ATLANTA The Los Angeles Dodgers took down the Atlanta Braves 2-1 in extra innings Friday night. Here are three observations from the game:
1. The Dodgers did not need the 10th-inning, clutch hit to earn the win
Up until the 10th inning Friday night, the Braves pitching staff starter Paul Maholm and relievers Jordan Walden and Luis Avilan was outstanding. Maholm essentially made one mistake over 7 13 innings pitched, allowing just one run on four hits while striking out three batters. Walden and Avilan shut the door behind him to get the Braves through nine, but the offense provided just one run of support.
So in came Anthony Varvaro, who was 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA entering the Dodgers series, to work the extra frame. He left with his first loss of his 2013 season.
In what was arguably the 28-year-old's worst outing of the season, two hits and two wild pitches sealed the evening. Here's the quick breakdown: With one out, catcher Ramon Hernandez lined a single to left, subsequently advancing to second base on a wild pitch; Luis Cruz's single off Varvaro sends Hernandez to third; pinch runner Skip Schumaker jumps on the second wild pitch to score the winning run as a sea of white and blue swarmed home plate. That was that.
To their credit, both Varvaro and catcher Evan Gattis tried to shoulder the burden of blame for the passed balls I did everything to block it, and I didnt block it. I didnt get the job done," Gattis said afterwards. which, by the looks of things on TV, sounds fair. Varvaro's pitch was poor; most catchers will say Gattis could have blocked the ball, preserving the lead.
(Side note: There's also the point of first base umpire C.B. Bucknor's blown call at first base in the top half of the 10th inning, which would have made Justin Upton safe with two men on-base, two outs and hot-hitting Freddie Freeman at the plate. It's tough to assume the Braves' struggling road offense unquestionably would plated the runner, but it's worth a mention because it was a terrible call, and it did matter in the grand scheme of the game.)
2. Puig-Mania is set in full gear
The "kid" is for real.
Yasiel Puig's stratospheric beginnings to his major league career once again came at the expense of Braves pitching Friday night, hitting his fourth home run in his first five career games (he's the first player since 1900 to accomplish the feat) off Maholm. It was just his 19th career at-bat. He's now tied an MLB record with 10 RBI in his first five games. Yes, he's been ridiculous.
Even worse for the Braves (37-24), though, is that Puig's two home runs this series have come in big-time moments: his grand slam on Thursday broke a one-run game wide open; his solo shot in Friday's 6th inning tied a game that his team would eventually win its fourth win in five Puig-led outings. He may not be a Hall of Famer (yet), as Maholm pointed out after the loss, but his efforts have spearheaded two straight Dodger wins against a Braves team that just pulled off a sweep in mid-May.
Puig is hitting .421.4501.105 with four home runs.
"Hes hot, and that happens," Maholm said. "But lets not crown him a Hall of Famer yet. Lets watch him. Obviously hes talented. The leagues going to make adjustments to him, and hes going to have to make adjustments."
Right now, it's much more of the former.
3. Roadwork is hard work for Atlanta
The Braves have lost four of their past five games on the road, 17 of 33 overall. It's an ongoing issue for the overwhelming NL East leaders. The reason they hold onto a 6 12-game lead? Atlanta is 21-7 in the friendly confines of Turner Field.
The good news for the Braves is that, among all National League teams, they have the fewest road games remaining on the schedule. That's the perks of front-loading a schedule with April trips to Colorado, Pittsburgh and Detroit cold, cold trips though they may be.
And, truth be told, only the Cardinals (21-9), Diamondbacks (18-14) and Pittsburgh (15-14) have winning road records in the National League.
Overall, the Braves still hold onto the largest divisional lead in baseball, so, apparently, the road woes have yet to create a lasting problem. But going 4-9 over the past 13 road games is certainly not a good sign.