Friday, June 29, 2012

Diamondbacks @ Braves: Game 3 Recap

We didn't get the sweep. You'll find no brooms here. Sadly, even though JJ pitched a very solid game, our lineup decided it wasn't in our best interest to score runs. I'm not going to get too mad, because we won the series, but I think we all know that this was a sweep in the making if we could have just hit the ball better. I promised myself I wouldn't completely rake Uggla over the coals, so I won't. What I will say is the he went 0-3 with 3 Ks, and 0-2 with RISP. I'll just leave it at that, and let you draw your own conclusions at what objects were flying around my house during my childish temper tantrums yesterday.

JJ went 5.2 inning with 6 hits, and 2 runs. Honestly, that's not bad at all for a guy who was completely on tilt at the beginning of the season. He left the game after giving up the tying runs in the 6th, because Fredi finally brought in Durbin in a tight situation. Durbin rules. He got the K we needed to end the threat and hand control to our batters. The worst part of the game was the 8th inning, where we put two runners on base with only one out, and Simmons/Hinske both struck out. Kimbrel goes in the game in the 9th (don't do this anymore Fredi, we have well documented reasons closers don't go into the game in non-close situations), and he gives up the jack. Game over.

0-8 with RISP, 10 left on base, 10 strikeouts, one double play, and only 6 hits in the whole game. That's our lineup. It's frustrating as a fan that they can completely disappear randomly during a series, then show up and knock in 10 runs. Normally, you'd credit the opposing pitchers for that, but Bauer only went 4 innings and gave up 2 runs, then Corbin (season ERA of 4.75) pitched 3 scoreless of relief. Really? Two freaking rookies managed to outgun this lineup? Remember what I said earlier about the Braves struggling against pitchers we have no business struggling against? That's what happened here. That's the first time Corbin hasn't given up a run in a game all year. Good for you, kid. We were awful.

All in all it's one game, so we just have to sack up and get ready for the series against the Nats. I'm not going to sugarcoat the pitching matchups. They suck. I'll detail it more in the preview, but we will need very good hitting to stand a chance with our matchups. On the plus side, we're 5 games over .500, 3.5 back in the race, and the Nats lost last night. On the downside, we've fallen under .500 at home for the season. We need to turn that around before the break. The last team to make the playoffs with a sub .500 home record was the Royals in 1981, because of a shortened season. So, yeah. Stop being terrible at the Ted. Throw in Mondays while you're at it.

Go Braves!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Diamondbacks @ Braves: Game 2 recap

We got 6 runs on 5 hits. What? How? What is going on here? How do you win a game 6-4 when you got 5 hits and went 0-4 with RISP. This makes no sense. Yet, here we are. I think the only thing you can really credit here is that we got extremely lucky, and Trevor Cahill was really bad. Not only did he give up 6 runs, but he also committed an error to give up one of those runs, and he gave up two homers. Thanks Trevor! If we win tonight to complete the sweep, I think it's official that we own the Dbacks this season. Go get em JJ.

Hanson pitched ok during this game. It was nothing special, and he sort of imploded in the 7th, but hey it could be worse. Three runs and a jack on 7 hits in 6.1 is probably going to be good enough to win a 50/50 game if the Braves are swinging. Let me just say that even though Hanson struggled late, I've completely lost faith in Venters. It seems that opinion isn't shared by Fredi since he keeps putting him out there in ridiculous situations. Fredi is dangerously close to me calling him an idiot for the way he's handling JV, and I rarely if ever question a managerial call. Mostly, it's because it's easy and lazy to monday morning QB a pitching move. This isn't one situation though. This is all the damn time. Jonny has a 4.82 ERA in June. He's walked 6 batters in 9 innings. Bear in mind, this guy's job as a reliever is to come into crunch innings and shut the place down. Now who would be more trustworthy in those spots right now? Hmmm. Maybe CHAD DURBIN? He's only got a 1.74 ERA in June, and a 2.38 ERA in May. But we can't have him in there right? He screwed up April, so he's dead to Fredi. Wake up, Gonzo, he's the best guy you have on your staff, and he hasn't pitched in 4 days.

On to the hitting. Honestly, the fact we were able to get sacflys is encouraging when we need them. That was a situational hitting issue last year that almost made me jump out of my highrise. We'd get a guy to third with no outs, and he'd stand there looking like a lost puppy for 3 straight batters as they struck out. This year, we're much better at that scenario. In fact, we're 6th in the majors in sacrifice fly runs. In 2011, we were 29th. So yeah, that's about as much of a turnaround as you're likely to see with a team. As much as I wanted to believe the hitting coach didn't matter, the results for Walker's approach speak for themselves. Last night's game is a testament to what we can do when we're patient at the plate and put pressure on the basepaths. It's not about hitting well all the time, it's about hitting well in key situations.

MVP of the game was Chipper Jones. He hit a towering shot out over dead center. Is that even possible for a 40 year old? He also gets the nod for his attempt at a ball in the 7th where he ran at a grounder, realized he was old, and mentally went "Screw it, we're up by 6 runs." As one of the commenters said, he looked like an 85 year old man who wanted the kids to get off his lawn. Chip's 2 RBIs turned out to be the difference in the game though, so he gets the MVP by a hare over Jay Hey turning his hitting streak into 12 games, and Kimbrel taking the lead in the NL in saves. Good job you Old Gray Mare!

Tonight, we have the battle of the unknowns. The new and improved JJ goes against some young guy who's never tossed in the show. What will happen? All I know is that we've never lost with ten runs this season. Hitters, make it happen!

Go Braves!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Diamondbacks @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

Our Hudson is better than your Hudson. That didn't shock me, given how big of a mismatch I thought the game was on paper. Daniel Hudson ended up leaving the game in the second inning after experiencing some sore elbow issues. Uh-oh. I've heard this before. Let's just hope for Arizona's staff that it's just soreness and not a TJ situation. We know better than anybody how much that sucks.

The game was ours from the first batter. Michael Bourn continues to be the best power-hitting leadoff man in the league with a homer in his first AB. By the end of the second inning, the Braves were up with Huddy in control. They flashed a stat up there that Hudson basically never loses when you give him a 5 run lead. He didn't disappoint in this game either. Eight innings, only one run. Sure there were a lot of hits, but they went nowhere except for the one mistake he made that left the park. Overall, a very solid performance by Tim.

The hitting was exactly what we needed it to be. We put our foot on the Dback's throats early and never let up. We had 17 hits in this game. SEVENTEEN! That's more hits than we had in the first game against Arizona in their stadium when we won 10-2 with Collmenter on the hill. We ended up winning 3 out of 4 of those games against Arizona on the road. I see no reason why we can't win at least one more game here at home and take this series. The bats are going to be the key to our success though. Arizona's staff is shaky all the way around, and our hitters sense blood in the water. Two things I loved about our approach yesterday. One, BMac, Chip, and Bourn all saw 25+ pitches in their 5 plate appearances. When you're averaging more than five pitches an appearance, we're eating up their staff. That's great for the first game of a series since it limits their bullpen options later. Second, we were 5-15 with RISP. Nothing makes me happier than the Braves going over .300 with RISP. I will take it every game, and we'll win at least 75% of them.

The MVP of this game was Brian McCann. I was all over him yesterday, and I'm happy to see him swinging the bat better against this inferior pitching talent. Brian had his first multi-RBI game since June 13th against the Yankees. Two hits, 2 RBIs, and 2-3 with RISP including a 2 out RBI. Very clutch for our struggling catcher. I've said before, I'm hard on you when you're bad, but I will absolutely give you kudos when you're good. Brian was good last night, and I'm happy to see it. We can't win the division without Brian McCann hitting well in the middle of our order.

