Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cards @ Braves: Game 3 Recap

FREDDIE CAN SEE! It's a miracle! Can I get an "Amen" from the back of the congregation? Thank you brothers and sisters! Let us all look toward the new winning streak of 2 games, and the hopes it can extend to 10. Hallalujah!

My bad Baptist preacher voice aside, it was a great game last night. 10 runs, 14 hits, 5 walks, 3 doubles, and 2 HRs. Whew, that's more offense than we had in the entire Reds series. Everyone got in on the act (except Jason Heyward). The team went 4-12 with RISP, and hit .412 for the game. The pitching was...well let's be honest, it was pretty terrible again. If the bats didn't wake up; I mean we gave up 7 runs so you do the math. Huddy gave up 5 runs, and EOF gave up 2 more. I guess technically Huddy only gave up 4 runs, then Venters came in and couldn't get one out without giving up another run. Venters, and I thought I'd NEVER say this, is on the list. I can't trust him anymore. The last 7 innings he's pitched, he's given up 7 runs. Everytime he goes out there, it's odd on he's going to give up something. The last time Venters had a full inning of work where he didn't give up a hit? May 2nd, about a month ago against the Phillies.

The MVP was Freddie "Jeepers Creepers I Finally Got My Peepers" Freeman. First AB after the new goggles? 419 feet into the center field stands. That's not a cheapy anywhere. Second AB, double to left to score Uggla. Fifth AB, a single that scored 2 runs in the 8th. So, after going 3/5 with 3 RBIs, I think we can conclude that the goggles work. In fact, it's quite possible they are super goggles. Order some for the whole team. Better yet, order a bunch of them for Jason Heyward so he can hit.

STAT OF THE SERIES! This time the stat of the series was...HOME RUNS! Throughout the series agains the Cardinals, the Braves were able to hit the long ball well to score runs, and it wasn't just one guy. Bourn, Uggla, McCann, and Freeman all had homers in our 2 wins during this series, totalling 7 runs of offense. When the bats are ready, the pitching woes look a whole lot better. Don't be fooled, though. They are still there, and we need to fix them. Perhaps Medlen coming back up will help with the rotation, and moving Venters into a less key role can shift the weight. Hell, at this point I sorta want Durbin pitching the setup 8th. Terrifying how that's changed.

I'll go into a brief synopsis of why I'm starting to get frustrated with Jason. After coming out of the gate strong in April, his May has been horrific. Nobody wants to beat the kid over the head about not hitting the ball, because he certainly wasn't the only one struggling, but we need to get more out of him in June. In May Heyward's batting line looks like this: .200 average, .389 slugging, 14 RBIs, 4 HRs, 1 Triple, 4 Doubles, 14 walks and 30 Ks. The first half was certainly better than the second half. Situationally, Jason hasn't been bad, but those strikeouts are looming again. I can't live with a hitter that strikes out once a game on average and hits .200 for a month. Now that we have moved past the skid, I want to see Jason get hot along with the team. June will be a very important month from him in terms of his future. We put up with him hitting .227 last season. I don't think we can afford to put up with that again this year. He's dangerously close to dropping below .250 as a hitter for his career.

Also, as a side note, we optioned Pastornicky back to AAA, and the word is that Simmons will replace him for the Washington series. Considering that Tyler was pretty much a disaster in the field, so much so that Jack Wilson hitting less than .200 had to replace him when Freeman couldn't dig him out of trouble, I think this is probably the right move. Pastornicky needs to go back to the minors and work more on his glove. SS isn't a position like OF where you can just try to hit and things will work themselves out. In fact, it's one of the most important defensive positions on the field. Supposedly, Simmons is a defensive whiz. I guess we'll find out this weekend.

Now, we head to Washington for revenge. Guess what Nats? You didn't see THIS lineup last time you came to town. Oh and we get a nice day off to rest up some of our players. You know the last time we had a day off was? Three weeks ago on May 10th. Enjoy the travel day boys, and let's see if we can't take it to Washington on their turf.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cards @ Braves: Game 2 Recap

We won! The streak is dead! Let there be a grand clubhouse feast! Bring out the finest meats and cheeses in all the land!

Delgado actually got a win to break the streak. I am just as floored as you are. Short of Mike Minor, I can't think of a more unlikely character to get us off the shnide, so good for Randall. The key was getting first blood with a homer in the 1st inning by Bourn, and then taking a bigger lead with the 2-out-3-run jack by Uggs in the 3rd inning. The hilarious part of this win was that we got 5 runs on 5 hits, while the Cards got 10 hits but only 4 runs.

Yadier Molina had a field day yesterday in the loss. He went 4/4 with 3 RBIs and a homer. You can't really hit much better than that in a game, but he was the only Cardinal doing any real damage. Furcal went 0/5 in the leadoff spot, which is always a big key to our success. Keeping him off the basepaths keeps the chaos to a minimum.

I'm starting to like how Durbin is pitching, even though I know he's had issues. I feel a little more comfortable with him than I do with Venters right now, shocking as that is mentally. EOF is also starting to round back into shape with a solid 8th inning last night. Kimbrel is still the absolute shutdown force he's always been. With the game on the line, there's nobody better in the majors in my humble opinion.

The MVP of the game has to be Dan the Man Uggla. That 3 run shot in the 3rd caused a collective sigh of relief in the dugout. The weights were lifted from Delgado's shoulders and placed squarely on the Cardinals. Suddenly, we felt as if we were going to win for the first time in weeks. Add in the fact he also coaxed 2 walks in addition to his homer, and you have a very solid .750 OBP for the day. Good stuff, Danny boy. Keep up your slugging ways tonight against the Cards so we can win this series!

Oh yeah, that's right. We have a chance to win a series. It's been a while hasn't it? With Huddy on the mound tonight I always feel good about our chances, even if it is against Kyle Lohse. His name sounds like some sort of moisturizer. New from Gilette: Lohse for men, won't dry our your skin! Well I'll be damned if we're going to drop a game to some fancypants ivory liquid nancyboy! So what if he's 5-1 with an ERA under 3? Uggla, Heyward, and Prado have all smacked him around before, and they are going to step up again tonight!

Go Braves!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cards @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

I went to this game on Monday. Lovely day, nice weather, good atmosphere, and an absolute metric ton of Cardinals fans showed up. They always do. I can't tell if they are just bandwagon people who live in the city, or if they are travelling sideshow folks that decide to take the quick flight for the holiday. Either way, lots of redbird gear in the stands, and most of it was in the SunTrust section. Yeah. The Corporate stooges might want to check who is sitting in their vaunted seats on TV. It makes you look bad.

So the game. Well, I had nachos and a funnel cake, and that was the one of the highlights of the afternoon. Lance Lynn was in a rythym all day, throwing 7 innings of two run, 5 hit ball. Tommy Hanson was NEVER in the groove, throwing a 3.1 inning, 8 hit, 6 run, 3 walk disaster. Hanson gave up 2 bombs, one to Furcal off all people, who only had 3 homers going into the game. I can't really understand what in the world has happened to our pitching staff, but over the last week our ERA is 5.66 across all pitchers. Only two teams in the NL are worse: Colorado and San Diego. Those two teams are a combined 26 games under .500, and are completely out of the playoff picture in May. Not exactly the kind of company we'd like to keep.

BMac did come back to play in this game after his "mystery illness," (I'm going to guess he had the Oregon Trail form of dysentery) but the layoff didn't do him any favors as he went 0/4. Uggla, Heyward, and Fransisco had a decent afternoon hitting the ball, but everyone else was completely inept. We didn't have a runner touch 2nd base until the 4th inning. Geeky high school sophomores have a better rate than that. We went 1-2-3 in six of our nine innings. Anything more than 4 is too many. To say we were lacking in all facets of the game would be a dramatic understatement. Tommy never gave us a chance to win, and the bats were uninterested in creating any kind of rally.

In the last 10 games, we've never scored more than 4 runs. We averaged 2.4 runs a game. And yet, give the fans a ton of credit for getting out to the ballpark even in a down streak. The attendance for these 4 games over Memorial day weekend was an average of 40,333 people. That's well above our average for the season of ~29k a game. It was good to see people get the kids out there to enjoy their time out of school, and it was great to see the Military contingent at the ballpark on Monday. We all watched a touching moment where a soldier who wasn't due to come back from Afganistan for another two months said hello to his family via the Jumbotron, then surprised the stadium when he came out of the dugout to greet his stunned family. It was a great thing the Braves helped put together that really puts things in perspective. After all, a losing streak is just sports, Memorial Day was about remembered and honoring those who served and have served. The Braves got that part right.

Go Braves!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nationals @ Braves: Game 2 & 3 Recap

Sorry I've been off the blog wagon during the Holiday weekend. Reason being, we're struggling and I was at the lake. So let's do a smaller recap of what's going on here in this streak. In game 2, Minor gave up 4 runs right off the bat, but we managed to hit our way back into the game. By the time we got to the 6th inning, we had tied the game at 4 runs. Then, Medlen and Venters went out there and things came completely unglued. The real killer was all the extra base hits that the Nats raked on us in the 6th and 7th. Four more runs crossed, and we were down 8-4. We had crawled our way back into the game, and the bullpen let it slip away. This game's on the pitching.

In the 3rd game, we once again hit pretty well in the first half of the game. By the end of the third, we were up 2-0 and feeling pretty good about ourselves with Beachy out there on the mound. However, the 4th inning started with a lead-off walk. I think you all know how I feel about those at this point. Then, Pastornicky committed a bad error on a FC at 2nd. Then, another walk. All of a sudden, there was this massive snowball effect out there on the field and we were smack in the middle of it's path. Luckily, we escaped that bases loaded, no out situation with only a 2-2 tie. It didn't matter though, the bats went absolutely ice cold after the top of the 4th. The Braves went 14 straight batters without a hit, until the bottom of the 8th when Fransisco hit a single. Too late, the Nats had already touched up Livan Hernandez for 4 runs. The bad streak goes to seven.

Here's the STAT OF THE SERIES! This time the stat of the series is bullpen ERA. The bullpen's ERA in the Nats series was 6.10 across 10 innings. That's...not up to par. You normally expect a bullpen the caliber of Atlanta's to maintain a pretty solid 2-3 ERA, but we have really lost the handle ever since the big bats have left the lineup. It feels like everybody is grinding a lot, and we're not really getting anywhere with that approach. I remember this feeling. I last felt it at the end of 2011. It's depressing and terrifying.

