The Braves: Watching the scoreboard, then winning a big one

The man to have pitching when you need to win. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The man of the evening. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

A strange race got downright bizarre this week. The Braves lost three times in Colorado and wasted a nine-run lead in the finale. The Phillies, with all their big names back from the disabled list, got swept at home by sub-.500 Houston, and the presumably bolstered Phils managed a total of seven runs in the four games.

As of Friday morning, the Braves were in the odd position of having not won since Sunday … and still padding their division lead by a half-game. Things changed Friday night.

The Braves trailed the Marlins 2-0 after two batters and lost 7-1. Tommy Hanson yielded four solo homers on the night before his 24th birthday. The Phillies managed their new allotment of two-runs-in-regulation and were one strike from victory in San Diego, whereupon Brad Lidge balked home the tying run. (”A bizarre thing,” Lidge told reporters afterward, fully in the schizo swing of this chase.)

To their credit, the Phillies won in 12 innings, Jimmy Rollins sliding around Yorvit Torrealba to score the finally decisive run. And thus did the Braves, for the first time in two weeks, watch their lead shrink.

It stood at two games when they reported for work Saturday. The Phillies were again playing in San Diego, their game starting at 4 p.m. EDT. The Braves would face the Fish three hours later. This seemed a propitious moment to ask the staple question of every pennant race: Do you guys watch the scoreboard?

Jason Heyward said he doesn’t, and indeed, the ambiance in the Braves’ clubhouse suggested that the local nine wasn’t overly concerned with the Phillies. Of the four big-screen TVs mounted in the center of the team’s dressing quarters, three were tuned to an ESPN show involved the New Orleans Saints. The fourth carried a Babe Ruth game — meaning the league for teenagers, not the Bambino himself — being aired on MLB.TV.

“You know what’s going on,” said Brian McCann, speaking of the Phillies. “At the same time, you’ve still got to take care of your business.”

Asked how it felt to lose three straight and gain a half-game, McCann smiled. “It’s been weird for a while. We’d win and they’d win. We’d lose and they’d lose.”

But Saturday was another day at the races, and it had begun in peculiar fashion. The Phillies didn’t manage a hit against the Padres’ Jon Garland over four innings. Then they mustered a hit batsman, a ground out and an actual single to take a 1-0 lead in the fifth.

This correspondent, speaking as he was to McCann about doings involving the Phils, felt duty-bound to pass along this update. “They’re up 1-0 today,” I said.

McCann brightened. “It’s 1-1 now. Garland got a hit.”

Which tells us that, somewhere beyond the areas of a clubhouse where we media types can go, there was a TV tuned to the Fox broadcast of the Phillies-Padres game. Which tells us also that some Braves were lingering around it.

By the time the Braves got started, the Phillies were done. They won 3-1, reducing their deficit by another half-game. And with Josh Johnson set to face Derek Lowe here Sunday, Saturday night’s game seemed of some significance. Luckily enough, the Braves dispatched Tim Hudson. Being Tim Hudson, he hooked the Marlins.

Thirteen strikeouts in seven innings for Hudson, of whom Bobby Cox said: “He’s the guy who reminded us of [Tom] Glavine and [Greg] Maddux and Smoltzie [John Smoltz].”

The Braves won laughing. Martin Prado drove in five runs. McCann cleared the bases with a double. Matt Diaz hit an actual home run off an actual righthander. After a week in which not much worked, everything worked. Baseball is a funny game.

“This was a big win for us,” Hudson said. “We’d hit a little skid there.”

And then, answering the question of the night, Hudson offered this: “We knew Philly had won today.”

553 comments Add your comment

mmgtfan

August 28th, 2010
6:18 pm

GTMustang

August 28th, 2010
6:19 pm

GTMustang

August 28th, 2010
6:19 pm

Well at least GT was first in this blog…right Mark?

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:20 pm

mmgtfan pads another division lead. He has been first I’m betting seven times. Kudos.

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:20 pm

GTMustang, I don’t know how to tell you this …

Trae Miller

August 28th, 2010
6:22 pm

whats score Mark>?