With the good comes the bad. Everybody got a hit EXCEPT Dan Uggla. You're killing me Dan. Your average has dropped 36 points since June 5th. You are batting .169 in June. Here's the constructive analysis of what's going wrong for Dan. He goes up there with a good approach in his first AB of games. Usually he's looking for something specific and tries to wait for it. However, in the case of this game after going 1-0, he proceeded to swing at the next four pitches until he struck out. That's when things start to spin out of control mentally. Next AB, Dan swung at the first pitch, took a ball, and then flied out. Third AB, Dan swung at the first pitch and fouled out. Fourth AB, Dan goes 0-2 swinging and gets off the hook because he gets plunked. Last AB, he swings at the first pitch again, goes 0-2, runs it back to full by laying off, and strikes out on a full count.

Do you see the theme there? After the first AB, Dan's patience has left the building. He's swinging at every first pitch and getting himself into bad counts with no chance. They aren't necessarily even good first pitches. Things like the foul out on the first pitch in the third AB drive me nuts. If Dan gets on base there, Chipper walks next and Freddie gets a base knock. That would have scored Uggla and we would have had a 6-1 lead. Then Simmons, even if he hits into that double play, would have scored another run. So because Dan was impatient, we didn't get 2 runs. Did we need them? No, but there are times we will. Dan's got to stop freewheeling at the first pitch.

Next up, Cahill v. Hanson. Given that Tommy hasn't lost a game since May, I'd be pretty terrified if I was Cahill. Especially since he gave up 6 runs in his late game, even though he got a win. Guess what Cahill? Your bats won't be able to bail you out like that again. We're coming for you.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Diamondbacks @ Braves: Series Preview

Interleague is over and the real baseball can begin again. We start with the Diamondbacks who, little known to the rest of the world, have been putting together a nice June. They've won 4 in a row, and they are 7-3 in their last 10. Who the hell were they playing in interleague? Oh Seattle. And they got to play the Cubs early. Good for them. That win streak doesn't terrify me.

Game 1: Hudson v... Hudson
Game 2: Cahill v. Hanson
Game 3: Bauer v. Jurrjens

Let me start by saying LOVE IT. LOVE THE MATCHUPS! Finally I can go into a series at home not dreading the potential crappiness of our starters. Downside, we have a pretty facepalming rotation for the Nats series, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Hopefully sporting a series win.

Game 1 is tonight, and Diamondbacks hitters only have a career .186 average against Tim Hudson. Meanwhile, Braves hitters have a .345 average against Daniel Hudson, and Daniel has a 6.60 ERA on the season. Danny boy has a 7.83 ERA in June, and gave up 7 earned in his last game against the Mariners. This is about as lopsided of a matchup as you're likely to see in our favor. Which means we actually have to hit the ball. You hear me BMac and Uggla? You're both batting less than .200 on the week. Stop sucking. I'm getting tired of the back end of our order having to carry both of you. Jason Heyward hit .579 last week for heaven's sake.

Game 2 features a guy named Trevor Cahill. You may know him from his days in Oakland if you paid attention to the AL. He's the very definition of the innings eating plowhorse starter. ERA's not fantastic, but he can strike you out and he doesn't give up a ton of homers. However, he is susceptable to getting taken station to station if you can string together an inning. He's coming off an outing against Seattle where he gave up 6 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings. He faced us on April 20th, and we whipped his butt 9-1. Hanson hasn't lost a game since May. Again, this is lopsided in our favor.

Game 3 is a complete questions mark. In our corner you have JJ, who looked like he was Van Gogh in his last start against Boston. In their corner you have Trevor Bauer, a AAA prospect out of Reno who will be making his Major League debut in place of Joe Saunders on the DL. Essentially, this is the Forrest Gump box of chocolates. I can tell you that JJ has struggled against the Diamondbacks in his career, but that was back before "the troubles" as I'll call it. So, yeah. My analysis on this game is that nobody really knows. Anybody who says they do is a liar. Score 10 runs and I feel like we've got a good shot at winning.

I think we can win this series. Hell, I think we SHOULD win this series. It would upset me greatly if we struggle against the D'backs given where we are in the standings, and given that we are dodging their best starter in Wade Miley. You remember what I said earlier Uggla and McCann? I wasn't joking. You better freaking hit the ball. I've been extremely patient with you both, but it's almost July and you both are batting under .250 for the year. Literally six starters on our team have a better average than you right now, and the guy we shipped down to AAA at short was hitting for a better average than either of your when he left. Frankly, you should be as pissed off at your performance as I am. BMac, I'm especially mad at your because you are batting .164 with RISP. Are you kidding me? At least Uggla's at .246 while he's struggling. It's time to man up, both of you.

Go Braves!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Braves @ Red Sox: Series Recap

Thank God interleague is over. During our stretch of interleague play this month, we're 6-9 with some seriously bad blowout losses. Outside of JJ and his miracle comeback in the Boston series, we got shelled at Fenway. That's to be expected due to the short porches in the old ballpark, but it's also disappointing because we were actually scoring runs in those games. Delgado was completely off his game in game 2, and Minor continues to struggle in the middle innings in game 3.

On the plus side, you have Game 1's MVP Jair Jurrjens. It's very encouraging to see him come back strong against a tough team in a tough ballpark. He knew exactly what he had to do, and he executed his locations flawlessly. After going 7.2 innings with only 3 hits and one earned run, I can say with certainty that he's physically able to hack it again at the major league level. Now, we just need to see how his mental game looks over 4-5 starts. Heyward continued his hot work in Game 1 going 3/4 with 2 doubles. However, the Braves struggled with RISP during the game going 2/11. That would come back to haunt us...

When we went 2/11 with RISP in game 2. Without a sharp starting performance (and let's be fair this was Delgado's worst outing of the year) the Braves had no real chance in this game. Michael Bourn tried his hardest to keep us in the game with a 3 hit, 2 RBI day, but you need more from the middle of your lineup than we got. However, this game was all about Delgado's inability to go more than 2 innings as a starter. Fredi gave him the quick hook, but it didn't really matter. Varvaro also came into the game at one point and stunk up the joint. The guy has replaced Gearrin, but he's terrible. With an 8.44 ERA in 3 games, we might as well have me out there throwing slow pitch softball.

Game 3 was another pitching disaster, this time courtesy of my favorite, Mike Minor. This is what you get when you live with Minor as an everyday starter. He usually starts well first time through the order, then the second time around the hitters absolutely abuse him. After that, he doesn't have the mental makeup to step the bleeding. But because we're out of options, and even bigger because he's a lefty, we're stuck with him learning on the job. Oh and we went 1/11 with RISP at the plate. Seeing a theme? Not only did the pitching completely break down, the clutch hitting went into the tank right along with it. It was a shame because Heyward, Simmons and Hinske went a combined 7/10 at the plate, and our top end of the lineup flatlined.

So what can we take away from this? Well, we're 4 games over .500 heading into a 10 game homestand. We have 13 games left in the first half of the season, and we're 4 games back of the Nationals. We get a series against them at home where we can make up some ground. At this point in 2010, we were 12 games over .500 and in first place. That's the last time we made the playoffs. The odds of a team being under .500 at the All-Star break and making the playoffs is pretty slim. So, during these 13 games, the majority of which are at home, it's imperative that the Braves go at least 7-6 and hit the break with a solid record. We're not only going to be chasing the Nats this year, we're going to be chasing the 2 Wild Card spots as well. For that, we need to do a better job of taking care of business on our home turf.

Go Braves!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Braves @ Red Sox: Series Preview

Normally, I don't preview interleague, but Boston happens to be our AL rival, going back to the olden days when the Braves franchise was actually in Boston. So with that in mind, here's a quick breakdown of what to look forward to this weekend, besides the ridiculous heat in Atlanta.

Game 1: Jurrjens v. Lester
Game 2: Delgado v. Morales
Game 3: Minor v. Buchholz

Ah yes, there's a pitching rotation that strikes fear into our foes. If you can't see my sarcasm bleeding through your screen, contact your eye doctor. You may have astigmatism. We'll start with JJ. Never in your life will you see a more anticipated start by an 0-2 pitcher with a 9.37 ERA. I will bank on that. JJ has some career stats against the Sawwks (that's Boston idiot for Sox), but they aren't really encouraging. He'll have to negotiate Big Papi Ortiz, since the 6 times he's faced the DH Ortiz has 3 hits with 2 dingers. Also, Pedroia has been pesky with a .375 average lifetime off JJ. The way Boston stacks the hitters, if JJ can wade carefully thru the 2-4 spots, he's got room to work on the latter half of the lineup. Flipside, Lester's 4-4 with a 4.53 ERA, and he's been iffy at best in his last 5 starts. Boston hasn't given up less than 3 runs when Lester starts since May 14th against the crappy Mariners. That bodes well for us, since 3 is our magic number.

Delgado is cursed so I won't bother with his numbers. If we can hit for him, he'll win. Morales is a converted bullpen guy they've moved up to the rotation because Beckett's on the DL. Given our track record against random guys we've never seen before who probably shouldn't be good, he'll probably throw a no-hitter against us. Is that too pessimistic? If the game was on a Monday I'd tell you to watch HGTV. It would be more compelling. You ever see Pirates of the Caribbean where the Curse of Cortez turns the pirates into undead? That's what the Curse of Delgado does to our hitters. They become zombies.

Minor is still pitching. He's getting better, but I'm still not throwing bouquets at the kid because he's only had one win in his last 6 starts. The ERA is still over 6.00 and until that gets respectable, I'm still wanting him gone. I'm a big picture guy, and the reality is that with Minor in our big picture game-to-game, we're not a good team. Meanwhile, Clay Buchholz is 8-2, but mysteriously has a 5.53 ERA. He's won four games in a row and his run support has been robust to say the least. In fact, in his wins the Sawwks have scored 61 runs for him. If Minor can pitch like he did against Miami at the beginning of the month, we'll be fine. If he pitches like he did against the Yankees last game, we're doomed.

All in all, pitching won't decide this series. It's a war of the lineups, and a test of who's hotter. For us, that's Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons. For them, it's David Ortiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Who will emerge victorious? Who will RISE UP! Oh wait, that's the Falcons. Nevermind. Who will GO YARD! All we need is Samuel L Jackson and a choir in the background singing, "Braves, Go Yard!"

Go Braves!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Braves @ Yankees: Game 3 Recap

The Yankees lose! How does it feel getting out-homered in your own house, you greaseballs? Maybe you can dry those tears with all those millions you spent on your team. I'm glad we got to take down that huge streak after becoming a victim of it at home. It once again raises the question of why we are so terrible at the Ted, and so very good on the road? We are 15-17 at home, 22-15 on the road. Last year we were 47-34 at home, and 42-39 on the road. So that's completely different from the prior year in terms of our advantage. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not.

Do you like the long-ball? You got all you could handle in this little BS ballpark they have in NY. It's like Great American, with an even dumber right field fence. RF goes from 355  to 314 feet on the lines. Turner goes from 390 down to 330 in RF. So when the wind is heading out to right? A popup can leave the stadium. And they did in droves. Here's a list of the homers that went out in that game yesterday with the footage:

Freeman - Right Center (407 feet), this one is gone anywhere
Jeter - Right Center (396 feet), also gone in almost every park
Prado - Left (392 feet), gone in both ballparks
Heyward - Right (357 feet), this is a popup that's only gone here and Great American
Ross - Left (404 feet), gone everywhere
Chavez - Center (416 feet), that's an absolute bomb
ARod - Right (351 feet), are you kidding me? 351 feet clears the fences? Joke.
Cano - Right Center (403 feet), that's a man-sized shot
Heyward - Right (371 feet), this one's questionable. Probably a 50/50 ball to some fields

So, for the most part in the hot weather the homers were legit. One of Heywards and ARods "homers" were fancy fly balls at best. Still, the game was insane. Pitchers were cowering the dugouts in fear. Phil Hughes got rocked for his worst outing since May going 4.1 with 6 earned runs on 4 homers. Hanson was good enough to get through 5 innings without surrendering the lead, so he got the win. It wasn't a special pitching performance by any of our guys, and it didn't have to be. That's the greatness of the Braves when we are scoring runs. Our pitchers are going to pitch strategically when we have a lead, and that's a huge advantage for us.

MVP of the game was Heyward. Kid takes a lot of crap when he's down, so he gets the accolades when he's going well. Two home runs for 3 RBIs is already helping that average move up. He's hitting the ball much better in June than he's hit all year. Right now he's posting a .351 average for the month, with a 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, 5 doubles, a triple, and 4 homers. Oh and he's only struck out 11 times in his 57 ABs. You see the improvement there? Compare it to May when he was batting .200 with 30 Ks in 90 ABs. HUGE upgrade by Heyward as the weather got warmer. Frankly, we need it when the rest of the lineup is only just now starting to wake up latter half of the month.

Day off today while the Braves head to Boston. Enjoy the time for your other sports. If you're into that sort of thing, the Miami Heat are playing tonight to win their first championship. If you're not, the College World Series is on starting at 5PM with the KentSt/South Carolina game. Also, the MLB network is carrying either the Philly or the Miami game tonight, so you can laugh at those teams if they lose. Good times.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Braves @ Yankees: Game 2 Recap

Well, well, well. The Braves essentially stole a game from the Yankees with some decent hitting and some outstanding defense. Heyward gunned out Teixeira at the plate, and Chip cut down Granderson at home. Both those plays turned out to be game-saving. That's good, because Heyward also blundered into an idiotic baserunning error that cost us a run. So, he managed to wash the slate clean. Hudson wasn't great only going 5 IP with 3 runs, 5 walks, and 5 Ks, but he was good enough. Why? Because we scored 4 runs.

Thing is, we could have had even more if Uggla wasn't a turnstile out there all game. Seriously, he struck out four times. Come on, Dan. I've outlined how well this team does when you're hitting. I need you to get with the program here at the end of June. You are a cleanup hitter that's now dropped below a .250 average. Meanwhile, Heyward and Simmons are absolutely electric in the box. It's really odd that our hottest hitters are our end of the order guys, but that's Fredi's call. Oh, and I think we should point out that Hinske has completely lost it. He's had one hit in June. That's in 19 ABs. Since May 4th against Colorado, Hinske has been hitting 4/58 (.069 average). Yeah.

The important thing is that we did just enough to get ahead on an infield single in the 6th, and the bullpen held its water. Durbin, EOF, and Kimbrel were all great out there in relief. Jonny continues to bug me, but he got the job done. Still, I'm not pleased that Venters put the first two batters he saw on base. That's a recipe for disaster 4 out of every 5 times. Kimbrel notched his 20th save, which puts him in first place in the NL. He's a stud. The last time he gave up a run was, May 4th against the Rockies. He and Hinske have been going in completely opposite directions since then. Maybe Eric needs to try whatever Kimbrel is eating for breakfast. My guess is Special K.

