Three Cuts: Minor, Braves fall to homer-happy Rockies
MAY 24, 2014 8:55p ET
ATLANTA -- Here are three things we gleaned from the Braves' 3-1 loss to the Rockies on Saturday, a fast-moving game (only 10 combined hits) played in summer-sticky weather:
1. Mike Minor got burned by the dreaded solo homer ... which wasn't such a bad thing
Heading into Saturday's game, the prolific Rockies cumulatively led the majors with runs (259), hits (503), doubles (110), RBI (248), batting average (.297), on-base percentage (.343), slugging (.484) and OPS (.829) -- while trailing only the Blue Jays in total homers.
So, for Minor to surrender just three runs (two solo homers -- both from the leadoff batter) and four hits over 6.1 innings, against baseball's most unstoppable force, is quite the victory.
Even in defeat.
"It was a battle out there (Saturday)," said Minor (2-3), while lamenting the ineffectiveness, location-wise, of his two-seam fastball against the Rockies. "I didn't think I had my best stuff."
In the second inning, Rockies outfielder and reigning National League batting champion Michael Cuddyer turned on a 3-0 delivery from Minor, rocketing the ball into the left-field seats.
"I thought (Cuddyer) might swing, but I was hoping he'd hit (it fat) and pop it up," said Minor, who never faced more than five batters in a single inning.
Four frames later, Troy Tulowitzki -- the runaway leader for NL MVP to date (36 RBI, 45 runs, .382 batting, .485 OBP) -- blasted his 14th homer of the season, taking full advantage of a 0-1 pitch that "missed over the middle," according to Minor.
All in all, though, it was a rock-solid effort from Minor, who has allowed just three runs or less in four of his five seasonal outings.
Solo homers "aren't supposed to beat you ... but they did tonight," said Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez in the postgame media scrum.
It's worth noting: Of Minor's five MLB starts in 2014, Atlanta has generated only 17 total runs -- a deceptive figure that includes the Braves' nine-run effort against the Brewers on Monday.
2. The Instant Replay powers-that-be must be experiencing a full spectrum of emotions on this Braves homestand
In the span of five days and six games, we've witnessed at least seven instant replay calls at Turner Field -- covering second base, first base, home plate, the bullpen area.
And just like our wintry-mix friend, Mr. Snowflake, no two instant replays are seemingly the same.
Here's a look at our three favorite replay calls from the week:
Operation: Bullpen Fiasco -- This might win the MLB award for "Most Surreal Replay Request" by season's end, with the umpires utilizing the technology to see if any Brewers relievers had taken warmup pitches in the bullpen, before entering a tight game on Thursday night.
(Atlanta ended up rallying for a victory against the unprepared Milwaukee bullpen, partly because Brewers manager Ron Roenicke didn't properly communicate with his skeleton staff -- two coaches excused for the night.)
The Pick-Off That Never Was -- Watching Friday's Rockies-Braves game at home, I was blown away that a manager would actually exhaust his replay allowance on a pick-off play at first -- especially one that wasn't absolutely vital to a scoring rally.
But there was Rockies reserve Jordan Pacheco, still stinging from the umpire's decision at first base, vacillating on whether to head back to the dugout after originally getting called out on Gavin Floyd's pick-off move ... only to be rescued by Rockies manager Walt Weiss on the replay request.
Yes, Weiss succeeded in getting the call overturned; but to the larger point, is instant replay really necessary on such trivial, almost pedestrian occurrences?
(Rhetorical question, please don't answer.)
Safe At Home ... Sort Of -- With the Rockies leading 2-0 in the 7th and Charlie Culberson standing on third base with one out, a Charlie Blackmon ground ball to first base prompted Freddie Freeman to make the quick-strike throw to home plate.
The delivery was accurate, although slightly high, allowing for Culberson to make a low dive for the plate. Catcher Evan Gattis (0 for 3) secured the ball, made a swipe tag and seemingly halted Colorado from scoring its third run of the day.
But a 4-minute, 14-second replay eventually changed the call, scoring Culberson and boosting the Rockies' lead to 3-0.
"I was hoping (the replay command center in New York City) didn't have enough evidence to overturn it ... but it was clear and convincing, obviously," said Gonzalez, who acknowledged the Braves' majority luck with replay leading up to Saturday's loss. "That was a big run."
3. This seems like a good time to whine about the MLB scheduling process, respective to the Braves and Seattle Mariners
For the first 17 MLB seasons of Interleague play (1997-2013), the Mariners visited Atlanta's Turner Field just once -- a three-game series in 2008 (June 20-22).
Next month, that figure will mushroom to two visits and five combined outings in Atlanta, after the Braves and Mariners wrap a lightning-fast two-game set -- with the first encounter (Tuesday, June 3) taking place at 7:10 p.m. EST and the finale going at 12:10 p.m. EST the following day.
In earnest, Seattle's traveling party will be in Georgia for less than 36 hours -- further expedited by a make-up date in New York City on June 2 (against the Yankees). And then after the brief changeover in Atlanta (insert airport-terminal joke here) ... it's off to St. Petersburg, Fla. to play the Rays.
So, why am I so bent out of shape?
An adult Braves fan, say someone of 27-34 years old, has likely never seen Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (6-1, 2.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 74/14 K-BB) pitch live in person; and if everything stays according to plan, King Felix won't take the mound in Atlanta, thus pushing back his next Georgia start ... to whenever the Mariners visit the Braves' new ballpark in Cobb County.
Try 2017, 2018, 2019, etc.
Obviously, it's hard to project a specific start for a pitcher in June when the schedule gets released the previous fall. But it bears asking: If both the Braves and Mariners have off days on Thursday, June 5, then why didn't MLB schedule a three-game series in Atlanta -- as opposed to two?
Where's the harm in that?
Bottom line: Given the rarity of these clubs meeting (once every 4-5 years), it would have been easy for MLB to subtract a single Braves divisional game against the Marlins, Mets or Phillies ... and give it to the Mariners -- on the hopes of further exposing Turner Field patrons to an unfamiliar, but eminently talented team in Seattle.