Tonight's 5-4 loss to the Marlins is business as usual for the Braves. Let me tell you how this one ended:
Bases loaded, 2 out, one of the Braves' better hitters at the plate. They knocked out Marlins closer Leo Nunez after 2 unearned runs got them to 5-4. The excitement was palpable. There seemed to be nothing that was going to stop the Braves from at least tying this game. In comes Brendan Donnelly to relieve Nunez. He throws a pitch...a ball...it gets behind the catcher and he can't find it.
But Matt Diaz at 3rd can't see it either and is halfway down the line...Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino finds it and fires to third...Matt Diaz out...ballgame over.
In games like these, you're hoping for some sort of escape from this situation. The escape never comes. Your team lost on one of the rarest of plays, not to mention rare for a game-ender.
The Braves found themselves in this situation after falling behind the Marlins 5-0, a deficit brought on in big part by an error by Chipper Jones, who allowed a double-play grounder to go into left field earlier in the game and it led to 3 runs. A pitcher the Braves had batted over .370 against decided this was the night he would strike out 16 batters.
The deficit the Braves find themselves in with the standings has been brought on by losing not only these types of games, but the games where they had huge leads that were erased, notably in the 3rd game of the year against the Phillies in which they had a 10-3 lead heading into the 7th inning and somehow lost 12-11. The bullpen, in general, has been a strength of the Braves but they've blown it in the most crucial situations. In 48 save situations between closer Rafael Soriano and part-time closer Mike Gonzalez, they blew 13. In other save situations, the other relievers combined for a 1-for-12 clip, bringing their success rate to 24 blown saves out of 60.
Now, I'm not the type to say my team should have won each and every one of those, because the percentages will be against you on that. But what about half of them? 12 more wins. Hell, they'd be NL East leaders with just that, forget about the Wild Card.
With the way the Braves lost the past two games and the Titans lost this past Sunday, I have seen all of the things that are supposed to be positives for a team fail miserably.
If anyone wants to know why I don't believe in the things that I have railed against in the past, this is why. I've seen my team have what is known as momentum and watched them fail constantly. I've seen the crowd get behind my team, cheering lustily, to be let down. I've seen my team play with emotion and lose. In the end, your team of guys must make the plays that move them forward, and nothing else matters, regardless of how the energy changes in the building or the two teams.