In my personal interest to keep things on a bit of a schedule at a time where sticking to a schedule feels like something completely and utterly foreign, I decided to go ahead and do some ‘rolls’ (explained in the initial post, here) so that I could have an idea of the games and eras that I’d have the pleasure of talking about as long as this trip to the past is still a thing.
So naturally, the second game I ended up landing upon was a game that took place in 2018. Immediately, I was staring a mundane Braves loss right in the face. Two years ago on July 24, the Braves were down in Miami to take on the Marlins for the second game of a quick two-game series to end a two-city road trip within the division. Atlanta just got done cooking the fish the night before with a 12-1 victory. I was just one measly number away from covering that game but instead, the luck of the draw gave me a loss to the Marlins.
So how did the soon-to-be 2018 NL East champion Atlanta Braves end up in a conundrum where they lost one of the five games that they’d drop to the Marlins during that season? Simply put, Julio Teheran had one of the worst games that he’d ever have during his time with the Braves. By the time he’d left the game, the Marlins had hung nine runs on him — seven of which were earned. This included seven hits and two walks as well, so the Marlins were clearly zeroing in on the Colombian hurler and had no issues figuring out what he had to throw at him on that particular night.
The fifth inning was when the Marlins decided that it was time to send Julio Teheran to the clubhouse for the evening. This included Miami going up 5-3 on an extremely close play at the plate where J.T. Realmuto just barely got his foot on home plate to beat a tag from Tyler Flowers and it also included perennial Braves killer Justin Bour continuing to kill the Braves by driving in a run to make it 6-3. Then Starlin Castro sent the game into a complete tailspin for the Braves and Teheran after he sent a fly ball over the fence in left field and into the bullpen for his teammates to retrieve for a three-run dinger.
Castro’s bomb made it 9-3 at the time and that was effectively the end of the game as far as drama was concerned. The Braves didn’t get a runner past second base from that point forward and there were only a handful of hits for both teams until the end of the game. As far as late-July games go, this was an extremely late-July game where the Braves didn’t have their best game, but they clearly ended up recovering and went on to do some pretty cool things for the remainder of the season. I definitely wouldn’t recommend going back to watch this game, but you have that opportunity because the internet is an amazing place.
While the second roll of this random trip down memory lane wasn’t exactly a home run, I was pretty excited about the third roll. For the first time, I got a game outside of the 2010s — this one took place on September 3, 2004. It was still a road game, but it included a road trip that the Braves can’t make nowadays: A road game in Montreal! That’s right, the Braves were in Quebec to take on the Expos to start off a three-game series. Atlanta wouldn’t clinch the division that season until September 24, but they were well on their way at this point in 2004 as they were taking an 8-and-a-half game lead into Olympic Stadium to face the Expos. Around the same time that the Braves clinched the division, the Montreal franchise announced that they were about to move to Washington. The attendance at the indoor stadium (8,617!) reflected just how badly poisoned the baseball well was in Montreal at that point.
So this was the first of the final three games that the Braves would play in Montreal. The RNG gods truly blessed me with this one, on multiple levels. Aside from the historical significance of the location, the star of this particular game was also interesting as well. The Expos weren’t known for being good at much of anything in 2004, and none other than Paul Byrd was the pitcher who continue to extend that Montreal team’s misery at the end of what had to have been a very long season for them. A lot of the Generation Z crowd reading this might only know Byrd as the usually-jovial sideline reporter and occasional commentator who unsuccessfully challenged The Freeze. 13 years before that race, Byrd was busy throwing eight dominant innings against the Expos as a starting pitcher for the Braves.
Byrd exited the game on September 3 with the aforementioned eight innings under his belt, while also only giving up one run over four hits with six strikeouts. This was easily Byrd’s best start of the 2004 season, and it was especially encouraging considering that Byrd missed the entire 2003 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Back then, it wasn’t a guarantee that pitchers could come back from the long road to recovery following the procedure so it’s easy to imagine that Byrd was feeling very good about himself after this one — even if he missed out on what was reportedly his newfound goal of a complete game shutout.
He entered the eighth inning with a two-hitter, and that’s when the thought of blanking the Expos crossed his mind. Maicer Izturis led off with a triple and quickly scored on pinch-hitter Ryan Church’s RBI grounder.
”That’s what happens when you think about a shutout,” Byrd said. “You give up a triple and it’s over as soon as you think about it. A little lesson in that.”
While Paul Byrd was busy keeping the Expos at bay, the Braves basically knocked out Montreal via a bunch of tiny jabs that eventually added up to seven runs. Six different guys picked up one RBI each on that night, including J.D. Drew. Back in December 2003, the Braves managed to pick up J.D. Drew in a trade and he ended up finally having the breakout season of his career. He finished the season with a scarcely-believable 8.6 fWAR — for comparison’s sake, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones in 2004 were worth 8.6 fWAR combined. That was the type of season that J.D. Drew had and the Braves were the lucky beneficiaries since he was able to do it while wearing their uniform.
The Braves beat the Expos 7-1 on that night, and their 9-0 win the following night would be their final victory at Olympic Stadium. It would be cool to see some video of this game, but even in 2004 this game fell into the category of MLB games where you’re lucky to even find photos of it happening. The same could be said for the next two games. The RNG robot figured that it would be a good idea to go to the 1970s, so we’ll be going pretty deep into Atlanta’s history the next time that you and I hop into this randomized baseball time machine.