A long losing night tests the Braves’ nerve but does no harm

Chipper Jones after a collision. He says he's OK. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Chipper Jones after a collision. He says he's OK. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

About here, you’re doubtless thinking that nothing good could have come from a game in which the Braves worked four hours and 18 minutes to go 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position and lose to a last-place team at a time when it would have behooved them to win. And here’s where I say, “Wrong again, O Skeptical Ones.”

Good things that came from Monday’s twisty tilt: The Braves lost no ground, nobody else got hurt and the excruciating game finally ended.

Said Brandon Beachy, the first of eight pitchers deployed in this 12-inning extravaganza: “When we tied the game, I thought for sure we’d win.”

They could’ve and should’ve. But they didn’t. The Braves’ best player twice failed with the winning run in scoring position. (”I’ve got to do something there,” Brian McCann said. “I put together two horrible at-bats. That was the outcome of the game.”) Carrying the winning run, the Braves’ fastest runner didn’t try to score from third on a pitch that hit the backstop. (”I thought [McCann] foul-tipped it and I leaned backward,” Michael Bourn said. “If I had gone, I think I’d have been out.”)

Alex Gonzalez drove in two runs but took the Great Circle Route under a pop fly that led to the Marlins’ third and fourth runs. Arodys Vizcaino let in that fourth on a wild pitch. Three Braves — Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla and Eric O’Flaherty — watched benignly as a sacrifice bunt became a base hit.

Were these signs of a team that’s trying its hardest to choke away a bountiful season? Let’s give the Braves the benefit of the doubt and say it was simply one of those strange games that baseball spawns on occasion and nothing more dire than that. “You keep telling guys, ‘It’s not the end of the world,’ ” Fredi Gonzalez said, and as it happened this losing night wasn’t even the end of the Braves’ 4 1/2-game lead in the wild-card chase. The Cardinals wasted a late lead and lost in Pittsburgh. Whew.

It wasn’t as if the Braves lacked for chances. “We had 13 hits [actually 14],” Bourn said. “Eventually that’s going to break through.”

St. Louis has crept closer than it should have, but it isn’t as if the Braves could fall out of the wild-card lead tomorrow or the next day or even the next. They’re 4 1/2 up with 14 to play. Their next 11 games are against teams with losing records. They aren’t playing well, but they still should qualify for October, and once you’re in everybody, as the saying goes, starts 0-0.

It would have been nice if the Braves could have pushed their advantage back to 5 1/2 games, but time is on their side. If they go 7-7, the Cardinals would have to go 12-3 to shade them. (And the Cards play the Phillies, who’ll be looking to clinch the East, over the weekend.)

Monday night wasn’t the highlight of the 2011 Braves’ season, but let’s not make too much of it. Another day is gone and the Cardinals are no closer. That’s a victory of sorts. But it would, I’ll concede, help if the Braves manage a few real victories soon. Win the next four or five and that should be that.

By Mark Bradley

127 comments Add your comment

Brave-less

September 13th, 2011
12:48 am

“The Braves lost no ground”

well I didn’t know they eliminated the Giants already but … yay I guess, one less team to worry about?????

joliet jim

September 13th, 2011
12:49 am

was i first?lol

iTiSi

September 13th, 2011
12:50 am

Look up the words “eternal optimist” in the dictionary and you will see MB’s picture. He says, “If the Braves go 7-7, the Cardinals would have to go 12-3 to shade them. (And the Cards play the Phillies, who’ll be looking to clinch the East, over the weekend.)” What he fails to point out is the fact that if there is only a 3 or 4 game difference, that the Cards last 6 games are against the Cubs and the Astros,(how much easier could it be?) and the Braves last 6 are vs Washington and Philadelphia. We all know what the Nationals do to Atlanta, and the Phils would love to sweep the Braves again at the end of the year and knock them out completely. Reality is what it is !!!!!!!!!!!! I’m not one to say I told you so, but I did inform ye thusly!!!!

Frumpy

September 13th, 2011
12:50 am

I agree we would have to stuff this up to not make the playoffs but it would still be nice to win once in a while and show signs of the pitching and bats coming around. Both have been putrid for a while now.

Columbus

September 13th, 2011
1:00 am

HEY DAWG FANS:

THAT THERE IS A FACEBOOK PAGE IN SUPPORT OF OUR COACH. THE NAME IS:

KEEP MARK RICHT

It has been posted in several media outlets that the MAJORITY of UGA fans still support Mark Richt. Not suprisingly, you have not read this ON AJC. Check the Augusta Chronicle or Online Athens to verify what I say.