However, here's the good news. We're not a whole team right now. If we were grinding or failing with our regular guys out there, that's one thing. Failing with the backups out there is quite another. It won't last. It's also nothing to panic about since we're still over .500 here late in May. In fact, the entire NL East is over .500 for the season. It's frankly amazing. Once we get past this skid with our top RBI producers back in the lineup, we will look at this end of May as a blip on the radar. We have all the pieces. We have all the talent. We just need to put it all together again here at the end of the month, and into June.

Go Braves!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nationals @ Braves: Game 1

Huddy couldn't stop the bleeding. After a 4 run first inning, we might as well have folded up the tents and left town mentally. The skid goes to 5 games, and Chipper is now officially on the DL. Nine hits and four runs would be enough on most nights with Huddy on the mound, but it wasn't this time. Huddy pitched a bad first and a bad 7th, leading to 7 earned runs and his second loss on the season. It couldn't have come at a worse time.

Mentally I'm beginning to feel the strain a bit. We've now set our new slump record in losses for the season, but we did it while we hit the ball well at home with our Ace on the hill. Oh and Rossy left the game with a groin injury so we're down him as well. Prado and Diaz were outstanding during the game and kept us in it with 5 combined hits and 3 RBIs. Heyward hit a meaningless solo shot late in the game well after the damage was done. Freeman and Bourn went 0/10. Freeman's batting .160 over the last 7 days, and I think it's his eyes for sure now. He's not that bad of a hitter and he looks like he can't see the ball right now at all.

Meanwhile, we have to listen to the national media slobber over Bryce Harper as we get our butts kicked, even though he had nothing to do with it. ESPN really goes out of their way to promote this 19 year old "phenom" that's hitting .269 average. Bear in mind that Adam LaRoche is actually their best hitter right now, but you would never know that if you watched Sportscenter. Harper is 32nd among OFs in the national league in average, and 21st in slugging, but you would assume with his media coverage he's an obvious MVP candidate. My displeasure at the hype machine rolls on unabated.

I didn't do a preview on this series because it's impossible to preview a team where we had no idea who was going to be in the lineup. Right now, I'm reminded of the turn we took late in the season in 2010, where we were so injured going into the playoffs that Brooks Conrad was forced into a starting gig at 2nd. Similar things seem to be happening. Ross is groin-hurt, Chipper is DL, McCann has something flu-like, Diaz had some sort of bug up until recently, JJ is in the minors because he's a headcase, and Freeman has an eye problem. We need to get healthy soon, because this lineup we're running out there currently is an offensive joke compared to our earlier season offensive juggernaut.

Today, Strasburg goes against Minor. That burning sensation you feel behind your eyeballs is normal. If you're a drinking man/woman, might I suggest you take two frozen drinks with a dash of cerveza today and call me in the morning. We'll see how it went.

Go Braves!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Braves @ Reds: Game 4 Recap

Look. I'm frustrated, you are frustrated, and no amount of kvetching and whining about ballparks or pitching or grand slams is going to get those wins back. So, I say we move on with our lives and focus on the next series that doesn't take place inside a small operahouse. So let's do a Good, Bad, and Ugly for the series and close the book on the Reds for the season. Thank God.

The Good I will take away from the series:

1 - We never had a good lineup the entire time. That's encouraging because we weren't getting beat with our team out there. We were getting beat with a weird combination of role-players.

2 - Martin Prado has not cooled off at all. He's as solid as a rock hitting .357 on the series. So is Michael Bourn going .250 with 3 HRs and a double. Once you get the rest of the guys back into the groove, we're in good shape.

3 - Most of our starters pitched well. Tommy was great, Beachy was adequate, and Delgado wasn't horrible until he started walking people late. In the grand scheme of things, even Minor wasn't a disaster.

The Bad from the series:

1 - Venters still isn't right. I'm not sure when he will be, but I'm no longer comfortable with him getting the nod as our 8th inning shut down guy right now.

2 - We averaged two runs a game. That's never going to be enough. The magic number is 3 when it comes to the Braves. If we can't average 3+ runs by the end of the series. I can guarantee you we lost it.

3 - We've now tied our longest losing skid on the year, going back to our 0-4 start at the beginning of the season. Back then, we were ready to completely panic. Right now, I'm far from it. So it's a bad with a hint of good.

The Ugly (and it's OOGLY):

1 - The Braves batted .161 on the series amongst position players in 4 games. For the series, here are a few groaners. Freeman went .083, Heyward went .091, and Hinske hit .100 after 10 ABs.

2 - We didn't get a single hit from either of our catchers. BMac went 0/3 in his game. Rossy went 0/12 in his three starts. You were just as effective offensively from your couch during this series as our catching tandem. Hell Delgado had more hits in his start than our catchers. That's just pathetic.

3 - We only had 7 walks in 4 games. Bear in mind that we are 7th in the MLB in coaxing free passes in the majors. And that's after our completely unpatient(?) approach against the Reds. That has to change. We need to get on base by any means necessary.

So that's it. We're done here in Cincy. We come back home to face off against the Nats, who are only first in our division. Maybe a little crowd support and friendly confines will wake up a few of our players. Let's hope so, because we can't afford to drop a series to the Nats.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Braves @ Reds: Game 2 Recap

Beachy didn't fare a lot better than Minor in the freaking bandbox of a ballpark. It's a bunch of crap that they call it Great American ballpark when it's only 370 to right center. Left field is an even bigger joke. Solo shot after solo shot in this series is causing my blood pressure to go up a point every time a ball goes out.  If I don't make it to the end of this series, give me a week to write a new recap because I've had a mild stroke.

So we gave up 4 runs again. Shockingly, all homers. Yet again. I HATE THIS BALLPARK ARGG...ok. Ok, settle down. You already did that. Move on. Sigh. Deep breathes. Ok. We had 6 hits this time which is better than two. If we continue that trend, we should have 10 today. That's me being positive. We were 0-3 with RISP which is sad because we only had 3 guys all game in scoring position. The highlight of the game was Michael Bourn, doing his best impression of the Little Engine that Could while the rest of the team did their best impression of a kitten caught in a paper bag. Bourn went 3/4 with 2 HRs and made up 66% of our offense. If we win, he gets the MVP easily. As such, I don't give MVPs for losses. He gets a solemn nod and a punch on the shoulder to keep his chin up.

As for the rest of the hitters, here is my message to you. Just because Chip is out of the lineup doesn't mean you can completely change your approach. SUCK IT UP! Uggla needs to be better in the cleanup spot. We can't have him with only one hit on the series sitting in the 4 hole. Also, our 6-7-8 combo this series is beyond awful. The back end hitters in those slots are a combined 1/20 in these games. Normally, our 6-7-8 hitters on the season have been hitting a combined .269 average. Right now it's a .050 average. Gee, I wonder why our runs are down? Hmmm. That must improve at the back end because I guarantee we will have 3-4-5 hitters on base that need knocking in.

Pitching was adequate. Beachy made some mistakes in 7 innings and they went yard. Was it great? Nope, and it wasn't enough to win. However, it wasn't a disaster by any stretch. Beachy was simply taken advantage of by the ballpark. You could probably say the same thing about Minor, but I'm down on Minor anyway because of his prior starts in normal stadiums. Beachy is a complete pitcher, Minor isn't. The problem for Beachy was too many fly balls. He wasn't locating in the bottom of the zone, and his mistakes upstairs were belted. The big difference was the 2 run shot in the 1st inning. Beachy has 2 outs and Phillips in a full count, so he threw him a fast ball. He just laid it out there and said hit it, because he didn't want to face the slugger Jay Bruce with 2 on. It's not a bad decision because Phillips only had 2 HRs on the year going into the game, and Bruce has 10 with a .550 slugging percentage. Phillips simply caught up with it and took it out in any ballpark, let alone Great American. Tip your hat and move on. The second Phillip homer was a 386 foot duck that should have been on the warning track at a real stadium, but OH WELL!

Moving on to tonight. Hanson v. Arroyo. I hate to say it's a must-win for the series, but it is just that. You can't lose this game and go into the fourth with Delgado on the mound trying to avoid a sweep. So Braves fans, get out your lucky shirts, grab your tomahawks, make a sacrfice to the Bat Gods, and do your part to help us win this game!

Go Braves!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Braves @ Reds: Game 1 Recap

The Reds gave Chipper a base yesterday to acknowledge his great career. Too bad the Braves decided we weren't going to put anybody on those bases to celebrate. We had two hits. TWO. That's one away from me going full Harry Doyle in Major League. Juan Fransisco had a home run, and Dan Uggla had a hit. So, instead of going out there and clubbing a bad Reds pitcher with an 0-5 record. We let him 2 hit us for 8 innings and get his first win. We beat the Rays two best pitchers in the last series and lose to the AAA call up. WHAT? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME BRAVES!?!?

Mike Minor needs to go away. We can't win games with him on the mound right now. It's obvious nobody in the dugout trusts him or will hit for him. Also, no pitcher has given up more home runs in the majors this year. It doesn't help when you give up back to back to back homers with two outs. Not one, not two, but THREE homers in a row. AND ONE OF THEM WAS TO THE FREAKING PITCHER! Leake's never hit a home run in his career, so he should buy Minor a steak dinner for the pleasure. Make sure to tip. You know what? I can't recap a game this horrible without mentioning that I knew going into it that it was going to be horrible. And yet it still managed to outpace my expectations of how horrible it would be in its horribleness.

So what stats can we take away from this? None. Forget this game existed. Nobody on either team had a hit with RISP, all the runs were on homers, and saying it was like watching paint dry from the 5th inning would sully the good name of paint. The only upside was that it was mercifully short at 2:34 to finish. If you can't tell, I'm pissed that we keep doing this. We keep having amazing games and wins, only to be dashed against the rocks whenever Delgado or Minor take the mound. Fix this, Braves. Fix it now. There's no such thing as a 3 man rotation.

Beachy takes over on the mound tonight. He's just the kind of tonic I need to mentally push past yesterday. With him out there making everyone feel comfortable, perhaps the hitters can find their groove again. The Braves bats must be unleashed. Hats for bats! They keep bats warm.

Go Braves!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Braves @ Reds: Series Preview

Here we go again. Less than a week after playing the Reds, we're playing the Reds. Somehow we got screwed on a two game homestand while they get four. I'll add that to the ever-growing list of things I am disgusted by with our schedule this year. Also we play the Yankees six times. Do they play the Phillies or the Marlins? Noooooooo. Just us, the Mets, and the Nats. Whatever, MLB.

