Friday, September 28, 2012

Marlins @ Braves: Games 2 & 3

We broomed the Marlins. No shocker there. We're also 4 back of the Nats with 6 to play. It's not mathematical, but we're done in the division race. We had our shot when we won the last two, but the Nats kept pace. Now it's just a matter of ticking days off the calendar until we face a 1 gamer against the Cards in October.

Tonight Chipper gets his due. His closing ceremony if you will. We all get to have one big teary celebration of Larry Wayne Jones Jr. And I will be there front and center, enjoying the show. Is there even a game? Doesn't matter. All that matters is that Chipper will be there and we will cheer for the greatness of #10, just like we did for Bobby last year. It's the very last piece of the old Braves we knew and loved from the 1990s, giving way to the young Braves who helped make the playoffs this year. It'll also be nice to put those demons from last year's collapse to rest in the stadium.

As for the games, we won, and they weren't really relevant. We're hitting, and our pitching is ridiculously dominant heading to the playoffs. That's the key factor. As such I likely won't be covering the rest of the season games left, because as soon as we get closed out by the Nats on the division, we're going to rest everyone. It's been a great regular season, and a great run for the Braves. I want to thank everyone for reading and enjoying things so far, and hopefully I have plenty more recaps left when the playoffs begin. Expect a full preview of the 1 gamer, with some extensive statistical guessing on my part. Expect a full recap of every game we get to play in the postseason. Expect greatness from the Braves. Expect a great close to a great season!

Go Braves!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marlins @ Braves: Game 1 - Braves clinch a playoff berth

We're in the playoffs. I'm excited and not excited. My emotional conflict stems from the fact we might be semi-celebrating a one game one-and-done, or a shot at the real playoff series. So, I'm happy we are now assuredly in, but I'm still on the fence about this whole new playoff thing. That being said, it's a far cry from walking out of the stadium last year on the last game of the September collapse, and wanting to crawl into my bed to sleep until Christmas so I could remember what happy felt like.

Medlen wasn't great. He was good, but not dominant. In fact, he probably didn't deserve to win this game because he had trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark when he made mistakes. He went 7 innings with 3 runs on 2 homers and 5 hits. He struck out 8 and walked nobody. Overall, that's not a bad day for a starter, but we've come to expect so much from Kris Medlen you scratch your head when he actually gives up a late long ball. With Atlanta up 2-1 in the 7th, Solano hit a no doubter 417 feet to center, giving the Marlins the lead. Heading into the ninth, it looked like the Braves were finally going to snap the winning streak when Medlen took the mound.

BUT NO! Chipper Jones had other ideas. On a 2-1 count, Chipper drove a ball to deep right center that rattled around for a double. He advanced on a wild pitch to third with nobody out. At this point, Braves fans are just willing Freddie Freeman to hit a fly ball that will tie the game. He did so much more than that. As Freeman dug into the box with a 1-1 count, you could sense he was swinging for the fences. The pitch he got went sailing off his bat to center, bringing the entire crowd to it's feet. Could it be? Is it enough? IT'S GONE!!! BRAVES WIN IN A WALKOFF! Madness ensues. Players rush the field. Freddie gets mobbed. Champagne gets popped. Fans get sprayed with bubbly. The Braves clench a playoff berth and Freddie Freeman gets the MVP of the game.

Let's be completely honest. The Braves hitting wasn't great, but it was timely. At a 2-5 RISP mark, you can say we capitialized on our opportunities with 4 runs on 6 hits. On a day when the Braves wanted a victory to secure some chance at keeping our division hopes alive, we got it. Make no mistake, you drop that game, and our shot at the Nationals is completely dead. Now, only 4 games back, and the Nats facing a Phillies team with some of the best pitchers in the league? Who knows? Odder things have happened, but man oh man would I love to steal this division in the final weeks, and force the Nats to play in that one-gamer. Shock and awe, baby! The only way to do it is to keep winning. So let's go out there and continue our dominance of the Marlins with Maholm on the hill tonight.

