Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Marlins @ Braves: Game 2 Recap

This feeling is what happens when you ride the top edge of a Braves streak. We're at 7 in a row now, and we're clubbing the ball to get there. Medlen got his first start of the year, and after a shaky home run in the first inning, he locked down on the Fish. The bats immediately stepped up by putting 3 on Nolasco in the bottom of the first to retake the lead. Beyond the first inning, it was all Braves. BMac homered, Pastornicky homered, Heyward and Freeman came through with RBIs, and the Braves won 7-1. The game included a rather random 1 hour 53 minute rain delay which interrupted what would normally be a quick win for the Bravos. Instead, a game starting at 7PM didn't end until 11:30.

Medlen went 5 innings in his first shot at the rotation, and he only gave up the aforementioned home run in the first. Other than that, he held the Marlins to 4 hits in 5 innings with one walk. It was a very solid first performance punctuated by the fact that Kris was going strike one on 14/19 of the hitters he faced. Since he was usually ahead in the count, Kris was able to dictate the pace of the game and impose his will on the batters. He also did it economically with only 57 pitches in those 5 innings. The reverse was true for Nolasco, who also went 5 innings, but gave up 4 walks, 7 hits, and 4 runs. He was all over the place, and was well over 100 pitches in those same 5 innings. The difference was obvious. One pitcher was in complete command of the zone, and the other wasn't.

The Braves had tons of chances to run the score up during the game. With 13 hits, 4 walks, and the 2 Miami errors the Braves put 18 men on base during the game. It was a multihit night for everybody except Bourn (who had one hit), and Janish and Uggla who got blanked. So Uggla's 2 game hitting streak comes to a close. Hopefully he starts one up against tonight. The RISP was only 3-14, so it's not great, but when your pitching staff was firing on all cylinders it didn't matter. Seven runs should be enough for any pitcher to cover up some sins. Prado, Francisco, and McCann all had doubles, and Freddie Freeman even managed to swipe a base. In the field, the Braves turned 4 double plays on the Marlins due to some amazing pitching by Medlen, Gearrin, Durbin, EOF, and JJ to close it.

The MVP of the game is Juan Francisco. Juan went 3/3 with a walk and 2 RBIs on the day. He was the very definition of perfect at the plate. Also, those 2 RBIs came with 2 outs, which made them even more clutch. As it turns out, since they happened in the first inning to make the game 3-1, they were also the game winning RBIs. Juan doesn't get a lot of chances to play unless Chipper takes the day off, but he's been pretty solid at the dish when he starts. Currently, Juan is slugging .486 with 8 homers. In Francisco's last 3 starts in July, he's gone 8/11 with 5 RBIs. That's hot, folks. That not just hot, it's thermonuclear. Over the last week, Juan is batting .778 for his average. WHAT?!?! That's not possible. Ride him like a rented mule Braves, because that can't last forever.

In "injury" news, Tommy Hanson gets sent to the DL with a back something. It's complete crap. The same thing happened to Jonny Venters when he was struggling. He got pulled into the office by Fredi G and told he was injured. You know this because 1 - Medlen is up in the rotation and pitching well, 2 - We just traded for a LH arm out of the Cubs, and 3 - Tommy is struggling with his out-pitch. What do I mean by that? Take a look at Tommy's last 4 starts. He's gone 5 innings, 5 innings, 4 innings, and 5.1 innings. Look at the hits and walks. During those 4 games he gave up 26 hits and 16 walks. He's getting bailed out by good fielding, bad hitters, and lots of offense. He's won all four games, but that's because the Braves have scored 34 runs for him in those starts. The main problem is that when Tommy takes the mound, it's almost a certainty he's going to give up hits and stolen bases, and he's going to overtax the bullpen. That has to change, because the better teams will take advantage of those baserunners down the stretch.

Today, the best recovery story in baseball takes the mound. Ben Sheets goes against Matt LeBlanc from Friends. Oh no wait, it's Wade LeBlanc out of Alabama. I think Matt LeBlanc probably has a better straight change. He's replacing the emotional bomb in Zambrano. That's a shame, because I was looking forward to the inevitable mental breakdown/explosion/arrest/jailtime. Leblanc is a lefty making his first start of the year, so let's greet him with a barrage of homers. Nothing says welcome to Atlanta like Heyward taking you deep.

Go Braves!

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