Game 1: Minor v. Leake
Game 2: Beachy v. Latos
Game 3: Hanson v. Arroyo
Game 4: Delgado v. Bailey

Right off the bat, I'll tell you not to watch Game 1 if you're a casual Braves fan. Then again, if you're a casual Braves fan you're not reading THIS blog. It's going to be ugly. Minor's problems are well documented here, and I won't rehash them for the 5th time. Leake's nickname in Cincy is "Oil Leake" since he has a lovely 0-5 record with a 6.21 ERA. This game has the potential to be a pitching disaster. Now, given that's it's also going to be nationally televised on ESPN (and God only knows what the programming director was thinking on that one) expect these two really young kids to probably toss batting practice in a small park. If we can get to the pen with a lead, we can take this game.

Beachy and Latos. With a 2-2 record and a 4.63 ERA, Latos isn't scaring anybody. Also, do yourself a favor and look at his profile picture on ESPN. Dude looks completely stoned. Seriously, he looks like a guy you'd see in Quicktrip at 1AM with a giant bag of Funyuns staring at the soda fountain because it's shiny. He hasn't managed to go longer than 5 innings in his last two starts. Again, he probably got distracted by shiny things. Beachy, on the other hand, is the best pitcher in the major leagues. He's won three straight, going 21 innings with 3 runs and 17 strikeouts. On paper, this game is a complete mismatch in favor of the Braves.

Arroyo is that old long-hair with the ridiculous leg kick. In his last two starts, Arroyo hasn't been sharp, giving up 4 earned each time. Against the Mets, he gave up 2 bombs in a losing effort 0-4. Also, he's never had a win at home. The Reds are 3-1 in his home starts, but Arroyo was never involved in the decision. In all those wins, the Reds just happened to outslug their opposition. Tommy Hanson won't let them do that if he can get past the first few innings unscathed. Tommy has won 2 straight, both on the road, and only given up 3 runs in 12 innings. Tommy's claim to fame is that he always gives you a chance to win if your lineup can hit the ball that day. Give him 3 runs or more? He's undefeated on the year.

Delgado and Bailey is a crapshoot. At this point, I'm wondering if Delgado will ever get another win. In 5 games now, he's received 8 runs of help. That's 1.6 runs a game. Bear in mind that on a regular day, regardless of who starts, the Braves average 5.14 runs a game. If the Braves had just scored their average amount of runs for Delgado, he would have been 4-1 over his last 5 starts. Instead he's 0-3. Bailey is not a good pitcher, but we made him look like Cliff Lee when he pitched in Atlanta last week. Take away that game, and Bailey has a 6.75 ERA in his last 3 starts. We need to treat him like the terrible pitcher he actually is, and get Delgado some freaking runs.

I'll spout my old line about any 4 game series. Go 2-2 and the rest is gravy, especially on the road. Given our pitching matchups, I think we can go 2-2 and move on with our lives. I'd take that right now. Let's at least hope Minor can improve out there on the mound tonight. Keep the ball down, kid! Small park!

Go Braves!

Braves @ Rays: Games 2 & 3 Recap

I'm going to lump the two games together because I went to the lake this weekend. If you haven't enjoyed some of the spectacular weather we've been having here in Georgia, get outside already! If you are afraid of the outdoors and/or you are some kind of hermity shut-in, at least open a window. It's nice out there. On to the games!

We lost game 2 with Delgado on the mound. Did we hit for him? Nope. I think at one point in the later stages we didn't get a baserunner for 16 batters. So that sucks. Oh, and Delgado couldn't locate his ass with both hands, AND there was a grand slam for the Rays. I don't even want to go over the second game because it was such a downer from the other two awesome performances we had, but let me highlight a few things. We walked 8 batters in the game. I don't care who you are, if you walk 8 guys you will lose 80% of those games. A 7-run game took 2:48 to complete. Reason? Braves didn't have a hit after the 4th inning. Or a walk. Or anything. We might as well have set up in the batters box with a lounge chair and a margarita with a frilly hat.

On to game 3! Much better results. Huddy decided that if all we were giving the pitchers was two runs, he would just win with that. Tim went 7.2 with no runs, only 4 hits, and two walks. That's just silly. He had fewer baserunners in that game than innings pitched. Venters then comes in to get one out in the 8th, and he plunks two guys in a row to load the bases. Then, on what would have been the game tying hit, the ball bounces into a runner, causes a dead ball out, and we escape from the inning. It was the most ridiculous way for JV to get out of an inning ever, but he escaped. Kimbrel shut the door in the 9th with 2 Ks. He's still awesome.

MVP of the game is David Ross. When Price had all but completely settled in for a long pitchers duel by the 3rd, Rossy took a 2-2 pitch to right that upset the apple cart. That's all Huddy needed, really. Ross doesn't get a ton of playtime, but it's quite possible that he's the best backup catcher in the major leagues. In fact, if I were pressed, I'd have a hard time thinking of another viable candidate that could even come close to David. Add in the fact he's an all-around swell guy and clubhouse prankster, and you get a complete player that's impossible not to love. Also, did I mention he's batting .303 on the season and .576 slugging? That doesn't hurt either. Except to see the ROSS IS BOSS signs around Turner Field soon.

Next we head on a 4 game trip to Cincy to play the Reds. Didn't we just play them? What the hell MLB? Don't get me wrong, I like it better than crappy interleague, but we haven't played Washington or Miami at all hardly. Yet we'll have played the Reds 7 times this early in the season. I think the scheduling guy was in the john when they came up with this idea.

Go Braves!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Braves @ Rays: Game 1 Recap

pic courtesy MySA

Every time Chip slides I cringe a little. However, his play to break for home on a wild pitch in the 2nd was the type of great instinctual base running you expect out of the wily vet, regardless of age. Also, Tommy going seven innings with only 2 runs never hurts. He's really managed to settle in for the season and place his pitches. The key was going strike one on batters 20/28 times, which really let him control each AB to his advantage.

The MVP of the game was Marteeeeeeeen Prado. He went 2/4, 3 runs, 1 walk, with a double and a homer. On a day where Michael Bourn didn't have his best luck at the plate, Prado stepped in and made sure that he scored every time he got on base. The first AB was one of his best, as he aggressively went after a double on a base hit to left, and Freeman followed up with a first pitch knock up the middle to score him. Before the fans could sit down to enjoy the game at the Trop, we had the lead 1-0.

Shields was good, but not great. He held things together after giving up the lead to the Braves in the first two innings, and by the 3rd we were tied 2-2. However, the 5th inning proved to be his undoing. After getting 2 easy outs, the Braves started a slow rally with a Prado walk. Then, he got to second on a pickoff error by Shields. Next, Freeman doubled and knocked in Martin. Uggla walks, Bmac singles, Freeman scores, and all of a sudden we're up 4-2. All of that happening with 2 outs. You could tell that it completely demoralized the crowd and the Rays. The dagger came in the 7th when Prado went yard off of Howell, who came in for relief. Martin took him to his 6th pitch in the AB before smashing it over the left field fences. The mass exodus for the parking lot started at that point for the Rays fans.

Venters came in for relief in the 8th and still struggled. He's having a few issues, but none of them are disastrous. Yet. The problem was he plunked a batter and then threw one to the backstop, so the guy got an easy double without hitting the ball. A single scored him later, because when you give guys free bags, they score. However, he stopped the bleeding and we ended up winning 5-3 anyway, so no big deal there. Kimbrel shut the door on the Rays in 3 up 3 down fashion, but he got no strikeouts. Rare for the K-Crab, but just as effective.

This afternoon, we put our hard-luck-loser Delgado up against some scrub the Rays brought up from AAA to cover an injury. Let's get Delgado a win, guys. He needs the confidence!

Go Braves!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Series Preview: Braves @ Rays

Interleague is back. Ugh. Let it be known that I am not a fan of any of this crap, but we're stuck with it from here on out. The first stretch is down in Tampa for a 3 game series, so here's how that plays out:

Game 1: Hanson v. Shields
Game 2: Delgado v. Cobb
Game 3: Hudson v. Price

I like our matchups here except for Game 3. In game one, Shields is 6-1 with a 3.52 ERA, but he's been winning games with run support rather than dominant stuff. In his last 4 games, he's given up 17 runs, and he doesn't get past the 6th inning. That's a good thing, because the TB bullpen has a mediocre 3.95 ERA (19th in the majors). Thing is, you don't want to be down in the 9th, because their closer Rodney is every bit as good as Kimbrel. Where Shields has been getting worse over his last 4, Hanson has been getting better. Hanson only gave up 8 runs in his last 4 starts, 4 of which came in the wild 15-13 game against Philly. Of the 22 ABs that TB hitters have had on Hanson, they are batting for a tiny .091 average. That's pretty slick to me eye.

Delgado is still worrysome mostly because we do that thing at the plate. What's that thing? Nothing. We do nothing at the plate when he's pitching, and we're all worse as fans for watching it. Delgados last 3 outings went for 20.2 innings and 3 earned runs. Those are Beachy-like numbers. Yet Brandon has 3 wins, and Delgado has none. Brandon's had 21 runs of support, Delgado has had 4. This is on the lineup, not the pitcher. As for Cobb, he's nothing special on the Rays. He's a AAA prospect with a 1-4 record and a 4.14 ERA. We should be able to hit THAT guy, and Delgado has been pitching well. One would hope for a win in this matchup.

Hudson v. Price is a tough matchup to call. Price is good. VERY good. He's a 6-6, 220 pound lefty out of Vandy with 4 years of gunslinger experience in the bigs. The man is a strikeout artist as he averages 5.5 a start over his career. He can, and will, go deep into games. Over his last 5 starts, he's 4-1 averaged 7.1 innings and gave up 11 runs. Huddy's only had 4 starts this season, but he's been sharp. 2 wins and a 0-1 loss in Chicago have all been pretty solid. The one outlier is the odd start in Colorado where he got roughed up. If you go by his last two start, we're in for a whale of a duel. I'd keep an Keppinger is he gets a start against Huddy. That would mean Maddon is looking at the numbers, and Keppinger is batting .529 against Hudson in 17 ABs. That's unhealthy for us.

All in all, it's an interleague matchup, so you're not going to find a lot of historical background for these matchups. That's part of the reason I hate them as a stats guy. Also, I'm a bit of a purist, and I will go to my grave thinking the DH is the worst thing to happen to baseball, tied with Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan being allowed in an announcer booth. In any case, the games should provide for an interesting weekend with a good 4PM afternoon start on Saturday. We'll need some runs, so why not score 26 this series Braves? That seems reasonable right? GO GET EM!

Go Braves!