Also NOT surprising is and I could have told you this a YEAR AGO, is that the fans that want Richt to go the most are the YOUNGEST fans and even 55% of them STILL SUPPORT RICHT!

So what we have is primarily young, internet savvy and on the internet constantly, young, immature and ignorant fans that are pushing to get our coach fired!

Now, most all of us fans that are not ignorant or not old, know what we have in Richt and we know that there are going to be down years. We went almost 20 years since 1982 before Richt brought us an SEC Championship! Thes young fans get a couple and now they cant handle a losing season! Try 20 seasons without an SEC Championship you little twits!

SO…..I want to tell all of you intelligent or not wet-behind the ears teenage and fans under 25 who are on the internet doing things you would not do if you were not ignorant or been around awhile….

THAT THERE IS A FACEBOOK PAGE IN SUPPORT OF OUR COACH. ITS NAME IS:

KEEP MARK RICHT

Lets fight to keep our coach for us and for these young fans who simply do not know what they are doing…..

Oh Brother

September 13th, 2011
1:03 am

Cardinals deserve it more…Braves are trying to limp in again. Rather see a team that is playing well and has a chance…that is NOT the Braves.

Brave-less

September 13th, 2011
1:06 am

“Their next 11 games are against teams with losing records”

didn’t work out so great against LA two weeks ago, hasn’t really worked out against the Nats all season. Mets aren’t push overs, past couple of series if the Mets weren’t blowing the Braves out they were playing close 1-2 run games. They were playing the Marlins good but these days one can only guess at how these final 5 will go.

Best case scenario is they lose their lead but manage to gain it back and barely get in

bob hopeless

September 13th, 2011
1:23 am

umm watch out before the damn giants sneak back into the race

Fire Larry Parrish

September 13th, 2011
1:29 am

This was not one of those screwy games. They went 3-for-20 with RISP. They failed in 17 opportunities to drive in runs.

They allowed two runs to score on a walk, a missed pop-up, a hit, and a wild pitch. Yesterday, Hudson let 5 runs score on just 2 hits.

This team is in the freezer with no signs of getting hot. Their only hope is that the Cardinals fade.

IlliniBrave

September 13th, 2011
1:31 am

MB: why so sanguine about the Bravos and so downright depressing about the Dawgs? It looks to me like one team is grossly underperforming their expectations and the other is doing just about what folks thought they would. And yet you are calling for Richt’s head – why not Fredi’s? Seems to me like the Braves are worthy of far more criticism than UGA. My bet: the Braves blow it and the better team – Cards – squeak in, while CMR’s Dawgs go 8-2 the rest of the way and make a mid-level bowl.

Fire Larry Parrish

September 13th, 2011
1:34 am

This was NOT a screwy game. The Braves had every chance to win this one. They went 3-for-20 with RISP. That means they *FAILED 17 TIMES* to drive in a runner. They got the lead-off man on in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th inning. Nothing.

The Braves are in the freezer with no signs of emerging. Their only hope is that the Cardinals fade.

Oh, and by the way, the Giants are only 6.5 back now…

Mitchell

September 13th, 2011
1:47 am

3-2-1… FIRE LARRY PARRISH!!!

Olin

September 13th, 2011
1:59 am

So what they *FAILED 17 TIMES* to drive in a runner. I still lov’em, the Braves will always be my favorite team ever.

clay

September 13th, 2011
2:11 am

This is the beauty of baseball. This is exactly why it was so good to build a 9.5 game lead at one point. We all knew that at some point they would go back into a slump. They will get back out of it and head into the playoffs with a little bit of steam. We got this.

Undocorkscrew

September 13th, 2011
2:14 am

Some of you are overreacting. Is the team playing like garbage? Absolutely. Are they capable of much better than this? Absolutely…..

Just going by projections, the Braves have around a 95% chance of making the playoffs. I know they’re struggling, but it’s not like they’ve been completely dominated on the field. A lot of these games were pretty close. We know they aren’t this bad and they’re still very much in the drivers seat. They really do need to win one of these next two though….

TheAntiMe

September 13th, 2011
2:23 am

THAT THERE IS A FACEBOOK PAGE IN SUPPORT. THE NAME IS:

KEEP MARK

Of course we’re going to keep Mark Bradley He’s the only one we got.

Heath

September 13th, 2011
2:30 am

Trolls who hit baseball blogs trying to garner support for a football coach that the game has passed by make me want them to fire said coach.

Hit ‘em where they ain’t, Braves.

