Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, June 26.
The Braves have been so awful the last few years, I keep waiting for them to collapse. It isn’t happening. Last night, one of their several prize young players-Ozzie Albies-hit a walk-off home run to beat the Reds 5–4 in 11 innings. Here we are, a week shy of the 4th of July and they’re still on top of the heap in the National League East. They’re 3.5 games ahead of the Phillies, another biblically bad team in recent years who are on the rise. The Braves find themselves 4 games ahead of the Nationals. As the season began Washington should have been a prohibitive favorite in the NL East especially with the Mets falling apart as they did a year ago. In a late bulletin, the Mets’ embattled general manager Sandy Alderson has resigned siting health issues.
The last time the Braves were winners was 2013, if you can imagine. After all the greatness throughout the 1990’s and the first part of this century the other shoe finally dropped in 2014. That was the first of 4 dreadful years in Atlanta. 5 years later, and only 2 of the 2013 Braves remain-Julio Teheran and Freddie Freeman. Most of the 2013 Braves are out of the game. Some are flourishing elsewhere. Andrelton Simmons was traded to the Angels for Sean Newcomb, a pitcher the Braves expected, and have gotten great things from. Brian McCann is one of two Braves’ catcher now with Houston. Evan Gattis also catches for the Astros since the Braves traded him to get Mike Foltynewicz and Rio Ruiz. (Memo to Mike Foltynewicz: Could you get a shorter last name, like the Hollywood stars did in the last century? Be a pal.) Jason Heyward is long gone from Atlanta, having played for both the Cardinals and Cubs since the Braves moved him to get Shelby Miller who became an All-Star in his one season in Atlanta. Trading Miller gained the Braves Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair and Ender Enciarte, all 3 of whom are on the Braves’ big-league roster now. Alex Wood had about as good a year as a pitcher can have with last year’s Dodgers. He had been a Brave until the 2015 trade deadline, is a Georgia native and played his college ball for the Georgia Bulldogs. David Hale has pitched for the Yankees this season and has been around a lot since the Braves sent him to Colorado in 2014.
Last night’s hero Albies isn’t the youngest of the Braves. That would be Ronald Acuna JR. who will be 21 in December. Albies turned 21 this past January. He is in fact the youngest man ever to hit 2 grand slams. He hit his second two weeks ago against the Mets. He hit his first walk-off home run early this morning, just before 1 A.M. Mike Foltynewicz was the starter. He was coming off the DL and gave up just one run in 5 innings. Albies had hit two doubles, one driving in a run earlier in the game.
While Acuna and Albies are the youngest, the Braves have more than their share of guys for whom Ronald Reagan is a dry name in history like George Washington. Dansby Swanson is 24, so are pitchers A.J. Minter and Lucas Sims. Sean Newcomb turned 25 on June 12, the day Albies hit his second grand slam. Yohan Camargo will be 25 in December. With a team as young as the Braves, there will be growing pains. Lucas Sims proved that by giving up 3 runs in the 6th, giving up a 3–1 Braves lead. But the Braves tied the game, leading to Albies’ heroics.
Last night’s first game of the College World Series final round was rained out. At first, with no rain falling it seemed odd to delay the game, which the NCAA did. Around 8 PM Eastern the predicted bad weather hit. Had the game started they would have been less than 3 innings along considering how slowly most of these games have been played. Both starting pitchers would have been lost. Everybody involved knew Arkansas was going with “Big Game” Blaine Knight, as their broadcaster Phil Elson calls him. And well the Pittsburgh-born Elson might. Knight is 13–0 this season. He got the win on June 17 as the Hogs beat Texas, their first win of this World Series. Oregon State was keeping quiet about who their starter would be, and they still are though tonight’s game is also expected to start no earlier than 7:45 PM Eastern. With an extra day, Luke Heimlich’s name is in the picture along with Bryce Fehmel, another of their regular starters. The Beavers at some point will turn to Christian Chamberlain and his fellow freshman Kevin Abel. Both have bailed out Heimlich earlier in the series when he couldn’t carry the load. If the Beavers are ahead late, look for Jake Mulholland who has been saving games for them all season.1