been expecting Teheran for so long we sometimes forget just how young he is and hard how it is to pitch in the major leagues. He’ll grow into it and the fans need to let him.
The bullpen has been pretty good. It’s early and there was some rust from Martinez and Jordan Walden though Martinez looked better Saturday night in his two innings. Anthony Vavaro has been better than last season and Cory Gearrin seems to have finally arrived. The only worry is the Jonny Venters elbow.
That’s a Wrap
Tonight was one of the ugly games until the bottom of the eighth and Marmol teeing up Upton the elder in the ninth. Hopefully we’ll see more of the same tomorrow and sweep the Cubs as we prepare for the abomination that is interleague play. We need Freeman’s oblique to be pain free and Simmons hand to heal quickly because in spite of the ninth inning tonight I really don’t want BJ Upton leading off. The season’s just getting underway and the Cubs are not a great team. For seven innings tonight however they played better baseball and we really have to keep games like that to a minimum against such opposition. We have to beat teams like the Cubs, Mets and Marlins if we want to be a post season team. If they take a game from us we must make then earn it from start to finish.