Three Cuts: Pitchers’ duel ends in a loss for Braves
After the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers combined for 12 runs and 27 hits in Game 1 of their series on Tuesday, starting pitchers Alex Wood and Zach Greinke faced off to show that hurlers could still control a game where big bats were aplenty.
The combined starting pitching was phenomenal on Wednesday, but Greinke was just a bit better on the mound than was Wood, as the Dodgers outlasted the Braves, 3-2 in 10 innings.
Here are three things we learned from Atlanta’s Game 2 loss in Los Angeles:
Wood’s only been in the big leagues for two seasons, and has already taken part in two classic pitchers’ duels. He’s yet to come away with a victory.
On April 22, Wood combined with Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez for 25 strikeouts (14 from Fernandez, 11 by Wood), as both starters hurled eight innings. Fernandez allowed no runs on three hits, and Wood one run on four hits.
On Wednesday, Wood battled Greinke in a similarly crafted game.
Wood left after seven innings, giving up six hits and one run, a solo shot by Matt Kemp. He struck out eight batters and walked two.
Greinke struck out 13 Braves in eight innings of work. He allowed five hits and one earned run.
Not only were both starters in command of their aresenals, they also fought ferociously when in trouble.
In the fifth inning, when singles gave Los Angeles runners on first and third with only one out, Wood stared in at a scary portion of Dodgers lineup: Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez.
After falling behind to Puig, Wood got the slugger to pop out to second baseman Tommy La Stella on an 80 MPH knuckle-curve. Wood then used a changeup to induce a ground ball out from Gonzalez.
Greinke didn’t stay out of trouble all game either. But like Wood, he fought through his struggles.
With two outs, and runners on second and third base, Greinke faced off against Evan Gattis. Greinke blew three fastballs by Gattis for a much-needed, inning-ending strikeout.
Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. Kemp’s name has been brought up in multiple scenarios where he would be dealt to another team.
Nothing would make the Braves happier.
Not only did Kemp blast a second-inning home run Wednesday, he launched two on Tuesday. If that wasn’t bad enough, after Kemp’s homer, he walked and later scored in the eighth inning, and then hit a walkoff single in the 10th.
Kemp has been Kryptonite to the Braves in this series. And if Kemp weren’t around for Game 3, he’d be unable to pull off any more heroics.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Upton led Major League Baseball with 130 strikeouts. He added to that total with four strikeouts against the Dodgers in Game 2 of this series.
With a .245 batting average in the month of July, Upton’s done a decent job of bringing his batting average up. But those extra hits this month have come at a cost.
With four strikeouts Wednesday, Upton has know struck out 36 times in the month of July, more than any other month this season. Wednesday’s four-strikeout game was also just the second time this season he’s whiffed that many times.
Upton stole his 18th base on Wednesday, and has six this month. Add the work he’s doing on the basepaths, to the fact that he is getting more hits of late (23 base hits in July is his best month to date), and it’s easy to see Upton’s game at the plate is showing some improvement.
Buy an increased strikeout rate is stagnating his progress to a certain degree.
Simmons was playing deep in the hole to defend pull-hitting Juan Uribe in the eighth inning with two outs. Uribe’s grounder just to the left of second base forced Simmons to range, and then dive for the ball.
Simmons got the ball, but couldn’t get anything on his throw to home plate to keep Kemp from scoring the go-ahead run.
It also looked as if Simmons hurt his right shoulder on the dive.
For the remainder of the inning, Simmons worked to loosen his shoulder by stretching it and raising it above his head. As he came off the field at the end of the inning, head athletic trainer Jeff Porter immediately met Simmons, as reported by Fox Sports’ Tom Hart, and took him into the tunnel to check him out.
Andrelton Simmons grimaced with every warmup throw to first between innings.
— Tom Hart (@tom_hart) July 31, 2014
Simmons returned to the game (and played the rest of it–two more innings), but a throw to first base in the ninth inning seemed to bother Simmons.
After the game, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had no update from the training staff, but didn’t seem worried about Simmons.
"He played a couple innings after that," said Gonzalez. "He’s probably more upset that he didn’t make that play, than he was being hurt."
With right fielder Jason Heyward still day-to-day with a sore back, the Braves can ill afford to lose Simmons.