I know y’all have missed me. I sat down to write an article three times, but I’m a little gun shy. My last two articles followed first-game wins against the San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks before the Atlanta Braves went on to lose both series. I laugh publicly about superstitions, but needless to say, I’m worried. I’m serious. I once made my mom leave my house during a particularly important late-season game. Because she was bad luck that year, not because we don’t get along. It’s okay, though, I waved my lucky polar bear’s foot over her a few times and un-hexed her.
Now, before we go any further, we need to talk Gattis — Evan Gattis, who apparently is the best bench tool a manager can ask for. After another outing for Kris Medlen, in which he got little to no run support, it looked like the Atlanta Braves were going to sink against the struggling L.A. Dodgers. Until Evan Gattis came in to pinch hit in the eighth and blasted a ball into the stands, just before Andrelton Simmons did the same. Evan Gattis’ first grand slam of the year came three days later against the Minnesota Twins, sealing the sweep of the homestand.
Last year, I felt like Martin Prado was the guy the Braves needed at the plate when they had to get just one more run. His situational hitting was near perfect — he could drop a single just off the grass or split the gap; whatever was needed to grab the lead. Gattis has a different approach. While manager Fredi Gonzalez goes over statistics and possibilities with bench manager Carlos Tosca, Evan Gattis walks up and says “Hey, skip. Let me go in there and just hit a home run.” Gonzalez gives a little look to Tosca before replying “Evan, it’s not that easy. We have pages of statistics here to decide on the best guy for the job.” Gattis just says, “Yeah, it is.”
Evan uses Gattistics (patent pending), which consists of one easy formula. Gattis + ball – (any pitcher in the game)/(any other statistic) = Home Run.
But it doesn’t end there! During Friday night’s total washout in Flushing (Flush-out?), Evan Gattis came in to pinch-hit with the bases loaded and the game tied at three. He laced a 1-2 breaking ball back through the box and put the Braves up by two. It also made him 4-for-7 as a pinch-hitter with three home runs. Needless to say, he’s upped his value quite a bit and all Braves fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how Gonzalez handles his time in the lineup.
But what is K.I.T., you ask? Keep It Together.
The Braves have lost their two dominant setup men in Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty. B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla continue to slump at the plate, although Uggs did tie the game with a home run in Friday’s game. The bullpen has gone to an antique six-man platoon, which is largely young pitchers. And yet, they swept their homestand, albeit against two teams that have struggled mightily this season. They maintain a four-game lead in the NL East over the rival Washington Nationals.
Medlen has had back to back good starts, even though some might argue giving up three runs hardly constitutes a good start. But he struck out nine in a park that’s on the receiving end of some pretty crappy weather and certainly kept the Braves in the game.
So, here’s where I get hesitant: Do I say the Braves still look good, even though they need to put more of their pieces together? Or do I defy the gods of fate and say they look terrible, and hope the momentum swings our way? No whammy, no whammy, no whammy! Tonight (Saturday) will bring an interesting conclusion to these questions as the Braves and Mets meet early to play (hopefully) one inning before going back out to play the originally scheduled game.
I can say there are some seriously bright spots on this team, which is 10 games over .500 even as they struggle to make all the pieces click. Brandon Beachy took another big step towards his return to the rotation on Friday night, throwing four innings for the Gwinnett Braves, giving up two runs on two hits. And I also can say if the Braves can Keep It Together while they go through these tough stretches of long road trips and figure out their injury setbacks, they stand to continue a strong bid for a postseason spot.