Three Cuts: Long ball keeps Braves from 10th-straight win
Jul 6, 2014 at 8:09p ET
ATLANTA -- The chance for the Atlanta Braves to win 10 games in a row, and complete a perfect homestand, fell by the wayside Sunday. Or more appropriately, those chances caromed off the left-field foul pole, as the Arizona Diamondbacks took the final game of the series, 3-1 on Sunday. Here are three observations from the game:
1. ANOTHER HOME-RUN BALL HURT ALEX WOOD
When Alex Wood walked Arizona's starting pitcher, Wade Miley, to start the third inning, it was as if an ominous storm cloud instantly appeared in the skies above Turner Field. Wood induced two fly balls from the next two batters, but Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt made him pay.
Goldschmidt took an 0-1 fastball and skied it down the left-field line. Before the home crowd had a chance to argue whether the ball landed fair or foul, it bounced off the foul pole, instantly turning it into a two-run Arizona lead.
Had Wood not walked Miley, the leadoff hitter that inning, the fly ball to right field from Aaron Hill, the batter before GoldSchmidt, would have been the third out of the inning. Wood would have escaped unscathed.
But the walk came back to haunt Wood in a big way. And the Braves starter--who said he'd never walked a pitcher to start an inning ever before--honed in on a moment three batters later as one that cost him severely.
"Usually they make you pay when you walk anybody, much less the pitcher," said Wood. "It's still not an excuse to let the one guy in their lineup you knew (Goldschmidt), and had a good plan for, beat you."
It's not just Wood, and the Braves, that Goldschmidt has hurt this season. He's hitting .310 after Sunday's game, and the third-inning blast was his 16th of the season. Add those two RBI to Goldschmidt's total, and he's ranked third in the National League with 58 RBI.
It's also not just Sunday where a home run has hurt Wood this season.
Wood has now given up seven home runs in his 10 starts this season. Not all seven have caused loss-causing damage, but three (including Sunday's Goldschmidt blast) have been killers.
On April 6, Wood gave up a solo shot in the seventh inning to Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals. The Nats pulled ahead 2-1 on that home run, and never relinquished the lead. Brandon Crawford, who plays shortstop for the San Francisco Giants, launched a fourth-inning solo shot off Wood on May 4. The Giants took a 2-1 lead on that dinger, and went on to win 4-1.
Outside of the Goldschmidt home run Sunday, Wood pitched masterfully. He threw seven innings and only allowed three hits. Take that home run out of the equation, and the Braves might still be streaking.
"How much more could you ask from Woody," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez queried about Wood. "It's another loss, but he only gave up two runs, and loses. The only thing you can tell him is to keep plugging away and the tide will turn eventually."
Wood has pitched seven innings or more and allowed two runs or less four times this season, and taken a loss.
2. SIMMONS IS ENTERING UNCHARTED TERRITORY AT THE PLATE
It's no secret that Andrelton Simmons is a wizard with the glove at shortstop. But he's now starting to do things with his bat that he's never done before.
With a single in the first inning, and a single in the eighth, Simmons completed his fifth straight multi-hit game. He's 10 for 19 (.526) with seven RBI over that five-game stretch, and it's that lengthy stretch that's something of a record.
There have been a number of times in Simmons' three-year career where he's gone back-to-back with multi-hit games. There have even been three occurrences where Simmons has gone back-to-back-to-back. He did it twice in July last season, once against the Miami Marlins (July 2-4) and once for two games against the St. Louis Cardinals and one game against the Colorado Rockies (July 27-29).
During Simmons' rookie campaign, he connected on a three-game stretch of multi-hit games from June 12-15 while playing against the New York Yankees for two games, and the Baltimore Orioles for one.
But never had Simmons put five multi-hit games in a row together.
Sunday's two-hit performance also landed him a seven-game hitting streak, tied for the second longest of his career. Simmons completed a seven-game hitting streak last June 24, and put together an 11-game stretch from May 25 to June 5 last season. In four games, Simmons could match his career high.
3. HOME IS IN THE 7-HOLE FOR LA STELLA
Rookie Tommy La Stella has only played one position in the field since he joined the Braves on May 28, second base. But when it comes to trying to find a spot in the batting order, Gonzalez has tried La Stella all over the place.
La Stella has played five games batting leadoff, and spent three more in the two-hole. But his numbers we far-from-adequate.
While batting in one of the first two spots in the lineup, La Stella was 2 for 30 (.067) with two RBI. Batting in the eighth or ninth spot in the lineup wasn't much better. La Stella went 2 for 10 (.200) in his four games in the bottom two spots of the batting order, and drove in no runs.
Where La Stella has flourished is in the seventh spot in the batting order. He's played 20 games while batting in the seven-hole, and has gone 28 for 71 (.394). All 11 of his runs scored have come while batting seventh, and 11 of his 14 RBI have as well.
Without an injury somewhere else in the lineup, it's doubtful Gonzalez will move La Stella from this spot of comfort.
It also helps that B.J. Upton has done well since being pushed to the leadoff spot (.283 with 10 runs scored), and Simmons is raking at a .326 clip in the two-hole. There's no need to push La Stella up where he's not been able to get cozy.