Why the Braves’ 13-inning loss to the Nats gives me pause

The happy Nats after unleashing their winning barrage of infield hits. (AP photo)

The happy Nationals after unleashing their winning fusillade of infield singles. (AP photo)

I’m on record as believing the Braves are a very good team, and I’ve been around long enough not to overreact — or at least to try not to overreact — to any single regular-season baseball game. (They play 162 of them, after all.) That said, a couple of things about last night’s loss in Washington bothered me.

They bothered me because they fly in the face of what I’ve come to believe — and, truth to tell, what some in the Braves’ organization have come to believe — about this team vis-a-vis the Nationals. I (and certain Braves folks) believe the local nine is better than Washington everywhere but in the starting rotation, and here let’s concede that starting pitching has an outsize importance. And that’s the root of my unease.

The Braves and Nationals were tied at 4 by the top of the fifth inning. Jordan Zimmermann, the Nats’ starter, was gone after five. Tim Hudson was pulled after six. The Braves worked eight innings — almost a full game — against a Washington bullpen that has begun to fray, and they couldn’t score a run. They mustered only four hits in those eight innings, but when you add six walks you get 10 baserunners. They had runners aboard in six of the eight innings, and four times their leadoff man reached. Still couldn’t score.

The game ended in the 13th, when Washington plied three infield hits into the walk-off winner. The game-ending single — it was originally scored a error, which seemed the sensible call — was a grounder hit to a drawn-in Dan Uggla. He should have been able to throw out Danny Espinosa at the plate, but Uggla bobbled the ball.

If we return to GM Frank Wren’s words of Saturday, we’ll note that he emphasized how well the Braves “catch the ball” — and it’s true; they lead the National League in fielding percentage — and also that “we’re also really good in situational hitting.” Alas, they didn’t catch the ball, at least not cleanly, when it mattered, and they couldn’t get the knock that would have given them a precious late-inning lead. And their strength (situational hitting) was trumped by what has become a perceived Washington weakness (relief pitching).

Again, it’s one game. The Braves could well win tonight and tomorrow and leave D.C. closer to first place than when they arrived. But this one game, I’m forced to confess, troubled me. It was a game of some magnitude that the Braves coulda/shoulda won.

(Oh, and here’s a video chat with Brian Clark of CineSport regarding the Braves, Dan Uggla and the Nationals.)

By Mark Bradley

285 comments Add your comment

Andrew

August 21st, 2012
11:29 am

First… and simply a brutal, brutal loss. The kind that could send the team into a 2011-esque tailspin

Minnesota Brave Fan

August 21st, 2012
11:30 am

Mark, what should they do with Uggla? He’s terrible and is not getting any better. Send him to the minors to make a statement?

Scott

August 21st, 2012
11:30 am

Scott

August 21st, 2012
11:30 am

ChopAttack

August 21st, 2012
11:30 am

They didn’t hit or catch against the Dodgers either. The Braves are 4-7 against winning teams since the All Star Break. The good news for the Braves is the only have 8 games left against teams with winning records, the bad news at some point you have to beat good teams to win the World Series.

Willy

August 21st, 2012
11:31 am

Not a Contender

August 21st, 2012
11:31 am

Painful loss to stay up and watch, lack of offense does not bode well for the post-season. This team doesn’t have the bats to make it out of the Wild-card round.

Willy

August 21st, 2012
11:32 am

I didn’t think so

www.IdontlikeUggla.com

August 21st, 2012
11:32 am

Tired of our overpaid 2nd baseman getting a pass night in and night out. He needs to sit more than just one game. The litte he does can be covered with another left fielder and moving Prado to 2nd. Wake up Fredi or get ready to be the next Manager in Houston!

P Rose

August 21st, 2012
11:32 am

I like Christhian Martinez, and he pitched his heart out. He didn’t deserve to get the loss. However, Roger McDowell should work with him on his delivery. His funky follow-through leaves him out of position to field the ball. If he squared up as he’s supposed to, the Nats never would have gotten that first infield hit up the middle in the 13th.

sidslid

August 21st, 2012
11:32 am

Reminds me of Kelly Johnson’s dropped pop up and Andruw Jones’ key double play against the Phillies.