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:27 pm

Here it’s 0-0. We don’t start for another half-hour.

jey hey

August 28th, 2010
6:30 pm

Huddy, Please shave the beard, we to stop the streak.

heywood...

August 28th, 2010
6:31 pm

go braves. a day on the lake, followed by reading bradley and
then watching my favorite mlb team w/a cold beverage or 12. life is good!
thanks mark. looking forward to the next 3 or so hours on the ajc.

TNBravesFan

August 28th, 2010
6:33 pm

It seemed like Wednesday’s loss to Colorado was still lingering over the Braves last night. Did they seem different in the clubhouse today? I’m hoping last night put a little chip on their shoulder to give them the drive that they had earlier in the season.

Tommy Hanson overrated

August 28th, 2010
6:33 pm

Oh man, I’m getting tired of him. Frank Wren overrated this guy so much, it’s not even funny. The guy can’t throw a curveball below the belt to save his life. He needs to talk to Mike Minor about adjustments!
The Braves are killing themselves with terrible pitching and terrible defense. I still can’t believe Jurrjens wet the bed with a 10-1 lead, even worse that Bobby Cox threw grease on the fire by bringing in Kyle Farnsworth.
And Freddie Freeman isn’t taking this team to the playoffs. We have 3 first basemen already. Lee, Hinske and Glaus. If he were so great in the first place, he would’ve made the team like Heyward did. Doesn’t Barbaro have a higher average and less strikeouts at Gwinnett?

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:34 pm

Wow, heywood … That’s awfully nice of you. We’ll try not to disappoint.

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:35 pm

The Braves seemed fine to me, TNBravesFan. Baseball guys tend not to linger over anything. They play too many games to let one affect the next.

NCBravesFan

August 28th, 2010
6:44 pm

About to go see Takers at the movies – maybe the Braves will win if I’m not watching! Have fun folks!

Darryl Blackberry

August 28th, 2010
6:44 pm

TGITH. If not for Huddy, who knows how many prolonged losing skids the Braves would’ve endured this season? I hate to say it, but he’s the only Atlanta starter in whom I have full confidence. The rest of them have been so hit-or-miss of late (erm, pun intended).

heywood...

August 28th, 2010
6:45 pm

since the game is yet to start, mark, what exactly is up w/the number
of arrests at uga this summer? i mean, in the law of averages, doesn’t it
stand to reason that the braves should have had approximately
2.3529411 arrests?? but they don’t. can u elaborate. (but only before
first pitch) thanks.

wallypip

August 28th, 2010
6:45 pm

Phils on the verge of dispatching the Pads, up by 2. But it is Lidge, so there’s always hope.

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:46 pm

Been a while since a big-league Brave got arrested. I recall Rafael Furcal having a legal issue in 2004.

My old Kentucky home.....

August 28th, 2010
6:51 pm

I just got back from Publix and I’m reading the College preview section for Sundays AJC….good stuff MB…..I’m gonna put it next to my john and read it for a month…. (that is a compliment…)

wallypip

August 28th, 2010
6:53 pm

Phils win, 3-1.

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:54 pm

Thanks, My old Kentucky home …

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
6:54 pm

And the Phillies have prevailed. So it would be beneficial to the Braves’ cause if they follow suit.

Also Ashley

August 28th, 2010
6:55 pm

Phillies won.
:(

Darryl Blackberry

August 28th, 2010
6:56 pm

Some horrendous umpiring from Laz Diaz in that Pads-Phils game. Don’t recall seeing so many botched calls in a single season. Seems like it all started in the postseason last year with that blown call down the line in the big game between the Twins and Yanks.

Bob Horner could pull anybodys fastball

August 28th, 2010
6:59 pm

Phillies won…and we HAVE to win…tonights game is HUGE….anybody agree..??

stepa

August 28th, 2010
6:59 pm

I’m from Croatia and I don’t understand very well baseball but I like betting on that america’s beloved sport.

