Last night’s contest was an interesting matchup on paper – with Jose Fernandez and Alex Wood pitching – but it was one of those rare events that turned out better than advertised.
There were a ton of ‘first-evers’ and ‘best-evers’ in that game. ESPN Stats & Info chronicled many of them here. The combined 28 strikeouts without a walk is impressive enough. But the fact that both starters are so young (21 and 23) just multiplies the respect each starter has already earned.
A few more things struck me after last night:
- Lack of a plan? The first Braves batter of the game, Jason Heyward, worked Fernandez for 8 pitches until he took an outside slider and dumped it into left field for a hit. Great at bat. At that point, I’m thinking “Okay – great: they have a plan to attack this guy with.” That thought was erased as quickly as you could say “6-4-3.”
True, other hitters did manage to get deeper into counts, but in the middle innings, that was the exception. Admittedly, once it became apparent that Fernandez was really on his game, it became the Unstoppable Force vs. the (highly) Movable Object, as Braves’ hitters fell victim to the strikeout. Repeatedly.
- At one point, I tweeted out the following:
Starting to think #Braves oughta stop all pretense and just try to hit everything out. No way they’ll string together multiple hits tonight.
— Carpe Bravos (@carpengui) April 23, 2014
- Facing Fernandez seemed to be like facing Craig Kimbrel for 8 innings: 96 mph heater and a killer slider. Oh, and just for fun, he also had a knee-buckling curve.
- Simmons rose to the occasion. Not talking about his infield single here… instead, he avoided being a strikeout victim. He still only has two for the year.
- While I’m at it, explain how Simba and Wood were the ONLY starting-lineup hitters that didn’t strikeout?
- I was taking note of the differences between two supremely talented players – Jose Fernandez and Carlos Gomez, both of whom have seen the wrath of Brian McCann in recent months. One of them seems to learn from his errors and overcome them – a maturation that will help him a ton in the future. The other? Still exhibiting the same brashness that got under McCann’s skin a year ago.
- For all of the lack of hitting, Alex Wood was the victim of one hitter taking advantage of what was given to him. Casey McGehee’s RBI single in the fourth inning wasn’t a thing of beauty. It was a “worm-burner”. A “19 hopper” that squirted through the infield. Why? Because the Braves had aligned their defense with the expectation that MeGehee would pull the ball. The pitch he hit was perfect: a low-middle-in fastball at 90 mph that normally would be rapped to short. But McGehee knew there was a big hole on the right side of the field and “inside-outed” his swing to send it that direction. With normal positioning, it’s a routine groundout. Not last night.
- The Braves could certainly have used more of that kind of effort from their hitters. Heyward went oppo; so did Chris Johnson. That was it.
- Time of Game: 2 hours, 8 minutes. Grip it, toe it, pitch it. Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night! That’s the way baseball should be paced.
This game is exactly that type that frustrates Braves fans in the post-season: seemingly unable or unwilling to discipline themselves to mount a successful campaign against an Ace pitcher (yes, I feel safe in referring to Fernandez in that manner). There’s one team in which Atlanta seems to have overcome that aura: Washington. But Fernandez and his fellow Marlins – they have more pitching on the way – are going to be around for a while. You don’t expect to blow out guys like this, but you need to find a way to beat them when you’re playing them a bunch every year.
Including next week. Yes, we’re gonna re-rack it for another go next Tuesday!
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Tags: Atlanta Braves