Sunday, March 20, 2016

Champions, Chops & Huge Hops (Part III)

For the 3rd consecutive series, I won the dice roll to choose home field or not, I chose to keep with my team opening the two-game series on the road, while playing the designated hitter.

This time, my opponent, is my friend Ron Emch, who I have had the pleasure to meet in last year's Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament; Last year, we split 1-1, while my 1917 Chicago White Sox played his 1954 New York Giants -- He won the division that I was in last year.

Ron would also be my first tournament rematch, in my tournament career & this time our match-up may cause others to have a strange case of double vision. Ron brought the 1998 Atlanta Braves, while I am playing with the 1993 Atlanta Braves. In five years, the prospects of 1993 in Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko & Javy Lopez would become bona-fide stars by the time of the 1998 team... while some of the vets that helped bring the Braves to prominence in Sid Bream, Mark Lemke, Terry Pendleton & Ron Gant would be long gone. Yet, both teams have familiar faces in the big three -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine & John Smoltz with Bobby Cox at the helm.


Double Vision: Maddux vs Maddux in Game 7 of the tournament.
The game had two yearly versions of Greg Maddux go head-to-head, while both sported the same grade A-XZ. It was the 1993 Braves to strike first, Gerald Williams made an early error and Ron Gant singled to right to advance the runner to third (Gant would steal second) -- With runners on 2nd & 3rd, the "Crime Dog" Fred McGriff smacked the runners in, on a single.

Both Maddux versions were far from perfect, my Maddux overall may look good on paper, but he would allow five walks -- while Ron's Maddux would allow 11 hits, and have only 2 K's; Both pitchers would pitch the entire game. We joked that regardless of what happens -- Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves would end up winning the game.

David Justice would score an insurance run during the top of the 6th, with a solo home run to give the 1993 Atlanta Braves, a 3-1 lead.

The 1998 Atlanta Braves would break the silence, with a solo HR by Chipper Jones -- but that would be all the scoring the 98' team would do; The 1993 Atlanta Braves would add another run and win the ballgame, 4-1.

Interesting Stats: Sid Bream reached base all 4 plate appearances (3-for-3, 2B, two singles & a walk, with a RBI), while Jeff Blauser also added 3 hits.


The 1993 Atlanta Braves (6-1) at this point are officially in the driver's seat in the Carl Yastrzemski Division, while other division participants are trying to figure out they have a shot for the wild card slot or not. Not used to being on the winning side, I was still waiting for the wheels to fall off at some point. The next game would create another new challenge for my team to overcome -- pulling off a late win, after surrendering an early lead.

This match-up would see the match-up between Ron's #2 Tom Glavine (Grade A-Y) against my tournament #2 starter in Steve Avery (Grade B-YZ); Glavine for me, is my #3, who is preparing for the 1981 Cincinnati Reds next -- John Smoltz has been strictly a reliever for me in this tournament run, due to having the most experience of the bunch, plus I wanted to use Avery's control Z rating in starting match-ups; Smoltz is a Grade B-X for the 1993 Atlanta Braves.

The game was quiet through the first two innings until, the 1993 Braves scored three runs during the bottom of the 3rd; Ron Gant (two-run HR) and Fred McGriff hit back-to-back HR's to give the 93' Braves, an early 3-0 lead.

Steve Avery's B-YZ would advance to a Grade A-YZ -- I decided to keep Avery out there for the 9th, in a bid for a complete-game victory; Avery only allowed 3 hits through the first 8 innings, but would allow 3 hits, that would all score, while 93' Braves' reliever Steve Bedrosian would give up the game-tying hit to Gerald Williams in his attempt to secure the save. The 98' Braves' Andres Galarraga set up the game-tying RBI with a two-run double in the at-bat before against Avery.