Go Braves!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Braves @ Phillies: Weekend Series Recap

The Braves magic number for the playoffs is down to 2. Why? Because we took two out of the three games we needed to win the series against the Phillies this weekend. Hell, we probably could have swept them if it wasn't for Tommy "Sad Trombone" Hanson out there pitching. Do we have to keep putting him out there? If I wanted to watch a pitcher lose a game in 5 and 2/3 innings, I'd be an Astros fan. Actually, that's not entirely fair. Astros pitchers are gone by the 4th inning.

Game 1, Hanson takes the rubber, so you know I'm already barely paying attention. In fact I've probably already looked to see if we've got the giveup lineup in the game. Shockingly, no. We ran the full force out there including Chipper. Hanson decides to only go 5 and 1/3 innings (totally phoned it in) and gave up 5 runs on 3 homers. Did I mention he sucks? When's the last time he qualified for a win? Oh yeah, July 30th. For those of you lacking a calendar, that was about about 2 months ago. Since then he's given up 25 runs in 7 starts. Amazingly we won two of those games by simply outhitting people. Not this one, however. Braves went 1-7 with RISP, even though Prado and Uggla both had 2 hits a piece. Constanza gets the lone honor of being the guy who got a single with somebody on third. The rest of the lineup didn't show up. Sad Trombone plays a soulful tune as we lose the opener game 2-6.

In game 2, the offense exploded in the first two innings for 7 runs. Minor just had to keep the ball in the park to win this game, which he did with moderate success, save one Ryan Howard launch that hasn't landed yet. The key to the game was the Braves just slapping Halladay around early, and at the top of the lineup. Bourn, Prado, Heyward, and Chipper all had a multi-hit game. Freeman hit a 3 run jack in the first, Heyward hit a bases clearing double in the second, and Chipper knocked Heyward in with a double of his own. Add it all up, and you have 7 runs for the Braves and a quick exit for the Doc. Jason Heyward rose above the rest in the 8-2 victory with his 2 hit, 4 RBI, 2-3 with RISP day. The man was half the Braves offense, and for that he gets the MVP nod.

Game 3 was the definition of a pitcher's duel, and when it's a duel, there's only two guys for the Braves you want on the mound: Medlen or Hudson. In this game it was the latter. Huddy gets the MVP in the Braves 2-1 win by holding the Phillies to just 2 hits in 7.1 innings. TWO HITS. The one run didn't even come on a hit, as the Phillies had to sacfly their way out of a shutout. Huddy was masterful, and the Braves lineup was just good enough. And by good enough I mean they got 2 runs across even when they went 0-8 with RISP. Luckily for us, in September it doesn't matter how you win. There are no style points in a playoff race. Johnson, Prado, and Freeman all had 2 hits, and David Ross launched a ball 412 feet to give the Braves the early lead in the 2nd. With EOF and Kimbrel on the job in relief, the Braves managed to hold the Phillies to just 2 hits and a walk with 5 Ks. Truly a remarkable effort by the Braves hurlers and Huddy in the lead.

The Braves enjoy a day off today as we wait for the mediocre Marlins to arrive in Atlanta. A series win against the Fish would mean a Braves clinch in the playoff standings. We're 4.5 back of the Nats, so the division might be out of reach at this point, but weirder things have happened. I'll settle for a one-gamer with Medlen on the mound if it comes to that. Until then, just win baby!

Go Braves!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Braves @ Marlins Game 3

What does Melden do? HE WINS! You can feel a different vibe on the team when he takes the mound. They play incredible defense, manufacture runs, and make the small plays you need to take every game. As with any shutout win, especially one that's within 3 runs, you need dominant pitching. Medlen provided that and more. Meanwhile, the Braves lineup got several hits, but only went 1-4 with RISP. They stranded 6, but they got across 3 runs. Still, one hit is better than the 0-8 the Marlins had with RISP. Heyward hit a sacfly in the first to score Bourn after he doubled. Constanza hit a single with two outs in the second that scored Uggla. Freeman hit a sacrifice in the 3rd that scored Prado, after he walked to get on base. That was it. That was the scoring in the game. For the other 6 innings, it was all pitching, all the time.