Marlins @ Braves: Game 2 Recap

Nolan Ryan would be impressed with Beachy last night. He loves it when starting pitchers go deep into games. I love it when our guys pitch shutouts. In fact, that's the first shutout victory we've had all year. And, of course, it had to be Beachy out there pitching. I fully believe that the league is going to start taking notice of this young kid. He's becoming harder and harder to ignore. Bryce Harper? Booooooooooring, ESPN. The story is Beachy!

As I stated in the preview, Nolasco has trouble with Heyward, Chipper, Uggs, and MacDaddy. JayHey, Chip, and Mac all had RBIs, and Uggs drew 2 walks and scored 2 runs. The guys at the top of the order kept the heat on as well. Prado went for a double and a triple with an RBI, and Bourn went 2/5 with a 2-out RBI and a swiped bag. Our one-two punch at the top now has a combined .395 on base percentage. WHAT? MADNESS! But gloriously true. They set the table for unlimited success. Oh and I also mention that Freeman got his peepers fixed and went yard. He looks ridiculous in those glasses and the dugout let him hear it.

On to the MVP. You know who it is. It's Brandon Beachy. Brandon pitched his first career complete game shutout, and the first Braves complete game shutout since July 1, 2011 when Jurrjens shut out the Orioles at Turner Field. Even better, he didn't walk a soul in 9 inning of work, and struck out 6 batters. But Beachy wasn't content with just halting the Marlin's offense. No, no! He wanted to hit! With two out in the bottom of the 5th, Beachy stroked a single to right on a 2-2 count, and knocked in Chipper for the 7th run. Beachy is now batting a robust .167 with 4 RBIs on the season. He's chasing down Delgado (.250) as our best hitting pitcher for the season. Watch out Randall! Beachy's raking the ball.

The thing I liked best about this game, besides the obvious pitching dominance, was how everyone got in on the act. Nobody had more than one RBI in the game for our seven runs. Bourn, Prado, Freeman, Mac, Chip, Jason, and Beachy all came up with big hits. That's spreading it around to the Nth degree. Also, I like the agressive base-running that's getting us extra base hits. Prado getting the double and the triple is just one example this game, but you've seen how our guys are really busting it out of the box up and down the lineup. Now, I don't recommend guys like Delgado trying to stretch out a double, but for the rest of the team pressuring a defense is a great way to score extra runs. Michael Bourn creates mayhem on the bases, and he's tied for 2nd in the majors with 12 steals. Bonifacio on the Marlins is in the lead with 20, and he's never been caught. That's unreal. He's 8 ahead of everyone else and nobody has touched him. Props to that guy. Wish he wasn't in our division.

Some NL stats you may like: Atlanta is 1st in total runs, 2nd in total bases, 2nd in batting average, and 4th in homers. Also, we lead the NL in saves! Good job Craig! Beachy now has the best ERA in baseball at 1.33, and Michael Bourn is 6th in batting average in the NL. Also, Marteeeeeen is tied for 3rd in doubles, and he's batting .452 over the last week. In the past 7 days, the Braves have 6 starters batting over .300 and two batting over .400. Lastly, Freddy Freeman continues his errorless streak at first, tied with Todd Helton as the only first basemen in the NL at this point with 0 errors. I love Freddy Peepers and his golden glove. Hint-hint, voters.

Next we head into Tampa for a 3 game series against the Rays. I think we are catching them at the right time since they are only 5-5 in their last 10, but they are a scary 14-4 at home. Let's hope we can even that out a little.

Go Braves!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Marlins @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

Raise your hand if you never want to see that odd lineup again. The game went the way I sort of expected. We hit the ball ok, but we went 1-9 with RISP. Minor had 3 good innings, and then self-destructed in the 4th and 5th. Now, I can sit here and bang on the kid because you know I'm not a fan, but that's not constructive. Instead, I'm going to explain where he's going wrong and what has to change so can be an effective starter in the majors.

Minor's ERA is over 7.00 now. He became the first pitcher in 3 years to give up 6 or more runs in 4 consecutive starts. The fact is, he can't work his issues out at the major league level, and we need to get JJ back up and healthy so Minor can get some time in at AAA. There are some things that are causing Minor issues:

1- His ground ball to fly ball rate is only 0.60, meaning he gives up a lot of fly ball outs. Now, some of you may have heard of a thing called "fly ball" pitchers. I hate that term, and I don't believe in it. I've never heard of a grounder leaving the yard, but I sure have seen some fly balls do major damage. The closer you get to a 1-1 rate, the better. As an example, Hanson has a 0.98 rate this season, Delgado is 1.09, Beachy is 0.79, and Hudson is 1.52. When, you look at Minor's numbers in this category, they need to improve.

2 - Minor makes bad 2nd and 3rd pitches when he faces hitters. Hitters are hitting .303 when Minor is ahead 0-1 on them, and .300 at 1-0. They take the first pitch, and then smack him. Hitters are .200 on 0-2 counts, and worse they are .300 on 1-1 counts. If Minor gets past pitch 2 & 3? Suddenly his opposing batting average goes to .231.

3 - He snowballs when he gets into the stretch. Nobody on base? Hitters are slugging a paltry .339 against him. Put a guy on base and send him to the stretch? Hitters are slugging .766. Oh, if there are RISP and two outs? Hitters are batting a robust .462 average against him. He can't get himself off the hook. In the same way I described how Tim Hudson can work his way in and out of jams, Minor isn't there yet.

When you look at this game, it was all about Minor's issues with guys on base, and our issues hitting with guys on base. Simple as that. I expected a loss, so I'm not horribly concerned, especially given the bizarre lineup that doesn't include Michael Bourn at the top. Don't take my boy out Fredi! We need him! Also, JayHey looks weird in center. I don't like it. Props to Prado for continuing his hot streak, though. The dude's batting .444 over the last seven days. He's white hot, and we need to take advantage of the way he's swinging the stick.

I think we'll get ample chances with Beachy on the mound tonight.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Series Preview: Marlins @ Braves

Smell that? The fish must be in town. After a sorry start, the Marlins are suddenly 7-3 in their last 10 games, and have crawled their way over the .500 mark. Much of that is due to the fact they played a SF team that can't score, a Padres team that can't score, a Houston team that can't score, and a Mets team that can't stop you from scoring. Take away the wins in SF and SD on the road (since they are 25th and 29th in offense) and you've got a Marlins team with a 4-10 road record. I'd like to pile some more misery on top of their mediocrity.

Game 1: Buehrle v. Minor
Game 2: Nolasco v. Beachy

Oh good, Minor's on the hill. Yippee. In his last 3 starts, Minor's given up 6, 7, and 8 runs. Why is he still starting? Don't we have somebody in the minor leagues who can give up less than a run an inning? What about my buddy Medlen who has been banished to a bullpen purgatory even though he pitches circles around this kid? Is it because of the stupid hat? Must we all suffer because you can put a place-setting on Medlen's brim? Minor has given up 21 earned runs in his last 16 innings of work. He's walked 7 guys. He's given up 24 hits and 7 home runs. He has a 6.59 ERA on the season and opponents are slugging .509 against him. Maybe because he's a crappy lefty he gets to keep his job. I want to punch him in the face.

Minor faces off aginst Buehrle, the 12 year vet out of the White Sox who is now pulling a stint with the Marlins. Buehrle's got a 2.81 ERA on the season in 7 games with a 2-4 record. Reason? For the most part the Marlins lineup was wetting the bed in April. In Buehrle's 4 losses, he got 6 runs of support. In his wins he averaged over 6. Go figure. I'm actually fine if Freeman wants to take another day off today, because Hinske slugs .429 against Buehrle in his career. Also, BMac went 2/3 with a double last time he faced him. So in the limited ABs we have against a guy who pitched the majority of his career in the AL, we have fared pretty well.

Beachy is now into dancing bobcat status. 4 wins in his last 4 decisions, a 1.60 ERA, and a WHIP under 1.00 on the season. You all know that I believe he's the best pitcher we have. I don't need to go on and on with how awesome he's playing right now. However, he's the best pitcher in the NL. Go ahead and look it up. Nolasco is NOT the best pitcher in the NL. He has a 4-1 record as well, but with a 3.65 ERA, and his wins are against SF, SD, Reds, and the Cubs. Wake me when I care. The Mets lit him up in his last start for 6 runs on 9 hits, and he was gone after 4.2 innings. Matty D, JayHey, Chipper, BMac, Rossy, and Uggs all have an OPS over 1.000 against Nolasco. I'm not even going to qualify what needs to happen here. Losing this game would be a travesty.

Per request, I looked up our middle infield fielding stats to see what's been going on with Uggs and Pastornicky. Dan Uggla has 6 errors on the season, and is dead last amongst 2nd baseman in the NL. Pastornicky only has 3 errors, ranked 8th in the NL. In terms of combined errors in the middle infield we are tied for last with 7 other teams in the NL (Miami, Washington, Cubs, Colorado, Giants, and Dodgers). However, one stat I noticed as the Range Factor (Put Outs + Assists / 9 innings). Pastornicky is dead last in Range Factor amongst NL shortstops, and Uggla is 8th. In terms of combined range factor, we are 12th in the NL. I think the long and short of it is that we're struggling defensively up the middle.

Let's hope we don't give the Marlins any freebies tonight.

Go Braves!

Reds @ Braves: Game 2 recap

Last night was one of those truly great baseball evenings that you can only get in May. The weather was perfect, the Braves jumped out to an early lead, and our staff never really put the game in doubt. All in all, I was extremely please with my first visit to the Ted this year. Also, my new shirt is 1-0 on the season, after having retired my jersey when we missed the playoffs last season. Game-day apparel is important, folks. Certain things are lucky and certain things aren't. You need to keep track and make sure you dress for success whenever you head to the park.

The Braves managed 6 runs on 12 hits. When you look at the overall picture of how we scored, the key inning was the bottom of the 3rd. Wilson singles, Huddy bunts and goes to first on a FC, Bourn singles, Prado singles, Chipper singles, Uggs sacrificed, BMac walked, and Heyward doubled. We just kept going station to station throughout the 3rd inning forcing over 4 runs. BMac also hit a rocket homer in the second, and Prado knocked in Bourn on an error by the Reds OF in the 4th. With the six early runs, and Huddy giving up only 2 in the 7th, the game felt like the Braves completely controlled the flow.

The MVP in my mind was Marteeeeeeen Prado. He went 3/4 on the night with a run scored, an rbi, and went 2-2 with RISP. I love it when our guys come up big like that in big spots. Also, he gets a delayed nod for his catch from the first game making it on top plays for ESPN. For those of you keeping track, Prado is now hitting .301 on the season with 19 RBIs. Atlanta is one of only two teams in the NL who have two OFs in the top 10 in OF batting average. Both Prado and Bourn make the list, along with the Dodgers' Matt Kemp and Andre Eithier. That's pretty awesome company.

