Saturday, August 31, 2013

Atlanta Braves provide enough high octane to last for 15 innings

In lieu of my normal monthly concert review, let me instead tell you about the Atlanta Braves game I attended earlier this month. Right off the bat this wasn't your normal ball game. The starting lineups pitted hotshot pitchers Mike Minor from the Braves against Washington Nationals ace Steven Strasburg. In ordinary circumstances the table would have been set for a pitchers duel in which both guys pitched deep into the ballgame. However, neither pitcher survived the second inning. For Minor, it was simply a case of lousy performance, as he gave up four runs and hurled nearly 50 pitches in only 1 1/3 innings of work. Strasburg, on the other hand, was unable to pry himself from a from a feud that involved Braves pitchers plunking Nationals star Bryce Harper.

Strasburg opened the second inning by nailing Justin Upton with a letter high fastball, and then got the hook after throwing three straight pitches behind Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The entire scene played out in a jarring fashion. Strasburg seemed to be losing control of his pitches, and it appeared that he may have been pulled from the game due to some type of injury. Apparently the guys in the booth thought so too, as I heard them say so on the overhead speakers when I was walking in the concourse.

But it wasn't the night's only unusual occurrence. Right fielder Jason Heyward turned the game into a marathon with his two run homer in the bottom of the ninth, extending the game into what would eventually turn out to be a 15 inning slugfest. The Braves looked to be in winning position a few times throughout the extra frames, but it eventually came down to a former Brave -- Washington first basemen Adam LaRoche -- to jack a home run in the top of the 15th and shut off the lights for the evening. The Braves ran through their entire stable of vaunted relief pitchers and were forced to make the unorthodox move of inserting starting pitcher Kris Medlen into the game starting in the 13th inning. And it would be Medlen who suffered the loss.

The Braves had plenty of firepower going into the game. Chris Johnson came into the game as the National League's leading hitter, and Heyward had injected a new found electricity into the lineup after moving into the leadoff spot, but the Braves would do their damage only sporadically. Catcher Brian McCann, first basemen Freddie Freeman, and Heyward all went yard to help the Braves play catchup, but the team found itself unable to push runners across the plate when they needed them most.

Getting to see Turner Field once more was a treat. My last trip here was in 2006, when I was fortunate enough to catch John Smoltz out dueling the Milwaukee Brewers. In addition, for two of my friends that came along, it was their first experience attending a Major League Baseball game. Both seemed to enjoy it, although they wished it hadn't dragged on so long.

We decided to change our plans and drive back home directly that night. It was nearly 6 a.m. before my head hit the pillow, but it was well worth it and was a nice change of pace.

Braves pitcher Kris Medlen makes a rare relief appearance.

No comments: