Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Ask and you shall receive…

008101209_marlins_.JPGHLD&S would like to think that all the drama in Wednesday’s Marlins-Braves series finale was a response to Monday’s lament about making the last few games of the season a bit more thrilling than watching paint dry. But whether or not that was the case, the rubber match at Turner Field was one exciting game to witness. 

Despite the bats showing up for the second night in a row, the real show Wednesday was Ricky Nolasco. In his final start of 2009, Ricky pitched like a man possessed, striking out batter after batter after batter. 
At one point, Nolasco struck out the side in three consecutive innings (third, fourth and fifth), becoming just the fourth pitcher in history to do so. The nine straight K’s were also one short of the Major League record.   
Against Javier Vazquez, the Marlins provided some run support for the dealing Nolasco, and scored three times in the second inning. Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla both hit RBI singles, and a wild pitch scored a run to give the Fish a 3-0 lead. Ross Gload went deep off of Vazquez in the fifth, hitting a two-run shot to put the Marlins up 5-0. 
The Braves finally got on the board against Ricky with two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh. With two out, Garret Anderson singled and Yunel Escobar reached on an error by Hanley. Adam LaRoche drove in both runs with an RBI single, and erased the shutout of Atlanta. 
Ricky recorded his sixteenth strikeout of the game in the eight inning, and his night was done after 7 2/3 innings and 123 pitches. Ricky gave up four hits, two unearned runs, and recorded a career high 16 strikeouts in the start. The K-fest set a franchise record for most strikeouts in a game, and Ricky also plowed through his career high for strikeouts in a season, ending 2009 with 195.
As if Ricky’s display wasn’t excitement enough, the Marlins generously gave us a nail-biter of a ninth inning, where–to quote Nolasco in the understatement of the week–“it got a little interesting.” 
Leo Nunez walked Brian McCann to lead off the bottom of the ninth, a botched double play and error by Jorge Cantu advanced McCann to third base, and Yunel Escobar singled to drive in the run. With one out, Wes Helms committed the second error of the inning on a throw to first that ended up in the dirt and allowed Matt Diaz to reach. Omar Infante added a pinch hit RBI single to bring the Braves within a run.    
After the performance of a lifetime, Ricky Nolasco was getting dangerously close to a no-decision. Leo walked Nate McClouth to load the bases, and the call to the bullpen brought out veteran Brendan Donnelly. 
Donnelly’s very first pitch in the game got by Ronny Paulino, and Matt Diaz started for home. He retreated as Paulino got to the ball, but couldn’t get back to third before the catcher picked him off for the final out of the game.
With that out, Donnelly got his second save for the Fish, and Ricky Nolasco won his 13th game of the season.
While HLD&S is appreciative of the Marlins attempts at entertaining us in the last few days of 2009, we could do without the cardiac arrest. And seeing as all four of Atlanta’s runs were unearned, we could also do without the sloppy defense.
But now we’re just nit-picking.
Though it’s true that nothing can compare to the feeling of one’s own team making it to the post-season, essentially taking the chance away from a division rival is kinda fun too.

The Scoreless Streak Ends! But, Um, So Do Our Post-Season Hopes.

bats alive.jpgIt took a starting pitcher to end the Marlins’ streak of scoreless innings at 22, but the bats finally came out of hibernation Tuesday night at Turner Field.  

In the second inning Josh Johnson said, “enough of this scoreless business,” and did what the Fish have struggled to do the last few games: he hit with a runner in scoring position. (!) 
Johnson drove in his 10th run of the season, doubling off of Braves starter Tim Hudson, and opened the proverbial floodgates for the Marlins. Dan Uggla, who also doubled and scored a run in the second, followed with a solo shot in the fourth inning, and Cameron Maybin added a 2-run homer in the fifth to give the Marlins a 4-1 lead. (OK, so the floodgates were more cracked slightly than fully opened. But we’ll take it.)
Still not 100% recovered from the flu, Josh worked five solid innings for the Fish. He had to work his way out of some trouble, but JJ allowed just one run on three hits to the Braves, and struck out five. With the start, JJ also surpassed 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career, and left the game with a 4-1 lead, in line for the win.
In the bottom of the sixth, Brian Sanches erased the decision for Josh when he gave up a three-run shot to Matt Diaz that tied up the game.  
The good news is that Jorge Cantu decided to continue the all-new trend of driving in runs rather than leaving them on base, and reclaimed the lead for the Marlins in the seventh when he hit an RBI single to score [the clear choice for NL Rookie of the Year] Chris Coghlan. Cogs was 3-for-4 in the game with a pair of doubles, a pair of runs, and his 46th hit in the month of September, which established a new team record. 
Leo Nunez capped off the game with his 25th save of the season, and the Marlins took game two of the series. 
And now for the bad news. The Rockies declined to be of any help to the Fish, and selfishly came back to win their game against the Brewers in extra innings, thus eliminating the Marlins from Wild Card contention.

