Jonny Venters

The wheels are falling off the Braves Express

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Actually, I think the wheels fell off about ten days ago.  They’ve been carving up pavement with the rotors since then, but now the rotors are about to go too.  At this rate, this time next week they’ll be up on the back of a flatbed, off to the junkyard, wondering what the hell happened.

And what has happened?  What has caused them to lose 12 of 18 and fritter away a once seemingly insurmountable lead in the wild card race?  It’s hard to find one damning culprit. When you lose a game because your third basemen loses a GROUND BALL IN THE LIGHTS, you know that something greater than mere bad luck.  But let’s ignore the supernatural angles to all of this for a second and try to think in baseball terms.

The starting pitching has obviously taken a hit since Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson went down, but it hasn’t been disastrous. At least in games that Derek Lowe hasn’t started.  The offense has never been a source of strength this year, but it’s not in anything approaching its worst swoon of the season.  Each are mediocre at the moment, and given how much the Braves have relied on pitching this year that would make for some sub-par baseball.  But what’s been going on lately has been worse than merely sub-par.

No, what happened is that the safety net — the thing that has covered for periods of mediocrity throughout the year — has finally given out. I’m talking about the back end of the bullpen, of course. It has simply tuckered out.  Johnny Venters was touched on Sunday. Craig Kimbrel last night.  These guys have pitched a combined 159 games this year and have less than three years combined service time.  They’re gassed. It’s something that anyone who watches the Braves has seen coming since May, when Fredi Gonzalez acted as if those two were invincible. Well, sorry Fredi.

The Braves are a good team with an imbalance of talents.  When the greatest strength of an imbalanced team becomes a liability, it turns them into a bad team.  That’s what’s going on right now. That and a spectacular surge by the Cardinals.  We can call it a choke because that’s what we’ve come to call late collapses like this one, but a choke is an effect, not a cause of this kind of breakdown. Chokes are comprised of identifiable failures, and here we have a fairly identifiable one: the one thing that gives a team the best chance to win close games — it’s bullpen — is not at its best right now.  And given the rest of the team’s flaws, they’re almost always going to play close games.

And of course the poor planning of Theo Epstein certainly isn’t helping.

MLB, MLBPA donate $250,000 for Louisiana flood relief

BATON ROUGE, LA - AUGUST 15:  Richard Schafer navigates a boat past a flooded home on August 15, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Record-breaking rains pelted Louisiana over the weekend leaving the city with historic levels of flooding that have caused at least seven deaths and damaged thousands of homes.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced this morning that they are contributing $250,000 to assist victims of the devastating floods that recently hit Louisiana.

The $250,000 contribution is being divided among three charitable organizations: The American Red Cross will receive a $125,000 contribution and two charities connected to Major League Players – the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and High Socks for Hope – will each receive a $62,500 contribution.

According to the joint press release, several players with connections to the area, including Reid Brignac, Will Harris, Wade LeBlanc, Mikie Mahtook, Anthony Ranaudo and Ryan Schimpf were consulted in determining which organizations would receive funding support.

Nice move, union and league.

Video: Yoenis Cespedes’ bat flip was well-earned, well-executed

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 29: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets flips his bat after hitting a walk off home run in the tenth inning to defeat the Miami Marlins 2-1 in a game at Citi Field on August 29, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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We mentioned this in the recaps this morning but Yoenis Cespedes deserves a post of his own.

He deserves it for his walkoff homer in the tenth inning of last night’s game against the Marlins. He deserves it for the fact that he’s hit five homers and has driven in nine runs in his last ten games while raising his batting average ten points. And, most of all, he deserves it for the magnificent bat flip after watching the ball fly:

Here’s the whole play from MLB.com: