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Braves Flashback/Recap: June 16

How does this happen twice in three games?

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

One of the many reasons why baseball is great: every game is different. Not just every game, but every inning, every plate appearance. Maybe not always, but enough of the time that baseball is just a series of infinite constellations, always showing you something new and wonderful. That wide variety, though, makes the things that aren’t very different stand out. Like, specifically, this nonsense game.

The last game we covered was from the 2014 Braves, who staged a ninth-inning rally to tie a game they had trailed pretty much from the get-go. They ultimately lost the game in 13 innings, after David Hale allowed the opposing team to put up a five-spot in extra innings. This game is also from the 2014 Braves. It happened two games after that one. In it, the Braves staged a ninth-inning rally to tie a game they had trailed pretty much from the get-go. They ultimately lost the game in 13 innings, after David Hale allowed the opposing team to put up a five-spot in extra innings. No, I didn’t just paste the same sentences twice. That’s what happened. Baseball!

The gist: The Braves trailed the Phillies 1-0 for most of the game, as a Ryan Howard homer off Julio Teheran was all either team got until the bottom of the ninth. However, after wasting chance after chance in the early going, they finally strung enough hits together in an inning to tie the game with two outs left. The Braves then proceeded to waste even more chances in extra innings, until David Hale once again melted down.

Box scores: Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs

The set-up: You already know what you need to about the 2014 Braves — they were pretty good, great pitching, a 36-32 record with a one-game lead in the division coming into this game. The 2014 Phillies, who had gone 1-2 against the Braves so far on the year, were not good. They were 29-38, in last place in the NL East, 6.5 games back. The Phillies team was bad because it was top-heavy. Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were awesome, as were Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and even Jonathan Papelbon. Much of the rest of the roster just wasn’t doing much to this point.

Hamels, though, was the scheduled starter for the Phillies, and he was, once again, awesome. He’d finished with 4.5 or more fWAR for four straight years to this point, and was basically just doing the same thing at this point — 85 ERA-, 75 FIP-, 86 xFIP-, compared to 81/84/84 over those last four seasons, or 82/85/83 in his career to date.

The Braves had second-year Julio Teheran going for them, and while Teheran wasn’t quite Hamels, he was fine and fortunate to this point: 66 ERA-, 100 FIP-, 103 xFIP-. He’d been killed in Coors his last time out, but had allowed just four runs in four starts before that. Moreover, he threw a complete game shutout of the Phillies earlier in the year, his first one ever, and the first of two shutouts he had already completed in 2014.

How it happened: This game was very tense, because both pitchers were very much dealing from the outset. Teheran had a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 first; Hamels gave up a two-out double to Freddie Freeman but then got Evan Gattis to pop out to end the inning.

The second featured the only run to score in this game for a long, long while, as usual nemesis Ryan Howard, though mired in a bad season, still found a way to torment Teheran and the Braves:

The Braves then ran into their first unfortunate circumstance in a very unfortunate evening in the bottom half of the inning, as Chris Johnson reached on an infield single (on a replay challenge that resulted in an overturned call) but was doubled up when Tommy La Stella lined out to second.

From this point, there were barely baserunners. Hamels walked Jason Heyward with two outs in the third, but then immediately picked him off for an almost 1-2-3 inning in which he only actually pitched to three batters. Teheran’s streak of eight straight retired was snapped with back-to-back two-out singles in the fifth, but he struck out Hamels to end the threat. Hamels then gave up two two-out baserunners of his own (single, walk), but turned the tables by striking out Teheran to send the game to the sixth. After that, Teheran and Hamels retired the next nine batters in order.

The bottom of the seventh was brutal for the Braves. Batting for a third time, Evan Gattis pushed his hitting streak to 16 games by rolling a ball into left for a single. Justin Upton followed by smashing a ball down the left-field line, putting runners on second and third with none out. Hamels immediately hit Johnson with a pitch (easier than walking anyone, I guess), loading the bases with none out. It’s not quite inconceivable that the Braves didn’t score here, but still, it boggles the mind. Tommy La Stella hit an 0-1 pitch hard the other way, but exactly to where third baseman Reid Brignac happened to be standing. Andrelton Simmons also made contact on an 0-1 pitch and hit it right to second, for a “no runs for you” inning-ending double play.

Teheran was allowed to continue in the eighth, gave up a one-out single and a steal, but otherwise retired the side. He finished his outing with a stellar one run in eight innings on the Howard homer, with a 6/0 K/BB ratio, and just four total baserunners. It says a lot about Teheran’s 2014 that this wasn’t even really a particularly notable outing for him that year — it was a while ago, but he was really something special in terms of how dominant he was for so many starts that year.

Hamels, meanwhile, was done after his Houdini antics in the seventh, having shut the Braves out with a 6/2 K/BB ratio and just eight total baserunners. He threw 94 pitches; Teheran threw 96 in getting through an extra inning. Jake Diekman came on for the bottom of the eighth and once again teased the Braves by allowing back-to-back singles with two outs. But, once again, the key hit proved elusive, as Gattis took a called strike three, having swung at just the first pitch of at-bat and nothing else.