Wake me when this is over.

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The Marlins began their series with Atlanta Monday night at Turner Field, and were looking to bounce back from being shut out by the Mets and eliminated in the NL East Sunday afternoon.
Sadly, someone forgot to alert Anibal Sanchez and the Marlins bats as to the whole “bounce back” strategy.

Coming off of his gorgeous eight-inning shutout last week, Anibal did a complete about-face against Atlanta. He only allowed two hits and three runs to the Braves, but to say Sanchez “struggled” with his control would be putting it as mildly as possible. To struggle with control, there has to actually be a small amount of control with which to struggle. Ani walked a career high eight batters in the game, including three walks in the first inning to load the bases with no one out. McCann grounded out to score a run, and a fly ball from Garret Anderson put the Braves up 2-0. 

Ani settled in slightly after the first, and allowed just one more run courtesy of a solo homer to Chipper Jones in the third inning. He managed to last five innings for the Marlins, which may be close to miraculous, considering the trouble he had commanding his pitches. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (see yesterday’s recap), the game was already over. The Marlins were blanked, again, so Sanchez could have struck out fifteen and allowed just the solo shot to Chipper, and he still would have been tagged with the loss. 
Jair Jurrjens allowed five hits and one walk through his seven innings of work, and once again the Fish couldn’t get a run to cross the plate. There were opportunities, but any and all attempts to capitalize on said opportunities were met with failure. In the seventh inning, the Marlins had runners at the corners with no outs, and once again could not bring a single runner home.
As previously discussed, scoring runs is generally a requirement for winning ball games, and so the Marlins dropped their second straight, and reduced their wild card elimination number to one. 
It’s not as though all of HLD&S’s post-season hopes were dashed Monday night. Forget the post-season. Right now we are lamenting the fact that this is our last week to watch Marlins baseball for another six months, and the Fish are making it about as exciting as watching dust gather on great-grandma’s porcelain doll collection.

And the Moral of the Story? Fighting = good.

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We’ve been told our whole lives that fighting doesn’t solve anything. 
It would appear we’ve been lied to.
A few days ago, the Marlins looked about as likely to reach the post season as I am to win the lottery this week. And then, well, a few of the Fish engaged in a clubhouse screaming match, and things have suddenly taken a turn for the better (well, things not including HLD&S’s skills with photoshop. Those have decidedly taken a turn for the very worst).
After Wednesday’s roller coaster of a win, Ricky Nolasco took the ball for the Marlins Thursday night in the series finale with the Braves. Ricky was looking to help the Marlins split the four-game series, and despite some struggles in the fifth inning, he had a pretty nice night on the mound. 
The Braves scored a run in the second inning on a Brian McCann homer before Ricky got into some trouble in the top of the fifth when he loaded up the bases with one out. The inning could easily have gotten out of hand, but Nolasco limited the damage to two RBI singles that put the Braves up 3-1. Nolasco gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out seven before he exited after six innings, down two runs to Atlanta.  
It’s pretty fortunate for the Fish that it took Braves starter Tommy Hanson 104 pitches to get through five innings, because an implosion of the Braves bullpen was in order, and his annoyingly quality start was getting in the way. In five innings of work, Hanson allowed just one run on two hits, one of which was an RBI double from Maybin that tied the game in the third.
With Kris Medlen out of the bullpen in the sixth, Brett Carroll got the fun started when he doubled to score John Baker and bring the Marlins within a run. Next, Hanley Ramirez slapped a pinch-hit single to score Brett and tie up the game. Cody Ross and Chris Coghlan both doubled in a run, and after a call to the bullpen, Nick Johnson and Jorge Cantu hit RBI singles to give the Marlins a 7-3 lead.
The Marlins would score once more in the game, while Florida’s bullpen put in a scoreless three innings to finish off the Braves. Sanches and Pinto each tossed an inning, Lindstrom closed it out, and the Marlins split the series. 
The Fish are tied with Atlanta for fourth place in the Wild Card, and if we can keep the fire going that the clubhouse scuffle seems to have ignited, things might actually be interesting to watch over the next few series.