Atlanta lost 8 or 9 in a row on april… I asked myself how it was possible and can Braves repeat that losing streak?

wallypip

August 28th, 2010
7:01 pm

Hope the Braves are aggressive tonight. They seem to look at A LOT of hittable pitches.

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
7:02 pm

I can’t see the Braves losing nine in a row again, stepa. Although they’re 44 percent of the way there.

Mitchell

August 28th, 2010
7:02 pm

Here’s a question:

What happened to the Phillies going to the west coast and dropping a bunch of games?

Did somebody not get the memo?

Of course, they are playing the Padres who I still have a hard time believing are as good as their record indicates. They did lose 4 of 6 from us.

And we suck.

Andy

August 28th, 2010
7:04 pm

I usually tend to agree with folks who say that baseball is a long season and there are no big games until the end of the season but I will go out on a limb and say this is a pretty big game for the Braves. The Phils have rebounded from their poor play by taking two games from the team with the best record in the NL and the Braves have their ace on the hill tonight. If they don’t win they are looking at a one game lead and taking on Josh Johnson tomorrow. Not a good situation.

Bob Horner could pull anybodys fastball

August 28th, 2010
7:04 pm

@ stepa…you are a bad man….and hopefully WRONG….but I’m not sure I’m all confused….this Braves team is hard to figure..!!!

Mitchell

August 28th, 2010
7:05 pm

This is probably one of those games where it would be really good if we actually won.

I can’t remember what you call those. If only I could ask Bobby Cox.

A game that you need to win… a want to win game? I doubt Bobby would know either.

Earl

August 28th, 2010
7:10 pm

Enter your comments here

Darryl Blackberry

August 28th, 2010
7:11 pm

It’s not a must-win situation, but it’s definitely a must-not-lose kinda thing for the Braves.

heywood...

August 28th, 2010
7:14 pm

coach todd grantham hasn’t been heard from,
but his absence is welcomed by some.
but it’s never too late,
for him to join a little late,
and his limericks wouldn’t be this dumb.

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
7:14 pm

Career strikeout No. 1,500 for Hudson. Who is, as you’ve noted, clean-shaven.

Earl

August 28th, 2010
7:15 pm

All games are important now, but I dare say that the tension is nothing compared to what it will be during the first 3 games in October against the Phils. 6 games remaining with the Phillies and each one represents a two game swing one way or the other.

I do say the first 3 games as opposed to the last 3 games of the season.

Earl

August 28th, 2010
7:18 pm

Maybe to break the loosing streak huh? Hope it works.

heywood...

August 28th, 2010
7:18 pm

i know, i know…the game has started. but, since its between innings,
let me just say that matthew staffords QB rating was 120 tonite.

Darryl Blackberry

August 28th, 2010
7:18 pm

Shave and a haircut, one hit.

todd grantham

August 28th, 2010
7:19 pm

Mark, have you forgotten all the times during last football season i crossed the blog finish line first?

Earl

August 28th, 2010
7:20 pm

todd grantham

August 28th, 2010
7:20 pm

thanks heywood. i’m tanned, rested and ready.

best, todd

todd grantham

August 28th, 2010
7:22 pm

well, the phillies won today
there’s not much more to say
it makes me sad
and somewhat mad
this is slipping in bob’s last hooray

todd grantham

August 28th, 2010
7:24 pm

Mark, the only possible source of a Braves victory tonight is your live blog.

what is the record now?

heywood...

August 28th, 2010
7:25 pm

it’s almost as if heywood.., i mean heyward, wanted 2 strikes so he didn’t
have to bunt anymore.

todd grantham

August 28th, 2010
7:26 pm

ajc blog software appears to be down

Mark Bradley

August 28th, 2010
7:27 pm

I believe I’ve covered something like 22 games this season, and I remember the Braves losing five.

todd grantham

August 28th, 2010
7:28 pm

the way the home plate ump sets up there’s no way he can correctly judge a ball/strike on the outside corner.

Darryl Blackberry

August 28th, 2010
7:28 pm

Uh-oh, The Curse of the RISP. A dreadful, oft-told tale.