Bream loves playing hero role.
The game would go to extras, both teams would strand runners in crucial moments, and the game could go either way. At this point during the tournament, Rich Zawadzki was getting all of our attention for it was lunch break -- while keeping our ears out, and knowing that time is crucial, Ron and myself kept rolling.

The 1998 Tom Glavine would pitch 12 innings, allowing 8 hits, 3 walks & 3 runs, while striking out 8 batters from the 93' squad. Tournament rule - All pitchers go to Grade D once entering the 13th inning, the 98' Braves call on Dennis Martinez; All looked good at first for Denny, as he got two quick outs from the 1993 Braves...

Then David Justice drew a walk, followed by a Terry Pendleton single, to advance the runner to third. With 2 outs & the winning run on third, Sid Bream (playing hero the night before with a walk-off HR in an exhibition against the 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates) delivers the winning hit, a single to right! Walk-off single in the 13th!

The 1993 Braves would complete the two-game sweep & improve to 7-1.

Interesting Stats: Jeff Blauser had his 2nd consecutive game with at least 3 hits; Fred McGriff hits his 3rd HR of the tournament. Sid Bream was hitless through 5 AB's before his walk-off single. Not sure if this goes into "Interesting Stats" section, but there was plenty of times when I did go to second columns, that I resulted in a measly single -- which Ron pointed out as well.


My next opponent was the 1981 Cincinnati Reds led by APBA roller, Ian Kabell; Kabell is a methodical player that really knows his boards and stuff when it comes to APBA -- it was a lot of fun playing against him, as well as all my other division mates. These 81' Reds is one of the better teams in the aftermath of the 'Big Red Machine' -- Ian compared it to something that of a car still with its shiny surface, but completely gutted out.

Complete control for Major Tom.
At this point of the tournament, and after sweeping Ron Emch's Braves, it was clear that I was heading to the playoffs, we still were not sure if we had any wild card teams coming from the division -- loosing both against the Reds may help someone get a shout, but that was not to happen.

The funny thing about battling the Reds, I had to face his #1 Tom Seaver and #2 Mario Soto (Ian still had one more two-game series to play); Seaver & Soto are members of my NXPL Detroit Tigers team -- We are currently playing the 1982 season, my second season in the league & I was pretty aware how both pitched in 1981 as well.

Both games in this series would be uneventful for most part -- the best part was playing Ian and getting to know Ian.

Tom Glavine would be in complete control, besides his solo HR that he allowed to Ken Griffey in the 4th Inning -- but that would be the only hit he would allow through 6 innings, he would pick up 4 strikeouts and a walk in his 3rd win of the tournament; Glavine was the star of the game, although Sid Bream continuing on from last game, would add 3 RBI.

Interesting Stats: Nothing in the game itself, besides Ian Kabell having the boards memorized to a "T" -- pretty impressive really.

GAME 10 vs 1981 CINCINNATI REDS (at Atlanta)

Soto Act: Mario dominates Braves.
This was probably the worst game in the entire tournament for my 1993 Atlanta Braves, but the least crucial -- I would say the worst lost at its time was my beat-down in Game #5 against the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, because there was far more at stake. This game against Cincy, had no bearing on my playoff hopes, it only zapped by run differential a bit, LOL!

Ron Oester got things started early for the Reds with a solo HR off of Greg Maddux during the top of the 2nd Inning. The next inning, Oester whooped us again, but this time with a two-run double, to make it 3-0; Dan Driessen would break open the game with a two-run HR in the very next at-bat, to give the Reds a commanding 5-0 lead.

That's all that Mario Soto would need, as he silenced the Atlanta bats through the late 6th inning, when Deion Sanders broke up Soto's bid for a no-hitter with two outs; Soto would finish with a two-hit shutout, as the Cincinnati Reds won 8-0!

Interesting Stats: Dan Driessen would go 2-for-4 with 2 two-run homers, while Ron Oester finished with 3 RBI.

* * * This concludes PART III of the Braves Tournament run, to be continued... * * *

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