So the final game of this series is a day game @ 1PM. Make sure to tune in those work radios and pretend like you are actually working on something. I recommend keeping lots of odd looking papers on your desk, and then every inning you shift the papers around. Also, try the George Costanza approach of just looking generally frustrated when people walk by. Either way, we have a chance to win a series against the Yankees, so you'll want to be listening. Hanson goes against Hughes in a battle of the June unbeatens. Neither hurler has lost a game in their June starts, until now! Let's hope the bats make Hughes take an early exit. I would love to punctuate my Wednesday with Yankee tears.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Braves @ Yankees: Game 1 Recap

By now you've probably heard the bad news. Beachy is done for the year with a ligament tear and will need Tommy John surgery. That means our best pitcher in terms of ERA, and the best in the MLB for that matter, is now off the board for 2012. Coming off a loss last night against the Yankees, it's going to be easy for people to start to panic. In fact, if you're masochistic enough to look at the wretched hive of scum and villiany that is the AJC message boards, you probably already see a lot of panic. What I'm here to tell you, intelligent Braves fan, is not to panic. I'll explain more as we go, but let's hit the highlights of the game yesterday.

It was a Monday which means we lost. Sad how that goes, but we're 0-10 on St. Garfield's Day. We started strong with a leadoff triple by Bourn. He's one of the guys I noted that needed to get right in this series for us to have a change. Prado managed to sacrifice him in, and we had the lead! Unfortunately, Bourn was the only guy who had clutch hits yesterday. Our lineup from 2-6 went 1-for-19 at the plate with a walk. I got news, folks. When your heart of the lineup hits like that? You'll never win another game. In comparison, our 7-8-9 and leadoff hitters went 6-for-14. That's completely backwards from what you'd expect.

Minor can't win a game with only 2 runs against the Yankees. I hesitate to say anybody could win a game with only 2 runs against the Yankees. In fact, I'm going to look it up to see if the Yankees have been beaten all season in a 2 run game. The answer is yes, only one team has beaten the Yankees in a 2-0 victory, and that was the Texas Rangers with Yu Darvish on the mound. Seeing as we're not the defending AL Champs, I don't think 2 runs is going to do us any freaking favors during this series. So, I'm not going to pick on Minor, and I'm going to point out something that's very critical for the Braves. It's also a reason why we shouldn't panic about the loss of Beachy.

As much as Braves fans are used to the idea of us winning games with pitching, we have to get over that mental hurdle during this season. Our pitching won't win us ballgames this year. In fact, we don't NEED our pitching to win us ballgames. All we need it to do is keep us in the ballgame, and we can win if we do one very critical thing: SCORE THREE RUNS OR MORE A GAME. Is it really that simple, you might ask? Why yes, it is. Let me explain. When the Braves score at least three runs in a game, we're 32-11. That stat should smack you between the eyeballs, and tell you that pitching is the least of our concerns.

Here's another key fact. When Dan Uggla is hot, this team wins. We're 1-7 in our last eight games, and Dan Uggla was 3/25 (.120) in that stretch. Go back to our six game winning streak at the beginning of June. Dan Uggla goes 6/19 (.316) with 10 RBIs, and 7 walks. But the rabbit hole goes so much deeper than that. 4 game sweep by the Reds? Uggla was 2/12 (.166) with 2 RBIs. Sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis? Uggla was 5/13 (.385) with 3 RBIs. The list goes on and on and on. Dan Uggla is very much a key to this team's success.

If scoring runs and Dan Uggla are the keys to victory, why am I so optimistic? Because Dan Uggla is a .283 hitter in his last three seasons after the All-Star break, and he slugs .535. He's the definition of a down the stretch player who struggles in interleague play. In fact, he's a .205 hitter in interleague play from 2009 thru this year. So, am I really concerned about him playing well against division opponents in July, August, and September? No. In fact I think we'll thrive when we get out of this god-awful interleague schedule.

 So, intelligent Braves fan, don't buy into the panic. Endure this schedule with a quiet calm while the rest of the fanbase runs about like reactionary idiots. These things will pass. The time to panic will be if we struggle to score runs in July. Should that happen, I will be the first one to push the button. In the meantime, let's score some runs and knock these Yankees off that winning streak.

Go Braves!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Orioles @ Braves: Series Recap

I'm not going to sugarcoat this series; it was pretty brutal. I don't really understand how we can get so many hits, but none of them were important in the latter games. The good news is that the Nationals got swept by the Yankees, in an even worse fashion than us I might add, so we're 4 games back in second place for the NL East. Unfortunately, as we get closer to July, scoreboard watching is going to become very important for the Braves. You can take solace in the fact that while we struggled with the Orioles, the rest of the division was just as bad. The downside? We head up to NY to face the Yankees again, and they've won 9 in a row.

Game 1 looked doubtful in the 4th inning when the Orioles took the lead 2-1, but a Simmons home run in the 6th put us back on top. That sort of saved the Braves from another bad outing at the plate where we went 1-7 with RISP, and we hit into 2 double plays. We managed to get 4 runs on 11 hits, but we stranded 8 batters in the process. That turned out to be a terrible omen for the games to come. Hanson pitched well enough to go 5.1, but he couldn't stick around to get the win. That went to Durbin, who came in to clean up the mess in the 6th with 2 straight strikeouts. That guy continues to amaze. I want him in more key relief positions, like, I don't know, THE EIGHTH INNING. Wake up Fredi, he's the best reliever we have!

Game 2. I was at this game, and it was an offensive disaster on pretty much every level. The only upside was Jason Heyward getting a hit in the 7th to break up the possible no-hitter by Hammel. Speaking of which, Hammel went the full 9 for a complete game shutout, walked two, and struck out 8 batters. He was masterful, and we were absent at the dish. I won't really bother with the relief pitching issues, because in the words of Bob Uecker, "One hit? That's all we got? One God-Damn Hit?!?!" Yep. That's all we got. So, was Hammel THAT good, or were we THAT bad? Short answer, Hammel was fantastic that day, and our normal approach wasn't going to work. He was throwing first pitch strikes to more than half the batters, and he was economical with his pitch count only throwing 103 pitches in the win.

Game 3 wasn't as bad as game 2 at the plate, but the frustrating part was what I'm going to call, "The Curse of Delgado" reared it's head again. What do I mean by that? Well Delgado managed to pitch an 8 inning, 2 run, 3 hit gem of a game, but we couldn't support him with a single run. We had the hits (7 hits in total for the game), but for some reason we could never string anything together. In fact, we only got 2 guys in scoring position during the entire game. The Orioles only had 3 RISP. Both teams stranded them all. The difference? A sacrifice fly in the 2nd that scored a run for the Orioles, and a balk in the 6th that got in a guy from third. Really? We lost a balk and a sacfly? Oh, and here's the kicker, at one point we bunted into a double play. HOW THE HELL DO YOU BUNT INTO A DOUBLE PLAY??? I had to literally go take a walk during this game because I was so mad at our hitters.

If there was a stat of the series, it would be double plays. There were literally 12 double plays in this series combined. It was like the two clubs were trying to out-crappy each other at the plate, and we won that contest. But I'm sure we'll get right in our next series? Right guys? Oh wait, it's the Yankees. Oh and double wait, it's a game on a Monday where we're 0-9 on the season. Oh and triple wait, it's Mike Minor on the mound against CC Sabathia again.

