Three Cuts: Braves yield 20 hits in blowout loss to Padres
Over the course of a marathon-like season, some games are preternaturally doomed before things even begin.
For Atlanta ... this was one of those dark and helpless nights.
Go ahead and pick a futile memory -- any meh moment -- from Friday. It all adds up to one of the most disheveled defeats of the season:
**Starter Mike Minor (five runs, nine hits allowed) surrendering two early homers to second-year pro Tommy Medica -- the same Medica who had four dingers heading into the game.
"(Minor) couldn't get to his breaking ball until late," said Braves skipper Fredi Gonzlez in his postgame address, noting Minor's initial reliance on fastballs, cut-fastballs and changeups. "After that, he did OK -- and there's something to be said about that."
**Medica (four runs, four RBI), who was batting .248 prior to the national anthem, netting his first five-hit night in the majors (or probably anywhere else, save Little League).
**Every regular Padres starter, batters 1-8, recording at least one hit.
**Every Atlanta hitter, save Chris Johnson, going hitless in the first 7 1/3 innings.
**San Diego, which ranked dead last in hits heading into Friday, registering its first 20-hit night at PETCO Park since 2005. (For those with short memories, the Padres also rank 30th in runs, doubles, homers, batting average, OBP, slugging and OPS.)
**Reliever David Hale yielding three runs and six hits -- including two infield singles -- in an ugly seventh inning ... without ever securing a third out.
**The Bizarro World coup de grace from the 5th ... when the entire Braves infield sat idly by and watched Medica steal third base while Minor was on the mound, with nary a throw.
And when the Atlanta players returned to the dugout after the inning, coach Terry Pendleton reportedly lit into his oblivious troops, regarding the defensive lapse.
"We got caught not paying attention, and (Medica) took advantage of that," said Gonzalez, mildly chagrined from the memory.
(Unfortunately, I can relate to that specific gaffe. Many moons ago, at the middle-school level, a kid jog-walked to third base while I was on the mound -- too focused on the out-of-place webbing of my glove to notice the base theft.)
Bottom line: Even the best teams are prone to hare-brained nights from time to time. But then again, the Braves (58-52, 1 1/2 games behind the Nationals) missed a golden chance at halting a mini-slide and inching closer to the National League East lead.
On June 3, Johnson was hitting a pedestrian .256 and looking nothing like the guy who was a front-runner for the NL batting title throughout last season -- despite often hitting from the 7- or 8-hole in the lineup.
Fast forward to Friday, as Johnson's two hits raised his seasonal average to .278, ranking him sixth among the National League third basemen with 200-plus at-bats. In fact, check out his rock-solid numbers since early June, spanning 51 games:
Six homers, 33 RBI, 21 runs, .304 batting average, .333 on-base percentage
For his inaugural game in a Braves uniform, Bonifacio -- a pre-trade-deadline acquisition from Thursday, along with Cubs reliever James Russell -- had an efficient, but largely uneventful outing (0 for 2 with two walks).
And since Bonifacio (.279 batting, .318 OBP, two homers, 14 steals, 35 runs with the Cubs) isn't known for power, he could only do so much against the Padres.
Of his four plate appearances, the Braves' new addition entered the fray with zero on and one out three times.
Was it really just four days ago when we heaped praise onto Santana for his dominant outing against the Padres -- going eight scoreless innings at Turner Field and posting back-to-back starts of double-digit strikeouts for the first time in his 10-year career?
Well, after four straight defeats to the Dodgers and lowly Padres (49-60), the Braves will once again turn to Santana (10-6, 3.63 ERA, 118/37 K-BB) to halt a bad streak and earn his $14 million salary.
OK, so the above line comes in jest, since Santana has already done enough to justify the Braves' late-winter pursuit of another rotation anchor (after season-ending injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy).
But it's also worth noting: Pressure games like Saturday are what separate frontline hurlers on good teams ... from frontline pitchers on bad ones. Anyone can pitch when their respective club is mired in last place during August or treading water in a highly competitive division.