Midsummer baseball is a miasma of the forgettable, suffused with sentimentality. The weather, particularly in the South, makes it all slide off your psyche like so much Faulknerian sweat, and rubs it to a raw red rash where your underwear meets your thighs after four or five hours among the plastic seats, watching the glorious butternut past stroke the pole of this summer at half-staff:
Yes, the Atlanta Braves, best described by Big Daddy:
What do you know about this mendacity thing? Hell! I could write a book on it! Don't you know that? I could write a book on it and still not cover the subject? Well, I could, I could write a goddam book on it and still not cover the subject anywhere near enough!!--Think of all the lies I got to put up with!--Pretenses! Ain't that mendacity? Having to pretend stuff you don't think or feel or have any idea of? Having for instance to act like I care for Big Mama!--I haven't been able to stand the sight, sound, or smell of that woman for forty years now!--even when I laid her!--regular as a piston. . . .
Pretend to love that son of a bitch of a Gooper and his wife Mae and those five same screechers out there like parrots in a jungle? Jesus! Can't stand to look at 'em!
Church!--it bores the Bejesus out of me but I go!--I go an' sit there and listen to the fool preacher!
Clubs!--Elks! Masons! Rotary!--crap!
(A spasm of pain makes him clutch his belly. He sinks into a chair and his voice is softer and hoarser.)
You I do like for some reason, did always have some kind of real feeling for--affection--respect--yes, always. . . .
You and being a success as a planter is all I ever had any devotion to in my life!--and that's the truth. . . .
I don't know why, but it is!
I've lived with mendacity!--Why can't you live with it? Hell, you got to live with it, there's nothing else to live with except mendacity, is there?
-Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
So this night, the Braves celebrated their rise to prominence 25 years ago, where like the Swamp Things they are, they arose from the sawgrass of Fulton County Stadium and persisted like a bad 14-year-long nightmare you can't awaken from. Fortunately, this year of all years, with the Phillies not yet ready for prime time, the Braves are even worse. And no matter what county they choose to escape to in Georgia, we will find ourselves here every summer, watching baseball in July in Georgia.
Cameron Rupp is world's third-leading sweat producing nation all by himself. Humid in ATL— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) July 31, 2016
Beyond the Braves alumni events, the baseball intrigue surrounding tonight's game was the annual trade deadline, and on this night, with the clock winding down to Monday, the oft-rumored trade chip of Phillies starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson was not the big story. Instead, the Braves managed to trade Hector Olivera to San Diego for Matt Kemp. Really!
I mean! And big-time:
If you're trying to understand that, go to the source who broke it:
Trying to dump Olivera, get anything back for him in process. Would add RH power if nothing else. That's something. https://t.co/ekjF3hhPyi— David O'Brien (@DOBrienAJC) July 31, 2016
The Klubhouse Kulturkampf continues in Atlanta, we presume. I'm fine with that if you are. The fun part is that Kemp winds up collecting a lot of baseball clubs' W-2 forms this year, as the Dodgers still owe him money, too. Perhaps the even more fun part is that for all this drama, it's nice to look out into right field for the Phillies and see the solid young, cost-controlled competence of Aaron Altherr, who for his own part drew a lot of deep counts, drew two walks, scored a run, showed off his strong arm in right, and at the very least merely gives the appearance of an offensive threat at the plate. Now Kemp was a great player, is still (arguably) very good and a nice guy to showcase in an ill-conceived new stadium in Cobb County, but there is nothing but downside and righty power anymore. I'm simply relieved the Phillies don't have to make deals like this anymore, and, as far as I can tell, aren't prone to do so under GM Matt Klentak. At least not yet. ::crosses fingers::
Oh! And as for the game Hellickson started tonight, it's not as though he was forgotten, so stay tuned over the next couple of days:
Hellickson was his normal, competent self for the Phillies tonight, and lasted through two outs in the sixth before Pete Mackanin came out to get him after surrendering a walk and two singles as the Braves cut the Phillies' lead at the time to 5-3. So: No quality start, to be sure, but good enough to get the win for the Phillies, and did nothing to damage his reputation as a Quality Arm at the Deadline Who Managed to Be a Winning Pitcher on the Phillies (I Mean, The Phillies!) and with a 1.15 WHIP and 3.70 ERA to boot. Not shabby, and even better, it's all win/win whether he gets dealt, or not. (And as for the rescue job from the bullpen, Edubray Ramos came in to face pinch hitter Brandon Snyder and struck him out with runners on first and third, then got three more pretty damn dominant outs in the seventh.)
The game's turning point actually came in the top half of the fifth, with the Phillies trailing 2-1 against Braves starter Julio Teheran. Hellickson, with one out and two on, doubled down the left field line (and for the scouts in the audience) after failing to get a sacrifice bunt down during the first two strikes. If that sounds unusual, it was.
That was Jeremy Hellickson's first career extra-base hit. It's a two-run double.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) July 31, 2016
Amid all of this are the statistical oddities of Cesar Hernandez, who walked for the ninth and tenth times in his last eight games, having previously walked only nine times in the previous 56 games. With this spurt of on-base appearances since his move to the leadoff spot in the order, Hernandez is making a serious push to be the first major leaguer since 2012 to have a higher OBP (.346) than SLG (.374) (h/t schmenkman). Good luck to you in all your endeavors, young man.
Otherwise, Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera are on frustrating batting odysseys of their own, wildly overswinging at pitches and generally getting honked off at themselves. Herrera, on two of his struck balls that went for outs, flipped his bat anyway. Franco slammed his bat down after popping out to short in the seventh. While these wild, impetuous yutes are not going great these days, they each helped open the game up in the eighth inning. Herrera demonstrated some resilient plate discipline with a bases-loaded walk that extended the Phillies' lead to 6-3, just before Franco smashed a short-hop ground ball off of the glove of Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia into left to give the Phillies an 8-3 lead. Ruled an error, the floodgates opened. Howard sent a grounder to second that the second baseman Gordon Beckham booted, and then Altherr was hit to force in another run. It was all very, very Barves.
The Phillies batted around in the eighth inning. They did not have a hit. BB, FC, BB, IBB, BB, E5, E6, HP, GIDP.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) July 31, 2016
I'm sure Matt Kemp will fix all of this tomorrow.
Severino Gonzalez came in to pitch the eighth for the Phillies and promptly gave some runs back on a series of hits and struck balls to batters on 0-2 counts as the Braves pecked the score back to 9-5. All in all, the Phillies walked eight times in the game, and honestly, if you walk the Phillies that much in any game, you truly deserve to lose.
The Phillies get to end this four-game skidmark of a series against the Braves tomorrow afternoon with a chance to finish the road trip with a 5-5 record and their 49th win of the year and Jerad Eickoff on the mound. Looking across to the other dugout, even with Matt Kemp in it, things look positively jiffy.
Finally, I don't know what to make of this, but the world has been cruel enough these days, so I'll wish you all a good night and offer you all a smile.