Dr. Warren

September 13th, 2011
3:46 am

Braves still have a 95% chance to make the playoffs. After their first game, would anyone say the Falcons have a 95% chance to make the playoffs? 85%? 75%? 6-…

TheAntiMe

September 13th, 2011
3:54 am

The Braves have lost a bit off of their once huge WC lead but it’s good to be ahead at this time of year since all you really have to do is hold serve and you still gain ground by virtue of the fact that another game has melted from the schedule for the pursuing teams. (Wow, that was a long sentence, wasn’t it?)

Stinger2

September 13th, 2011
4:37 am

The 3 for 20 stat on RISP is terrile and is getting worse. Not a new problem for the Braves this year. However, they are giving the Boston Red Sox a good race to see which team can blow a huge WC lead first. Although the Red Sox are leading now ( lead down to only 3 games over Tampa Bay) don`t count the Braves out they way they are choking.

P B Orr

September 13th, 2011
5:38 am

The truth is, Fredi G is a horrible game manager, and probably an outright bad manager. The Marlins fired him for a reason. The Braves this years have swooned in the 2nd half just like the Marlins did before. (To be fair, this year they swooned in both halves.) He’s too emotional, the wrong kind of emotion – hysteria – rests players who don’t need rest, puts out competitive fires, in general completely destroys the team’s rhythm – there is absolutely no consistency other than lack of consistency. We’re in for a long dark run – but is may no matter, because baseball will be dead in 10 years anyway.

Go back to bed

September 13th, 2011
6:05 am

Baseball will be dead in 10 years anyway. P B Orr you were doing alright until you said that. I agree with your comments about FG, (over 100 different lineups used already) but the grand old game will be around when you and I are long gone.
Prado is over rated, he should have caught the ball Gonzalez misplayed last night, and the book is out on him when he is at bat.
Please get Brian McCann’s dad to come visit, he is lost at bat and there is no one in the organization that can get him straightened out.

pitching, pitching, pitching

September 13th, 2011
6:13 am

Woulda, shoulda, coulda…but don’t.
The long, agonizing trip to the beach in October continues.
Perhaps if no one goes to games, no one watches on TV, Liberty media will sell the team to an Atlantan who still has money – not one of the Home Depot twins – if there are any left.
Braves simply don’t have the players to finish games or the season.
Same old, same old – get behind early, claw your way back and then fail with RISP..over and over again.
A bad, bad dream.

Willy

September 13th, 2011
6:17 am

If the Braves go 3-12 the rest of the way the Cardinals only have to go 7-7 to catch them! (The Braves are 2-7 in their last nine).

tony

September 13th, 2011
6:23 am

If the Braves want to get back to the world series they need to find away to sign Tim Lincecum -P and Justin Upton-RF. If not, remain SUBPAR!

TheAntiMe

September 13th, 2011
7:06 am

If the Braves want to get back to the world series they need to find away to sign Tim Lincecum -P and Justin Upton-RF. If not, remain SUBPAR!

Sure, dude, while they’re at it they should sign C.C. Sabathia, Ryan Braun, Joey Votto, and Cliff Lee.

Don

September 13th, 2011
7:12 am

P B Orr is right on. The good ole boy network is still alive in the Braves organization. Frank, Bobby and Freddi……..

bkinkennesaw

September 13th, 2011
7:30 am

Didn’t want to be a Freddi hater, but how do you have two on and nobody out late in the game and let Freeman swing away. Bunt. It is basic baseball. And for crying out loud, put Constanza back in there. Heyward is still lost.

up north

September 13th, 2011
7:34 am

It does not matter if they make it to the playoffs with the way they play. They won’t last long there. Sure, they have earned the spot where they are; but, are they a good enough team to even make it through the first round? Not playing the way they are now, they’re not!

FL dawg

September 13th, 2011
7:45 am

The Braves are one of the best teams in the NL. You don’t think so, look at their record. Atl is slumping, bad timing. About St. Louis deserving it more, whoever has the better record is going to the playoffs and “deserving teams” watch the playoffs sometimes. Once again injuries have hit the Braves at a critical time in the season. IF Atl makes the wildcard it’ll be the cause of playing well enough to get there. If you want to talk “deserving”, look no further than last yrs divisional playoffs against SF, the “undeservind” team was outplayed in their series with the wounded Braves. I’d rather be “undeserving” and play thru Oct. than “deserving” and waiting for next yr.

jfreak13713

September 13th, 2011
7:46 am

If you go into the playoffs playing this bad in most cases you’re out after the first round unless you have pitching like the Giants had last year. Its the Braves starting pitching that scares me because they have nobody who seems able to dominate a game. I see nothing in this team that tells they can beat the Brewers. Nothing.

