Oh boy. That was a disappointing game last night. The Braves were lucky enough to run into a Dodgers starter that was having all sorts of problems, they took advantage of those problems, but Braves pitchers unfortunately found problems of their own.
Where’s the power: The thing this Braves offense is built around — power — has been missing from this series. That’s partly a credit to the Dodgers pitching, but even against a struggling Ryu last night they had just one extra base hit. The Braves as a team are hitting .221/.308/.284 in this series with the most noticeable stat being the lack of power, with just four extra base hits and one home run. The batting average and on-base percentage wouldn’t be so terrible-looking if that slugging percentage had a few more home runs behind it. The Dodgers meanwhile have been all about the power: .333/.390/.524.
Bullpen usage in a blowout: What good is a long reliever if he’s not used in a blowout game where a starter exits early? This was the question I was asking myself as Fredi Gonzalez was burning through Ayala, Walden, and Avilan last night with a 6 run deficit. The reason David Hale is on the roster is so he can pitch multiple innings in games like this. Alex Wood gave the Braves multiple innings, so he could be considered a long man, but he’s supposed to be on the team as the second lefty in the bullpen, and now he’s unavailable for tonight’s game. I would imagine that Walden is unavailable after going multiple innings as well. I supposed Mike Minor is available tonight if needed, but I’ve never liked using starters as relievers all of a sudden in the playoffs.
When to hook Teheran: Julio made some bad pitches in key situations last night. He didn’t get much help from a strike zone that seemed to jump around each inning, but Julio wasn’t hitting his spots consistently and that’s going to scare umpires out of strike calls every time (unfortunately). The question becomes, “should Teheran have been lifted earlier?” That’s the question asked here, but I respectfully disagree. Teheran had Hanley struck out to begin the 3rd inning, but that morphing strike zone hurt him, and Hanley struck on the next pitch for a leadoff double. The other hits in the inning were all singles… once again the Dodgers used a ridiculous BABIP approach to chase Teheran. After the double in that situation Teheran looked like he could strike people out, as he did with Uribe, he just ran into a mound of bad batted ball luck. This was the first time all year that Teheran hasn’t pitched gone at least 5 innings.
LA BABIP: The Dodgers have a .408 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in this series. The MLB average BABIP this year was .297, the highest team was Boston at .329. The highest BABIP for a player in baseball was Chris Johnson at .394. Remember how uncannily placed half of Johnson’s hits have been this year… that’s every Dodgers hitter right now.
El Oso defense: There were grumblings about the defense of Evan Gattis last night, but I don’t think it’s been that bad. We have to remember that he is a catcher playing left field, so the years of experience as an outfielder are not there and neither are the instincts to know what to do on every ball hit his direction. At the plate he has been the Braves best hitter, going 5-for-10 with 2 walks (though all his hits have been singles). The extra offense is worth the drop on defense.
Paul Janish has a broken nose: Yes, a broken nose, which he injured while “weight lifting.” (I smell a fight cover up.)
So it’s come down to this: Freddy Garcia will make the start tonight for the Braves. A pitcher who spent the season bouncing around between the Orioles and their triple-A club, before they finally gave him to the Braves. I had the thought last night that perhaps a command and control soft-tosser like Garcia would be able to get the Dodgers off their swing-at-every-fastball approach. LA has been putting good fastballs from Atlanta pitchers in play and getting lucky by putting them in the right spots. Yes, the Dodgers have also been crushing every single hanging breaking ball, so Freddy better take heed. We have to hope he has his command and control, and can use his “veteran presents” to get the Braves to a game 5.