Aren’t all three Atlanta pro sports teams essentially 10th?

www.IdontlikeUggla.com

August 21st, 2012
11:33 am

Uggla really stinks. I know he gets paid, but he needs to be the highest paid bench player in the Majors right now. Please move Prado to 2nd! Wake up Fredi or get ready to manage in Houston next year.

dawg tired

August 21st, 2012
11:33 am

An offense built on Uggla and McCann and managed by Fredo G? I smell a late season swoon for the 2nd year in a row.

TheOnlyBravesFan

August 21st, 2012
11:34 am

Kudos?

Hitting killed us last night, we’re too streaky

www.IdontlikeUggla.com

August 21st, 2012
11:34 am

Why are my post filterd?

Mark Bradley

August 21st, 2012
11:34 am

Kudos, Andrew.

Get rid of Uggla

August 21st, 2012
11:34 am

Time to pack your bags for Houston Uggla and Take Fredi with you!

pat

August 21st, 2012
11:35 am

This is about the same time last year they started to fade. Until they prove me wrong, I am a little worried.

Brian

August 21st, 2012
11:36 am

First of all, Minnesota Dave… No. We should not send Uggla to the minors. Get real. Who will play second that is a better option?

Second of all… The lack of small ball executed by the team bothers me. What is so wrong with bunting runners over and doing the little things right to execute and score runs? The one time we tried to bunt, Janish popped is out to the pitcher. Unacceptable. Its time Fredi play and emphasize small ball late in games. We can’t always hope to get hits in a timely fashion.

Lon Stotts

August 21st, 2012
11:36 am

I still don’t get why everyone is saying that it was a no-brainer for Uggla to come home on that last play. Espinosa got a great jump and replays showed it would have been a very close play– probably ending in the Nats’ favor. Heck, Fredi G said it was the “only play,” but wouldn’t a double play, either by tagging Suzuki or throwing to Janish for the turn, produce the same result (a better one, actually- getting out of the inning) as going home to get Espinosa? It was a lot to digest at once for Uggla, but I thought the smarter play was to try and get two. I imagine it would be a close race between Chad Tracy and Adam LaRoche.

Still, as Bradley points out the game wasn’t lost in that crazy bottom of the 13th but in all those baserunners stranded in the last five or six innings. The absence of clutch hitting is uncomfortably reminiscent of last September…

Pippa's hiney

August 21st, 2012
11:37 am

Painful loss, no doubt. Next 2 determines all.

CaribouRancher

August 21st, 2012
11:37 am

Boy, am I glad I went to bed after seven innings.

LaRon

August 21st, 2012
11:39 am

Braves are starting to collapse. They will not make the playoffs.

Brian

August 21st, 2012
11:39 am

Oh, and another thing. While this was a terrible loss and we have reason to worry about small things here and there, let’s all make a concerted effort to stop being the worst fans in baseball. We are in great position in the Wild Card, are within reach of the Nats and have 5 games left against them. I would love to see positivity in Atlanta for once.

Muphrid

August 21st, 2012
11:40 am

Situational hitting is a myth. Anyone can look “good” at situational hitting when such situations are a small number of plate appearances out of the whole season. To use that to try to predict anything is meaningless. The Braves’ offensive numbers as a whole speak for themselves. No need to narrow down to something that is entirely without meaning.

To me, more inexcusable than anything else in that 13th inning was leaving Martinez in there. Man was on what, his 3rd straight day of work? And you leave him in with runners on first and third with one out? In his 2nd inning of work?

I understand why Fredi Gonzalez chose to do this. He wants Kimbrel saved to get a save on the road. Well, that mindset bit the Braves once again. You never get the chance to win the game if you lose it in the bottom of the 13th, and with a man on 3rd, what should you want? To avoid pitching to contact. That’s exactly what Kimbrel offers–the chance to get strikeouts instead of rolling the dice with a ball in play.