Huddy really had the sinker working with 3 Ks and 9 ground ball outs in his 7 innings of work. The key for Hudson was getting ahead of hitters. In 20/31 hitters faced, he had first pitch strikes. He also did a great job of managing innings when runners got on base. One of the marks of a hall of fame veteran pitcher (and I think Tim is just that) is the ability to manage the game consistently, and not let one mistake snowball into a big inning. The Reds only went 1-8 with RISP, and Timmy helped them strand 10 guys over 7 innings with only 2 runs. The Reds had chances, but every time they got within striking distance Huddy would work his way out of the jam. Meanwhile, we gave Cueto his first loss, and his worst outing of the year. Welcome to Atlanta! Feel free to stop by anytime, Johnny.

So we split the two game series. As I said in the preview, no shame in that. I think anytime you have even numbered series your first goal should be to go .500 and then anything else is gravy. We face another two game series against the Miami Rainbowfish starting today. Luckily it's here in Atlanta instead of that lime-green-walled-affront-to-God-sculpture-thing they call a ballpark in Miami. Series preview will go up after lunch today. Hopefully we can have ourselves a good ole country fishfry!

Go Braves!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reds @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

Delgado deserved better than that. He deserved a little bit of support to augment what turned out to be a very strong start. What he got was the 3-4-5 hitters going hitless. I mean, really? The heart of our lineup doesn't get a damn hit? That's ridiculous coming off a weekend where we averaged 7 runs a game. My friend Ashleigh pointed out that we are not 0-6 on Monday night games, so maybe that's the problem. We have a case of the Mondays. The guy from Office Space needs to smash our fax machine.

Randall Delgado had a gem of a start going 6.2 innings with 4 hits and one run. It was completely wasted by Jonny Venters going one inning with 3 hits and 2 runs. Venters isn't the Everyday Jonny we loved from last year. He's grinding right now, and it's all about the month of May. In April, Venters had a 0.00 ERA after 9 games of work. In May he has a 9.00 ERA in 6 games. He's worked a clean inning once in 6 tries. As such, I'm now worried when he takes the mound this month. He really needs to work on his pitch placement, because he's not walking people. He's simply getting knocked around. That can change over time as he finds the groove again.

The hitting was terrible. One run on 8 hits? Come on, guys. Going 0-5 with RISP, stranding 10 guys on base, and Michael Bourn was the only guy out there who seems to be able to break through. Two innings especially drove me nuts. Bottom of the 4th with runners on 1st and 2nd, only one out, and Jason Heyward pops out to the infield, then Rev raps into an out. No runs. Then, bottom 8th, same situation. BMac can't do a thing, Chipper walks, and Heyward strikes out. Whenever, we had a chance to even move the runners, we didn't. It was like we got fat on Mom's cooking the night before and were lazy at the plate. I hope that doesn't carry over against Cueto, because we made Homer Bailey look like Cliff Lee.

So we go forward to tonight. I will be at the game, and I don't watch losses. You hear that Braves? Ben the CPA is in the building. Bring your best! Also, Mom will be with me so don't make this a sad-late-Mother's-Day-gift! There's a holiday at stake!

Go Braves!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Series Preview: Reds @ Braves

Welcome home, Bravos. It's been a long time. Stay a while and listen! (Bonus points if you know where that phase comes from). Let me give you a little rundown on the odd two game series we're playing against the Reds:

Game 1: Delgado v. Bailey
Game 2: Hudson v. Cueto

Ok, so right off the bat I'll point out that Delgado has been steadily improving. He's moved off my list and into my mildly-concerned category. As in I'm minorly concerned when he takes the hill. The Braves are 3-3 in his 6 starts, but he has been trending in the right direction. The 4.54 ERA still has to be into the 3s before I get comfortable with him. One thing to note is that Delgado has been dominant against right handed hitters, holding them to a .182 average. However, his splits against lefties are almost .300 and double the amount of RBIs. That means you are loathe to throw him out there against a lefty dominant lineup. Luckily, the Reds only have two left-handed hitters. Unluckily, those two guys are Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, two guys that are slugging a combined .600 for the year. So...not sure what's going to happen there. On the other hand, we're red hot, and Homer Bailey suuuuuuucks. With a 4.93 ERA, he got smashed in his last outing against the Brewers, giving up 6 runs in 3.2 innings on the road. Homer's best outings have come against the Cubs hitters. Let me check. Yep, the Cubs are 13th in the NL in scoring. So that's nothing Homer's parents are putting on the wall at home.

In the second matchup, Hudson has faced most of the Reds hitters before, and Joey Votto in particular has yet to have a hit off of him. That's a good sign for us that Huddy can keep most of these guys in check, provided he gets out of inning #1. Tim's only game where he got into real trouble was the road match in Colorado, so I don't think that's indicative of his season. Right now, his ERA is inflated, but Timmy has a 2.46 ERA at Turner field over the last 3 years. He loves some home cooking. He'll be facing off against Cueto, the Reds Ace. The Reds are 6-1 in Cueto starts, and 3-1 on the road. The lone loss was against the Cardinals when the Reds couldn't post more than one run. Cueto can and will go deep into games, and he's managed a 1.12 ERA on the season, well below his career 3.65 ERA. There's two ways to look at that. You can either say he's pitching out of his mind right now, and he will trend back to that career number. Or, you can say he's pitching out of his mind right now, and we are catching him at the wrong time. Either way, we do know that Prado, McCann, and Uggla have a combined .348 batting average against Cueto, so I trust the heart of our lineup can do some serious damage.

There's no reason in my mind why we can't take both of these games at home. The matchups set up well for us to score a few runs and get to the bullpens with a lead. Whether or not that happens, we'll have to see, but I don't think there's any shame in a 1-1 split for a shortened series. I do think we need to jump on Bailey at his low point while we're hot. Cueto can be a tougher nut to crack. Also, I'll be at the Ted on Tuesday night to celebrate a belated Mother's Day with my Mom! So we'll get to see the duel up close and personal.

Go Braves!

Braves @ Cardinals: Game 3 Recap

BROOOOOMS! How great is it to see them twice in one road trip? Hell, when's the last time we swept two teams on the same road trip? I have no idea. Let's see what my stats robot says! Robot says September 2009 when we swept the Mets and the Nats on the road in September. Needless to say, it's been a while. I love that we are going out there and beating teams with our offensive prowess. It's so very un-Braves-like, and yet I'm glued to the TV every game expecting us to come up big late. Not that I wouldn't be glued to the TV if we were losing 10-2 as well. I'm sick like that.

The way the game started, I was very worried. We worked Lynn over for 28 pitches and got runners to 1st and 2nd, but we ended up stranding everybody with the dreaded strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play. Tommy takes the mound and can't find the zone, period. He walks Furcal, walks Jay, and then lets them both steal their way to second and third. So with runners in scoring position, I'm thinking we're going to let them draw first blood, let Lynn have an early lead, and he will just shut the door on us. WRONG! Tommy fans three in a row including Carlos Beltran, and he wriggles off the hook. It was huge, and it was a tone-setter for the game. The Braves weren't going to do anything quietly. They were going to scrap and claw and take every AB deep into counts. That's what sealed the win for us.

So who gets the MVP? In the vein of being scrappy, one guy jumps to mind. Jason Heyward had one of those beautiful ABs in the 3rd inning that you want to put in the hitter archives. With the bases loaded, Jason fouled off six pitches before doubling to right and clearing the bases. Suddenly, we had a 3-0 lead against a pitcher in Lynn who had yet to give up more than one run in any inning this season. Jason rattled his cage, and got Lynn completely off balance. He was afraid to throw the breaking ball because Jason was sitting on it, so he was trying to find the zone with a steady diet of fastballs. Jason wouldn't have that. Foul after foul finally set the pitch that JayHey could pounce on and drive to right. For that AB alone, Jason earned the MVP for this game.

Now it's time for the crowd favorite: STAT OF THE SERIES! For this series against the Cardinals that stat is...DOUBLES! The Braves had 11 doubles in this series. Eleven...doubles. Uncanny. We were wearing out that right field corner all series long. A lot of those longer balls had so much spin on them, they were bouncing up into the stands for ground-rulers. Before this weekend, we were averaging 1.5 doubles a game. In these three games, we averaged 3.67 doubles. If you're looking for a reason why we scored so many runs against the Cardinals, that increase in doubling explains a good portion of it.

All in all, we had a 7-2 road trip. I'd call that pretty successful. It's odd that our two losses came against the Cubs, but like a good story, I can forgive a crappy middle for an great beginning and an outstanding finish. This week we start a strange home stand where we play a 2 game series against the Reds, and then 2 against the Marlins. Then, it's back on the road for another 7 days against the Rays and the Reds. Lotta road games in May. In fact, 16 of our 28 games this month are on the road. Normally, that would be concerning, but the Braves are an MLB best 14-8 on the road so far this season. The only team that's in the same stratosphere as us is the Texas Rangers. That's some high cotton we're wandering around in.

Oh and did I mention we're leading the NL East now? Yeah, it's May, blah blah blah. As I told my friend, I LIKE LEADING, DON'T STEAL MY SUNSHINE! Let's bring that powerful offense back here to the Ted tonight and show the Reds a few things.

Go Braves!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Braves @ Cardinals: Game 2 Recap

 pic courtesy of Washington Post

I'm pretty sure Wainwright woke up in a cold sweat last night, dreaming about walking in another run. Simply put, he was a disaster on the mound yesterday. It was pretty obvious from the first inning that Wainwright was intent on hanging himself, and the Braves hitters kept gleefully handing him rope. After only 4.1 innings giving up 9 hits, 5 runs, and 5 walks, Wainwright gave way to to the Cardinals bullpen. Too late! The damage was already done, and Beachy wasn't going to let any of their hitters launch them back into the game.

Four Braves had a multihit game: Bourn, Uggs, BMac, and Rev. There were 13 hits and 7 walks in the game for 20 baserunners. Everybody was getting in on the act. Everyone except Jason Heyward. Somehow amidst all the contagious offense, Jason managed a bagel 0-5 night with 4 Ks. Now, if you're going to have 4 Ks on the night, I'd prefer it to be in a Braves win, and I'd certainly prefer it to be on the heels of a game-winning home run from the night before. So, he gets cut some slack for being a turnstile yesterday. Everybody gets one.

