The streakiest #Braves team

You could make a case for the 2011 Braves, who started the year 8-12 and finished 7-13. In between they were consistently good. The 1980 Braves had a similar trajectory, losing 9 out of their first 10 games and 8 out of their last 11 but were a bit more schizophrenic, careening between terrific and terrible. That they managed to finish one game over .500 tells you just how streaky that team was.

Despite coming off yet another last-place finish, there was reason for optimism entering the ’80 season, Bobby’s third as Braves manager. Oft-maligned GM John Mullen had pulled off two shrewd deals, acquiring Doyle Alexander from Texas and Chris Chambliss from Toronto.

Switching Murph from 1B, where he had committed 35 errors in 206 games, to the OF was the best move of the offseason. Murph’s comfort in his new digs translated to a breakout season at the plate — 33 homers and a .858 OPS. Teammate Bob Horner led the team with 35 homers, giving him 91 before his 23rd birthday.

They helped the Braves, who had occupied last place the previous four seasons, finish with a winning record for the first time since 1974.

That looked unlikely after the season’s first 10 games.

The Braves didn’t score their first run in 1980 until the 7th inning of the third game. That’s a 25-inning streak of futility. The Braves had their first lead of the season, 4-1, heading to the bottom of the 7th in Cincy. The Reds scored 2 off Gene Garber but the good guys still led by 1 entering the bottom of the 9th.

Al Hrabosky, signed to a huge contract in the offseason despite struggling the previous year with the Royals, promptly blew his first save opportunity, thanks to a Dave Concepcion two-run, walk-off  homer. The next day, the Braves were shut out for the third time in four games.

Two losses in Houston followed. The Braves, outscored 36-10 on the road trip, returned to Atlanta 0-6. Only 15,742 attended the home opener, a 4-1 loss to Cincy. Rick Matula’s only career shutout gave the Braves their first win in 8 tries, but they would lose the next two games to the Reds, dropping 8.5 games behind the division leaders after 10  games.

Bobby’s boys maintained an uninspiring pace over the next three months. A 5-3 loss to the Dodgers on Aug. 4 dropped them to a season-worst 12 games below .500. But what appeared to be another lost year took a most unexpected turn as the offense finally came alive.

Over the next three weeks the Braves would score 7 or more runs 9 times, and on Aug. 27 they finally reached the .500 mark. Shortly thereafter they rolled off a season-best 7-game win streak, followed by a three-game sweep at the hands of the Reds, who would go 16-2 vs. the Braves that year.

The local nine rebounded to win four in a row, and a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers on Sept. 16 — their 30th win in 40 games — moved the Braves to within 6 of the division lead, at 76-68.

Alas, the faint whiff of a pennant race soon dissipated, as the Braves lost 11 of their last 15. The season would end as it started,  with  the Reds shutting out the local nine at Riverfront.


3 thoughts on “The streakiest #Braves team

  1. I was matriculating in a desultory fashion at UGA that year, and a core group of friends and I would drive in to Fulco several times during the season to watch our Braves. $2 to park, $2 general admission tickets. We would distract the security guards and slide a case of beer can by can under the stadium grating to a waiting confederate with an empty, iced cooler. Then go sit wherever we wanted and cheer, heckle, and agitate as only young, drunken fans can do. Having Chambliss on that roster was huge. Benedict would have to break out the waffle glove if Knucksie was pitching. Horner with that sweet stroke and arrogant mien, kind of the anti-Gattis. I wish I could say we had a designated driver for the ride back to Chronic Town, but instead we had our share of Dukes of Hazzard moments on the rides back. Mad Mothers were not yet afoot in those days. Then to sleep in, blow off class, and nurse our hangovers until watching the next day’s game somewhere on the tube. Good times, average baseball which was a thrilling step up. Thanks for the post.

  2. 1980 is one of my favorite years. It served as something of a dress rehearsal for the Torre period, although it took a little while to recover from the dreadful Gary Matthews trade and the nearly as bad deal that sent Doyle to SF.

  3. Voilà, c' est fait : la dernière Google Dance a eu lieu dans la nuit du 04/06/2010 au 05/06. Efrnedfnmeot de mes résultats etc… etc…en plus de voir des sites qui n' ont rien à voir avec les requêtes…

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