OK, Braves fans: Maybe we SHOULD be watching this Series

David Freese gets his freeze-frame moment. He had a couple, actually. (AP photo)

David Freese gets his freeze-frame moment. He had a couple, actually. (AP photo)

Yeah, it was unbelievable. A team down to its last strike — twice! — will play one game to become the World Series champ. For sheer thrills, this Game 6 was a match for the Game 6 of 1975. (It wasn’t as well played, but hey, you can’t have everything.) But enough gushing. There’s a lesson to be had.

The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 8 1/2 games in September and were tied with the local nine after Game No. 161. (And, had the Braves not blown Game No. 162 in the ninth, they’d have been bound for a play-in game in Busch Stadium.) But we saw in Game 6 the chief difference between the 2011 Braves and these Redbirds.

The Braves had better starting pitching and a better bullpen, but the Braves’ lineup didn’t put pressure on an opponent the way the Cardinals’ does. Sometimes pressure isn’t always rewarded. Last night it was. St. Louis rallied to tie or take the lead five different times, most notably when facing two-run deficits in the ninth and the 10th.

The Braves could hit home runs. Indeed, they hit 11 more than the Cardinals over 162 games. But the Braves’ swing-hard-in-case-you-hit-it approach didn’t apply pressure in the way the Redbirds’ more clinical method does. For me, the biggest at-bats of Game 6 wasn’t David Freese’s tying triple or winning homer. They belonged to Lance Berkman, who was patient enough to take a walk with one out in the ninth and skilled enough to serve a Scott Feldman pitch into center field to tie it with two out in the 10th.

Those were examples of what we like to call professional hitting. The Braves had a lot of guys who could hit bad pitches hard, not so many who’d accept a single or a walk. The Cardinals’ on-base percentage was the third-best in the majors; the Braves’ was the fifth-worst.

After 162 games, there wasn’t much that separated these teams, but that was the part that did. It’s the reason one of the two will be playing a Game 7 tonight, and also the reason the other just hired a new hitting coach.

By Mark Bradley

177 comments Add your comment

Todd Finch

October 28th, 2011
7:45 am

Mark Bradley

October 28th, 2011
7:45 am

Kudos, Todd F.

Todd Finch

October 28th, 2011
7:47 am

I totally agree, Mark. It was maddening to be watching last night and compare and contrast our Braves with the clutch-hitting Cardinals. Maybe you can reach out to some of the Braves and find out how many of them were actually watching last night and if that resonated at all with them.

rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

October 28th, 2011
7:50 am

In contrast to Berkman and Freese, the former Brave Rafael Furcal swung on the first pitch in the bottom of the 8th with the bases loaded, and grounded out weakly to end the threat. Old habits die hard, don’t they.

The Big Apple Awaits

October 28th, 2011
7:52 am

First, it was a 10.5 game lead over the Cardinals (in very late August). Second, the Braves didn’t have a better bullpen than the Cards, as evidenced by the Braves September implosion. Third, you’re right about the Braves’ line-up being incompetent. Fourth, the Cards have a true HOFer in Pujols and bunch of other players with heart that matches their talent. The Braves don’t.

Tim McCarver

October 28th, 2011
7:57 am

P B Orr

October 28th, 2011
7:57 am

Fifth, they have a man’s man, not a faux-bald Harley-straddling poser, in La Russa at the helm.

jimmie

October 28th, 2011
7:58 am

Tiger Woods sucks

jimmie

October 28th, 2011
7:59 am

Even worse than the Braves suck

Pensacola Fan

October 28th, 2011
8:00 am

I have never seen a Braves team since 1966 that was disciplined at the plate. It is the team culture, and if you have Aaron, Murphy, Matthews, Horner, etc., maybe you can get away with it. Reference the comment on Furcal above.

Nate

October 28th, 2011
8:01 am

Yep offense wins chmapionships. The braves haven’t had one in years. That’s why they are the chokers of baseball.

Wrecker

October 28th, 2011
8:05 am

La Russa is overrated as a strategic manager. Just because people call him a tactical genius does not make him one.

gabugman

October 28th, 2011
8:05 am

If offense wins championships the Braves should already be hoisting the trophy…they were the most offensive team at the end of the year.

Mitch

October 28th, 2011
8:06 am

too bad we can’t get a manager like these clubs have.

BRAVESFAN

October 28th, 2011
8:07 am

Best game I ever watched. It’s so exiting to see a team come back over and over again without giving up. Tonight I’m either wearing a diaper or not drinking!

Any thoughts on this article?
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1031582/index.htm

UGA fan in UVA Country

October 28th, 2011
8:11 am

Actually, this entire post season has been good for baseball, Mark. Now, if baseball would do the things that made it NATIONAL pasttime, i.e. earlier starts, day games, capture the younger age to increase their fanbase, affordable,etc…..it might be relevant….