Who gets the MVP. Tough call. Could it be the pitcher who just had his 21st team win in consecutive starts, tying Whitey Ford? Yes, that's Kris Medlen. I doubt I can throw any more bouquets at the kid than I already have, but I'll try. Medlen went 8 innings last night, and could have easily gone 9, without giving up a run. He stranded 5 runners during that stretch. He only gave up 4 hits and a walk compared to 6 Ks. His ERA on the season is now 1.51, and that is #1 in the MLB amongst pitchers with 120+ innings. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) rating is 4.2, 12th in the Majors for pitchers. He's in the same realm as guys like Gio Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, RA Dickey, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Lohse. You're talking about the elite talent of the major league pitching ranks, and our little Meds is out there bulldogging it better than anyone.

Defensively, the Braves did a great job of keeping the Marlins in check. Even when Medlen struggled by throwing a pickoff ball past Freeman in the 5th, he got a pop up to center that Uggla quickly fired back in to hold the runner at third, then Medlen got the next batter to ground to Marteeeen who made a quick toss to get him at first. Great plays all around to hold the 3 run lead. Meanwhile, Chipper got a standing ovation from the hundreds of Marlins fans that showed up, and the Marlins organization gave him a nice gift of some fishing gear. I'm not sure where Chipper will fish on his ranch in Texas, but I'm sure there's water somewhere nearby, possibly up in Lake Travis.

Braves get a little rest today as they fly out to face the Phillies for the conclusion of this road trip. The Braves are now 5 games back of the Nats, who dropped 1 of their 2 games of the double header with the Dodgers yesterday. With only 12 games left, the Braves essentially have to sweep the Phillies, and hope the Nats drop 4 of their next 5 to the Dodgers and Brewers. At home. Yeeeeeah, unlikely. However, we can hope. If that doesn't happen, and we look to have things wrapped up with a week to go, expect us to start resting people and adjusting lineups for the dreaded ONE...GAME...PLAYOFF! Until then, just win baby!

Go Braves!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Braves @ Marlins: Game 2

Well that was a comeback great effort that didn't pay off. The Braves did absolutely nothing for 8 innings, tried to salvage the game in the 9th, tied the thing up, and then let it go in the 10th. We could focus on the last part of the game where we tied it up and then lost, or we can focus on the majority of the game where we didn't really do anything for Maholm at the plate. To be honest, Maholm was yet another victim of the Braves lack of production. The frustrating part was that we couldn't get hits against a guy who already had 12 losses on the season and a huge ERA. I guess it could have been worse. You could have been the Mariners who played 18 innings and lost.

The Good - Jason Heyward and Brian McCann had 2 hits each. One of BMac's two came in the 9th inning to tie up the game when he doubled off the left center field wall. Heyward came around to score earlier in that inning on the Dan Uggla flare single. Chipper had a run, a hit, and 2 walks in the game to help out the cause. As for production, those guys really showed up. Also Maholm went 6.2 innings with only 2 runs on 4 hits. You really have to hope as a pitcher that would get the job done.

The Bad - Unfortunately the starting pitching didn't get it done because the Braves struggled yet again, going 2-8 with RISP, both of those coming in the 9th. That means for 8 solid innings, they had no clutch hits. Freddie Freeman grounded into a bad double play in the game to kill a possible leadoff rally in the 2nd. He was on his way to a 0-4 collar with an 0-2 with RISP. He just couldn't get it done, even though he was putting the ball in play.

The Ugly - The top of the lineup went 0-9 in Bourn and Prado with 2 Ks. Prado managed to walk once, but it didn't help the Braves cause. Bourn is mired in a huge slump right now, and it's killing the Braves offense. He also went 0-2 with RISP, and didn't touch a base in his 5 ABs. That's unacceptable in a leadoff guy. You have to have the Bourn of April and May show up instead of this Bourn we're seeing in September. I'm not sure if he's tired, but the numbers are remarkably different. Bourn's OBP in September is .304, and that's down over 96 points since his .400 mark in April. It's been a steady slide too, along with his average. My guess is that he's running out of gas and needs some days off down the stretch to get some of his energy back. After all, he's played in 148 of the Braves 149 games with over 600 ABs. That leads the team by more than 25.

