5 at 10: Fab 4, Meltdowns and the end of the road for the Atlanta Braves

5 at 10: Fab 4, Meltdowns and the end of the road for the Atlanta Braves

September 29th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports

From the "Drunken Moose Studios," here we go...

Ouch

Atlanta Braves left fielder Martin Prado sits on the bench after the Braves lost 4-3 in 13 innings in a baseball game to the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Wow, that was a crap-tastic way to end the Braves season huh? The final line will be Phillies 4, Braves 3 (13 innings), but it was so much more than that. Wednesday was the final bullet, sure, but September was torture as the Braves limped to the finish and the Cardinals were soaring.

This side of Wohlers' hanging slider in 1996 or Kirby Puckett's homer in 1991, this is arguably the Braves' most painful loss. It was an exclamation point to a lost month that doomed a fun season. Atlanta became the first team in baseball history to squander a September lead of eight or more game for a playoff spot. (The Red Sox joined that less-than-prestigious club less than two hours later.) The Braves led by 8.5 on the morning on Sept. 6; this morning they are reporting to Turner Field to turn in their gear.

The Braves led 3-2 in the ninth but closer Craig Kimbrel couldn't throw strikes and didn't hold the lead. The bullpen had been a strength all season, but like everything else in a Braves uniform, it collapsed in September, when the Braves went 9-18 and lost their last five games of the season.

Moreover, with a roster littered with youngsters and, other than Chipper, players relatively foreign to postseason success, this type of pressure-situation collapse could leave a lasting mark on several players, especially Kimbrel, who will have the entire offseason to think about Wednesday's ninth inning.

There's more to say, of course, and we have received more than one mailbag question in the last eight hours, so we'll be back on this topic on Wednesday, but right now it's just kind of stunning.

Side notes: From the ESPN folks, they had a breakdown how the final two playoff spots from a six-month-long baseball season were finalized in less than 100 minutes:

10:26 p.m. ET -- Cardinals win 8-0

11:40 p.m. ET -- Braves lose 4-3 in 13th, are eliminated

12:02 a.m. ET -- Red Sox lose 4-3 on walk-off single in 9th

12:05 a.m. ET -- Rays win 8-7 on walk-off home run in 12th, eliminating Red Sox



What next?

OK, now that the Braves are cooked, football will still occupy our weekends this month. You know this.

But during the week, during the four-and-a-half hour postseason baseball games that you know you're going to watch, we have to have a rooting interested, right? We have to have a team to support since the Braves (and Red Sox for a few of the folks around here) have decided to put a patent on late-inning errors on ground balls and blown saves in must-win games in the "er" months.

Let's examine the field:

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria, center, celebrates with teammates Sean Rodriguez, left, and Elliot Johnson after his home run that defeated the New York Yankees 8-7 and clinched the AL wild card for the Rays, after a baseball game early Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

In the AL:

Yankees - Nope. Chuck Testa. (and if you have not seen the Chuck Testa clip, ((CLICK HERE)) and thank us later). That said, even though a good chunk of the 5-at-10's family is pulling for the Yankees, jumping on board with N.Y. is like pulling for the Death Star to blow up another planet.

Detroit - Nope. Chuck Testa. Who wants to see clip after clip of Jim Leyland sneaking into the shadows to get another drag off his Winston. That said, we are giddy about watching Justin Verlander pitching in postseason games.

Texas - Nope. Chuck Testa. Josh Hamilton is a good story, but if your ace is C.J. Wilson, well, good luck and enjoy your AL West championship rings.

Tampa - You betcha. We know our resident Red Sox fans may be bitter, but the small-market nature and run-and-gun approach of this club make it likeable. Plus, Joe Maddon's glasses are straight from the 23-year-old girl that behind the counter at the hip coffeehouse in town.

Milwaukee Brewers' Prince Fielder reacts with teammates in the dugout after his two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Milwaukee. It was Fielder's third home run of the game. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

In the NL:

Philadelphia - Nope, Chuck Testa. While they likely will sweep every series and may not lose another game until 2015, we're joining forces with EC and rooting against the Phils. Hard.