Um, Hanley? Did you hear what Uggla said about your mom?

When it Rains, it Pours.

3 hour deluge.jpg
One Marlins vs. Braves ticket: $20
One rain poncho: $5
Waiting in the pouring rain for three hours and staying to the bitter, 1:05 AM end of yet another disappointing game: Totally. Not. Worth it.
There are some things money can’t buy. A gun with which to off oneself after enduring the torture of Tuesday night’s Marlins-Braves game is not one of them.
The twenty or so fans who stayed to watch game two of the Marlins-Braves series at Land Shark stadium were treated to a three hour rain delay, followed by a three-hour asphyxiation of any (sane person’s) remaining hope of October baseball for the Fish.
Anibal Sanchez was on the mound for Florida, and despite his claim of feeling “comfortable,” he didn’t really make it look easy from our view in the bullpen box (then again, the sight line from said box could be partially to blame). Ani gave up a run in the first, but his real struggle came in the third inning when he walked the ($#%! @#%$ &*%$ $#@% %@$!) pitcher to lead off the inning, balked in a run, and gave up a two-run double to Brian McCann. Sanchez’s night was over after allowing three runs on five hits in five innings of work.

Tim Hudson, meanwhile, made his first start for the Braves since returning from Tommy John surgery, and pretty much pitched like a walking advertisement for the benefits of going under the knife. Hudson gave up six hits and two runs–courtesy of a Jorge Cantu RBI single in the bottom of the second–in a solid 5 1/3 innings of work. 

You can’t spell Burke Heinrich Badenhop without “he be back,” and when Anibal’s night ended, the Hopper made his triumphant return from the DL. He was immediately back to his smooth, long-relieving ways, tossing two scoreless innings for the Fish. Renyel Pinto followed by giving up a run to Atlanta in the eighth, driving the final nail into the Marlins coffin, as the Fish just couldn’t muster enough offense to make up for it.
The Braves pen held the Marlins to a grand total of two hits over 3 2/3 innings, one of which was a solo shot to Uggla in the bottom of the ninth that brought the Marlins within a run. Here’s where Renyel Pinto holding the game would’ve come in handy, but there are no do-overs in baseball, so that is how the story ended for Florida Tuesday night.
To make matters worse, Hanley Ramirez left the game in the fourth inning with tightness in his hamstring, and is day-to-day. Will the good news never stop?
The 30 or so Fish fans who waited out the rain delay were thanked for their loyalty utter insanity with yet another loss, and even more distance between their team and the other teams in the wild card race (you know, the ones who actually have a chance of winning it).
HLD&S is exhausted, drenched, and frustrated with the Fish.

All’s well that *ends* well. Which is a tough break for the Fish.

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What’s that saying? It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish? 
That’s just too bad for the Marlins, because if we were going purely based on “start” in their series opener against Atlanta Monday night, they’d have had the game in the bag.
(You’ve just read the short version of the recap, so if you’d rather not dwell on the depressing details of the latest Marlins loss, then be content with “it sucked,” and go find something else to do with the next two minutes of your life. However, if you’re into details and/or self-injury, by all means read on to savor the agony…)

With Florida and Atlanta all tied up in the NL East and in the Wild Card, The Fish kicked off an important four-game series Monday night at Land Shark Stadium. Josh Johnson was on the hill for the Marlins, and Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami took the mound for Atlanta. With their ace making the start, the Marlins had the perfect opportunity to gain a game on the Braves in both the division and the Wild Card. 

