Why we love – or, depending on your point on view, don’t love – baseball: The Atlanta Braves hadn’t lost a best-of-three home series this season. They’d just swept the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks, who were followed into town by the last-place Miami Marlins.
Who came to Turner Field and took two of three.
As easy as it would be to throw up one’s hands and say, “See! Right there is the reason these Braves are a fraud!” …. well, it isn’t and they’re not. They’ve won 49 games. They still lead the National League East by six games. On Wednesday they lost to the Marlins’ best pitcher, which can happen. (Even a lousy team can have a good pitcher. And, being a lousy team, the Marlins will soon trade Ricky Nolasco.)
Last night the Braves lost on a night when Miami’s Henderson Alvarez, who’d been hurt, made his first start of the season. They lost on a night when Julio Teheran, the Braves’ best starter of late, couldn’t hold a three-run lead. They lost when Craig Kimbrel, the best in the business, was undone by two walks and a well-placed single off an 0-2 breaking pitch. They lost when Giancarlo Stanton made a running catch on what Dan Uggla believed to be a game-tying double.
All together now: It happens. It doesn’t happen often – the Marlins hadn’t won a series at Turner Field since 2011, two Fish managers and many Fishy transactions ago – but it does happen. And if it’s going to happen, better for it to occur when Braves were holding a seven-game lead, as opposed to two.
Speaking of which: If the Nationals have a big push in them, it figures to come soon. We’re within sight of the All-Star Game, and almost all of the injured Nats – Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Ross Detwiler, Wilson Ramos -- have returned. The Braves have worked hard to give themselves the biggest cushion in baseball, but the work isn’t done.
This marks two missed opportunities in two weeks. First the Braves dropped three of five here against the fourth-place Mets. Now this. They're in good enough shape that they can get away with losing one home series to the floundering Fish, but they shouldn’t make a habit of it.