Tonight, Medlen takes the hill, and as we all know from experience MEDLEN ALWAYS WINS! Let's go get another W!

Go Braves!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Braves @ Marlins

The Marlins are terrible. I mean really really bad. For a team that had all the pre-season hype and money-spending-new-stadium-look-at-us thing going on, that place is now a lime green funeral home. Send in the clowns to take the field in that park. We faced off against a pitcher in Leblanc who gave up 6 runs in 4 innings. The amazing thing was that Hudson melted down in the 4th and let the terrible Marlins back into the game. Luckily, we shut the door on them and put another run on the board to finish off the game. Seven runs and 11 hits for the Braves did and should win any game we play. That's the best thing I take away from yesterday's matchup.

MVP of the game was Martin Prado with a 4-4 night, 2 RBIs, and a run scored. Dan Uggla gets another honorable mention for his 2-4 night with 3 RBIs. Together, those two guys propelled the Braves to the win. Dan's homer in the first was especially awesome as it came with 2 outs, and it looked like the Marlins might wriggle off the hook. In the words of Lee Corso: NOT SO FAST! Another mention goes to the wily vet Jeff Baker, who was playing LF in a rare start, and the kid went 1-2 with an RBI. That's a good job by a journeyman guy that you may be seeing more of in the near future since he murders LH pitching. I'd expect he gets a few PH spots later in games if they have lefty relievers come in to face our lineup.

Braves went for a robust 4-8 with RISP. Now, granted that's against the Marlins, but I'll take it every day of the week if we can get it. Also, we need to discuss why I'm worried about Hudson. He's getting caught in bad innings too often in his last 5 outings. Tim's ERA has risen to 3.77, and most of that is due to his recent performances. In his last 5, he's had 2 good and 3 bad starts, totalling 14 runs across 31 innings. That's an ERA over 4 in those starts. And yet, we're still having to question whether or not Fredi would start him in a one game playoff. I hope that's not a serious debate behind closed doors.

Tonight Maholm faces off against some clown from the Marlins with a 4-12 record and a 4.71 ERA. Let's not waste any time and jump all over these guys early. We can turn 4 in a row to 5 in a row by knocking him out of the game in the 3rd.

Go Braves!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nationals @ Braves: Weekend Series Recap

Is that the brooms? After a Nationals series? You bet! The Braves managed to pull off a weekend set of stunners against a Nationals team that looked very confused at the plate. The Braves doubled the Nats run totals in the series, and the pitching was all we could ask for and more. Was it perfect at the plate for the Braves? Absolutely not, but when the chips were down we still found ways to win. When you're in a playoff race, that's what counts, especially at home.

Game 1 was the toughest of the bunch, but we had our toughest pitcher on the mound. Kris Medlen and the Braves = wins, period. He's risen to the point of uncanny with his peformances on the hill. Medlen goes 7 innings giving up 1 run on a career high 13 strikeouts. He had the Nats completely off balance for the majority of the game. Meanwhile, the Braves lineup was equally as confounded by Ross Detwiler. It wasn't until the bottom of the 9th, with unlikely hero Tyler Pastornicky at the plate, that the Braves finally pushed across on the winning run on a throwing error by the Nats. Good thing too, because Fredi G completely gambled and tossed Kimbrel in a tie game at the top of the 9th to set up the winner. The K Crab gets the win, the Nats get the loss, and Medlen gets the MVP for his stellar work yet again. All on an 0-7 with RISP performance by the Braves lineup. Medlen's now sporting a 1.62 ERA on the season, and has removed all doubts from most fans' minds that he's the go-to guy in the 1 game playoff.