Can you feel it? That's my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels. We better have some answers at the plate very soon, or this series against the Yankees is going to turn into a massacre. Here's a list of guys who need to get their heads right: Dan Uggla (1/18 in the last week with 9 Ks), Martin Prado & Michael Bourn (both batting .240 on the week with only 1 walk a piece for an OBP of .269), and Chipper Jones (4/18 with no RBIs on the week). Who's hot right now? Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons. Also Brian McCann has 2 dingers to his name in the last week. We need the rest of the lineup to kick it into gear.

Go Braves!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yankees @ Braves: Game 3 Recap

I'll be brief. Blame our hitters. Blame them for not coming through at all in the clutch. Blame the fact that we had 12 hits but almost none of them actually mattered. Blame them for leaving 13 guys stranded on base. Blame Eric Hinske especially for going 0-3 with RISP. It was bad, it was frustrating, and it was indicative of how we play when we are faced with tough opponents at home. For some reason we're not a good home team this year, and I have no idea why. Maybe because half the stadium was Yankee fans?

Braves are 14-15 at home this year. Only Philly and the Chicago Cubs have fewer home wins. Also, Miami is the only other team that's over .500 with a sub .500 home record. Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, Washington is starting to run away with this division. If we don't do something here in June to keep this thing close, there's a very real possibility that the Nats could be 10 games up on everyone in July. They catch the Yankees next, however, so we'll see how THEY handle them.

We grab the Orioles next after an off day today. Guess what? They've won 4 straight. Yippee. They did it over cellar-dwelling Phillies and Pirates, however, so I'm not anywhere near as scared of them as the Yankees. Only one of the pitchers they are throwing against us have more than 3 years experience in the league, so we'll be on equal footing with our young guns. I like our chances in the series. I also like taking a day off to get the bad taste of that series out of my mouth.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yankees @ Braves: Game 2 Recap

I wish I hadn't watched that game. I told people not to watch it, and if I had just come in this morning and saw we lost 6-4, I probably wouldn't feel like somebody ripped my guts out. And yet, here we are. I did make the mistake of watching it, and watching our bullpen completely self-destruct. There are those who will hang the loss on Jonny Venters and say he needs to be moved out of that slot. I will defend Jonny and say that's reactionary and stupid. Until last night he hadn't allowed a run since May 29th in 6 appearances. I will blame our manager for putting him out there when he's not our strongest reliever right now, and I will blame him for leaving Jonny out there when it was obvious he didn't have his stuff that night. For some reason he doesn't see that Chad Durbin is our best reliever right now, and he deserves a shot at that setup role. Since May 11th, Durbin has been in 15 games, gone 11.1 innings, and has an ERA of 0.00 with 4 hits. Gee who would I want up there with the game on the line in the 8th? Venters or Durbin? You make the call.

I tip my hat to Minor. He tried his damnedest. When the game was coming unraveled in the 8th and they kept putting the camera on him, if your heart didn't go out to the kid you have no heart. He looked like someone just ran over his dog. He knows, we know, and he still went out there and pitched 7 scoreless like a champ. I'm tough on guys when they are bad, but I'm fair when they are great as well, and he was sparkling last night against the best lineup money can buy. It's cliche to say he deserved better, so I'll say that he earned my respect last night, even if I don't think he's completely ready for the day in day out job of a starter in the bigs. I do see the potential now that I hadn't seen before. By next season, I expect him to have earned a slot.

1-10 with RISP for the Braves. So that blows. Freeman is absolutely lost in this series. If he doesn't come up big tonight, the sombrero will be complete. Diaz did come up huge to show that Fredi was right to put him in over Heyward with his 3 RBI shot in the first inning, then Heyward got a sacrifice in the 7th to make it 4-0. In between? Lots of baserunners and no action. Bourn did get his 17th steal, so I like how he's running the paths right now, and Simmons continued his hot start at the plate with 2 hits. We just couldn't get the big hit against the Yankees to put them away before everything came unglued.

So who's hot and who's not over the last 7 days? Michael Bourn and Dan Uggla are red hot right now. Bourn is batting .467 with an OBP of .500 and 4 doubles. Uggla is slugging .727 with 9 RBIs and 3 home runs. Amazing work over the week by those two guys. Who's not? Brian McCann is ice cold. He's 3/22 over the last week, a horrid .136 average, and he's now batting .239 on the season. He's a career .284 hitter. Something has been wrong with Brian since the All Star break of 2011. I'll be the first to say it, I'm concerned about Brian as a long-term guy with this club. I never would have thought that 2 years ago, but ever since he's had problems with his vision, he's been in the tank offensively. People don't want to admit it, the media doesn't want to talk about it, but you need to keep your eye on him as the smart Braves fan. Once Chip leaves the building, there are no sacred cows on this team, and Brian is batting .221 since the All-Star break last year. That's over 348 ABs. When he's due for an option of $12M next season, and possible free agency in 2013? Let's put it this way, he's not known for his arm.

Moving on. Huddy is on the mound tonight. We need this. Really need this. You hear me Braves? You know those asshole Yankees fans will be showing up in our house with brooms tonight, right? Better do something to shut them up.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Yankees @ Braves: Game 1 Recap

We got robbed. Better yet, BMac got robbed by Nick Swisher when he pulled back a 2 run homer that would have changed the complexion of the game. The Yankees were great with the glove, and that made all the difference. You just have to shake off a game like that and not hang your head.

We only got one guy in scoring position all game. That's how bad it was. We had the leadoff guy on a good bit, but we could never get any action on the ball. Nova was suffocating with his pitching, and the Yankee bullpen was even better. Delgado kept us in the game, but he could only do so much as a rook. Frankly, he didn't even have his best stuff and he still kept a potential disaster to a 3 run affair. Way too many walks though. Anytime you walk 6 guys as a starter, your loss pecentage is going to skyrocket.

Let's be fair about this, though. It was a battle of their lineup versus our lineup. Their lineup was better. On the whole, I'd say there lineup will continue to be better. And it should be since they paid twice as much for it. They put up a graphic last night which gave the salary details for the Yankees. Their starting infield costs as much as our entire team payroll. In a battle of the bats, we're usually going to get crushed by their big fat wallets.

That said, we did a crappy job of hitting with favorable counts in this game. Here's a few examples:

1) 2-0 count in the first, BMac flies out to center.
2) 1-0 count in the third, Simmons grounds into a double play.
3) 2-0 count in the fourth, Freeman flies out to end the inning
4) 2-0 count in the fifth, Simmons grounds into FC at second.
5) 1-0 count in the seventh, Heyward grounds out to end the inning.

The key was that Nova wasn't throwing first pitch strikes, but we weren't letting him hang himself. We were swinging at bad pitches in favorable counts that went nowhere. That approach cost us the game. When we do the reverse, and have better patience at the plate, we've gotten much better results.

Tonight it's Minor v. Sabathia. Might as well be David v. Goliath without a slingshot. Sabathia is a 6-7 listed 290 lbs guy (my guess is 320 easy), and Minor is a 6-4 205 lbs rail. Minor has a 6.57 ERA with 55 strikeouts and a 3-4 record. Sabathia has a 3.69 ERA with 86 strikeouts and a 7-3 record. Both of these guys are lefties. That's in our favor since our starting lineup is hitting .275 against lefties, and theirs is batting .260. If there was EVER a guy to be patient against, it's CC Sabathia. He will walk people, and it will get him in trouble. Whenever he's walked 3 or more batters, the Yankees have lost the game. Keep that in mind tonight.