GaryinBham

October 28th, 2011
8:11 am

Went to bed and got a good night’s sleep. Sounds like a good game. It’s enough for me to read about it the next day. I don’t care about either team enough to watch them.

GaryinBham

October 28th, 2011
8:14 am

Went to bed and got a good night’s sleep. It’s enough to read about it the next day.

Wrecker

October 28th, 2011
8:15 am

Ron Washington (when he is not snorting something) is a good motivator and player’s manager (like No. 6 was), but not a very good game manager.

Braves WIN, Braves, WIN, Braves...NEVERMIND

October 28th, 2011
8:15 am

It’s not the Braves fans that should be watching, but Frank Wren and Freddie Gonzales.

Braves WIN, Braves, WIN, Braves...NEVERMIND

October 28th, 2011
8:16 am

gabugman

Not in September!

Sons of Rick Matula

October 28th, 2011
8:19 am

Mike Napoli is Brian McCann unleashed. McCann has to be sent to the AL where he can catch 75, play 1B a few dozen times and DH the rest — otherwise he will fade in the summer heat for years to come in Atlanta. He’s valuable to AL clubs and will bring a good return for the Braves – including a power bat for LF. It’ll be a PR hit because of all Mac’s local ties but it must be done.

Charlie

October 28th, 2011
8:19 am

It is unbelievable that the Cards have won every game that they HAD to win…..for TWO MONTHS

JASon

October 28th, 2011
8:20 am

“OK, Braves fans: Maybe we SHOULD be watching this Series”

Who said we weren’t. Just because your scope doesn’t go outside of the home teams doesn’t mean ours can’t.

I can't catch

October 28th, 2011
8:25 am

Maybe it was exciting, but that doesn’t mean it was well played. Texas should have won twice. Can’t believe Cruz didn’t make that catch in right. Badly mis judged and would have won the world series. Also, how many batters did Texas walk in the late innings to give thew game away?

I can't think or announce

October 28th, 2011
8:28 am

also don’t like that fact that Fox announces don’t seem to be watching the same game. How many times did McCarver say that the Cardinals had not hit a ball out of the infield, when in fact they had just hit a solo home run and a single to right?

Trade McCann??

October 28th, 2011
8:30 am

@Sons of Rick Matula, Trade McCann? You serious? No, dude, no, just stop. Don’t trade McCann, don’t trade Heyward. While both were frustrating this year, that’s our offensive core for years to come. We are on the cusp of greatness. Just need a piece here or there. We don’t need to trade away our best players.

Warren in Virginia Beach

October 28th, 2011
8:31 am

This is so on point Mark. I hate that it’s true. Perhaps porn star distraction had an impact as well.

Justin

October 28th, 2011
8:32 am

No, we shouldn’t.

No Shock

October 28th, 2011
8:35 am

Braves had one of the greatest runs of relevence of all time but completely failed when it mattered. When the postseason starts- Cox mismanaged, hitters couldn’t hit, and bullpen couldn’t shut anyone down. All the while, genius Johnny (Scheurputz) tells fans they should be happy with division titles or don’t show up. Well smart guy, fans took your advice. This franchise may be the star of Atlanta teams but that says very little.

Falcon Rob

October 28th, 2011
8:36 am

Unbelievable finish to that game! We saw clutch hitting the likes of which have never been seen in Atlanta. We don’t get big hits in key moments. The Cards did it over and over again.

alex

October 28th, 2011
8:38 am

@wrecker, just because I’m calling you clueless,doesn’t make you THAT stupid…

Hankie Aron

October 28th, 2011
8:40 am

Good synopsis Mark. It’s tough for the Braves fans. Heck it’s tough just being a Braves fan sometimes….

Wrecker

October 28th, 2011
8:44 am

Alex: Namecalling is not an argument. La Russa has been coasting on reputation for years. That snafu in the bullpen that cost them the previous game is indicative of his managerial skills. Try again.

STRETCH

October 28th, 2011
8:45 am

I went to bed last night thinking the Rangers had that game. Woke up this morning and almost choked on my OJ when i turned on the telly! Wow, you couldnt write a script any better than this. The folks in Hollywood should be fightin of the rights to do a movie about these guys!

The Cardinals are in the right place at the right time, making the plays they need to make, swinging when they should be and the are once again 1 pitch away from another WS title. Guess that would make them the Yankees of the NL.

My heart goes out to Nolan Ryan, after all those great pitching performances for so many crappy teams, losing last year and making it back this season after the Yanks and Red Sox were out of the way, it was looking like he was going to finally win it all. Josh Hamilton fighting his way back to play ball is a feat in itself. Ron Washington, is a players kinda manager as well. Im still rooting for Texas, but St. Louis is once again doing what they did in 2006, coming from outta nowhere!

