Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Rebuild seems complete for one team at SunTrust Wednesday


The Houston Astros have left town having more than just beaten the Braves in a quickie two-game series. They pillaged. Burned the crops. Looted the Battery. TP'ed Monument Garden.

Well, wasn’t that a bracing reality check?

Metallica will be the next to occupy the visitors’ clubhouse – where they’ll suit up for a Sunday SunTrust Park gig. Not to worry. No chance any mere heavy-metal group can trash the place any more than those Astros.

You’ve got to figure the group that gave you such ballads as “Seek & Destroy” and “Creeping Death” will seem, by comparison with Houston, as subdued as a napping baby. The noise they’ll make can’t possibly match the thunderous report of cracking bats still haunting the nightmares of Braves pitchers.

Your combined score for the two games: Astros 26, Braves 8.

If these ‘Stros are the current model for rebuilding a franchise, the Braves better get to work signing some lumberjacks, carnival strongmen and various steel-driving men rather than the next great pitching prospect. Anyone who might be so adept at handling a bat. Pronto.

The Astros provided a glimpse at the complete tear-down-and-rebuild program that the Braves are undergoing. Theirs required that they lose in excess of 100 games for three consecutive seasons (2011-13), something the Braves have yet to commit to. And not saying they should. It soon enough will be the Hawks' job to handle all the tanking this town can handle.

Houston went about restocking a little bit differently than the Braves, emphasizing offense. And here they are with a fearsome lineup that leads the majors in runs, hits, homers and average. And, not coincidentally, wins.

It is one thing to read about the upstart Astros and their bombastic bats. And quite another to witness it up close. Seemed like everyone coming to the plate against the Braves – one through eight – was hitting over .300, with double-digit home runs. They all put the ball in play – hard. Extra-base hits were almost expected. They all looked like they had ordered swings through the Joe DiMaggio catalogue.

During the Fourth of July massacre, the Astros amassed 16 runs and 19 hits. More runs in one game than the Braves had scored in their previous five games.

On Wednesday, Braves starter Jaime Garcia did such a good job keeping the Astros off balance at the plate for four innings that the team really should have traded him sometime during the third inning. For he never will display more value than he did by even temporarily stymieing the Astros' hit machine.

And still the Astros won Tuesday 10-4, cranking out 16 more hits.

The question Braves fans will be asking themselves as the Astros bug out of town is whether they would endure the kind of baseball blight those in Houston did, if they knew this kind of potential awaited four or five years down the line? (Yes, Houston still must ultimately win something important in October). If only you could sign up for that kind of guarantee.

And this little mini-series will further inflame the question: What will the Braves rebuild – what with so much emphasis on young pitching rather than young run-producers – look like in a year or two? As highly as the Braves may think of their lineup now, there is no denying they could use a little more of what the Astros brought to SunTrust.

Oh, and by the way, the Astros pitching boasts the fifth lowest team ERA in baseball - and the fourth lowest batting average against.

The best that can be said of the little holiday test against Houston is that Braves have no more meetings with the Astros scheduled this season. Just be thankful that Houston was ushered out of the National League before it got this scary.


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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.