Well, at least one of the teams who collapsed ignominiously last September has secured history’s failure to repeat itself. And when Freddie Freeman’s game-winning two-run homer dropped on the far side of the center field fence in the bottom of the ninth at Turner Field Tuesday, it couldn’t have seemed sweeter with retiring Hall of Famer in waiting Chipper Jones crossing the plate ahead of Freeman.
“They took the attitude last year to hang on,” Jones said of his teammates after they celebrated the win over the hapless Miami Marlins, who may or may not throw out the first manager of the off-season, depending upon how fast last year’s other epic collapsers decide to pink their own 2012 monkey business manager. “This year, we took the bull by the horns. We’re shooting for the stars. We’re still shooting for the division until they close us out.”
“They,” of course, would be the Washington Nationals, who’ve pretty much owned the National League East this year but who are finding it not necessarily a breeze clinching the title. The Nats fell to the Philadelphia Phillies while Jones and Freeman crossed the plate, leaving their magic number at four.
And the Nats won’t be able to shove the Braves to one side directly. The Braves finish their regular season, in order, with two more against the Fish, three against the New York Mess (er, Mets), and three against the Pittsburgh Pirates—they who went into the All-Star break as serious NL Central leaders and came out of it on the road to a second consecutive second half deflation.
The Nats have two more with the Phillies, who refuse to go gently into the proverbial good gray night even if they seem to have two chances (slim and none) of sneaking into the postseason, before tangling with the St. Louis Cardinals on the road for three and finishing with three more against the Phillies. Between the Braves and the Nats, the Braves have an easier finish coming.
They started it with a 22nd consecutive win in games started by Kris Medlen, the longest such streak since the 1950 and 1953 New York Yankees did it in games started by a guy named Whitey Ford. (Ford missed 1951 and 1952 in military service.) Medlen took the philosophical view after the game was over.
“You can’t really win consistently until you lose,” he told reporters. “Losing’s a big part of being able to win.”
It’s tempting to suggest that to the remaking/remodeling Boston Red Sox, whose September 2011 collapse made the Braves’ feel slightly less painful. But all things considered you wouldn’t want them to take that the wrong way.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .
DUSTED—Bad enough Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker suffering an irregular heartbeat last week, forcing him to watch or hear it from hospital when his troops clinched the National League Central. Worse: Baker suffered a mini-stroke last Friday . . . as he was in the middle of his hospital discharge. He’ll need at least another week’s rest before he can return to the Reds’ bridge.
BUSTED—Melky Cabrera may have done the right thing by asking to be disqualified from the National League batting race, in light of his suspension for synthetic testosterone, but it won’t get him any more consideration if his San Francisco Giants—who’ve clinched the National League West—are still in the postseason rounds when his suspension ends. The Giants from most indications are still indicating they have no intention of bringing him back, with manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean about to meet to finalize their division series roster.
FLUSTERING—A new French-language biography in his native Canada has former Cy Young Award-winning closer Eric Gagne estimating about 80 percent of his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates using human growth hormone while he was with the team. Gagne didn’t mention names according to early stories about the book. But he also flogged himself over hGH, which he admitted to using at some point during his Dodgers years in a desperate bid to recover from knee injuries. “It was sufficient to ruin my health, tarnish my reputation and throw a shadow over the extraordinary performances of my career,” the former righthander says in the book. Three years after he was named almost in passing in the Mitchell Report, Gagne told the Los Angeles Times he was ashamed of having used hGH. After a failed spring 2010 comeback with the Dodgers, following a year of independent league play that came after struggling seasons with the Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers, Gagne retired at age 34.