So who won the MVP from yesterday? I think it would be a crime not to give it to Brandon Beachy for his performance. Not only did he go 6 innings only giving up 2 hits and a run, but he also managed to rake home an RBI single in the 5th. I love it when pitchers help themselves. Now, I do have to mention that Beachy also walked 4 guys, and that was the reason he gave up the only run in the 6th. However, after a visit from Roger with the sacks packed, he got Freese to rap into a rally-killing double play. That pretty much put the Cardinals to bed for the game.

Defensively, the Braves were fairly solid. The outs for the game were 10-8-9 ground/fly/K, so I like that we were keeping the ball out of the air against a hot hitting club like the Cards. I do want to note that I'm getting a little tired of Dan Uggla short-arming balls out there at second. Freddy couldn't bail out Uggla in the 4th when he short-hopped the throw on a double play turn. Luckily nothing came of the runner advancing to second when the ball went into the stands, but Uggla now has 6 errors on the year. If it wasn't for Freddy's dig in the 6th on another double play poor throw, it could have been 7. So why am I upset if we won? Because Uggla right now is the WORST fielding second baseman in the NL. He has 1/3 of the errors on the team for the year. Let that soak in. Without Dan Uggla's bad throws, we'd be #2 in the MLB in fielding instead of #14. That's unacceptable for me, because I know that kind of stuff costs you games over the season, and I hate that it's attributable to one guy. Clean it up, Popeye.

Moving on to tonight, I said in the preview that winning a series were be HUGE, and we've already done that. So I say why not go for the whole banana? We're in the Cardinals' heads right now, and although Lynn has been red hot, he's done it against sub .500 ball clubs. We're anything but subpar at the plate. We're the #2 offense in the NL, averaging 8 runs a game in this series. If we bring the thundersticks one more time, we can get a little payback on the Cards for last season's painful sweep. I love payback!

Go Braves!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Braves @ Cardinals: Game 1 Recap

Do you like extra innings games? The Braves certainly do! We're 3-0 now in extras, and for some reason the team is finding a way to keep games close even if we're down in the late innings. The difference in this game was that Jason Heyward went yard in the 12th to give us the 9-7 lead, and the Cardinals had no answer. Also, for once we actually pitched around Beltran late in the game instead of letting him kill us with a walkoff. It only took 6 ABs for us to get the right idea on that. Here's a clue Fredi, if you stop pitching to Beltran, we win that game 7-3 in the 9th. STOP PITCHING TO BELTRAN!!!

Anyway, a win's a win, and it wasn't a win we expected. However, in a true matchup of #1 v. #2 in NL offenses, both lineups came up large. 4-12 with RISP for the Braves? Yeah I'll take that all season, win or lose. Heyward, Chipper, Uggs, and Bourn all had a multihit game. Bourn seems almost impossible to keep off the bases right now. I'm biased, of course, because he's probably my favorite player on this team, but I absolutely love a great leadoff guy in the lineup. There is nothing better in the majors than having a man in the lineup who can work counts, cause havoc on the bases, and make starters work extra hard even when they get an out. Bourn went 3/6 seeing 29 pitches. When you are seeing at least 5 pitches an AB, an entire lineup with that approach could run a starter to 100 pitches in the 5th with a few hits and walks sprinkled in there.

So who is the MVP of the game? Heyward seems the obvious choice for his extra inning smash that gave us the lead. So does Livan for getting out of TWO bases loaded jams in the late innings to keep the game alive. However, I'm going to give the MVP to Yadier Molina. Now, I'm sure you're thinking, ok Ben. He's a Cardinal, why in the hell does he get the MVP for the Braves??? Well folks, he helped set the tone for the offense. We had the bases loaded in the first inning, and Yadier Molina (the gold-glover who beat out Brian McCann) let not one, but TWO runs score on balls that got by him to the backstop. In an inning where we didn't get a hit with RISP, Molina gift-wrapped two runs and the early lead to us. That helped get our offense going and run up Garcia's pitch count so he was gone after 5.2 innings. The Cardinals bullpen did the rest to let us back in the game. Considering that I think BMac is twice the catcher that Molina gets credit for, it was nice to see Yadier help us out. Thanks, buddy! You deserve it! For once.

As a side note, that may have been the most confusing umpiring job I've ever seen behind home plate. Nobody had ANY clue what counted as a strike. The hitters didn't know, the catchers didn't know, the pitchers didn't know, and I'm not even sure Muchlinski was sure when he was calling them. When he rang up Hinske on the checked swing, I was pretty sure that big gorilla was going to rip his fat head clean off. Fredi didn't even have time to get out to the box before Hinske got tossed, and he almost got pegged with a bat for his trouble. There's a solid chance Hinske could get suspended for a game or two for that display. Not that he was wrong, mind you, but you can't go full rager on the ump and then almost peg your manager with some flying wood.

Anyway, on to Game 2! As I said in the preview I actually like this matchup better than last night, so I think we have a chance to take the series tonight if we can put up a similar hitting performance. Get out there and score some runs, guys!

Go Braves!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Series Preview: Braves @ Cardinals

Heading into St. Louis, I think I can honestly say that I'm a little suspect of our chances. The series with the Cubs was a rude awakening after our slugfests in Colorado. Of course, the Cubs pitching staff is firing on all cylinders right now, and the only reason they aren't contending for the Central is because they can't hit their way out of a wet paper bag. Meanwhile, St. Louis is #1 in the NL in scoring runs, and the Braves are #2. However, St. Louis is #2 in the majors in ERA, and the Braves are #24. What happened to our pitching? Man, that's a big reversal from what I expected at the beginning of this season.

Game 1: Minor v. Garcia
Game 2: Beachy v. Wainwright
Game 3: Hanson v. Lynn

Minor is dangerously close to going on my list. Today's start will give some insight into whether or not we can trust him in the starting role this year. In his 3 good starts, he's gone on average 7 innings with a 1.69 ERA, and we won all 3. In his three bad starts, he goes 5.2 innings with an 11.57 ERA, and we went 1-2. Holiday and Beltran have both lit up Minor in the few ABs they've faced him. Also, the Cards are hitting .300 against lefties. So...yeah. That's not good. On the other hand, Garcia has a 4.45 ERA in his last 3 games, and the Cardinals have lost all of them. So, he's not exactly on fire either. Bourn absolutely kills Garcia, so that's a great thing. Matty Diaz and Dan Uggla also hit him really well. Bad news? Prado and Chip have a combined 0/15 against Garcia. Were I to rearrange the lineup, I think giving Prado a day off for Diaz and letting Fransisco have a shot at 3rd might be a good thing.

In Beachy We Trust. Go ahead and put that on a quilt and let it keep you warm at night. So far, the most earned runs Beachy has given up during a start is 2. He's probably been our most rock-solid starter in the rotation, which is saying a lot for a 25 year old. The Cardinals don't have much experience against him at all, which adds even more advantage to our side. Wainwright is a mess. He has a 5.61 ERA, but he's rebounded slightly in his last two starts. However, his last two starts were against Pittsburgh and Houston. So, I don't really consider that to be all that earth-shattering. All our hitters have success against Wainwright except BMac and Freeman. That's concerning because BMac has been really struggling this month. Overall though, this game sets up as our best chance for a win in the series.

Hanson needs runs support. Every game he's received 3 or more runs, we've won. Every game where that didn't happen? We lost. It's as simple at that. He's going to go out there and give you a chance to win, but the offense has to hold up it's end of the bargain. The only problem is Lance Lynn pitching absolutely filthy stuff right now. A record 6-0 in his 6 starts, he's only given up 2 runs in 2 starts for the month of May. He's 3rd in the majors in ERA, 5th in WHIP, and first in wins. He's only walked 11 batters in 38 innings. The guy is white hot. In every way, shape, and form, this matchup is an absolute disaster for us. If we're 1-1 going to the rubber game, I don't see any potential way we can beat up on a guy who is having one of the better starts to a season I've ever seen for a fresh starter.

So who should we keep an eye of for the Cards in this series? Who is the one guy we absolutely can't have come to the plate with ducks on the pond and a chance to break the game open? The answer to that is Carlos Beltran. 27 RBIs, 10 HRs, and slugging .570? Yeah, let's not pitch to him in key places, please. Also, Furcal is extremely pesky out there and loves to run on us. I still wish we had him on the team. I've never really gotten over that one. Oh, and did I mention the Cardinals bullpen is good, too? Yeah, not a lot of weaknesses on this team. There's a reason they are tied for the best record in the NL. Oh well. Honestly, I think if we can take one game in this series and just move on back home, we're probably ok. A winning series is a bit of a stretch, but if it happened, it would be HUUUUUUGE!

Go Braves!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Braves @ Cubs: Game 3 Recap

This game was brutal to listen to, watch, or recap. I'm not going to waste a lot of time on it because I'm not really a fan of pitching duels. I like one team to emerge, and win the game. I don't like it when games are eeked out and the other team just flails away in futility. This time around, it was the Braves flailing.

Pitchers duels alway come down to one inning where the losing team doesn't capitalize, and the winning team does. For that Braves, that inning was the 6th. Prado doubled with one out, Freeman couldn't get him in, Uggla walked, and Chipper lined out. For the Cubs, their winning inning was the 7th. A leadoff single, two sacrifices moving the runner, and a 2 out RBI won the game.

What kills me is that Marteeeeeeeen had two doubles in this game, and we stranded him both times. Come on guys! The only other guys who showed up were Freeman and Rossy. An 0-5 RISP day isn't inspiring anybody. Bourn got skunked for the first time in a while, Uggla couldn't get the key hit we needed, Chipper needs a day off, Heyward got a walk, and Wilson got nada.

Now for the STAT OF THE SERIES! This stat of the series is..........RISP! But not in a good way. Braves were 1-19 with RISP during this series. The fact we won a game is almost a miracle. With those kinds of hitting numbers, we deserved to be swept by any other team that wasn't also struggling offensively. The good news is that it's an anolomy on our schedule. We have been playing well in other places, just not against Chicago's Ace staff. The starters really worked us over, and that was the difference in the series.

On to St. Louis for a weekend series against the Cards. The St. Louis team is 20-11, in first place of the central, won 4 straight, is 8-4 at home, and is #1 in the majors in scoring runs. I'm...concerned. Series preview tomorrow morning. Enjoy the day off from baseball, constant reader. Maybe go outside? Walk the dog? Watch the NBA playoffs? Ok, maybe not THAT far, but you get the idea.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Braves @ Cubs: Game 2 Recap

Delgado is off my list. The last two starts have really proven the kid can hack it at this level. I would love to see him get a little more run support, but last night we got enough. Also, I give Delgado a lot of credit for keeping things even through the first 3 innings. That's a key factor for the Braves mentality when we play against tough opposing pitchers. It gives us time to settle in, work counts, and get pitches we can handle.

