Three Cuts: Bats silent as Braves fall to Pirates
APR 19, 2013 11:07p ET
1. Sam Holbrook is back on Atlanta's bad side
It was less than six months ago that Holbrook stood firm and unflinching beneath the Turner Field bleachers following the most controversial call of his career and the 2012 season. Of course, he found immediate infamy for his infield fly rule call in the Braves' 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last season's one-game wild card playoff. Fans don't often recall umpires' names — they all sort of run together in a blur of perceived bad calls — but when Holbrook ejected Atlanta center fielder B.J. Upton Friday night, there were few Braves supporters that did not recognize the name.
In a fitting twist of irony, Holbrook became the first umpire to eject a Braves player or coach this season.
But the way the scene unfolded caused even more controversy than necessary.
Following a strikeout call — video replay showed the call was correct, finding the lower part of the zone — Upton voiced his opinion on his back to the dugout. However, instead of letting him continue to move, Holbrook visibly flicked his hand at Upton. In an instant, Holbrook found himself in a shouting match with the outfielder. He quickly tossed him. But a controversy was rekindled.
"We had our disagreements about the pitch, and obviously I didn't agree with it. He thought it was a strike. I can live with that," said Upton, who finished the game 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. "But the shooing away part? No, I'm a grown man and you just don't do that.
"I turned to walk away and I saw him give me the hand gesture. I went zero to 60 pretty fast."
After observing Holbrook in the aftermath of the infield fly debacle, back by his entire crew, MLB's executive vice president Joe Torre and the rest of baseball's contingent on hand, it's clear he is an umpire that does not back down from a call. He said with 100 percent certainty that he made the right call that October night. That being said, it comes as no surprise that he would have little patience for a player's disagreement following a call that, as it turns out, was indeed correct.
Make no mistake, though: Friday night's ejection was not a bright spot in Holbrook's career.
"I can sympathize with B.J. on that. I didn't think the pitch was that bad of a pitch. But when B.J. comes back and says something and the way that he got waved off probably ticked him off," Gonzalez said. "And he didn't give me a chance to get out there and try to keep him in the game. It's one of those things that boys will be boys."
2. Cole Hamels and Stephen Strasburg did not out-duel Tim Hudson, but Wandy Rodriguez sure did
After cruising through his past two starts — two earned runs allowed in 13 2/3 innings pitched — for wins Nos. 198 and 199, Hudson's first bid at his second career century milestone will have to wait until the team visits Coors Field next week. The Pirates (8-8) jumped all over Hudson, who hung quite a few pitches up in the zone (a dangerous formula for a ground ball pitcher), from the outset, scoring three runs in the first two innings and never looking back.
In what was by far his worst start of the season to date, Hudson gave up nine hits and walked two batters while logging just two strikeouts.
As always, the 37-year-old found success when he gave his defense a chance to make plays in the infield. Seven of his 12 recorded outs came via ground balls, including one double play. Entering Friday night's game, Atlanta led the major leagues with 11 defensive runs saved. Hudson just didn't hit his usual spots.
"I think some of the balls were not sinking like they normally do. When he's getting fly balls, the ball's not sinking. Plus he left some balls out over the plate a little bit," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But, you know, we didn't do anything offensively to help him out or get back into the game."
That last sentence is right on the money: it would have taken a special performance to keep pace with Rodriguez.
The lefty threw seven one-hit innings, notably keeping the hot bats of Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and Chris Johnson completely silent. He's now 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA this season.
"He found a groove. I've never seen him not pitch well. Seems like when he was with Houston he always gave us some fits," Gonzalez said. "He's a left-hander that cranks up 91-, 92-mile per hour, has a good curveball, knows how to pitch and you never get a good pass at him."
The Braves (13-3) even barely got a good swing on him.
3. Let the already outdated joke continue
There's a running joke in the Turner Field press box. It's likely been told elsewhere — say, PNC Park Friday night — but it's going to be re-told over and over until it's no longer valid.
"The Braves are undefeated when they score a run."
The Braves have three losses this season. The Braves have been shut out all three times. Guess what? The joke is still alive. There's really only one way to make it go away. Blame Wandy Rodriguez and his Pirates bullpen for overpowering Atlanta.
Atlanta is averaging 9.4 hits and 5.7 runs in their 13 wins. It's averaging 3.3 hits and, of course, zero runs in the losses. As has been discussed numerous times, as explosive as the franchise's offense has proven it can be (29 home runs), Cliff Lee, Wade Davis and Rodriguez have shown it is just as capable of disappearing. That could change with the return of Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla, as well as the expected resurgence of the likes of Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton.
Until then, unpredictability persists.
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