A combination of Luis Avilan and Shae Simmons threw a scoreless top of the ninth, each giving up a single. The Phillies brought on Jonathan Papelbon for the ninth — though an annoying personality, Papelbon hadn’t even had a negative WPA game since April 2. Until this one, anyway. Justin Upton started the inning with a solid single into left-center. Chris Johnson followed by rolling one through the right side. After a fly out into shallow center from La Stella, Simmons came up, potentially hoping to atone for his awful double play in the seventh. He did:

Alas, the Braves had new life, but once again, just like two days ago, couldn’t win the game. Papelbon struck out both pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit and Jason Heyward.

Jordan Walden’s only blemish in the tenth was a two-out single. In the 11th, the Braves once again failed to come through in head-scratching fashion. First, this happened:

Justin De Fratus, the new Philadelphia reliever, was certainly good in 2014. But, for him to walk Gattis, get Justin Upton to pop out, and then strike out Chris Johnson in this situation was just brutal.

David Carpenter came on for the 11th (no Kimbrel in this one, despite a tie game at home), and tormented the Phillies with some false hope. He gave up a leadoff single to Rollins, but then got two outs with one pitch via a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play when Utley swung and missed on a fastball away. Carpenter then totally worked around Howard, never throwing him a strike in a six-pitch plate appearance, and struck out Marlon Byrd on a low-and-in fastball with Howard on first.

The Braves perhaps should have done something in the bottom of the inning against replacement-level reliever (who never appeared in the majors after 2014) Mario Hollands, but didn’t, going 1-2-3. Carpenter was pulled in the 12th after giving up a leadoff single to Domonic Brown and experiencing a biceps issue that sent him straight to the shelf for two weeks, but Anthony Varvaro retired the next three batters in order. Antonio Bastardo then came in and once again sat the Braves down in order.

That brought the game to the top of the 13th, and the entrance of David Hale. This time, it didn’t take Hale three innings to melt down. The five-run rally started right then and there, and it looked like this:

Ben Revere led off the inning with a solid single into center, and easily stole second. A fly into right by Rollins moved him to third. Hale and the Braves intentionally walked Utley, hoping and praying that he could get Howard to hit into a double play. And the crazy thing is... they did! Howard hit one right to Freeman, which should have been an easy 3-6-3 double play with the leadfooted Howard running to first. But, as you can see in the video above, Freeman botched the play and was about as visibly upset in the field as I’ve ever seen him as a result. Byrd then singled up the middle off the mound, and after a wild pitch, intentional walk, and sacrifice fly, Brignac connected for a two-run triple. Once again, David Hale had given up five runs in the 13th.

And, once again, the Braves went quietly against Bastardo in the bottom of the inning. This wasn’t lightning striking twice, it was much stranger, and much suckier.

Game MVP: Cole Hamels, who pulled a magical escape trick out of the seventh and dominated the Braves all game. A nod to Julio Teheran here, as well, though he did allow a homer.

Game LVP: David Hale, because of course.

Biggest play: Andrelton Simmons’ game-tying bloop, without which the 13th-inning disappointment wouldn’t have happened.

The game, in context of the season: Weirdly enough, the Phillies actually used this game to vault into a three-game sweep of the Braves in Atlanta. They still finished with just 73 wins, in last place, tying their 2013 mark for their worst since 2000. The Braves mostly shrugged off this sweep: though they fell 1.5 games back of the Nationals as a result, they ended up holding on to a share of the division lead as late as July 20 before their eventual late-season collapse.

Cole Hamels had another Cole Hamels-y, 4.5 fWAR season. Julio Teheran really burst onto the baseball scene in 2014 with a 3.4 fWAR season; this start was part of his season-best June (2.11 FIP, 2.85 xFIP), which remains the best month of his career, peripherals-wise (though not even close, ERA-wise).

David Hale finished the season at 0.0 fWAR in 87 innings, including six starts. This outing remains the worst single-game WPA he has accumulated (-0.49) of his career.

Despite the big bloop here, Andrelton Simmons had a career-worst 71 wRC+ in 2014. His 1.7 fWAR in 2014 was his lowest mark until he matched it with an injury-shortened 2019.

Video? For some reason, it doesn’t appear to be available the way other video from the 2014 season is. A few highlights, posted above, but not the whole shebang. Strange.

TC Recap: Uhhh... there wasn’t one? This is the closest we have.

TC Game Thread: (not an actual thread)

TC Commentariat Zeitgeist: Condolences to Tony Gwynn’s family, as Gwynn passed away on this day. His son, Tony Gwynn Jr., was a member of the Phillies through this game. Also, lots of complaining and discussion about why Gattis was pinch-run for with Jordan Schafer, when Freeman was already at third as the winning run in extra innings.

Anything else? Reid Brignac got 521 PAs of -2.2 fWAR ball across small parts of six seasons after his last positive fWAR season in 2011. His triple in this game was the last of his career, and his first since 2010. This was also the last three-hit game of his career, and his first since 2011.

Revere, who scored the go-ahead run in extra innings, previously made a running catch to rob Freeman in the fourth. He crashed into the wall and was visibly shaken up after the play, but stayed in. He singled, stole a base, and tagged up to move to third before scoring that go-ahead run.

Aaron Altherr made his major league debut in this game, one of only two games he’d appear in during the 2014 season.

Gattis’ 16-game hit streak as established in this game set a new franchise record for a Braves catcher.

Baseball is dead to me, tell me something else cool about June 16: The founding of IBM in 1911, as the Computer-Tabulating-Record Company in Endicott, New York... followed by the founding of Oracle in Redwood Shores, California 66 years later (1977) as Software Development Laboratories.

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