Jason Heyward has done a lot to spark this team against the Cubs. Last night, his ripped triple down the right field line gave us the first run and lead of the game. That was a big hit considering we were getting shut down by Dempster to that point. Dan Uggla also bounced back with 3 hits in the game, one of which was the game-winning two RBI shot in the 8th off Kerry Wood with the bases loaded. That was the one hit we got with RISP. Not great, but good enough to win because of some great pitching and great defense.

Speaking of great defense, this game's MVP goes to an unlikely candidate. In the 8th we needed a shut down inning to keep the lead. Venters was struggling. He gave up two singles and only had one out on a bunt that went awry for the Cubs. We were literally one swing away from their cleanup hitter, LaHair, giving them the lead. Instead, Johnny induces the slow roller to Uggla, who flips to Jack Wilson, who makes one of the best turns to get an inning-ending double play you will see this month. Wilson, who had just come in the game as a defensive replacement, made sure that the Cubs had no chance at a comeback with that excellent play. Then, he went out to bat in the next inning and got a base hit in his only appearance of the game. Kudos to you Jack, you get the MVP for this game.

The bullpen bounced back from yesterday's mess with 3.1 innings of 2 hit, no run pitching. Prado got in on the base stealing act by swiping 2nd off Dempster in the third, in addition to having two hits and a walk. With a .275 average so far on the season, Prado is showing signs of the .300 hitter we knew and loved from 2010 and 2009. I like to see him at the top of the lineup working with Bourn to create havoc for pitchers in front of Freddy Freeman. The more ducks on the pond we have for Special Fred right now, the better. He's slugging over .500 and can really get a hold of the ball. So many times in this series he's slammed a liner right into the teeth of the Cubs shift. I have a feeling that won't last very long if he keeps making solid contact.

This afternoon, it's Huddy v. Maholm for a day game battle. Make sure to tune over your work radios to the rubber game so you can send hear all the action at 2:20 EDT.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Braves @ Cubs: Game 1 Recap

Jeff Samardzija continued to pitch well and get lucky last night. Hinske hit one on the nose that could have tied for the game for us, but instead it was caught for a double play. Marmol walked two guys in a row and tossed a wild pitch, and we couldn't cash in. Add that to the fact the bullpen didn't hold up down the stretch, and you had one big ole mess of a game. Also, it turned into a plunk fest, and Fredi G got run for the first time this season. The sad part was he didn't even deserve it. It's fairly obvious that it's going to take a real dustup to get Fredi to lose it in Coxian fashion. I say get your money's worth Fredi.

The Cubs acted like a bunch of punks last night. That's what drives me up a wall about the game. This is baseball, not the NBA. All the fist pumping, chest thumping, BS has no place in our game. Marmol was especially obnoxious, and I hope he gets lit up for the rest of the season. Yeah, get all jacked up you cut-rate closer who just got moved to the 8th inning because you can't throw strikes. You got lucky, punk. It won't happen again. Also, I don't want to get into a bean-war with Chicago. We're already on edge with all the Hamels suspension crap. The last thing we need is one of our guys getting tossed because we try to retaliate for a bad call. That said, go ahead and toss at Uggla or Hinske, Cubs. You freaking pansies. We'll see how that works out.

Oh and Samardzija said this about hitting Heyward, "He came out and got that ball there that he hit the home run on that was down and away. I thought he was kind of diving over the plate, and I wanted to throw one in there and go back away. It got in there too tight." That's crap. You hit the guy in the middle of the back on a fastball, you tool. And you know what you did it? Because you're a candyass who got taken deep on a crappy pitch. Enjoy your stint on a team that has no chance at the playoffs, you hack.

So, now that I've got that off my chest we look at the actual numbers. They suck. Chip, Pastornicky, and Heyward all played really well. Bourn did everything he could to go on base. The rest of the lineup? God awful. Prado and Freeman at least worked a walk, but had no hits. BMac and Uggla were terrible. This is something I'm going to start harping on with BMac especially, because he's our cleanup hitter, and he's batting .237 on the season with 3 strikeouts last night in key ABs. I can't live with that as a fan. I also can't live with 0-8 by the team with RISP for the night. We had a serious chance with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the 8th, down by 2 runs, and only 1 out. Both BMac and Uggs struck out. That's unacceptable. You HAVE to put action on the ball in that scenario and push across the run. Very frustrating.

Some of you will say, but we just came off a sweep, cut them some slack. Listen, this isn't about having a bad night hitting the ball. That happens. What we can't allow is key strikeouts no matter what else has been going on with our lineup. We can't have our 4-5 hitters in the lineup get K'd 6 times in a game. I don't care if we are coming off 10 wins in a row, because if that happens, we're going to lose the game. I fully expect Uggla to bounce back and get some more action on the ball this series. I also expect McCann to steadily improve his low average. What I want them to do in this series is be big when it matters, and not let the worst team in the NL Central give us a hard time.

On to tonight. I'll be the negative guy here and say the numbers don't stack up in our favor on this matchup at all. Dempster has the best ERA in the majors and we're tossing Delgado at him. Ugh. Who knows, though? That's why they play the games. Hit him hard, boys. We're gonna need some runs!

Go Braves!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Series Preview: Braves @ Cubs

Braves are half a game out of first place in the NL East. The Cubs are dead last in the NL Central. Atlanta is 6-4 in their last ten games, and the Cubs are 5-5. Atlanta is 10-6 on the road, and Chicago is 7-9 at home. I'll tell you what, as the winner of 3 straight heading into this series, those numbers already make me excited. We have been very solid on the road this season, and going into Wrigley is a great thing for us. More on that later.

Game 1: Hanson v. Samardzija
Game 2: Delgado v. Dempster
Game 3: Hudson v. Maholm

Hanson had an uuuuuuugly start in Philly in the epic 15-13 finish. Luckily for us, we won that game. Also lucky for us, Hanson almost never has bad back-to-back starts. Let's hope that trend continues. Tommy hasn't pitched in Chicago since 2010, and that was against a completely different Cubs team than the one you see now. Samardzija (heretofore Sammy) has a little history with the Braves, but not much. Bourn is hitting .600 off him, Uggla has a homer in 8 ABs, and Hinske tripled off him in his only look. The rest of the players only have one or two ABs at most. Not really enough to get a feel off of the kid. What we do know is that he's a big 6'5" righty with a 3-1 record, all against top tier teams, and a 3.41 ERA on the season. Sammy loves the strikeout, but he's also a bit wild. He's been tough at home, going over 6 innings in his two games, giving up only one earned run. We need to rattle his cage a little to get him off his game. Bourn is just the guy to do that.

Delgado is still on my list. We've lost all 3 of his last starts, he's posting a 5.14 ERA, and he's a rookie in Wrigley (aka small park). He did have a "good" outing against Philly in that he went 8 innings with 2 runs, but it was wasted since we didn't score. I'm not in the moral victory business. A lot of confidence in our bats comes from confidence in your pitching staff. Right now, Delgado isn't inspiring anybody. Here's the key for Delgado. He can't give up runs in the first two innings. Give the batters some time to believe. Let the Cubs sweat at home. As for Dempster? He's been pitching his ass off, and it's done him no good. Dempster has a 0.95 ERA and no wins. Simply put, the Cubs fielding and lack of production has completely let him down. I see almost no way we can win this game barring an explosive inning or a lot of Cub errors. It's literally our worst starter against their best starter. Add into the fact that Dempster is due, and this is the game I'm least confident about in the series.

Throw out the Colorado game for Huddy. Of the Cubs he's faced, he's holding them to a .152 average. That's good news for us. On the other side, Maholm is a Pittsburgh acquisition who has struggled in his 5 starts for the Cubs with a 5.13 ERA. Uggla, Ross, Prado, and Freeman all have had some big successes against Maholm, and he is ripe for the picking. He's only good for about 6 innings max, and he will walk you if you let him. He's settled down since the Cards and Brewers absolutely raked him. Since he doesn't go deep into games, that means we might get to see a good bit of the awful Cubs bullpen. That, coupled with our Ace on the mound and hot bats, should give us a solid shot at a series win.

Remember when I said playing in Wrigley is good for us? Last season we went 3-1 in Wrigley, scoring 19 runs. Chipper Jones batted .417 in that series. The old man loves that old stadium. Kindred spirits perhaps? In either case, we're going to need the bats to stay hot in order to beat these Cubs pitchers. That, and maybe rely on the fact that the Cubs bullpen has the most losses of any team this season. They loooooooove to blow games. Maybe if the Cubs weren't also 23rd in the MLB in fielding, they might not have blown so many leads.

So tonight, we head to the Windy City for what's sure to be a classic series. Hot bats meet hot starters. What will give? Whatever happens, I know that the Braves chances are dramatically improved if Chipper takes the field.

Go Braves!

Braves @ Rockies: Game 3 Recap

I love those brooms. I want to use them more this season. The Braves really used the bats to sweep away the Rockies this weekend, sometimes in comeback fashion, and sometimes just opening up a lead like last night. Freddy Freeman continues to scare the crap out of pitchers with some mammoth shots into the stands, and Dan Uggla really put his foot on the gas in Game 3 as well. Nicasio never really stood a chance against this lineup. The bats were hot all weekend long!

Despite how big the bats were, Game 3 was about Brandon Beachy. He gets the MVP and stole the show with his absolutely dominant performance in one of the toughest parks in the nation. Beachy went 6.1 innings, with over 109 pitches, only 2 ERs on 4 hits. Brandon had a one-hitter going through 6 innings in Coors Field. I can't describe in words how ridiculous that is on the heels of two slugfests. He was masterful until the 7th when he simply ran out of gas. At that point, Cristhian Martinez came in for a 2.2 inning save. He not only shut the door on the Rockies, he didn't give up a hit! I was amazed at the bullpen this series. What a great asset we have in these guys who can come into the game and demoralize anyone's lineup.

So now we come to my favorite part of any sweep, the STAT OF THE SERIES! This weekend, that stat is...RELIEVER ERA! The bullpen had a 1.54 ERA this series. Even when the starters were floundering, and our batters were trying their best to claw back into the first two games, the bullpen was there with unwavering support. They only gave up two earned runs all weekend in over 11 innings of work. I can't stop gushing about how great they were in long saves and holds. Livan and Christhian especially shined in this series, and that's a good sign for all the Braves fans out there. Frank Wren continues to make good moves that yield solid dividends.

