The Braves and Mets will finish the last inning of the rain-shortened series opener on Saturday, May 25 at 6:10 ET. The game was suspended with the score tied 5-5 after the Mets evened the game with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
He did it again…or almost, had it not been for the rain -- and a very questionable managerial decision. Evan Gattis came up to pinch hit with the bases loaded after clearing a similar situation with one swing of his bat on Wednesday. Although he didn't hit a grand slam in consecutive games, a hard line drive up the middle brought home two and gave the Braves a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. With that hit, Gattis moved to 5-for-7 as a pinch hitter, and, despite having only started once in the previous eight Atlanta games, he now leads the entire team in RBIs with 29.
Come on Fredi…
Gattis should have been the hero for the second day in a row, but manager Fredi Gonzalez made a crucial mistake late in the game which could have a rippling effect on this entire series.
With a two-run lead late in the game, Gonzalez turned the ball over to Anthony Varvaro to try and nail down the Mets' 6-7-8 hitters. Varvaro walked John Buck to start the frame and then suddenly lost the grip on the baseball as the rain started to come down harder. He managed to strike out Ike Davis before giving up a single to Ruben Tejada. Thankfully Varvaro got Jordany Valdespin to swing at ball four for the second out, or this game might have ended after eight with a 6-5 Mets' victory.
Varvaro was all over the place with his pitches in the inning, yet Gonzalez chose to keep going with the right-hander, electing to not even get someone else up and throwing in the 'pen. With the rain crashing down, Varvaro peppered ball after ball into the ground in front of catcher Brian McCann. Daniel Murphy laced a single to center in between the falling rain drops which scored Buck and advanced Tejada to third on a B.J. Upton bobble. Varvaro continued testing McCann's blocking ability without even a second look from the Braves' manager. Finally, McCann was unable to corral a wild pitch from Varvaro and the tying run scampered home.
With Varvaro showing no control, or even the slightest ability to find the grip on the baseball, Gonzalez had to do something, anything. But now, instead of another magical Gattis-infused victory, the Braves must come back and play one inning to decide it all. Whatever happens, manager Fredi Gonzalez may have hurt the Braves for more than just this one game.
When Play Resumes
The Braves will have 9-1-2 up in the top of the ninth inning when they restart the game on Saturday. Ramiro Pena will bat ninth thanks to a double switch implored earlier in the game. However, Gonzalez could choose to bat Chris Johnson for Pena and then use him as a defensive replacement at third base in the bottom half of the inning. Gonzalez has liked using Pena in key situations, so expect him to be leading off when play resumes. The Braves will then follow with Andrelton Simmons and Jason Heyward to try and push one run across before handing it over to Craig Kimbrel for an attempt at save No. 15.
But that is just it: If the Braves do score and give the game to Kimbrel in the bottom of the ninth, he will be unavailable for Game 2. There will be no situation where the Braves would risk throwing Kimbrel, and then have him sit for three hours, only to throw him again later that night.
But what happens if the Braves don't score and they are forced into playing extra innings in Game 1? With Gonzalez moving to the six-man bullpen, and the Braves having already used Luis Avilan, Cory Gearrin and Varvaro, that leaves Cory Rasmus, David Carpenter and Kimbrel left to use for however long the first makeup game will last. And keep in mind, whoever pitches in the makeup game is not likely be available to pitch again in the second game. This will leave the Braves with an even shorter 'pen, all because Gonzalez did not manage the eighth inning properly when he had the chance.
Julio Teheran is scheduled to pitch in Game 2; however, the Braves may be forced to keep one of their starters in the bullpen in case of an emergency. Teheran could be skipped in favor of Tim Hudson, or Huddy could always find his way to the 'pen. Teheran has only averaged 5 1/3 innings per outing over his last three starts; although, Hudson was only able to go 4 1/3 innings in his previous outing. Whichever starter is selected, they can make Gonzalez's mistake look a lot less glaring by going deep into Game 2. Expect the Braves to be making a call down to the minors for another arm to add to their depleted bullpen.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter based in "Braves Country." He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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