Go Braves!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Blue Jays @ Braves: Series Recap

Since the weekend games were so close together, and I went to two of the three, I figured I'll recap them all at once. I find that most of the readers don't check in over the weekend anyway, and they come to the blog to get the info when they get to work on Monday. I appreciate it! Anyway on to the games.

I showed up on Friday because I wanted to make sure I was there to see John Smoltz get his number retired. The ceremony was very cool, as Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux, John Sherholtz, Bobby Cox and Pete Van Wieren were all there. In fact, it was an Alumni weekend, so there were former Braves signing autographs all over the place. Unfortunately, the game didn't really live up to the event. It was a win, but it was probably the most bizarrely boring win I've seen all season.

We hit the ball well in Game 1, we just never hit it well when we had our foot on the Blue Jays throats. In fact, we went 0-12 with RISP in a win. That might lend you ask, how the hell did we win this game? Well, the answer was that the Blue Jays walked in a bases loaded run, balked in a run from third base, and then threw a ball into left field in the 10th when Jason Heyward stole third. That last error ended the game. Bear in mind we also had 9 hits and 7 walks, so there were baserunners everywhere. The game took forever. It was so awful to watch that I left after the 9th when it went to extras and listened to the rest of it on the radio. At that point we'd been there since 6:30 to watch the Smoltz thing, and it was 11:30PM. It just went on and on and on. The good news is that we won.

Game 2 was the exact opposite of Game 1. I went to this one as well and got myself a Sid Slides bobblehead for the trouble. Tommy Hanson was in complete control for this game, and the game moved very swiftly with the help of 11 combined strikeout between the two opposing starters, and a 3 run bomb by Dan Uggla in the 3rd. Also, Simmons got his first homer of his career in the 7th, so I was very proud of the kid. The game only took 2:34 to win from start to finish. That's my kind of game!

Game 3 I watched on TV since it was raining. We started strong, with Teheran doing a pretty good job of keeping the Jays hitters in check. Then, the 5th inning happened. As with all young starters, Teheran had a problem keeping problems from snowballing. Our 4-0 cruisefest suddenly turned into a 6-4 deficit in one inning. At that point, Livan and Christhian decided to hand Toronto the game. I turned it off after it got to 10-4 in the 7th. I didn't miss anything. Neither did you. We're just going to shelve this one as a series win with a bad finale by a spot starter.

The MVPs for the weekend were Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla. Both had key moments in our respective wins that sealed the game. Heyward's two hits and two runs in the first game, including his base-stealing pressure in the 10th were absolutely crucial. Uggla's 3 run bomb in the second game was the difference maker in giving Tommy the confidence he needed to go 8 solid innings with a lead. Dan's a regular in the MVP territory, but it's nice to see Heyward get a shot after some of his struggles at the plate.

Funny moment of the weekend was in Game 1 when my friend Howard was sitting with me at the game and they started to play the Canadian National Anthem for the Blue Jays. Howard turns to me and says, "Are any of the Toronto players even FROM Canada?" We laughed when we found out that only one of them actually was. The rest were from America or the latin countries. It would have made more sense to play the Venezuelan national anthem.

Today we start a series against the Yankees. As per usual no preview for interleague, but I will give you some trends on the two teams. We face Nova, Sabathia, and Kuroda, 3 pitchers with a combined record of 19-11. Supposedly we have Delgado, Minor, and Hudson going against them. The Yankees are on an absolute tear, winning 8 of their last 10. Well guess what? So have the Braves. Two teams at the top of their games are going to face off, and the funny thing is the Braves have actually scored more runs on the season. I will say you probably want to skip Game 2, because the idea of Minor facing off against Sabathia is frankly laughable. The rest should be pretty good!

Go Braves!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Braves @ Marlins: Game 3 Recap

BROOOOOOOOOOMS! Glorious Brooms! Who loves the brooms as much as I do? Are you as shocked by Minor not imploding on the mound as I was? How crappy was Miami at plate? They went 0-13 with RISP, that's how bad they were. Look, I'm not going to go over the top and declare that Minor made a statement last night. I'll leave that to national media shockjock types who love to stir the pot. Mike did a good job holding things together for 5 innings, but he's still getting sent down. He's not there yet, but at least we saw a flare of improvement before he goes to AAA, and that gives me more hope than I have for JJ right now. There's a real chance Minor could be ready to go by the time we get to the 40 man roster, given enough time to work out his location at Gwinnett.

There's a few things to address about last night. For those of you who say, "Yeah Ben, nice call on saying to leave Heyward out of the lineup when he hits two bombs." First, don't be a jackass. Second, take note of WHO Heyward hit the homers off of. Both of them were late in the game against right-handed relievers. He still can't do jack against lefties, and Buehrle had him handled for his first two ABs. Also, in that regard Buehrle got a raw deal. He went 6 innings with only 3 hits, but somehow due to Marteeeeeeen going deep on his one bad pitch, he left the game down a run. The bullpen for Miami is the one who completely self-destructed and put the game out of reach. I love Bourn, but if you're giving up homers to our leadoff guy, you've got issues.

Now to the MVP. You might think Bourn, Prado, or Heyward for all their hitting. You would be dead wrong. The MVP of the game was our SS noob Andrelton Simmons. Simmons went 2/3 with a walk, and he started possibly the most spectacular double play you'll see out of the Braves all season. That's not hyperbole at all. If you haven't seen it, go look it up because it's ridiculous. A ball was smashed on the ground to his right, Simmons makes a diving snag with the glove, and as he's falling over on the ground he makes a sharp throw to Uggla who makes a quick turn to Hinske, who digs it out falling over just barely holding the bag. It was surreal. Everyone in the stadium and the announcers booth had their jaws drop. Again, if you haven't seen it, look it up because it's crazy. Oh, and to top it off in the ninth, Simmons wanders out into center field and makes a backwards over the shoulder basket catch for an out. What?!?! This kid is beyond superior with the glove.

Now for everyone's favorite, THE STAT OF THE SERIES! This time, the stat is...STARTER ERA! Hudson, Delgado, and Minor probably had their best starts of the season in this series. The Starter ERA for these three games was, get this, 0.89 combined. Tell you what, I'll go out there with that every single night, and we'll never lose another game all season. Holy smokes, I can't begin to tell you how good that is. It's shades of the 3 Aces back in the 90s.

So tonight we honor John Smoltz by retiring his number. I will be there. There is the possibility it'll get a little misty. The only downside is the actual game is against the Blue Jays, and I hate interleague with the fiery passion of 1000 suns. Interleague, the DH, Tim McCarver, and Joe Morgan. These things drive my rageometer into the red. So, go out there tonight Braves and win one for Smoltzy. I won't be doing a preview because there's no point in previewing interleague. Oh look, he's a pitcher we've never faced against our pitcher they've never faced. I might as well get out a crystal ball and smash it against the wall. I HATE YOU SELIG! You and your interleague and your stupid All Star game deciding the world series and the dumb wild card one game crap. We can have all that, but we can't have replay to prove Angel Hernandez and CB Bucknor are freaking morons as umpires. God no. Human element! Up yours, Selig, and see you at the game tonight Smoltzy!

Go Braves!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Braves @ Marlins: Game 2 Recap

I'll admit, I didn't think Delgado stood a chance. I guess at this point, he's figured out that if he gives up more than one run, he's going to lose. So he just gave up the one run. It didn't hurt either that after I questioned Brian McCann, he goes 3/4 witha  run scored. Good job, Bmac!

