Before last night’s win against the Cubs, Nick Markakis had hit two home runs all season. He finished the game with four homers on his record, as he hit dingers in the first and ninth inning of last night’s contest. His ninth-inning shot tied the game, and a a Tyler Flowers RBI ended up winning the game for the Braves.
The Braves got some good news before the game, as Gordon Beckham returned from the disabled list and was in the lineup for the Cubs game. The utilityman has been extremely useful for the Braves this year, so seeing him return to the lineup was nothing but a positive.
While they may have avoided giving up the long ball against the Cubs last night, the Braves’ pitching staff seems to be running into a bit of a problem when it comes to keeping the ball inside of the park. The margin of error for this team is already slim-to-none, so giving up homers is something that definitely needs to be cut out.
Dating back to June 27, the club yielded 15 homers — 16 percent of the season total. Look no further than Mike Foltynewicz as the primary culprit. Five of the home runs belong to him, after Tuesday’s four-dong night in Philadelphia.
But both rookies Tyrell Jenkins (2) and Joel De La Cruz (3) have been vulnerable as has staff ace Julio Teheran (2).
Jeff Francoeur recently made an appearance on Buster Olney’s podcast, and the conversation eventually turned into a discussion about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Frenchy stated something that’s becoming a popular opinion among players in baseball — that penalties for PED users are too soft and should be stiffened.
"The system is flawed,. There's no other way around it. Guys get docked 80 games (pay) or whatever it is. Yeah, that's a lot of money. But if you sign a $60 million deal and you're losing maybe $5 million, it's worth it for a lot of these guys. It stinks because there are buddies of mine who were basically battling these guys for jobs. It's just unfair.
"I know a lot of guys that have been busted, and they're good people. I like them a lot. But at the end of the day, they're cheating the system.''
One of the pleasant revelations this year has been the performance of Tyler Flowers. He’s gone from being considered as a potential backup to A.J. Pierzynski to a pretty good upgrade over last year’s starter. Of course, he’s still not the long-term solution to the Braves’ catching situation, but he could potentially be the stopgap that the Braves need for now.
Is Tyler Flowers a starting catcher for a good, playoff-bound team? Probably not. Flowers is performing at perhaps the best rate of his career in 2016, posting a .250/.342/.409 slash line (106 wRC+) in 187 plate appearances and earning 0.7 fWAR before the All-Star break. Those numbers might be unsustainable (especially an exit velocity of 94.3 MPH that lands him among the top 10 hitters in baseball) given his career baseline prior to 2016, and even if they aren't, Flowers would likely profile as a 2-win player given 350-400 plate appearances in a "starting" role.
Still, Flowers doesn't need to be a starting catcher in Atlanta. At least not long-term.
During the ninth inning of an extremely competitive game between the two top teams in the NL East, Rule 6.0.1(j) (a.k.a. the "Utley Rule") came into play. The Mets ended up getting a double play out of the deal when it was ruled that Jayson Werth ran afoul of the rule on this play. The Nationals were incensed by the ruling, and it got to the point where Nats GM Mike Rizzo reportedly got into a shouting match with Jim Joyce after the game ended. So, we’re almost at the All-Star break and teams are still confused about how the "Utley Rule" should be applied. Awesome!