Braves’ replacements flounder in Game 1 loss

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With Dan Uggla off the roster and B.J. Upton on the bench, the Braves were banking on lesser names helping their cause against the Dodgers. It didn’t work in Game 1, as both left fielder Evan Gattis and second baseman Elliot Johnson had key misplays in the 6-1 loss.

Uggla and Upton are the Braves’ two highest-paid players, but the Braves are willingly going without both. It’s hard to argue against the decision considering those two hit .179 and .184, respectively, this season. Still, the Braves gave up defense in the outfield by playing Gattis, and it showed as he dove for and missed A.J. Ellis’s RBI double in the second.

Johnson, on the other hand, is in there because he’s a better defender than Uggla (and hopefully not any worse offensively). But he failed to haul in Carl Crawford’s grounder to begin the third. Adrian Gonzalez later hit a two-run homer with two outs. Johnson wasn’t charged with an error, but he’ll be the first to say he should have made the play.

On offense, Gattis did contribute a bloop single and and a couple of walks. Johnson went hitless.

Personally, I thought Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez should have handled September differently. After Upton’s horrible start to the year, he was in and out of the lineup the rest of the way. Gonzalez never benched him for long, but there was always that threat hanging over Upton’s head; anytime he put up a couple of 0-fors, he knew he’d sit for the next day or two.

With the Braves’ NL East lead in hand, Gonzalez should have gone to both Upton and Uggla and told them they’d be lineup fixtures for at least a couple of weeks, no matter what happened. Give these guys, who have been everyday players their entire careers, the chance to sink or swim. If they sunk, fine; the Braves still had the second half of September to let Gattis find his rhythm at the plate (Johnson has no rhythm).

When Upton came to the plate as a pinch-hitter against Clayton Kershaw tonight, it was his first at-bat in eight days. His last hit came all of the way back on Sept. 12. There was no reason at all to think he’d succeed.

Uggla, who returned from eye surgery on Aug. 28, did get a little flurry of playing time in the end, coming after a spell in which he started one game in nine days. He was lousy. He may well have been lousy anyway. Upton, too. But I don’t think Gonzalez put them in the best position to succeed.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 4, Rays 1: The Yankees used an opener and made this a bullpen game, trotting out eight pitchers who combined to give up only two hits and to strike out 13 in this one. Given that the Rays invented the opener thing, that was all rather rude, frankly. 🎵Anything you can do I can do better/I can do anything better than you🎵 etc. New York’s win eliminated the Rays from postseason contention and kept themselves a game and a half up on Oakland for home field in the Wild Card game.

Athletics 7, Mariners 3: The Yankees win over Tampa Bay clinched the Wild Card for Oakland, but his win allowed them to avoid that awkward thing where they spray champagne all over each other after losing a game. Khris DavisJonathan LucroyJed Lowrie and Matt Chapman all went deep for Oakland. The A’s finished in last place for three straight seasons and now they are 95-game winners heading for the playoffs. What a season.

Nationals 7, Marlins 3: Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer and a two-run double and Matt Wieters and Juan Soto each homered. Bryce Harper hit a sac fly that gave him his 100th RBI on the year. It’s a year that so many people have labeled as disappointing for Harper, but he’s going to finish it with at least 34 homers, those 100+ driven in, 126+ walks and 100 or so runs scores while posting an OBP of close to .400. It’s not the dynamic year a lot of people expected to see — he’s hitting .245 and hasn’t been slashing doubles and triples all over the place — but he’s done all of that and has been in the lineup all year long, which was one of the big knocks on him before. Not too shabby.

Astros 5, Blue Jays 3: Brian McCann and Josh Reddick hit back-to-back homers. Dallas Keuchel allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings for the win and pushed his season innings total over 200. Roberto Osuna got the save, but did so to a chorus of boos before his former hometown fans in Toronto thanks to them seeing him for the first time since his arrest for domestic violence. I would bet decent money, however, that had he not been traded to the Astros, he would’ve received a far warmer welcome by Jays fans on his first appearance there following his suspension, because that’s how fandom, unfortunately, works. Houston’s magic number for clinching the division is now two.

Red Sox 6, Orioles 2: Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer in the Sox’ four-run second inning and Nate Eovaldi struck out ten in five innings of work, allowing only one run. Fun Fact: last night I was at some social event on this here business trip I’m on and met a couple from Baltimore who are longtime Orioles season ticket holders. I asked them what they think about this year. They made great efforts to change the subject to the Ravens, for whom they are also season ticket holders. When we did eventually talk about the Orioles, one of them asked me what I thought of Chris Davis‘ contract. Remembering that everyone at this thing was an accountant, I used the term “sunk costs” and hoped for the best. They all thought it was cute that a guy with no accounting background understood what a sunk cost was. I don’t think any of that means anything. I’m just happy I found something to talk about with a bunch of accountants.

Pirates 5, Cubs 1: Cole Hamels hit a homer but that was the only run support he got while giving up three runs, two earned, of his own. His counterpart, Jameson Taillon, meanwhile, went 0-for-2 at the plate but gave up only one run over seven innings. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Do your job and don’t fart around with secondary tasks, maybe? I don’t know. My whole life has been based on farting around, basically, so I can’t really fault Hamels here.

Indians 4, White Sox 0: Corey Kluber has likely heard me and everyone else saying that the Cy Young should go to Blake Snell and decided to flip us all the bird with a seven shutout inning, 11-strikeout performance. I don’t think that changes the equation really, but it was strong all the same. Brandon Guyer and Adam Rosales each went deep for Cleveland.

Brewers 6, Cardinals 4: Ryan Braun homered and Christian Yelich drove in two as Milwaukee expands its Wild Card lead over the Cardinals and pulls to within a game and a half of the Cubs in the Central. St. Louis had a one-run lead heading into the seventh, but the wheels fell off, with Yelich tying things up on a fielder’s choice before Eric Thames tripled and then came home on a wild pitch. I was going to say that it was probably rare for him to triple, but it was actually his third this year. Bryce Harper, mentioned above, has zero. Weird.

Rockies 10, Phillies 1: Jon Gray was moved up a day in the rotation but it didn’t seem to bug him as he allowed one run in seven innings of work, striking out seven, against the mailing-it-in Phillies, who have now lost five in a row. Colorado has won four straight and pulls to within a half game of the Cardinals for that second Wild Card slot. David Dahl hit a two-run homer and Trevor Story made his return after missing a week of action with a bum elbow, hitting two doubles and turning a couple of double plays.

Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 4: The Rockies did not gain ground on Los Angeles, however, as the Dodgers came from behind late to win for the sixth time in seven games. David Freese homered and went 3-for-4, Manny Machado knocked in a couple and Clayton Kershaw struck out six and walked one in six innings of work.

Angels 5, Rangers 4: Jose Briceno hit a pinch-hit walkoff homer in the 11th to power the Angels to victory. Shohei Ohtani and Michael Hermosillo also went deep for Los Angeles. Ohtani, by the way, now has a batting line of .280/.361/.546 with 21 homers and 56 RBI in only 99 games as a hitter. His looming Tommy John surgery is obviously a big concern for his pitching prospects, but we’re getting to the point to where you wanna ask if it’s gonna cause more disruption for his batting.

Padres 5, Giants 0: Bryan Mitchell took a shutout eight and two-thirds innings of the way and Jose Pirela homered as the Padres hand the Giants their fifth straight loss. The Giants are 4-17 in September and, last night, fired their general manager. So, yeah, this is gonna be a heck of an offseason in San Francisco.