Game 2 had Hanson on the mound (aka - The Sad Trombone). Why? Because that's the sound I play in my head when he walks out to the hill. True to form, he immediately gave up 4 runs in the first two innings. He only went 5 innings on 85 pitches. He's completely out of any playoff rotation in my mind, unless something horrible happens. Frankly, I'm sick of him. He's a Boras client, and he fought the 1 year renewal of his contract in 2011. He's arbiration eligible in 2013. I wouldn't pay him dollar one, the way he's pitching this year. He's well over a 4 ERA, his WHIP is 1.45 (insanely high), and he won't even get close to 200 innings with over 30 starts in the regular season. Both Minor and Hudson have pitched more innings, and Huddy missed the first month of the season. Yet, despite Tommy, the Braves bats woke up in time to win this game. How? Freddie Freeman. Special Fred went 3-4, 2 runs, and a bomb that went 423 feet. He got the MVP nod for his amazing work at the plate. Also, Jason Heyward had a homer with 2 RBIs, and Dan Uggla had a double with an RBI. The game turned on the weirdest of plays, when Simmons was plunked with the bases loaded in the 8th. Lucky, because the Braves were only 1-8 with RISP.

Game 3 was a win I didn't expect at all. Minor hadn't been getting much run support, Gio Gonzalez was going for the Nats, and I felt that our bad performance with RISP in the first two games would bite us in the third. WRONG! Braves score 5 runs in a 5-1 win, and they do it with 2-9 RISP on no homers. How is that possible? Bad errors and sacrifice plays is how. Braves got 2 of their 5 runs on sacrifices, and only 3 total runs were earned. Dan Uggla gets the MVP for his clutch 2 out 2 RBI hit in the 7th that iced the game. He's been getting better. I can't and won't say he's back, but I'm certainly more optimistic. The numbers certainly bear that out. Dan in his last ten games is batting .314 with 4 doubles, a homer, 4 RBIs, 7 walks, and most importantly only 4 strikeouts. Holy smokes. That's 10x better than the Uggla we saw as a turnstile in August. Maybe there's hope for him in a playoff run. I'm withholding judgement until the end of September, but he gets a thumbs up.

Braves head today into a 3 gamer in Miami. Huddy is going against a 2-4 pitcher in Leblanc. Assuming we can get through Huddy's shakey first two innings, I think we'll be okay. However...Mondays. Quick stat: Braves are 7-4 when starting a new road trip. Even more obscure, the Braves are 5-1 this season when starting a road trip after a home win. Even though it's a Monday, I feel pretty good about the matchup. Let's keep the streak rolling all the way to the playoffs!

Go Braves!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Braves @ Brewers: Game 3

This is ridiculous. We've been clubbed to death in one inning every single game in this Brewers series. In the first two, it was the seventh. In this game it was the fifth. EIGHT RUNS were scored by the Brewers in that one inning. We were up 2-0 until then. We were cruising along. Then WHAM! Big loss 8-2. So much for salvaging a game from this one. It didn't happen, and it's all Chipper's fault. Normally, I don't bang on the guy, but he had a horrible inning and it cost us huge. Bianchi got on first in the leadoff spot due to an error by Chipper, after a sacrifice, Aoki got on with an infield hit to third. There's where the inning should be over. You have three balls that never left the infield, two of which get hit to Chipper. But NO! Instead, Weeks homers and scores 3 to take the lead. Then Braun singles, Ramirez reaches on another infield single to the third. At that point, the hit parade was on. Lucroy singles, Schafer walks, Ishikawa doubles, and the freaking pitcher Gallardo doubles to add a little extra icing to the big crapcake that was the fifth.

Am I mad? Damn right I'm mad. We finally managed to put two runs on the board, something we haven't done all series, and we pissed it away with bad errors and terrible pitching. Lost in all of this was the fact we only had 5 hits, none of which came with RISP. Let's look at the big board! How many hits with RISP did we have in this series? Survey says...ONE! That's right. In the entire series we got one hit with a runner on second, and you know what's hilarious? It didn't score a run. Face it, we're pathetic right now, and it's not because of the front office, the manager, the ownership, or anything fans like to blame. It's specifically because our lineup players are weak mentally. They are soft. This isn't just one series or even one year where this is happening. We're witnessing the same exact situation occur over and over again in big moments. We're being mostly carried by our pitching staff who keeps bailing them out time and again until this series. What's ridiculous that we're still 7 games up in the Wild Card because the Dodgers, Cards, and Pirates have all lost a combined 12 in a row. I remember the last time we limped into the playoffs. It was against the Giants, and it didn't end well.