Now, on to Chicago. The Cubs just took the series against the Dodgers. Can we keep our hot streak alive in the Windy City? I'll have the series preview later this morning.

Go Braves!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Braves @ Rockies: Game 2

I have a theory that the Braves are actually running a sophisticated science experiment during this series. They are trying to test exactly how far behind they can get during the course of a game and still pull out a win. The answer so far is six runs. At this point Colorado might just let us jump out to a huge early lead, since it seems like we enjoy the comeback run a little too much.

So after last nights 13-9 win, we lead the MLB in runs scored. Yep, the team that last season couldn't score at a freshman mixer with a tray of Jello shots is leading the MLB in offense. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that Jason Heyward has really shored up the holes in his swing, Chipper is playing like he's in his 20s, and Michael Bourn is getting on base by hook or by crook. The next closest team to us in runs is the Rangers, the team of AL long bomb specialists. It's pretty cool as a fan to see us producing like this.

Downside? Man, the starters have been wretched this series. Yesterday, Minor got rocked for 10 hits, 8 runs, 2 homers, and 4 walks in five innings. It's certainly the worst outing of his career. For those keeping track, that means that Minor has now had back to back terrible starts. Considering this one was in Colorado, I'm going to cut him a little bit of slack. What I won't cut him slack on is the walks. He has to clean that up in his next start, or he's going on my Until Further Notice list.

So with so many hits and so many good relief innings, who is the MVP? I think we can say that without the great clutch hitting by Chipper Jones in this game, we wouldn't have won. He gets the MVP nod with 3 hits, a run, and 5 RBIs. Chip was 2/3 with RISP, and a key double that got the rally started in the 5th. I had a hard time choosing between Chip and Livan Hernandez, who gets the honorable mention for the first save of his long career. Livan went 1.2 innings at the end of the game giving up only one hit. After the rain delay, Livan really shut the door on the Rockies and took away all hope of a comeback. Great job by the two old dudes on the team!

The bullpen really did the yeoman's work last night with 4 innings of 3-hit ball, giving up only one run. That's in Coor's field after our starter got set on fire. I've been really impressed by the pen's ability to come into tough situations and put out the blaze. Not only that, but they endured through a long rain delay, and were still sharp. That's great mental focus.

Today Beachy goes against Nicasio. Is it too much to ask that maybe we can get through the first two innings without giving up 5 runs? Please?

Go Braves!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Braves @ Rockies: Game 1 Recap aka "Deja Vu"

 Pic Courtesy of Denver Post

Didn't we do this already? Get down really early, check. Come back to tie the game, check. Take the lead, lose the lead, take the lead, lose the lead, check check check check. Bomb in the 11th, BIG CHECK! Yeah I'm pretty sure we just did this a couple games ago. Deja Vu for sure. Only this time it wasn't Chipper Jones, but Eric Hinske with the extra innings jack that gave us the win. Not that Chipper didn't have his own homer in the game, and so did Freeman. If you didn't think it would be a long-ball-fest in Colorado, well, you obviously don't know Coors Field.

Huddy was perfectly awful in the first inning. Part of that I will blame on Tim "Keyhole" McClelland whose strike zone is a postage stamp. Also it takes more time for Tim to make a strike call than it takes for Congress to pass a bill. I thought at one point Joe Simpson was going to lose his mind in the booth. Despite the tight zone, Huddy was elevating his pitches in the first, which meant all the walks came home to roost. Before you could sit down, turn around, and pick a bale of cotton we were down 5-0. In any other ballpark I probably would have started watching reruns of Family Guy. In Coors Field, I still felt like we had a chance.

Do you like hits? Well the Braves had plenty. Freddy and Hinske had 4 a piece, while Bourn and Chipper each had 3 hits. Also we had plenty of action on the basepaths with Bourn swiping 2 bags and Heyward stealing one. However, the walk-off hero in Eric "Diesel" Hinske was the MVP of the game. Four hits, 3 RBIs (one with 2 outs), a double, and the game-winning long ball in the 11th. Hinske is only batting .412 on the season with a .559 slugging percentage. He's almost into dancing bobcat status per the illustrious Mr. Simpson.

Give the Braves pitching staff a lot of credit. After the first inning, Huddy settled in and only gave up 2 more runs in 5 innings. Medlen continues to sparkle with 1.2 innings of no-run work. Eric O'Flaherty righted the ship only giving up one hit, and Durbin is turning things around over the last two appearances with some solid relief. The Rockies bullpen was equally as strong sending out 4 relievers in 4 innings before Hinske took Escalona yard. I think if you are a Rockies fan, you can probably question your manager for sending a stud like Betancourt out there for only 6 pitches, and then not keeping him in the game. We wore down their bullpen to their worst pitcher. That's the reason we won.

When the dust cleared, we had a 9-8 extra innings win, with a dash of drama since Kimbrel doesn't like 1-2-3 innings when we have more than one run. He's a drama llama. Somebody tell him I don't need to be on the edge of my seat EVERY game. It's 162 a season. My heart needs a little break every now and then.

Go Braves!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Series Preview: Braves @ Rockies

I love Colorado. It's probably my favorite place in the United States to spend a summer or winter season. The only reason I don't live there full time is that the shoulder seasons are completely brutal, and the cost of living in the actual mountains is astronomical. Even my parents, who have plenty of resources to live where they want, only live there half the year. The weather simply isn't ideal all the time. If you want that, you live in San Diego. That's why when we play in Colorado, I always get excited because it conjures fun memories of my trips there. Let's hope the Braves have a fun trip to the Rockies as well.

Game 1: Hudson v. Muscoso
Game 2: Minor v. Moyer
Game 3: Beachy v. Nicasio

I'll go ahead and admit right up front that I've never heard of two of these guys. If you haven't heard of Moyer, you're not a baseball fan. The guy has been playing since we had the Negro Leagues. Not really, but it seems like it. That said, I believe we have two of our best pitchers with Huddy and Beachy going in this series, so without even digging into the numbers I'm already confident.

With Hudson v. Muscoso (who I will nickname Mucus because it's easier to type) I think it comes down to experience. Mucus is a 28 year old righty from Venezuela who pitched one game this season for a 10.80 ERA. Huddy has pitched one game this season for a 3.60 ERA. Mucus is the 3 year vet with 8 wins. Huddy is a 13 year vet with 182 wins. Mucus can't carry Huddy's jock. This is a mismatch. The downside is that Giambi and Helton really hit Huddy well, and if you're not careful with them they can ruin your game. In their careers against Hudson, Giambi has 3 HRs and a .391 average, Helton is batting .667 and has 7 RBIs. Considering that both of them are not hitting well so far this season, I see no reason to let them get right again us. A few walks wouldn't bother me. None of our hitters have ever faced Mucus, so let's just light him up and win this game.

Minor and Moyer is another battle of the youth versus experience. Moyer has been in the majors longer than Minor has been alive. Roll that around in your head for a while. In addition to being able to tell the players on the Rockies what living through the Vietnam War was like, Moyer is also good for about 5.5 innings a game. Prado, BMac, and Chip all rake against Jaime. They all have .333+ averages with a combined 18 RBIs, 9 doubles, and 5 homers. If they are set up correctly with Freddy getting the 3 spot, we could have a solid lineup against Moyer in the 1-5 spots considering how hot Bourn is right now. Minor is coming off a horrible game against the Pirates, but he had three solid starts prior to that. Look for him to rebound in this game. None of the Rockies have seen him before, and he's been very solid for us with the exception of that last start.

Beachy also has very little history agains these Rockies hitters, and he is en fuego right now with a 1.38 ERA. Nicasio is a righty out of the Dominican with a 4.40 ERA and a 2-0 record. Why? Because the Rockies put up 6 and 8 runs in his starts against SD and LA. Nicasio likely won't go more than 6 innings, he will most likely give up at least one homer, and he is prone to walking patient hitters. I believe we can light this kid up if we frustrate him and get his pitch count up. If we're first pitch swinging and making life easy on him? That's a recipe for disaster. I doubt Beachy can hold a 1.38 ERA in the Colorado air. We'll have to score, and we'll have to capitalize when we get our chances. I would like a 4-10 RISP line in this game. I can wrap that around myself like a warm blanket.

As for the bullpens, ours has a 4.19 ERA this season, but a lot of that is Livan, EOF, and Durbin. Theirs is a 3.97 ERA, but outside of Betancourt nobody in their pen really scares me. I think our goal should be to knock these young kids from the Rockies out fast so we can get to a ho-hum bullpen. Moyer will knock himself out because he's old. OOOOOOOOOLD. As for the series in totality, we have the better pitchers, we have the better record, and we have bigger threats in the lineup. This is a series we should win. Nay, this is a series we MUST win to establish a quality road trip against a .500 ballclub.

Go Braves!

Phillies @ Braves: Game 3 Recap

Too often, when a team plays poorly or can't handle an opposing pitcher because they took the wrong approach at the plate, the manager trots out the old chestnut, "We just have to tip our cap to him and focus on the next game." I hate that phrase. I hate tipping a cap to anybody in the MLB. You know why I hate it? Because not only is it horribly cliche, it's also a defeatist mentality that you did everything you could and it didn't work out. Most of the time, over the course of a nine inning game, you can point to some places where the team didn't make the most of the opportunities. I'll tip my cap only in RARE scenarios, like no-hitters and one-hit shutouts.

That's what makes this game so hard to recap for me, because Blanton pitched out of his mind yesterday afternoon. The threw a 3 hit, complete game shutout in a little over two hours. He didn't walk a soul. He only threw 88 pitches. Bourn, of course, got a hit in the game because he's a stud and probably my favorite hitter on the team right now. Nothing can stop that guy from getting on base at least once a game. Freeman and Rossy also got hits. That was it. The buck stops there. We weren't getting struck out a ton either since Blanton only had 6. A lot of it was just making contact in the wrong places.

Here's the kicker. Nobody ever got to second base for the Braves. That's how good Blanton was yesterday. He reached down, found his inner Greg Maddux, and proceeded to put on a magic show from the mound. The dude is a 4.28 career ERA pitcher. There's no reason he should have pulled this off yesterday. Even crazier was that Delgado pitched a gem of his own. 8 IP and only 2 runs? That's good enough to win most days with the kind of offense the Braves have been providing. Just not yesterday.

So, I tip my cap grudgingly. You won't see me do it often, and I hate to do it, but Blanton pitched out of his mind. That's probably the best game he will have all year, and it just HAD to come against us. Oh well, we move on the Rockies and some fresh air. Perhaps a few long balls as well.

Go Braves!