Kimbrel should’ve been brought in for that situation. To me, there is no serious question about it.

Brian

August 21st, 2012
11:41 am

Laron is exactly the type of “fan” I’m pointing to… Go cheer for the Yanks.

BOISESTATEBRONCO

August 21st, 2012
11:41 am

On a good note, Heyward looks great!

ChopAttack

August 21st, 2012
11:42 am

The Braves have 4 hits in their last 31 at bats with RISP.

Brian

August 21st, 2012
11:42 am

Murphid… We bring Kimbrel in and the game remains tied…. Then what? He was the last line of defense and he is only god for 1 inning….

Not a no brainer by any means…

Get rid of Uggla

August 21st, 2012
11:42 am

Maybe its not about just coming home on the play Lon; how about just make the play so he can at least attempt a play at home! I think that is where everyone is saying. He did not even give us a chance to make the play. It looks like he just had a mental lock on the play and froze up! I mean what the heck?! Stop giving him excuses; not a lot to digest! He gets paid millions to play a kids game and digest the right thing to do! Ask the kids playing for the little leauge title now! Geez! I agree with the clutch hitting and not being able to get a hit, but I still ask Fredi to stop managing by sitting on his hands! How about some small ball, some steals, some of the things to do when everyone does not expect you to do something! How about doing the unexpected?

ugafan13

August 21st, 2012
11:43 am

Last I checked Prado could play second and I’m sure Reed Johnson would make an outstanding left fielder! Uggla should be collecting splinters on the bench!

Get rid of Uggla

August 21st, 2012
11:44 am

Agree ugafan!

Mark Bradley

August 21st, 2012
11:44 am

You almost have to try to throw out the winning run at the plate if the ball’s hit directly at you. But if you watch it again, you’ll see that Uggla had the option of trying for a double play. Suzuki hadn’t even moved off first base.

Tony Grazziano

August 21st, 2012
11:45 am

This game reminds me of our last game against the Phillies- which we lost in extra innings. It also reminds me of the loss to Houston (where Clemens pitched in relief), also in extra innings. All 3 of these games went into extra innings, all 3- we could not get a hit when we needed one. Plain and simple- this team cannot hit under real pressure! That’s been the case for a LONG time. I hope I’m wrong, but I see another choke coming on.

ChopAttack

August 21st, 2012
11:47 am

Turning the double play in that situation would have been difficult. Situational awareness is key. Just throw the ball home and get the out if possible. I’m not sure Uggla is much of a thinker.

The second baseman must know where he’s going with the ball before the play.

Blackberry Cobbler

August 21st, 2012
11:47 am

The Braves problems are quite simple:
McCann .229
Uggla .210
Bourne has dropped below .300 to .290
Chipper is great but only plays 4 games a week.
Pitching (Hanson, Sheets, Minor) is questionable.
FG is as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Brian

August 21st, 2012
11:48 am

Your first instinct is to go home…On second thought he could have run towards the bag, tagged Suzuki and then the bag. I think this mind bender is what caused the blunder. It happens. It was late on the first night of a road trip. It happens. The bigger cause for concern is the inability to push in a run when we had guys on all game once the Nats bullpen took over. PLAY SMALL BALL, Fredi…. Please?

ChopAttack

August 21st, 2012
11:48 am

Tony Grazziano, other than the uniform there’s not much in common with this team and the team that played against Houston.

PMC

August 21st, 2012
11:50 am

It was a terrible loss after the 1st inning. It was just another loss to a team that is better than them in the 13th.

