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Cubs mess with the Johan and pay the price as Braves earn 6-4 win

Or, The Curious Case of the Missing Platoon Advantage

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Johan Camargo did not start a game, until today. Johan Camargo did not have a hit, until he mashed a bases-clearing double in the eighth that turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 advantage for the hometown team. All hail Johan Camargo.

Some baseball games are simple: you can describe them with a simple throughline. [Pitcher] dominates [team]. [Batters] mash [homers/doubles]. Bad defense dooms [team]. Bullpen collapses. And so on. This game, well, this game was nothing like that. It had phases, turns, and plot twists. It was like an airport novel, featuring Johan Camargo. Here’s what happened.

The first few innings were full of tension. Both teams got it going right out of the gate. Julio Teheran somewhat resembled his earlier (2017-8) self, as he had trouble missing lefty bats and reining in his command at the beginning of his outing. He allowed a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist to start the game, and then issued a one-out walk to Anthony Rizzo, missing badly to the arm side (as we’ve all seen) on three of the four balls. But then, a gift of providence: Javier Baez smashed a hanging slider right at Josh Donaldson at third base, allowing for an easy doubling up of Zobrist at second. In the bottom of the inning, it was the Braves’ chance to waste an opportunity against Jon Lester. Ozzie Albies led off the game with a single and made it all the way to third as Atlanta Braves Sleeper Agent center fielder Jason Heyward let the ball roll under his glove and onto the warning track. Josh Donaldson then walked, but Lester managed to wriggle his way out by striking out Freddie Freeman and eliciting a tailor-made double play ball from Ronald Acuña Jr.

Teheran did not get nearly so fortunate in the second, as the first three Cub batters reached base via single. An odd steal attempt by Kyle Schwarber (the first of the singles) was gunned down by Tyler Flowers, which helped mitigate the damage. Still, it was a rough inning for Teheran, as the weakest of those balls was hit at 102 mph (the others were 104 and 108). Then, in ultra-annoying fashion, Jon Lester (career .093/.136/.137 hitter, which is a -30 wRC+) somehow managed to hit a wounded duck bloop over the head of Ozzie Albies at a measly 68 mph. But, runs aren’t given out for exit velocity, and with runners at the corners, the first run of the game scored easily. Teheran then fell behind Heyward with a 3-1 count, unable to find the zone, but someone whispered the activation phrase into Heyward’s ear and he handily complied, popping out. Teheran then struck Zobrist out looking to end the frame down just one, despite giving up four hits in the inning.

Teheran then went back to the dugout and clearly fixed something mechanical, as he returned to the mound with a vengeance. He obliterated Kris Bryant with a nasty three-pitch sequence and later bamboozled Baez to get a backwards K and end the inning. That set up the Braves’ first lead of the day, as they finally got to Lester. Dansby Swanson got the fun started by taking a Lester cutter on the outer edge of the zone out to right field. The ball just kept carrying, landing over the fence to knot the game at one apiece. Then, on an 0-2 pitch, Ozzie Albies did much of the same (this time on a fastball on the up-and-away corner of the zone), and just like that, the Braves were out in front by a run. The Braves got some licks in against Lester that inning (Donaldson single to third, Freeman walk), but he escaped with no lasting damage after Nick Markakis scalded a ball to center but within Heyward’s radius.

After all that excitement came a sorta-peaceful interlude. Teheran’s command deserted him in the fourth; he got two very quick outs, including a three-pitch strikeout of Willson Contreras, but then issued consecutive walks on ten pitches to Daniel Descalso and (!!!) Jon Lester (!!!). A visibly frustrated Teheran then threw the figurative kitchen sink at Heyward, finally activating his sleeper agent button again on the seventh pitch, a fastball right down Broadway that was nonetheless sent straight upwards for a harmless inning-ending pop out. Whatever happened in between innings worked again, however, as Teheran returned calm and collected, and struck out the side following a Zobrist leadoff single to end his night. Meanwhile, Lester kept the Braves in check, walking Swanson and allowing a single to Albies but nothing else.