Here's the shame report from last game. Bourn, even though he's my favorite player, is now on my list. He went 0-4 against with 2 Ks. He was 0-12 on the series. He's now batting .190 over the last 10 games. That's ridiculous for a leadoff guy, and the key reason we're in such a slump at the plate. Prado went 0-4 with 2 Ks. Uggla went 0-3 with a walk and a K. Janish with 0-2 with a walk. On the good side, Freeman went 2-4, and Jason Heyward hit a bomb in the first.

Mercifully we have a day off to reflect on what the hell went wrong. Oh and then the Nats come to town. <Sarcastic cheer>. Obviously that's exactly the team we don't want to see when we're struggling at the plate. Yet, we have to face them again one way or another, and we can't afford to have a slide at home. That means we'll have to pack the Ted this weekend with fans ready to let the Nats know where they can stick their "Natitude."

Go Braves!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Braves @ Brewers: Game 2

The Braves are unwatchable in this series. There, I said it. We strung a game along until the 7th inning again, and then it blew up in our faces. I said going into this match with the Brewers that we'd need to score some runs, because the Brewers average about 5 a game. We've scored 1. They've scored 9. And now we're 0-2 in the series just trying to salvage a win after a shutout yesterday.

Hudson couldn't get out of the first again without giving up a run. It seems to be an issue with him in the second half of the season, and it's my main concern with him as a starter in a possible one-game playoff. After he collected himself, he went 5 shutout innings until the 7th, when the game went to pieces. It didn't really matter though, because we couldn't get one guy to cross the plate. We only had 5 hits for the entire game, two of which came from Andrelton Simmons. Yeah, the guy who's been on the freaking DL for over a month with a busted hand was the guy who can hit on this team. Unreal.

Here's your shame report for the game last night. Bourn went 0-4 with 2 Ks. Heyward went 0-4 with 1 K. BMac went 0-4 with 1 K. Overbay went 0-3 with 2 Ks. Uggla, Chipper, and Prado all had singles. We had no doubles, we had no triples, and we had no homers obviously. We only had one walk. We went 0-2 with RISP because hardly anybody could even touch second base. This is probably where we should just "tip our cap" right? That's what we're used to doing when we face off against a tough pitcher. Oh wait. We were facing Marco Estrada, a 2-6 starter going into this game with a career 4.44 ERA. He's not even a lefty. I REFUSE TO TIP MY HAT TO THAT!

Let's dig a little deeper. Why did we flail so much at the plate? Well in my humble opinion, Michael Bourn never touching a bag drives this offense into the ground. He's the best at working at bats on the team, but last night he ran into some bad luck. In his first AB he went 3-2 and grounded out after fouling off 2 pitches in a row. 2nd AB he struck out on 4 pitches trying to get aggressive with Simmons on second. Third AB was his worst as he took one ball and grounded out. This wasn't uncommon across the lineup. From the second inning where Chipper Jones walked to lead it off, you thought we had a chance. Then BMac struck out on 3 pitches, Dan flied out on two pitches, and Overbay struck out on 4 pitches. It was like as soon as someone touched a base we went into full on panic mode and just started hacking at crap.

So, we move on with our lives to game 3 in the hopes we can pull one out of the fire. Frankly, with Maholm on the mound v their Ace Gallardo, I'm worried. The Brewers have now won 8 in a row with Gallardo out on the hill, and they'll be going for 9 tonight. They are red hot and we are ice cold. Hopefully we can mix it up a little to lukewarm tonight. I think this quote from Fredi says it all: "We're not feeling too good right now with the way we're swinging the bats," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We swung the bats hard, but couldn't get it off the wall or in front of the wall to get some runs." We need Maholm to have the game of the month tonight.

