Stat #1: Before Monday, the Braves hadn’t blown a five-run lead and lost since Sept. 2, 2011 (against the Dodgers)
Citing the last three years, the optimist would have praised the Atlanta rotation and bullpen for invoking the smart approach when blessed with big leads — avoiding walks, taking the easy out whenever necessary and seldom allowing the opposing team’s best hitters to make game-changing plays.
Of course, that’s not things went down against the last-place Red Sox — who ended a 10-game losing skid. Monday foibles aside, it’s quite possible that no other MLB club has gone 32 months without squandering a five-run advantage and losing on the same day.
And for that, the Braves can take solace in the accomplishment.
Stat #2: Monday marked the first time since Aug. 17, 2013 the Braves lost when scoring six or more runs (8-7 to the Nationals)
The optimist would again credit the Braves’ pitchers for their efficient, intelligent methods when holding a lead. They would also compliment the Atlanta hitters for consistently staying in a groove — Innings 1-9 — when the bats are rolling on a particular day.
The pessimist, however, would condemn Atlanta’s offense for only generating six or more runs 10 times this season — easily one of the lowest tallies amongst MLB clubs.
By contrast, the 2012 and 2013 Braves squads had already scored six or more runs 18 times by May 26.
From that point forward, with the Braves trailing by two, the Red Sox relievers faced the minimum number of hitters — five — to close the game.
With the Braves leading 6-1 and sitting at two outs in the top of the 5th, Santana was on the precipice of escaping a nerve-jangling inning with no tangible damage, despite walking pinch-hitter Daniel Nava and allowing a double to rookie Brock Holt.
Citing the two-strike walk to Nava, Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez reasoned that "everything kind of unraveled" after that.
Next, came a walk to Xander Bogaerts — another Boston rookie who’s been hitting at a .381 pace (.435 on-base percentage) with two homers since May 14. That set the stage for Red Sox anchors Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz to put a dent into the five-run deficit.
First, Pedroia laced a two-run RBI single to left field, with the ball falling just short of Justin Upton’s glove. Then, Big Papi crushed Santana’s 1-0 delivery over the center-field wall, eradicating Atlanta’s once-lofty lead in a matter of minutes.
Therein lies the differences between National and American league teams: Junior Circuit clubs, like the Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Yankees, Orioles, Athletics, Blue Jays and Angels, always assume the next big inning is around the corner.
Back to Santana, instead of posting a clean outing of six or seven innings and two or three runs allowed … the back-to-back shots from Pedroia and Ortiz dramatically altered the Braves’ bullpen strategy — even before the 1-hour, 26-minute rain delay kicked in.
"I don’t think it’s mechanics," said Gonzalez in the postgame media scrum, when asked about Santana’s recent struggles of 16 earned runs allowed in his last three starts. "It’s the just the (rationale) of minimizing that one big inning."
Santana, who had a 2.01 ERA after his first six starts with the Braves (April 9-May 10), was similarly unfazed about the negative May karma, claiming he felt good all game but eventually, "I made a couple of bad pitches and the (Red Sox) took advantage of it."
From the full replay of a classic Memorial Day speech from former U.S. president Ronald Reagan (presumably from the early 1980s) and robust acknowledgments of our nation’s four primary military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) … to the mililtary flyover (four jets) and scoreboard tributes to the fallen soliders with Georgia ties, this might have been the greatest celebration/rememberance I’ve ever witnessed in person.
It was the perfect lasting memory for an imperfect day.