Choke Job

September 13th, 2011
7:49 am

The 1914 Braves are rolling in their graves. How big was the Braves’ lead just a few weeks ago? 10.5 games? Unbelievable.

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
7:54 am

Hey Mark,

Gonzalez just lost 4 in a row. Is he on the “hot seat” like Mark Richt? Can he recover? Inquiring minds want to know.

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
7:56 am

Hey Mark,

Gonzalez just lost 4 in a row. Is he on the “hot seat” like Mark Richt? Will he ever recover? Inquiring minds want to know…..

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
8:02 am

Hey Mark,

My son’s middle school football team in 0-2. Should I now start endless conversations with other partents about whether or not the coach in on the “hot seat”? Inquiring minds want to know….

Packer Ed

September 13th, 2011
8:03 am

The cold cruel reality, 2 front line pitchers out with injuries, the ace of the staff (Hudson) can no longer win, too many hitters in a slump, almost every game is a one (1) run game and the middle relief pitchers not closing the door. Sounds like everyone wants to go golfing sooner rather than later, sounds like game over to me.

VABravesFan

September 13th, 2011
8:08 am

The Braves are still one of the best teams in baseball. Let’s hope that this slump ends soons and the Braves are hot going into the playoffs. The Braves aren’t the only team that’s let their huge wild card lead drop to just a few games. The Red Sox have been struggling as well and have the Rays only 3 games back now (and still play another series against them this year). Lucky for the Braves, all their remaining games are against teams with losing records except the final series against the Phillies where they could be resting starters anyway. Plus the Cardinals have to play the Phillies over the weekend (may be the first time I’ve ever wanted them to win a game).

The Braves somehow managed to go 3-20 with RISP – unbelievable. All they need is one big hit to turn things around. This team has still got something special going on. McCann had 2 chances to win it last night and failed, but he wasn’t afraid to admit it. He, along with the rest of the Braves, will come out raking it tonight.

SA

September 13th, 2011
8:11 am

Better to slump now than in the playoffs. This builds character.. or something like that.

VABravesFan

September 13th, 2011
8:12 am

The Braves will win the Wild Card.

tcd

September 13th, 2011
8:15 am

Heyward still lost? He got on base FOUR times last night. Did you watch the game?

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
8:15 am

Hey Mark,

The Falcons are winless this year with Coach Smith at the helm. Is he on the “hot seat” like Mark Richt? Will he ever recover? Inquiring minds want to know…..

Matt from MN

September 13th, 2011
8:17 am

This team is so flawed from a hitting perspective, it’s not even funny. Even if they manage to make the playoffs, they are a “one and done”.

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
8:18 am

Hey Mark,

Have you considered writing an opinion piece about whether or not Mark Richt is on the “hot seat”? We may be due for something like that, right?

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
8:18 am

Matt from MN
September 13th, 2011
8:17 am

Flawed hitting carried over from last year where we were “one and done”.

Roseman

September 13th, 2011
8:20 am

The clutch hitting, or lack thereof, is simply putrid, as is recognition of the strike zone. The Braves simply do not hit in the clutch, and have not for many years. One of the things that precipitates this hacking at crap out of the zone, is always playing from behind. Can anyone remember the last time a starter had a clean 3 up and 3 down first inning? I can not. In fact, it seems like every starter allows at least 1 run in the first inning, or if not, in the second inning. These are the young guns and the veterans both. I think it says something about the way our starters prepare mentally during pregame warmup. They all look like thay are scared to give up a run…and then they do. Roger and Eddie should do something to get thses guys more ready to pitch, and get over this silly nervousness that they all seem to posess.

the hot seat.....

September 13th, 2011
8:22 am

Hey Mark,

In your opinion is Obama on the “hot seat”?

bro

September 13th, 2011
8:28 am

Any time you lose it does harm. A win alwahys helps your–as the Phillies.

VABravesFan

September 13th, 2011
8:31 am

Since the Braves record is now 2 games worse than the D’backs, that’s who they’d play if the playoffs started today (not the Brewers). That should, at least in theory, create better first round matchups that could work to the Braves’ advantage.

VABravesFan

September 13th, 2011
8:39 am

Hey “the hot seat…..”

The Bulldogs only play 11 games, so losing the first 2 is a big deal. It’s like the Braves starting the season 0-29. Sure, at 0-2 they still have a chance to turn things around, but any optimism they had going into the season is all but gone. If they win out the rest of the season, it could still be a great year for Bulldog football, but I wouldn’t count on it with all the powerhouses down in the SEC.

juice sourcer

September 13th, 2011
8:39 am

Wrong. The Braves will make the playoffs but they are coming in with no momentum and will be one and done.