Go Braves!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Braves @ Brewers: Game 1 Recap

Ugh. So the bullpen finally let us down. I was bound to happen, but it's never easy to watch the team implode in a late inning. That inning just happened to be the 7th when everything seemed to go wrong. It all started with Jonny Venters making an ill-advised throw to 3rd with 2 on and nobody out, and he tossed it into left field. From there the game was tied 1-1, and by the end of the onslaught it was 4-1 Brewers. That's all it took to win them the game since we were continuing to struggle at the plate. Minor of course deserved better, but that's the storyline of the year. We simply refuse to hit for Mike. At this point he's only averaged less than 2.5 runs per start of support.

Nobody on the Braves collected an RBI last night, but they did go 1-4 with RISP. That would be fine, except we had 10 hit and 3 walks. I'm not exactly sure how you get over a hit an inning average and only score one run, but we pulled it off with panache. The hilarious part was that it came off a double play ball. Other than that, we had nothing. I'm getting tired of saying that about this lineup. A key issue was that Bourn couldn't get on base, even when everybody else was hitting. That's never a good recipe for success when your leadoff guy struggles to touch a bag.

Frankly, watching this team over the last week has been exhausting, with the exception of the 11 run Mets game. Take that away and you know what you have? A team that scored 9 runs in 6 games. The fact that we've won 4 of those 6 games is completely insane, and you can credit your pitching staff for that. Thus, when the bullpen finally shrugged last night, I have no reason to get upset at them. You can see exactly who has been carrying the team, and if I'm mentally exhausted watching our lineup, and can't even imagine how frustrated our pitchers feel. They are having to grind on every pitch because they are terrified that giving up just one run may mean a loss.

Now for a little who's hot and who's not. That's where we look at the Braves hitting stats over the last 7 days. I think the list will shock you.

WHO'S HOT! - Jason Heyward is batting .370 with a slugging % over .500 and a homer. Dan Uggla is hitting .348 with 3 doubles and a homer. Prado is hitting .345, and BMac is hitting .300 with 2 bombs. So, with all those guys hitting over .300 on the week, how in the world are we not scoring more runs? Here's why...

WHO'S NOT - Freddie Freeman is hitting .083 with 5 Ks. Chipper Jones is hitting .211 with no extra bases. Oh and Michael Bourn his hitting .222 with only 1 double on the week. That's a pretty healthy portion of your hitters who were carrying the lineup early in the season. Now, they are going cold just as the cold guys are getting lukewarm. If we can all get hot at the same time, nothing would stop us.

Go Braves!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Braves @ Mets: Weekend Series Recap

The Brooms are back! After a weekend series of sweeping away the Mets and enjoying a ton of football, I'd say I'm in a pretty good mood. The Braves unleashed the fury with a flurry of runs this weekend, totalling 17 runs of total offense in the three wins. Maholm increased our shutout streak in game 1 with a 3-0 victory. The Braves bashed the Mets in game 2 with an 11-3 rout, and Brian McCann came up with a key sacfly in extras to take game three for the sweep. The Braves have no won 5 in a row, sit 5.5 back of the Nats, and we're 7 games up on the Dodgers chasing us in the Wild Card.

Game 1 was once again about our pitching. Maholm went 5.1 shutout innings, and the bullpen closed the door with 5 relievers and a save for Kimbrel. The key hitters were Uggla and Heyward who went a combined 4-8 with 2 homers. Uggla also managed to score 2 runs in the win. As such, Dan Uggla gets the rare MVP in our first win over the Mets. I think saying publically that we planned to sit him for the stretch finally pissed him off enough to get him going. Hey, whatever it takes, because the rest of the lineup was crap in the game.

