Yes, these past four victories came against Colorado, which is terrible. This was the part of the schedule that looked tailored for a run, provided the Braves could rouse themselves and make one. They opened last week by losing the first two in Phoenix, and the Diamondbacks aren’t any good, either. A bit before that, the Braves split four games with Philadelphia, which was going so well it fired Joe Girardi.
The Braves needed traction. Didn’t matter which opponent got run over. As general manager Alex Anthopoulos said last week: “Our talent speaks for itself.”
His team has two more weeks before its face an opponent that holds a winning record. The Mets are still 8-1/2 games ahead in the National League East, but the wild card standings have tightened. The Braves are within two games of the Giants, who’ll visit Cobb County later this month.
At some point the Braves expect to have Tyler Matzek, Eddie Rosario and – could it be? – Mike Soroka back. (Plus reliever Kirby Yates, signed for $8 million but yet to make his Braves debut.) One good week does not a season make, but the Braves had awaited such a week for two-plus months.
About the most gripping game of the century
Wales is one of soccer’s cuddly underdogs. Its population is half that of metro Atlanta’s. Its national team made noise by reaching the Euro 2016 semifinals, but it hadn’t graced a World Cup since 1958, when it was beaten by Brazil, which got its winning goal from the teenaged Pele. It was believed Gareth Bale, maybe the best Welsh player ever, would retire if Wales lost its final World Cup playoff qualifier.
Against any other nation, the Welsh would have been the neutrals’ choice. Thing was, Wales was facing Ukraine.
A flag borrowed from a battlefield was displayed in the Ukraine dressing room Sunday. In April, its manager had sought to enlist in the territorial defense. As Oleksandr Petrokov told the Guardian: “I thought that if (the Russians) come to Kyiv I will pick up a weapon and defend my city.” He was turned away, in part because he’s 64.
Until last week’s playoff semifinal against Scotland, the Ukraine team hadn’t played in six months. It beat the Scots 3-1, bringing a team representing a besieged nation within a game of the World Cup. (Which, owing to the climate in Qatar, will begin in November.) Soccer fans can demonize any opponent, but who could pull against Ukraine? Tickets for the game in Cardiff were given to Ukrainians who’d fled the fighting.
The game was played in a downpour. Late in the first half, Welsh captain Bale hoisted a free kick that glanced off the head of Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko, who plays for West Ham of the English Premier League. The own goal was the only goal. At the end, everybody appeared to be weeping.
Back in Kyiv, a Guardian reporter interviewed a man who works in a morgue. “It would be brilliant if we had won,” the man said, “but it does not matter that we lost … What matters is that we will win the war.”
Next for Wales: Team USA on Nov. 21. Next for Ukraine: peace, we can only hope.
About the Peach State’s un-peachy Sunday
Four teams from these parts – Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State and Georgia – made the NCAA baseball field. All were eliminated Sunday. The margin of defeat in those four games was seven runs. As they say in baseball, that’s baseball.
About the hit-or-miss NBA finals
Not sure what to make of these. The Celtics trailed by 15 points in Game 1 and won by 12. The Warriors trailed by nine in Sunday’s Game 2 and won by 19. Al Horford scored 26 points in Game 1; he scored two in Game 2. Over 96 minutes, the teams have made 70 3-pointers.
As they say in basketball, it’s a make-or-miss game. So far, nobody has done much missing. The Celtics’ effective field-goal percentage is .552; the Warriors’ is .546. The average eFG% over the NBA’s regular season was .532. As they used to say in basketball, defense wins championships.