But thats one reason why i hate sports sometimes, one team can be great all year, then one team goes on a streak and wins it all! This will be their 3rd time facing Carpenter, so i hope they can get to him. Texas has a great lineup, so lets see.

Finally, does anyone else besides me hate Mike n Mike in the Morning?? Mike Greenberg yaks like a little girl. He had the nerve to say that fans shouldnt be leaving a WS game even if their team was down by 8 runs. He says the dumbest things sometimes.

DP

October 28th, 2011
8:45 am

I don’t know what I’d do without Mark Bradley alerting me to what I should and shouldn’t be watching.

Actually, despite the sloppy play in the field last night I have enjoyed a World Series played between 2 teams that are watchable, unlike this year’s Braves. I’d nearly forgotten what a clutch at bat looked like. The Braves did baseball fans a favor by falling apart in September instead of getting swept in the first round of the playoffs.

It is past time to retire Tim McCarver. For all the inane comments he makes and for all his commentary about a “no doubles defense”, he apparently didn’t even notice that Nelson Cruz wasn’t playing deep enough in right AND misplayed the 9th inning triple by Freese.

Jim

October 28th, 2011
8:50 am

Will Tim McCarver be doing the color? That’s ALWAYS been what determines whether I watch the World Series or not. I hear his voice once and turn it off. Even Braves Hater, Bobby Valentine, on ESPN Radio is better.

dap01

October 28th, 2011
8:51 am

Mark, the Braves fans are left to another offseason just like the previous few offseasons before: Lets hope Frank Wren is able to find an outfielder that no one else has signed and pay him a minimum amount and hope that he is average.

The Braves try to get players for a little as possible. We need impact players.

Herschel Talker

October 28th, 2011
8:52 am

MB:

Great read. These guys remind me of the early 90s Braves.

HT

PMC

October 28th, 2011
8:57 am

Nah, just wait to the 7th on. The first 6 innings were horrid.

Might as well have been Jack Buck last night “And we’ll see you TOMORROW NIGHT!” Just as unpleasant when it was Kirby Puckett hitting it.

Yeah I’ll watch the end, but I seriously do not want the Cardinals and La russa to win period. They will of course, because they have the best pitcher on the mound and they are at home.

MatthewH

October 28th, 2011
8:58 am

Glad to see Freese win it for them since he was the one who dropped the easy pop-up to third which led to Texas scoring. Not a defensive game, that’s for sure!

PMC

October 28th, 2011
8:59 am

You don’t think much seperated these two teams?

Um, the Cardinals can hit. The Braves didn’t hit all year long, that’s the reason our bullpen was worn out at the end, there are no hitters on the freaking team that did thier job consistantly all year long.

And we’ll see ya….tomorrow night.

PMC

October 28th, 2011
9:00 am

Could have had Holliday or Berkman, all it takes is money.

kurula

October 28th, 2011
9:00 am

the team that reminds me more of a braves team is the rangers. they blew not one, but TWO leads with a strike from closing the deal. it was quite eerie seeing a former brave prospect blow the first lead. they must teach ‘almost good enough’ down on the farm.

Ramblinwreck83

October 28th, 2011
9:02 am

That a way Bradley. Rub it in a little more. You sure can be a jerk writer sometimes. Quit beating that dead horse. It’s getting old.

DetroitBraves

October 28th, 2011
9:07 am

You have hit the nail on the head Mark. Good analysis. We can pick apart the Braves and their injuries, Fredi’s questionable moves (and he had many of them) and the deterioration of the bullpen (likely from overuse) but the main issue with the 2011 Braves is that they didn’t score enough runs and they didn’t score enough runs because too many hitters made too many outs. They just don’t get on base. And what’s particularly strange about that is many hitters that hadn’t suffered from that problem prior to 2011 did this past season, and the same could be said of the team as a whole looking at 2010 vs. 2011. Well, now they have a new hitting coach so we’ll see if that has any impact on 2012. You beat your opponent by outscoring them. You outscore them by suppressing their runs and scoring your own. The Braves only do one of those things well. That wasn’t quite enough.

jpc

October 28th, 2011
9:13 am

Well writ, dude Bradley.

jpc

October 28th, 2011
9:13 am

Enter your comments here

The DAWG

October 28th, 2011
9:15 am

Yep you can buy a team load of talent but you just can’t buy HEART. Hats off to the Cards for last nights game

TheAntiMe

October 28th, 2011
9:17 am

It really helps the Cardinals that they came back from such a huge deficit to win the wild card on the last day. Obviously, it gave them a ticket to the playoffs but even more than that it seemed to give them an aura of invincibility, in that, the players really believe now that they are a team of destiny. Based on the results so far, it’s hard to argue with them.

As Yogi Berra once said, “Half this game, is 90% mental.”