Major League Baseball’s regular season comprises 27 weeks. That doesn’t seem too long. Well, except the corresponding wait for college football to arrive.
It can be misleading to attach too much significance to a single week of out 27. But some weeks are more telling than others.
For the Atlanta Braves, the past week and a half could go a long way toward defining their season.
It’s not just that they took two out of three games from the Washington Nationals, or that Matt Adams – the temporary help with Freddie Freeman on the disabled list – had two home runs and a walk-off single, or that Adams’ walk-off came at 2 a.m. after a rain delay that lasted almost as long as long as it took Josh Collmenter to complete an inning, or that they started a nine-game road trip Friday night with a 2-0 win over San Francisco.
It’s all of the above, and then some.
Let’s go back to Freeman’s injury. The Braves had just started to play well. Sure, much of that could be attributed to playing Miami and Toronto, two teams on the skids. Nonetheless, the Braves were in the process of winning for the fifth time in six games when a fastball cracked Freeman’s left wrist in five places. A third consecutive win over the Blue Jays carried the pall of a loss, which in a sense it was because winning one game at the expense of losing your best player – and one of the best players in baseball – was hardly an even swap.
When the immediate response was a 9-0 loss to Toronto, it looked like the Braves were headed for a long season. Up next: the dreaded Nationals, starting Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The countdown to college football had yet to reach double digits.
One the positive side, at least there might be more room to maneuver those ridiculously narrow concourses of SunTrust Park. Freeman’s injury could have prompted a unique promotional idea, the ceremonial hoisting of the white flag.
Instead, something odd happened. No, not merely odd. Bizarre. The Braves rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat the Nationals. Yeah, Washington’s bullpen is among the worst in baseball. Still, it’s the Nationals. It’s noteworthy that the go-ahead run was driven in by Nick Markakis batting third, Freeman’s spot in the lineup.
The next day, Rio Ruiz, the rookie filling in for Adonis Garcia, homered off Scherzer. Braves win 5-2.
That was uplifting enough. Even more encouraging was that the front office made a statement by dealing a prospect, infielder Juan Yepez, to St. Louis for Adams. Some would note that Yepez didn’t rate among the Braves’ top 30 prospects. But that doesn’t mean anything. The Cardinals valued him enough to throw some cash into the deal.
The fact that team president John Hart and general manager John Coppolella would trade a piece of the future for someone who figures to be a pinch-hitter and occasional left fielder once Freeman returns speaks to their commitment to at least field a competitive team, a refreshing change after two years of dealing veterans for prospects.
Skip ahead to Wednesday night. They were one out away from their third straight win over Pittsburgh when Jose Ramirez walked David Freese on a full count, then surrendered a game-tying single to Jose Osuna. Those things just happen in baseball. It’s what happened afterward that could have a far-reaching impact. Collmenter faced 10 batters and seven of them scored. He gave up six hits – two singles, a double, then three consecutive home runs – along with an intentional walk. One of the three outs he recorded came on a sacrifice bunt.
The next day, Collmenter was designated for assignment. DFA, they call it in baseball. Then Bartolo Colon went out and made his own case for getting DFA’d.
Colon also gave up seven runs, although he was efficiently enough to spread it out over five innings.
Then Jaime Garcia followed by taking a shutout into the seventh inning and driving in two runs in a 2-0 win Friday night over San Francisco.
That gave the Braves eight wins in their past 12 games. Three pitchers were primarily responsible for the losses – Collmenter, Colon and Julio Teheran. Collmenter is gone and Colon may be one more dreadful outing from following him. Then they just have to figure out how to get Teheran back on track.
If they do, the Braves could at least be interesting enough to get us to football season, which, by the way, is down to 97 days.