St. Louis - Nope. Chuck Testa. Tony LaRussa is a tuckus. That is all.

Arizona - Nope. Chuck Testa. Other than Ian Kennedy, one of the Uptons and Stephen Drew, can you name a Diamondback? (Although, as a Dodgers fan, we're stoked about seeing the 1988 World Series highlights of Arizona manager Kirk Gibson's homer.)

Milwaukee - Right on. Another small-market club. Plus, it looks like Prince Fielder is going to leave after the season, so this may be the Brewers last chance for a while.

That said, Fox TV officials would be more than a little disappointed with a Tampa-Milwaukee series. Although, here's saying that we could be convinced to root for a Yankees-Phillies series just for the drama-sake of the two best teams playing for it all.

Side note: Here's the postseason schedule.

LSU's Morris Claiborne (17) returns a punt for a touchdown against West Virginia during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

Fab 4 (plus 1)

Izod, the guy that picks games of SportTalk, has been on fire all season. He picks one game each week and he has not missed all season. He's a good dude and has been on a torrid streak for the last season and a half.

In discussing Izod's success, friend of the show Dr. B (he's a doctor after all) made an astute point that betting one game and one game only and then moving on has served Izod well. It has, but maybe the 5-at-10 is just not that astute.

We decided to do our Fab 4 picks and that number grew by one. So it goes. Here's what we got (and yes, we're laying a lot of points this week, and we'll keep riding LSU, which is a perfect 4-0 against the spread, until the Tigers crash):

- LSU minus 30 against Kentucky

- Boise State minus 27 against Nevada

- Stanford minus 20.5 against UCLA

- Georgia minus 6.5 against Mississippi State

- This week's plus one game is Texas A&M minus 3 against Arkansas

And remember folks, this is for entertainment purposes only.

Last week: 4-1 (Stupid Notre Dame)

Season to date: 14-3-1 (Our three misses this year were: Notre Dame minus-5 against Pittsburgh last week, TCU minus 4.5 over Baylor in week 1, and Oklahoma-FSU going over 55)

Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (93) is seen during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Genevieve Ross)

This and that

- We normally don't dabble in NFL picks, but there are a couple of attractive games on the board this week: Detroit plus 3 at Dallas, Philadelphia minus-4 against San Fran, and Atlanta minus-4 at Seattle. We'll see how these turn out.

- Here's our baseball award winners:

Cy Young: Justin Verlander (AL), Clayton Kershaw (NL)

MVP: Curtis Granderson (AL), Ryan Braun (NL)

Rookie of the Year: Eric Hosmer (AL), Craig Kimbrel (NL) - yes we saw what happened Wednesday, but Kimbrel was out-flippin'-standing all year. According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Kimbrel had 38 consecutive scoreless apprearances - a major-league record - and finished with 126 strikeouts - a total that was more than eight opening-day starters.

Managers of the year: Joe Maddon and his awesome glasses (AL), Kirk Gibson (NL).

- In case you hadn't noticed, the NHL season is about to start and the start to the NBA season is in jeopardy. Yeah, we didn't think you would care, but we wanted to pass it along.

Today's question

In this Nov. 26, 2010, file photo, Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley (90) celebrates after sacking Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy (12) during an NCAA college football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fairley was selected by the Detroit Lions with the 13th pick in the first round of the NFL football draft on Thursday, April 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

There are several levels of collapse. You know this. There's the individual meltdown - think Greg Norman. There is the individual meltdown in a team sport - think John Starks, Bill Buckner, Ray Finkle and Scott Norword. There is the one-game team meltdown - think the Oilers' second half against the Bills.

But a regular-season implosion is something different. It's like death by 1,000 paper cuts or a three-day long root canal or a week-long seminar that takes 45-minute breaks, which is just long enough to think about something else, but you know that stupid seminar is still out there.

So where do the Braves rank on collapse scale? Was Wednesday it the worst regular-season loss ever? And, whom do you blame?

Discuss, and we'll have our answers at 2 p.m., right before we go on 1370 AM for our weekly appearance on "The Show" with Chris Goforth.