Many things

August 21st, 2012
11:53 am

First, Prado at second ( he was an All Star there) and Johnson in left would be a better option.
Secondly, I agree w Brian’s assessment of the fans. We have the fourth best record in MLB, the best record happens to be in our division.
I don’t see a swoon like last years unless we lose two starting pitchers, Prado has to have surgery on his leg and comes back too early again, Chipper misses two dozen games and Venters, O’F and Kimbrel have terrible Septembers due to overwork again. THESE are the reasons we blew the
wild card last year. Still don’t know what a manager could have done to prevent any of that from happening, since none of the other relievers we had last year threw strikes.
It’s a different year. Uggs needs to sit, Mac needs to sit and rest. Otherwise, we’re gonna be ok.

Muphrid

August 21st, 2012
11:56 am

@Brian: The Nats were in much worse position, having already put in Loney as a pinch hitter for their last relief pitcher. We have a six man rotation, and the option has to be on the table that you use someone from it to shore up an understaffed bullpen.

At any rate, if Kimbrel comes in and gets out of it, the worst that happens is that both sides are out of relief pitchers going into the 14th, so the Braves would’ve been in no worse position than the Nats were, and more importantly, they would still be in the game.

Ted M

August 21st, 2012
11:57 am

Sure Uggla should be benched. But we all know that is not gonna happen. Even next next year after Uggla’s 2 really crappy seasons and a slow start of the 2013 season…Uggla is not gonna get benched. We’ll hear junk like we know what Uggla is capable of and at the end of the season Uggla’s stats will work themselves out.

This is the new norm for Uggla…not what he did 3, 4 or 5 years ago.

Muphrid

August 21st, 2012
11:58 am

’scuse me, that must’ve been Tracy, not Loney, who was the PH.

ChillyMutt

August 21st, 2012
12:02 pm

Wonder if the Indians would take him if we ate 2/3 of his salary? Naaah

Micheal Turner

August 21st, 2012
12:02 pm

Uggla is terrible because he would rather be at Buckhead bars till 3am then rest for a 1pm game

bruce mac

August 21st, 2012
12:02 pm

Micheal Borne is an absolute joke. Chipper is so busy being cool, he sucks. Thanks for kicking the ball out of Paul’s reach so we could lose Chipper, you idiot. If Heyward has two stikes, he is going to swing at a ball in the dirt every friggin time. Uggla is making $13 Million, unreal. This team is not good and might win a wild card but so what. Mr. Bradley, please do not start telling us how many games the Dodgers/Giants have to win to catch the Braves if the Braves just play 500. That is so lame and rediculous for the media to continue to trot out that idiotic logic. Can’t wait til football season starts.

Ostrich Racer

August 21st, 2012
12:04 pm

Truth be told, it was a good game — it just ended on a sour note. Uggla screwed up the last play, but he didn’t put Espinosa on third, and only five hitless at-bats were his.

That said, he is a poor fielder and a mediocre hitter (in a good year, which this isn’t, for him). He is not the best option at second — Prado is.

Baloo

August 21st, 2012
12:06 pm

If we were not doing a 6th man rotation we would have another reliever in this type games instead of havig christian pitch more then he should or could have brought Kimbrel in to get out of that mess amd worry about saving it later. If any managing has to be done we lose. Bourn has only 31 stolen bases this year. Why do we not hit and run or have him straight stealing more to put pressure early on the other team. We don’t do the little things when it counts. That is the Cox mentality of waiting for the long ball that doomed us in the post season for years and will continue to cost us in the future. Winning 6-0 or 6-1 like we have lately requires no managing skill.

Why?

August 21st, 2012
12:07 pm

@ChopAttack….I don’t think turning a dp would have been that difficult. The runner on furst didn’t moved. All Uggla had to do was tag the runner a step on the bag!

Smoltzfan

August 21st, 2012
12:08 pm

F. Gonzalez has to set aside “player loyalty” and sit Uggla and Mac. Ross is a better catcher and is now unfortunately the better hitter, it’s time for some painful decisions that will ruffle some feathers but Braves fans deserve to see the team that gives them the best chance to win. Platoon left and put Prado at second….it’s time to get serious folks and waiting all season for players to snap out of it is going to cost them dearly.