What started out as a disaster, losing 2 of 3 to the Giants (worst home team in baseball), turned into something not yet seen this year…a winning road trip. A few milestones happened out West: the first homer by a Braves outfielder in three weeks – that makes 24 dingers on the season for the eight men who have played the outfield for the good guys, the first three-game winning streak since May 22, and of course, most amazingly, the first winning road trip of the season. That last one just seems impossible. But give the Braves credit, they took three of four from the NL West leaders, and at this point we will take what we can get. The bats came alive, after slogging through San Francisco, and glimpses of what might have been flittered like sugar plums dancing in our heads. How nice would it be to have the likes of Cain and Lincecum at the top of our rotation?
It seems like for the third season in a row the Braves will end up six or seven games out and we will be forced to look back on this teams utter ineptitude in winning games on the road and winning close games. Just something remotely close to a .500 record away from the Ted and Tex is still manning first and Frank Wren gets to make a big splash at the trade deadline.
Couple of final thoughts – What has happened to the middle infield defense? Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar sure do seem to be kicking around a lot of balls recently and costing the Braves a lot of runs in the process. Is Johnson the answer at second? Props to Mike Hampton for coming back and pitching in earnest. He was left in too long in Philly (Bobby Cox, I’m leering at you), but he bounced back with a strong outing against the Giants. All the questions about which aged veteran free agent the Braves will snatch up seem to be answering themselves. He’s already on the team. Finally, it’s just Frenchy being Frenchy. In the spirit of piling on, Jeff Francoeur grounded into another bases loaded double play in the finale against the D-Backs. That makes him an unfathomable 3-24 in that situation this year. That is a blistering .125. That includes seven Ks and five double plays grounded into. The rest of the Braves are batting .330 with four double plays grounded into. He is down to .226, .186 with runners in scoring position. Are there seriously no other options? At what point is his position in the lineup not guaranteed? Hopefully the Braves will work some of the young outfielders into the rotation once the September call-ups get back up with the big boys. The one thing Francoeur has going for him? He isn’t Andruw Jones. The most expensive defensive replacement in the history of the sport is batting .161, .086 with runners in scoring position. So we can count our blessings that Scott Boras is stealing money from someone else, for now.