Let's be real about how this game actually went. It was a nailbiter the whole way, and I was expecting it to explode at any point. Delgado was perfect until the 5th, when he gave up a leadoff double to Stanton. At that point, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "Ok here comes that disaster inning I've seen before." But no! Delgado actually locked down, got two outs, gave up the single for his one run, and then escaped from the inning. There was a lot of maturity on the mound last night, and that's a great sign for a pitcher who could have just hung his head about his run support.

Let's also be real about the hitting. We didn't hit well, we just hit well enough to win. When you parse down a baseball season into small segments, that's all the really matters. However, in the majority of games we play, 6 hits and 2 runs is probably going to equal a defeat 80% of the time. In fact let me look it up to see what our record is with 2 runs scored. Ok our record with 2 runs is 3-7, so I was off. It's actually 70% for our loss rate. Still, that's not good, and we all know that 2 runs is too precarious even with a good bullpen. Speaking of which, congrats to Venters, EOF, and Kimbrel for not giving up a hit last night. The bullpen was completely lockdown for 2.2 innings, and that's exactly what we need in a close game on the road. It was especially encouraging to see Fredi go with Venters, and for JV to finally get it right.

So who is the MVP? I think I would have to say Delgado. He doesn't get many chances to be an MVP, but his pitching was the reason we won that game. Rarely are you going to see a 22 year old starter hold a major league team to 2 hits, and that's worthy of some major praise. Delgado had 7 Ks in the game and only 1 walk. If you want to point at a major reason for his success last night, that's a big key. The other big key was throwing first pitch strikes to 14 of the 21 batters he faced. I can't stress this enough for our young staff. You have to get ahead of batters in this league, because they will put 2-0 fastball pitches into the stands. Case in point, batters are hitting .444 against Delgado on 2-0 counts with 6 RBIs. The fact he rarely got behind against the Marlins was huge for his confidence.

I would bring up the fact that we are going for a sweep tonight, but we're throwing Minor out there on the mound as a last ditch effort. Thing is, Buehrle isn't lighting it up either right now. Just looking at the numbers, I'd let Hinske start tonight instead of Heyward, since Hinske is .429 slugging against Buehrle and Heyward is .167 against the lefty. Heyward doesn't hit lefties at all, and I think it's stupid to keep him out there given the numbers in those situations. On the year, he has a .203 average against southpaws with 21 Ks in 69 ABs. He's not just coming up short, he's flailing away. So Fredi, I think you know what to do.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Braves @ Marlins: Game 1 Recap

Domination. That's the word to describe what happened yesterday. Complete and utter domination. It's a great feeling when you can watch a laugher, and your starter is ruling the infield with his sinker. Oh and when Dan Uggla plunks a shot off the huge monstrosity in center field? I laughed until I almost cried it was so funny. You know that thing wanted to light up, but it couldn't because it wasn't the home team. So it sat there in stoic ugly silence as Uggla paraded around the bases. It's almost akin to a guy knocking one off the Bull in Bull Durham. Of course, in Bull Durham he won a free steak. In Miami, you win a massage from those chicks in the Clevelander. Not really, but I can dream.

Hudson had a complete game shutout for the first time this season, 13th of his career, and the Marlins only managed 5 hits. Of his 27 outs, Huddy went 14/10/3 ground/fly/K, proving that no infield is too quick for the Hudson sinker. Simmons continued to shine with the glove, as he was involved in 2 double plays during the game, and the young kid had 3 hits with 3 RBIs. Welcome to the majors young gun! Heyward had 3 hits, Prado had 2 hits, and Freeman had 2 hits. The only guys who didn't have any hits during the slugfest were BMac and Contanza. I think it may be time to keep an eye on McCann during June. He's under .250 on the season, and he doesn't look comfortable at the plate. I believe the injuries are really taking their toll.

In an 11-0 game, picking just one MVP is impossible. In rare instances, dual MVPs must be declared in order to keep things fair. With such an instance in mind, both Tim Hudson and Dan Uggla deserve MVPs for this game. Huddy not only had a complete game shutout on the road, but he also had a hit that plated 2 runs for his own cause. Uggla went 4/5 with 5 RBIs, a double, and 2 home runs. Is that even possible in one game? Apparently so. That shot off the sun in center was 445 feet. If you hit that at Great American Bandbox it's in the river. Yes, I'm still bitter.

An 11 run rout only took 2:36 to finish, which I think is pretty amazing. It's a testament to how fast Timmy was working in the bottom half of the innings. Listed attendence was 25,000 and if it was a head over 18,000 that actually showed up while the Heat were playing down the street, I'll eat my khakis. Nobody really wants to admit yet that building a new ballpark for a Florida franchise will turn out to be a bad idea. When you poll people in Florida about what their team is, the most popular answer is 20% are Yankees fans. I'm not making that up. Also, only 11% of people in the 18-35 male demo there consider themselves baseball fans. If they end up out-drawing Turner Field this year, I'll be stunned.

Tonight, it's Delgado (our hard luck loser) v. Johnson (their can't lose starter). My guess is there will be some payback, and Delgado is probably going to bear the brunt of it. I know for a fact Delgado was sitting in the bullpen watching 11 runs come in for Tim, thinking to himself, "Come on guys, save some for me!" I don't know that he's going to get them. In the game against Philly where we scored 15 to win, Delgado got zero run support the next day. Delgado got only one run when he went against the Cubs and the Reds. He got 2 in a loss against Tampa after we scored 5 for Hanson the prior day. The dude needs help. We can't go out there for a 22 year old and say, "There's your run!" So Dan, if you can plunk a few more off the dolphins, we'd be much obliged.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Series Preview: Braves @ Marlins

The weather here in Atlanta is terrible today. I'm hoping the weather in Florida is dramatically different, because nobody would be playing any baseball here on this rainy Tuesday. Oh no wait, it doesn't matter if it's raining there, because they can close the roof on that disaster of a ballpark. I will give them credit for that. Retractable roofs are pretty awesome. Do you think that on offdays, some guy is sitting there like Homer Simpson going, "Roof goes up, roof goes down, roof goes up, roof goes down..." over and over? If I had the remote control for that thing, I could amuse myself for hours.

Game 1: Hudson v. Sanchez
Game 2: Delgado v. Johnson
Game 3: Minor (supposedly) v. Buehrle

Hudson has concerned me of late. His last two starts had a combined 14 hits and 12 runs. During that stretch his ERA skyrocketed from 3.03 to 4.60. An ERA over 4.00? I'm struggling to remember the last time Hudson had such a thing 10+ games into a season. In fact, the last time Huddy had an ERA for the season over four was in 2006. And we all remember how awful 2006 was. (In case you don't, we finished 4 games under .500 and 18 games back of the freaking Mets). Also, if I'm going to pinpoint one guy Hudson needs to watch out for, it's Chris Coghlan. He's 8/14 with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs against Tim. Nobody else on the Marlins even approaches those numbers. In the top half the inning, we have Anibal Sanchez going for the fish. Holy smokes, who is THIS guy? A 2.57 ERA flamethrowing rightie out of Venezuela, is who. Normally, you can dismiss him as a 50/50 starter with a 3.61 career ERA, but he's pitching over his head right now. Sanchez has 67 Ks in 10 games, so if you're Uggla, Heyward, or anybody else on the team that likes to freewheel at the plate, look out. The guy who can get him on our team is Prado. He's 12/27 with a bomb and 4 RBIs against Anibal. Bourn isn't far behind at a 5/14 rate with 2 doubles. The top of the order needs to bury Sanchez for us to be successful.

