Braves Country watched game two against the Padres with a heavy heart on Saturday night, mourning the loss of “The Professor” Pete Van Wieren. If you’re like myself, some of your fondest memories are watching the Atlanta Braves in the summertime when Pete and Skip used to make the calls in the booth. His passing was too soon, and it marks the end of an announcing era for many Braves fans. An era where the Braves won 14 straight divisions, a world series, and had the worst to first season. However, the Braves still had a game to play with Ervin Santana pitching.
Santana really came through with a masterful pitching performance, and he had a 3-hit shutout going through six innings. Atlanta scored first in the opening inning when B.J. Upton came home on a Freddie Freeman double. That was the sum total of the offense for the game until the seventh inning. In the seventh frame, the Padres struck for two runs when Yangervis Solarte singled in a run, then came around to score himself on a wild pitch after a little small ball by Bud Black.
In the eighth, the Braves tied the game up at 2-2 courtesy of a Chris Johnson single that scored Jason Heyward. With one out and Evan Gattis on third, it looked like the Braves might be able to sacrifice their way into the lead. Unfortunately, Andrelton Simmons laid down on ill-timed bunt that got Gattis thrown out at the plate. That killed the rally and sent the game to the bottom half of the eighth still tied at two. Anthony Varvaro came in for relief for the Braves and put down the Padres with a twin-killing to end the inning.
The ninth inning saw no scoring, either, meaning the Braves found themselves in another extra innings game. The Braves got a leadoff double from Jason Heyward in the top of the 10th, and after Evan Gattis moved him to the third with one out, it was up to Chris Johnson to sacrifice him home. Instead, Chris Johnson struck out, and Andrelton Simmons kept swinging out of his shoes until he fouled out to the catcher. I can’t really fault Johnson in his approach since he worked the count to full, but Simmons was trying to hit a bomb when the Braves just needed a single. It’s becoming a bigger problem for Simmons since he’s not a home run hitter, and it’s costing the Braves with his situational hitting. Luckily, David Carpenter shut down the Padres in the bottom half of the tenth as well.
The top of the eleventh inning saw newly-minted Braves outfielder Emilio Bonifacio dig out a swinging bunt single as the lead-off batter. B.J. Upton couldn’t advance him, so Emilio was forced to swipe second on a steal with Tommy La Stella at the plate. Things continued to look like the Braves could get a rally going with a runner in scoring position and just one out. Instead, La Stella blooped a ball into center that was caught, and Bonifacio got doubled up for being too far off the bag. In a tie game, every fan watching as the game creeped toward 1:00 am ET simultaneously threw their hands up in frustration.
Craig Kimbrel was (finally) the reliever of choice in the bottom half of the eleventh, and he got into a bit of a jam with a runner on second and one out. Simmons bailed him out with a great defensive play on a ball in the third base gap, as he threw behind the retreating runner at second and picked him off at the bag. Gattis then threw out the runner trying to steal second on the next pitch, and Kimbrel wriggled off the hook. In the twelfth, Freeman singled to lead off, and Justin Upton doubled to move runners to second and third with nobody out. The Padres walked Heyward to set up the bases loaded for Evan Gattis.
The bear promptly hit into a 5-2-3 double play, scoring nobody. Then, Johnson hit a sharp ball to the first baseman, and the inning was over. If you thought people had their hands up in frustration after the eleventh inning, the twelfth inning had them throwing objects at the television. Kimbrel came back out for the bottom half of the twelfth, walked the bases loaded and then gave up single that lost the game. After all that, the Braves end up blowing it because the best closer alive couldn’t find the strike zone, a problem that’s becoming all too common for him.
I don’t know what to say at this point. The Braves stranded 14 runners, and went 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. This team is giving you no reason to believe in them at all right now. The fact they haven’t been buried in this division is entirely because the Nationals refuse to run away with it. That won’t last in August though if the Braves can get the bats going.
With Saturday’s loss, the Atlanta Braves lose the series to the Padres and hope to avoid the sweep on Sunday. If they get swept by the Padres, the bandwagon is going to begin to empty in a hurry.
Tags: Atlanta Braves