Sadly, opportunity has to be seized, and it didn’t appear the Marlins bats were up to participating in anything remotely resembling seizure in the series opener. 
JJ was on from the start, and after he handled the Braves nicely through two innings, Jorge Cantu doubled to lead off the bottom of the second. John Baker followed with a single to move Jorge to third, and Uggla hit a sac fly to score the first run of the ball game. 
One run on six hits was all the Marlins would be able to shake out of Kawakami in his six innings of work, but for a while it looked as though one run might actually do the trick, since Josh Johnson was in the mood to tease us all by flirting with a no-hitter for the second time this month.  
JJ took his no-no all the way until two outs in the sixth inning, when Matt Diaz finally singled to record the Braves first base hit of the game. Despite the hit, Josh made it out of the inning without incident, and the Fish maintained their lead. 
For like ten minutes, anyway. 
After Josh recorded two outs in the seventh, things went South. JJ’s energy seemed to fizzle out, and the final out of the inning eluded him. With two men on, Josh gave up a triple to Omar Infante that cleared the bases and gave the lead to the Braves. David Ross was the last batter JJ would face in the inning, and he singled to score Infante and put Atlanta up 3-1. 
Johnson’s night ended after 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs and eight strikeouts. Brian Sanches recorded the last out of the seventh, but by then the damage was done, and the Fish had a two-run hole to dig themselves out of… Um, but instead of the lineup digging the Marlins out of the hole, the bullpen worked on digging aforementioned hole even deeper. 
Sanches hit Diaz to open the bottom of the eighth, and intentionally walked Chipper Jones before Dan Meyer took over and gave up two straight singles to put the Braves up 5-1. 
The Fish made things mildly interesting in the bottom of the ninth when Cantu doubled, and Uggla drove him in with a two-out double of his own for his second RBI of the game. But that was all the offense the team could muster on a night when the Marlins managed eight hits– none of which came from their superstar. Hanley Ramirez was 0-for-4 again, marking his third game in a row without a hit. 
JJ suffered his fourth loss of the season, and a night that started with promise ended miserably for the Marlins. Suddenly, rather than lamenting the lost no-hitter, the Fish were lamenting another series-opening
loss, which set the team back farther in both the division and the Wild Card, and brought the month of August to a close at an even 14-14. 
.500 baseball isn’t going to win the Wild Card, Fish. 

Braves Get Free Pass(es) to Series Win

erase mccann.jpgIf it were possible to use a magic eraser on a baseball game, Ricky Nolasco might consider wiping Brian McCann from Sunday afternoon’s series finale with Atlanta. 

Obviously, it isn’t possible. But even if it were, despite going three for four with a walk and five RBI, Brian McCann wasn’t the real problem for the Marlins as they faced off with the Braves at Turner Field to end their road trip. 
The problem, once again, was pitching. 
Ricky Nolasco went with the recent trend of Marlins starters and struggled in the first inning. He issued two walks before Brian McCann began his one-man assault of Florida with a home run that gave the Braves a 3-0 lead. 
Ricky would last just 4 1/3 innings against Atalnta. He allowed four runs on eight hits and walked three before being lifted in the fifth with one out and the bases loaded.  Cristhian Martinez was one bright spot in the bullpen as he entered the game to work out of Ricky’s jam and hold the Braves to four runs. 

The good news for the Marlins was that Derek Lowe didn’t exactly have the most memorable afternoon on the mound himself. The pitcher went five innings and gave up five runs, including a three-run double by Catcher Ronny Paulino that put the Fish ahead 5-4 in the fourth inning. 
The Marlins maintained their lead through six innings, and it was all downhill from there. Kiko Calero pitched the seventh and gave up the game-tying run, and then came the delight that was the bottom of the eighth. Calero walked Omar Infante to start the inning before Renyel Pinto came in and joined the fun with a walk to Kelly Johnson. After Chipper Jones grounded out, Brian McCann was at it again, this time with a single off of Pinto that scored two runs and gave Atlanta a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. 
Ricky Nolasco and the bullpen walked eight Braves Sunday, and four of McCann’s five RBI were the result of those walks. Bottom line? Brian McCann had a good afternoon at the plate, but he didn’t cost the Marlins the game. If our pitchers weren’t tossing out free passes like candy at a parade, McCann could just as easily have put a single run on the board for the Braves, rather than five. 
So behind some weak starting pitching, and less-than-inspiring pitching from a few of our relievers as well, the Fish dropped their second game–and second series–in a row. 

I need to look it up in my baseball manual to be sure, but I’m almost positive this isn’t how you go about winning the Wild Card. 

Bet You’ll Never Guess What Volstad Did Twice that Cost the Fish the Game…

volstad-1.jpgThat Chris Volstad would give up a home run Saturday night was a given, and as he took the mound to face the Braves in game two of the series at Turner Field, it was not a matter of if, but when