Delgado. What the heck am I supposed to do with you? You win, then you lose 3. Then you win, and you lose 3 more. Just when I'm ready to write you off, you pull me back in. I will give you credit though for breaking up the horrible losing streak. I'd love it if you got that ERA under 4.50 too. That would be super. Oh and stop the "disaster inning" stuff. You are better than that. As for Johnson, don't let the 4.83 ERA fool you. Josh had a nuclear meltdown in April, and he's guided himself back to normalcy in May. In his last 5 starts, he's yet to give up more than 3 runs. The Marlins haven't lost with him on the mound since April 29th. He's the reverse Delgado. No matter how bad he pitches, the Marlins still win. Give up 8 runs? Marlins get 9 and win. Give up 6 runs? Marlins get 7 and win. Delgado went 6.2 innings of one-run ball against Cincy and lost. We're probably doomed in this one.

Is Minor still on the team? Isn't it just time for us to stop listing him on the pre-game reports so I don't have to write about him anymore? He's the pitching equivilant of a pan of brownies that you stuck the toothpick in (repeatedly I might add), and it came out covered in sticky goo. Put him back in the AAA oven for another 8 months, and we'll discuss this again in March. IF he goes, he goes against Buehrle. Whereas Johnson has been improving on the Marlins from a terrible start, Buehrle is descending slowly into madness. Mark has a 4.85 ERA in his last 4 starts, he can't strike out batters, and he only went 5 innings with 11 hits against Philly last game. Philly can't hit, but they scorched him for 11. We can take this guy.

Here are some stats from the last 7 days to watch for in the series. Jose Constanza is batting .545 on the week. I love that little guy. He's like a jackrabbit that can hit. Also, Prado and Uggla have OBP at .412, and Bourn is at .389 in his last 4 games. The top half of the lineup is red-hot. The bottom half is not. Diaz is batting .200, Heyward is batting .214, and Simmons is batting .143, so I think we're going to have to do our damage in the 1-5 slots. Maybe we'll get some good views of Simmons out at SS though defensively. That guy lived up to billing in his first series. Wow! So much better than Pastornicky with the glove. I like the change.

Go Braves!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Braves @ Nationals: Game 1 & 2 Recap

Splitsville isn't that bad when you have a rainout, and your starter gives up two solo bombs in the second game right off the bat. Still, I hate the fact that we've only won one game so far against the Nats all season. That's not going to fly in the long run due to the tightness of our division.

The pitching matchups got thrown off by the rainout, so Minor got skipped (YEAH!) and Beachy started against Strasburg. However, instead of a favorable matchup, the tide turned against us quickly when Strasburg came out with fantasic movement on his heater. It's probably the best I've seen him pitch this season. In fact, the numbers (7 IP, 9 Ks, 4 hits, no runs), rank amongst his best starts since 4/11 against the Mets. Beachy was certainly good enough to get a win, but the bats weren't. Uggla, Freeman, and Prado all had 0-fors, and anytime that happens you can be pretty sure we got skunked.

Game 2 started poorly with the aforementioned homers off Hanson. However, Tommy held tough as he continued pitching through 7 strong innings. It was not a pretty day at the plate at all for the Braves, as they went 1-7 with RISP and struck out 8 times. The key to the game was Tommy holding the line, and Jason Heyward coming off the deck with a big 2-out-2-run RBI single in the 5th. With the lead, the Braves really battened down the hatches for the rest of the game. Hanson retired his next 9 straight, then EOF gave up 2 walks immediately in the 8th. It looked like a disaster waiting to happen, but Eric induced a double play and flyout to wriggled off the hook. Then, Ho-Hum-Kimbrel struck out the side in the 9th. That dude makes it look too easy sometimes. I love it.

MVP of the second game has to go to Jason Heyward who had been struggling so much coming into the series. It was his RBI that gave us the win, but also he's now knocked in 25 RBIs on the season. Considering he only knocked in 42 in his poor season last year, things are already looking up for the young RF, even if his average isn't there yet. I'd rather have a clutch .240 hitter than a guy who hits .280 with nobody on base.

I'll also take a moment to vent at how mad Venters is making me lately. So, not only can he not pitch an inning without giving up a hit and/or run, he also crossed up BMac and knocked him out of the game with a fastball to the knee. Who knows when Brian is coming back? It's literally all JV's fault that we're short our starting catcher for another extended period.

Now we get a Monday off (Thank God, since we're 0-8 on Mondays), and we head to that Neon Vegas Reject down in Miami to face the fish. The Nats, Marlins, and Mets are all tied for the NL East first place lead, and the Braves and Phillies are bringing up the rear. WHAT?!?! It's like they've taken the standings and turned them on their head this year. There's no way this can last.

Go Braves!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Braves @ Nationals: Series Preview

REVENGE! The fans demand a reckoning for the games here at home. We want our now healthy lineup (fresh with a new SS) to take out our frustrations on the Nats in their building. Do me a favor, Braves. Strike out Bryce Harper in every AB so I don't have to hear the media talking heads on ESPN put on the kneepads every time he gets a hit. I'm looking at you Oral Hersheiser. You are aptly named, sir.

Game 1 - Minor (supposedly) v. Strasburg
Game 2 - Beachy v. Gonzalez
Game 3 - Hanson v. Zimmerman

I'll start by saying I have no idea why we are still pitching Minor at this point. The kid obviously knows he's getting sent down since Medlen just left for AAA. He's already a headcase, and now we're telling him to go out there and let it all hang out? I think this is a disasterous move by the Braves. This is akin to everyone in the office knowing that somebody is about to get fired, but management refuses to pull the trigger until Friday, so you are all suffering through an extremely uncomfortable week while that guy trodges through his final project. Even worse, Minor is facing Strasburg (5-1). I'll analyze this game by saying this: Get 10 runs. Otherwise, you are rolling the dice with a lame-duck starter.

Beachy v. Gonzalez is a great matchup. Both are mid-20s hurlers at the top of their games. Both are #1 and #2 in the MLB for ERA. Both have over 5 wins in 10 starts. Both have a WHIP under 1.00, and Over 50 Ks on the year. If there ever was a duel waiting to happen, this is it. You must not miss this game if you love great young pitching. Gio got the better of our half-injured lineup in the last game, but he's also been the benefactor of a ton of offense in his recent wins. With 6 runs per game average in his last 5 starts, it's not shocking that he got 5 wins. If we can keep that down, we can take it to him.

Hanson needs a good outing. His last game against the Cards was an unmitigated pitching disaster. It's really the only truly bad outing he's had all year. I want to see him bounce back with a gem against the Nats, and there is good reason to believe he will. Without Werth, Morse, and Ramos, the big bats that hit well against Hanson are on the DL. For the guys who have faced Hanson before on the team, they are batting .206 with a .324 slugging average. The outliers are Flores and Harper who are batting .288 and .253 against righties, respectively. On the flip side, Zimmerman has been terrible at home in his last 3 starts. In those 3 home games, he's given up a combined 10 earned in 18 innings along with 6 walks and 4 homers. Nobody has a ton of ABs against Zimmerman, but we do have a few good and bad standouts. The Good: Diaz is 2/3 with a double and a bomb, and Prado is 4/8 with a double. The Bad: Heyward is 0/5, McCann is 1/7, and Uggla is 1/10.

This series is going to be about our pitching. Can we recover? Can we get over some of the bad outings from previous starts? We need to if we want to win this series.

Go Braves!