The next phase of the game was one familiar to Braves fans: bullpen-induced frustration. Jonny Venters came in on relief of Teheran in the sixth and was... bad. He issued a leadoff walk to Schwarber, with only one of six pitches finding the zone (and the others being wildly off). Then, inexplicably allowed to face a righty despite being a LOOGY himself, Venters yielded perhaps the most predictable result: he fell behind Contreras 3-0, barely got a strike call on the fourth pitch, and then grooved a sinker that didn’t sink right down the pipe, where it was hit to dead center for a lead-changing two-run homer. Welp. But not welp for too long, fortunately. Venters then struck out Descalso but (#!?#%&!) issued another walk to Jon Lester, a sign of the end times. Jason Heyward then did just enough to stop the Cubs from getting suspicious about his allegiance, with a grounder that bounced off Freeman’s glove and spun past Albies into the outfield grass. The play was scored a single, and Lester ran to third, pushing Venters out of the game. Wes Parsons then came on and stopped the mess from getting worse, eliciting a fly out from Zobrist and then stunning Bryant with a chest-level slider for strike three to keep the deficit at a lone run.

Lester finished strong, striking out two of the last four and four of the last eight batters he faced, before leaving the game. Meanwhile, Jesse Biddle yielded a fourth run to the Cubs in the seventh, as he allowed a leadoff single to Rizzo and a two-out single to Contreras, whom he was inexplicably allowed to face even though the whole Contreras-versus-lefty thing literally went as poorly as possible for the Braves the prior inning. A wild pitch then pushed Rizzo across the plate to make it 4-2 Cubs. Biddle’s night ended with a weird play: Descalso hit a grounder that was booted and then recovered by Albies. Contreras rounded third despite the ball being kept on the infield and was easily retired in a rundown to end the inning. Brandon Kintzler then came on for Chicago and fired what seems like a crazy rarity: a 1-2-3 inning from a reliever.

In the eighth, the Braves summoned Luke Jackson from the bullpen. It went well, as Jackson allowed a leadoff single, and then got a double play ball from Agent Heyward. He then struck out Zobrist to end the frame.

And that set up the really fun stuff (for the Braves) and the really agonizing stuff (for the Cubs). Despite Freddie Freeman set to lead off the inning, Chicago bossman Joe Maddon elected to go with sidewinding righty Steve Cishek. Cishek, lacking platoon advantage or no, had absolutely zero control/command/gumption/mojo/other words that mean things on the night. He walked Freeman on four pitches. He walked Acuña on five pitches (including a 3-0 whiff). He walked Nick Markakis on six pitches. Johan Camargo was up next. He wouldn’t get the chance to walk him on seven pitches, though.

Despite it being presumably really well-known that Johan Camargo mashes lefties, Joe Maddon then went to his bullpen and got Randy Rosario, a relief human who throws with his left appendage. That was an odd choice to say the least, and it’s not like Camargo’s splits require detailed research — one could surmise he’s better against lefties simply from the fact that today’s game was the first time the Braves had faced a left-handed starter, and also, not coincidentally, Camargo’s first start of the year. Camargo watched the first pitch hit the dirt for a ball, and then did the lefty-mashing deed he does so well — Rosario’s outer-third fastball was walloped into right center beyond the outfielders, clearing the bases, turning a two-run deficit into a one-run advantage, and generally being the most awesome thing yet for the Braves this season. All hail Johan Camargo. Was this better than his pinch-hit groundball RBI triple from last year? I don’t know, you decide.

Even more oddly, Maddon then lifted Rosario in favor of former Brave Brad Brach. It’s not really clear why he didn’t just put Brach in instead of Rosario, but hey, we’ll take it. Brach didn’t fare super-well either (relievers, man), as Tyler Flowers singled to push Camargo to third, and Dansby Swanson hit a sacrifice fly to center to cap the scoring. Brach would actually walk both Albies and Donaldson later in the frame, forcing Maddon to get a fourth pitcher for the frame (this one weird trick will make Rob Manfred hate you!). That fourth pitcher was Mike Montgomery, who got Freeman to ground out with the sacks packed.

Arodys Vizcaino then came on for the ninth, and while he did not disappoint by issuing the customary walk (a one-out variety to Rizzo), he struck out both Baez and Schwarber to end the game.

Lots of fun stuff in the box score for this one. Ozzie Albies went 3-for-4 with a walk. Josh Donaldson reached base three times (single, two walks). Every position player reached base at least once for the Braves. The Braves won despite the Cubs pounding out 12 hits, in large part because only one of those 12 was for extra bases. Julio Teheran’s final line was a 7/3 K/BB ratio in five frames with one run allowed, and he maintained a 90-91 mph velocity on his fastball.

The Braves will try to get back to .500 tomorrow with Max Fried the tentatively-scheduled starter set to face off against Yu Darvish. But that can wait for tomorrow. For now, all hail Johan Camargo. Make your offering in the comments below.

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