Ervin Santana had another great night on the mound last night, as he went 7 innings, collected 7 Ks, and only allowed 1 run. That run (which was created by a double from the Reds pitcher, Mike Leake) ended up being all Cincinnati needed to win, as the lineup proved to be impotent when it came to offense on the night.
Speaking of the lineup, one face who wasn't in that lineup was Jason Heyward, and when it was announced that he was out for last night's game, many began to wonder if it was injury keeping him out. Fortunately, it was just a day of rest. Unfortunately, the Braves scored a grand total of 0 runs on the night, so it was clear who the team was missing last night.
So, it appears that after a couple of months in the wilderness, the Mike Minor that we all know and love is "back." He's had a string of good starts, and capped it off with a near-no hitter on Friday. Having Minor back in good form helps the Braves immensely, and Minor credits two big adjustments for the turnaround: A change of mindset, and some mechanical help from the Baseball Smeller himself, Ervin Santana:
[Minor] credited fellow Braves starter Ervin Santana with helping him change the grip on his sinker and slider, adjustments that Minor said gave his pitches more depth. He also said he changed his mental approach after realizing how much counterproductive fretting he’d done during his struggles this season.
In a stunning breakthrough for bullpen management in Atlanta, Fredi Gonzalez has realized the truth: James Russell, the lefty reliever who the Braves traded for at the deadline, is not simply a "Get This One Guy Out Then You're Done For The Night" guy. Instead, he can possibly go full innings as well! It's an incredible realization for the Braves manager, and now we truly appear to be in the Bullpen Renaissance period, where bullpen management will advance by 50 years with each landmark discovery.
According to MLB.com's Postseason Probabilities page, the Braves have a 50% chance of making the playoffs. Those odds aren't looking much better over at fangraphs. However, the team might want to turn that around to 100%, because there could very well be a shakeup if the Braves miss the playoffs, one that could see Fredi Gonzalez and/or Frank Wren given the ol' heave-ho out of town. From Bob Nightengale's article:
Braves CEO Terry McGuirk, in a lengthy interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, did not offer any votes of confidence, saying only that they are accountable for the team's performance.
So basically, "accountable" in this snippet is short for "If this goes South, y'all are going South."
The Royals now have a 3-game lead in the AL Central. It's late August. We're about to be in September, and the Royals are in prime position to make the Postseason. I mean, if the Pirates made their return last season, then this should be the perfect season for the Royals to do it. Anyways, the opening paragraph of this recap from our friends at Royals Review sums it up best:
The Royals are beating bad teams. The Tigers are not. The Royals are doing what professional playoff teams do. The Tigers are doing what pretenders do. I do not understand.
Meanwhile, the AL West race is really heating up, as the A's and Angels are currently in the midst of an exciting and important series between the two main contenders for that division. Last night was a tough game, but the A's won it 2-1 and are back on top of the AL West after a brief stint in 2nd place. They'll be on Sunday Night Baseball tonight, and that should be an exciting one.