We found out pretty quickly. 
It seems Chris wanted to get the obligatory home runs out of the way early so he wouldn’t have to worry about them the rest of the game. And that might have been a good strategy, had Volstad held the Braves to a single long ball and kept runners off of base in the meantime. 
He didn’t. In the Braves’ first at-bat, Omar Infante hit his second home run of the season to give Atlanta a one-run lead. After a walk to Kelly Johnson and an RBI single to Adam LaRoche, Yunel Escobar took a turn going deep against Volstad as well, and the Braves were up 4-0 after one inning. 
Volstad “settled down” after the first, but he was done after just four innings, having put in a pretty weak performance with six hits, two walks, and four runs–three of which came courtesy of the long ball. 
Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson clearly didn’t want to be outdone by Anibal Sanchez’s performance Friday night, and so while Volstad continued his habit of being taken deep repeatedly, the Braves starter flirted with a no-hitter for 5 1/3 innings. 
The no-hitter lasted until Jeremy Hermida came to bat with one on and two out in the top of the fifth, and busted it up on a single to center. Hermida’s hit opened the proverbial floodgates for the Marlins…or at least, you know, cracked them a little. Wes Helms followed with a two-out double that scored Baker, who had walked to open the inning. Then Jorge Cantu pinch-hit for Chris Volstad and singled to drive in Hermida and Helms to make it a one-run game. 
And a one-run game is where it remained. 
The Marlins bullpen worked out of a few jams to hold Atlanta to their four first-inning runs, but Hanson held the Fish to three runs through seven innings, and the Braves ‘pen closed it out  as the Marlins dropped game two at Turner Field. 
Chris Volstad is going to have to get over his home run fetish. May we suggest hypnotherapy?

Welcome Back, Sanchy.

sanchez.JPGAnibal Sanchez hadn’t pitched in a big league game since June 2nd, and he didn’t waste any time getting himself reacquainted with the mound Friday night at Turner Field as the Marlins kicked off a three-game series with the Braves. 

In his pitching debut since returning from the DL, Sanchez impressed, to say the least. He allowed just two hits, walked two, and struck out seven Braves through six innings, and had a no-hitter going until one out in the sixth. It was at that point that Atlanta pitcher Javier Vazquez was kind enough to break up the fun with a single. 

Vazquez didn’t look too bad on the mound himself, and a pitchers duel lasted through five innings as he managed to keep the Marlins off of the board. In the sixth, though, Hanley Ramirez–whose personal hit streak reached 16 games earlier in the night–drove in a run and put the Marlins up 1-0 over the Braves. 
In the seventh, things got worse for Vazquez. Jeremy Hermida took him deep to start the inning, then Wes Helms doubled, and with two out, Ross Gload drove Wes in with an RBI single. Hanley Ramirez followed with his third hit and third RBI of the night, a two-run shot that gave the Fish a 5-0 lead. 

A shutout of the Braves would’ve been swell, but Adam LaRoche had other ideas, which included taking Dan Meyer deep in the bottom of the inning, and cut the Marlins lead to two runs. 
And then came the rain…two-and-a-half hours of it. Thankfully, Marlins fans are perfectly used to that, and as a special treat got to enjoy the new “Inside the Marlins” episode featuring Josh Johnson. As much as we all love Andre Dawson, with all the rain that has plagued us this season, Fish fans pretty much know Dawson’s episode by heart.
When the rains finally dissipated, I was asleep. But from what I can tell from the box score and several text messages from friends who were watching the game, Leo Nunez came in to pitch the ninth, and recorded two outs before giving up a single that Adam Laroche tried to stretch into a double. Cody Ross gunned down LaRoche at second for the final out, and Anibal Sanchez earned his first win since mid-April.   
The Fish are once again three games behind the Rockies in the Wild Card, and 5 ½ games behind Philadelphia in the NL East. 
Welcome back, Sanchy. More of the same next time, please.

Vazquez, McCann take brief hiatus from sucking against Fish

no broom.pngObviously, walking Chipper Jones was the thing to do in the top of the tenth inning Thursday night in the series finale against Atlanta. I mean, come on, Chipper is Chipper, and who could have foreseen that Brian McCann–who was 0 for his last five games against the Fish–would choose that specific moment to decide to snap out of his Florida funk? 

Then again, we can’t blame the game entirely on McCann. Javier Vazquez undoubtedly influenced the catcher’s turnaround with one of his own. After four straight losses to the Marlins, something suddenly inspired Vazquez, and he held the Fish to one run over seven innings.

Rick VandenHurk deserved a better result from his start, as he went six, giving up just two runs and striking out a career-high nine batters. Unfortunately, the only run support Vandy’s teammates could generate was on an RBI single from Ronny Paulino in the 5th.

Cody Ross homered off of Vazquez in the eighth, and Cantu tied things up on a lucky RBI chopper to send the game into extras, but that’s where the comeback ended. Luis Ayala served up the three-run shot to McCann in the top of the tenth, and this time the walk-of magic was a no-show for the Marlins, who dropped the finale, settling for the series win.

We will resist the urge to complain about Land Shark’s “no brooms” policy, since obviously, it helped us to not look idiotic at the stadium Thursday.

6-3, Braves

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