Braves Bullpen Fails Them Yet Again

Braves Bullpen Fails Them Yet Again

This has become a recurring theme that needs to end.

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Coming into the 2019 season, the Atlanta Braves knew their weaknesses. They knew that their pitching staff was their weakest aspect and that in order to make another playoff run. The club acquired a great starting staff, one that has proved itself greatly in the opening month, but one that has also been let down many times by their relievers.

A prime example of this fault is the Tuesday, April 16, loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Max Fried, a young pitcher making his third start of the season, proving himself yet again by only allowing one run through six solid innings. He was pulled in the sixth simply due to pitch count precautions, but the Braves held a 5-1 lead, leaving Brain Snitker comfortable with the pitching change.

That was until Chad Sobotka came in to relieve Fried and could not retire a batter. Jesse Biddle then came in to hopefully put out the fire, but he could also not calm the flames.

Not to take away from the Diamondback's offense in any way, but the two relievers were not throwing pitches that were competitive and were drowning in walks. The bullpen lost the lead, and the potential of a win for Fried, in the sixth as they gave up five runs giving Arizona a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the sixth.

Ozzie Albies ties the game up, giving Atlanta some hope back, but the pitching staff could not produce and eventually gave the game away in a 9-6 loss.

When a club acquires starting pitchers as young and as talented as those of Max Fried, it is crucial to have a line of support behind them. The Atlanta offense is so dynamic, but it is impossible to win games without a pitching staff that can finish out games for their starters.

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Everything The Student Athlete Loses When They Move On From Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts.

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We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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Dexter Fowler Deserves An Apology

Roughly a fourth of the way through the season, it's very clear that a lot of us were wrong about Fowler.

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Baseball is a mental game just as much, if not more of a physical one. Baseball is one of those unique games where failure is present at all times. If you hold a .300 batting average, you've got a pretty good chance of getting into the Hall of Fame. For context, Ty Cobb holds the record for highest career batting average at .366 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. In any other sport, if you're only successful 30% of the time, you're rarely viewed as excellent in your sport.

But I don't think the nature of the game usually sways fans from shortsighted opinions and conclusions about the players, especially if they're on our own team. Cardinals fans went through something very similar with our own Dexter Fowler, and some of us really dragged him through the mud. In the second year of his five-year, $82 million deal, Fowler had the worst statistical years of his career. A .180 batting average with a .278 OBP were the cornerstones on what was a very confusing year for many Cardinals fans.

But I want to be very clear when I say that there were two camps with the Fowler situation: those who thought the year was simply a statistical outlier and those who thought that Fowler was at the end of his career, the Cardinals were foolish to give him the money and that the team would be better off trading him if they could find a suitable trade partner for such "broken goods". And maybe this is just my biased Cardinals Twitter point of view, but I felt like the second group was definitely the vocal majority.

But what I think we often forget to remember is there are real people out there playing that game. As weird as that may sound, sports fans often forget that athletes are just as vulnerable to the mental lows that plague so many everyday Americans. Dexter Fowler spent the majority of last season in a deep depression that was both caused and a source of his poor performance on the field. And I'm sure all the negative press he got and the angry fans in his mentions didn't help in the slightest.

But the Cardinals never gave up on him, and for good reason. The numbers Fowler has put up this season are outstanding thus far with still roughly 80% of the season left to play. The commitment the front office showed to Fowler is a reflection of the culture established that makes players want to come and play for this organization. The Cardinals never gave up on him, and so many fans should have taken that same approach. As I said earlier, those are real people out there playing in those Cardinal uniforms.

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