Some time around the second inning of the Atlanta Braves’ 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS was when the PA announcer introduced the Turner Field crowd to the Braves’ DJ.
It wasn’t something the Braves have ever done before, but there he was, perched in the corner of the Chop House, looking like a long-haired 20-something from Acworth and spinning the same seven songs to a dance beat, over and over.
I DON’T CAREEE…I LOVE IT
(You know the song. I did care, and I didn’t love it.)
I mention DJ Puff and Stuff or whatever his name is because that’s the kind of night it was at Turner Field on Thursday night — strange and totally out-of-whack. We’ve seen Braves postseason meltdowns before, but this game was especially unkempt for the home team.
If you’ve seen the end of “Moneyball,” you know what killed the Oakland A’s in the playoffs: their inability to play clean baseball when it mattered most because they were patched together with only run-scoring in mind. Fundamentals went by the wayside, and, ultimately, so did their title hopes.
Let’s hope that isn’t what will happen with the Braves.
But when Evan Gattis dove for a line drive in vain during the Dodgers’ second inning to give LA a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish, then was picked off an inning later during a major baserunning blunder, we saw the massive flaws of this Braves team. Maybe it was a bad night for Gattis in his first career postseason game, or maybe he’s realizing how hard it is to be out of position against a great team in a big game.
Either way, manager Fredi Gonzalez decided he needed Gattis in left field because he scores runs at the plate. But Gattis in left field pushes Justin Upton to right field, a position he’s clearly not as comfortable playing. When Upton misplayed a fly ball in the fourth inning, it led to more Dodger runs.
Gattis earned a starting role on this squad with his play in the regular season, sure, but in a game where the Braves needed to ride the bull known as Clayton Kershaw for as long as they could, keeping the game close until they could get to the Dodgers’ bullpen was paramount, and they needed defense to hold the score down. If you know the opposing pitcher is going to dominate, why not start Jordan Schafer in center field, allowing Jason Heyward to return to right and Upton to left, making everyone more comfortable?
In a short series where pitching and defense are most important, why neglect the latter for a possible extra run out of a catcher who is asked to play left field? Sure, if Gattis hits a big homer and the Braves win, we’re not talking about the mistakes today, but they didn’t win, and the flaws of the defense didn’t help the Braves.
Still, I say let’s all take a deep breath. It was one game, and if the Braves bounce back tonight, there’s a very good chance they can be up 2-1 going into Game 4.
But if the same lineup is trotted out there tonight and the same players make the same boneheaded mistakes, just remember that we’ve all seen this movie before, and it doesn’t have a happy ending.