Three Cuts: Braves drop series finale to Mets, 7-4
By dropping the series finale to the New York Mets, the Braves head back home from a sub-.500 road trip to face the Cardinals, who own an MLB-best 61-37 record. Here are three observations from the game:
Following Wood's 4 1/3-inning outing in New York, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was clear in stating that the rookie will get another start in five days. That may simply be a reflection of Gonzalez addressing his present roster -- as opposed to a potential piece acquired via trade or free agency -- but, for now, it appears as though Wood is a definite part of the five-man rotation, at least until Paul Maholm returns.
This is exactly the type of information that will define the days immediately following Tim Hudson's right ankle fracture Wednesday night, an injury that will require season-ending surgery. It's strange to watch a staff that did not miss a single scheduled start over the first half of the season face such uncertainty -- though, make no mistake, the Braves have expressed confidence in a potential Minor-Medlen-Beachy-Teheran-Maholm/Wood rotation, and why not? -- but these are the cards they were dealt.
Obviously, a personnel move by the front office could change all of that (as my colleague Cory McCartney and I discussed earlier on the latest Chopcast).
Wood was not at his best on Thursday. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. His command wavered at times. However, Gonzalez was not frustrated with the lefty's outing.
"He didn't get hit that hard. He gave up some singles to a bunch of right-handed hitters that hit left-handers pretty good: (Josh) Satin and (Justin) Turner and that group of guys. But he did OK," the manager said. "It's a little different pitching to major league hitters than it is to Triple-A guys, and remember this guy was in Double-A two months ago. I think in the overall, I think it was a good experience for him."
With a weekend series versus the Cardinals pitting the two teams' best (remaining) starters against one another, the Braves will receive a much-needed litmus test for how much, if any, staff re-shuffling needs to be done to become World Series contenders.
Since out-dueling Cincinnati's Joey Votto on July 11 (3-for-4, four RBI) -- the night he was officially named to his first-ever All-Star team -- Freeman had not overloaded the box score. Part of that had to do with the nagging thumb injury that caused him to sit out the All-Star game, but even though he re-aggravated the thumb on a fielding play the teams 23-year-old first baseman finished with two hits and a walk.
One of those hits cleared the center field fence for his 11th home run of the season, tying him with Andrelton Simmons for fifth-most on the roster.
After a slow start to the second half, it's important to recall the type of reliable production Freeman provided Atlanta ever since coming off his early-season stay on the DL for an oblique strain. Among Braves hitters with at least 200 plate appearances this season, only catchers Brian McCann boasts a better weighted runs created (137, with 100 being league average) than Freeman (139).
Let's stop short of using the term "robbed" in regards to the game's outcome, but it's worth pointing out, at least to third base umpire Chad Fairchild, that a one-run deficit is more manageable than a two-run deficit.
On a ball hit by David Wright to deep left-center in the sixth inning, Braves center fielder Reed Johnson threw his arms in the air, signaling the ball was a ground-rule double. After all, the ball hit the railing above the outfield wall, which (per baseball rules) means runners can only advance two bases. These are elementary baseball procedures. However, Fairchild did not see the ball-on-railing contact, allowing a run to score from first and Wright to advance to third.
Guess what? That's understandable. If I were a Major League umpire, I couldn't even promise I'd be paying attention 70 percent of the time, much less focused on every single fair-or-foul call, etc.
It's 2013, though. With technological advances -- just think: tennis has its replay system down to the millimeter show instantaneously on the big screen, but yet baseball can not figure out a simple solution to account for human error on batted balls dealing in matters of feet -- this sort of hiccup should be fairly easy to correct. It did not change the outcome of this particular game per say, but that's beside the point.
Gonzalez ended up getting ejected for the third time this season for publicly pointing out the obvious."I don't even think I needed a replay to know I was right," Gonzalez said of the missed called. "But coming in here the rest of the game, it confirmed. I thought the ball that Uggla hit, the home run, was a tougher call than that one. But we couldn't get out of that inning; that was a big inning for us. You'd still rather have a man on second and a man on third than a run scored."
And if you're against the encroachment of technology on baseball -- well, let's just make the assumption you still call it "The National Pastime" -- then take the side of simple human communication:
"Hey Jeff, did that hit the railing?"
"Should we put Murphy back at third and send Wright back to second?"
Instead of asking for a second opinion, Fairchild tossed Gonzalez and stood defiantly on the third base line. Perhaps there's some asinine rule that says he was not allowed to seek a second opinion, but, from an outsider's perspective, it came off as a pompous show. It did not affect the outcome of the series finale, but the sixth inning provided the type of baseball scene that would seem to be easily correctable with just a few minor adjustments.