In game 2, the offensive floodgates opened wide, and poured out 11 runs for Kris Medlen, as if he needed them. Prado went 3-6, Uggla went 3-3, McCann went 4-5, Constanza went 2-5, and even Medlen had himself a double for a 1-2 day. Braves went 6-21 with RISP (.285) so considering all the chances we had it could have been even more than 11 runs. I blame the fact there was a rain delay that knocked out Medlen early and slowed down our onslaught. That game's MVP is another unlikely candidate who had been on the shnide: Brian McCann. BMac gets the MVP for his 4 hits, 4 RBI day including a double and a homer. It's days like that where you scratch your head about Brian this year. He has the potential to be so great, and every now and then you see these bursts, but it hasn't been consistent enough at all to matter.

Game 3 was a grinder. Tommy Hanson was on the mound so I was already worried. The best joke I've heard about Tommy was that if he was a box of PopTarts, there would only be 5 and 2/3rds in the box. Tommy once again went his standard 5.2 innings with 2 runs given up, and he didn't qualify for the win. SHOCKER. The bullpen had to bail him out by going 4.1 shutout innings before BMac got the sacfly that won the game in the 10th. Braves went 1-11 with RISP at the plate (that happens alot when Tommy's out there), which was a day game slide back to our woeful lumber mark from the prior series. However, the MVP of this game was Michael Bourn. He was the only guy with a hit with RISP, and he was the only guy to have a multi-hit game on the day. In addition to that, he also swiped his 39th bag on the season! He now leads the NL by 4 bases, and he's 5 back of Mike Trout for the major league title in base thievery.

No rest for the Braves as they head into Milwaukee tonight to face the Brewers. The Braves need a bit of the bat boost we saw in game 2 to get past a Brewers team that's averaged 5 runs a game in their series against the Cardinals. Let's go out to Miller Park and hope there's some carryover from Wisconsin and Green Bay getting trounced this weekend.

Go Braves!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rockies @ Braves: Game 4 Recap

Well we set a franchise record. We managed to win two games in a row 1-0 on entirely unearned runs. Let me recap the scoring for you. In the second inning, the catcher attempted to throw the ball back to the Rockies pitcher. Normally, as in 99.99999999% of the time within MLB, this goes off without an issue. Yesterday, the pitcher Chacin either wasn't paying attention or got too flashy, and the ball went right by him. Francisco scored from 3rd on that error as the ball rolled around the infield. That was it. That was the entire scoring for the GAME. No, I'm not kidding. I was listening to it on the radio at work, and it was the most confusing thing I've ever heard in a game.

The Braves managed 7 hits, 3 walks, and absolutely zero earned runs. We went 1-8 with RISP, but that one didn't actually score a run because it was a sharp single with the pitcher on second. Uggla and McCann both played again (much to my dismay), and went 1-8 and 0-3 with RISP. I'm starting to hate both of them. Uggla we'll have to live with for a while due to his contract, but McCann is coming up on an option year. I hope the Braves do the right thing and let him go. I'm sick of him sucking since 2011. Bourn, Freeman, and Janish also didn't get a single hit. The only guys who have been consistently hitting in the lineup? You guessed it, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward. The bright shining spots, along with Chipper Jones, in an otherwise dreary set of players. Oh, and Huddy got a hit. It was another game where our pitcher outhit half the lineup.

MVP goes to Hudson. I mean it honestly can't go to a hitter, right? They did nothing. Hudson went 7 innings of shutout ball, followed by the bullpen locking the door on the Rockies. Given that Hudson also had a hit in the game, I think he needs to give an inspirational talk to the locker room titled, "Are you $&#*ing serious?" I can't imagine what was going through his mind when we stranded everyone in not one, but TWO innings with the bases loaded and less than two outs. I don't even really think there's a word I can use for how awful we're hitting. I would have to invent a new one, so I'm going to go with "terribadful." If clutch hits were air, we would have suffocated a week ago.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Some will say, hey! A win's a win's a win, right? Yeah, I guess so, and we did take 3 of 4 on this series. However, the way we did it was by setting a record that's never been done in a century of Braves baseball. And it's not the good kind of record. One would have to imagine that the law of averages kicks in at some point, and we start riding high on our streaky nature again. I can only hope that happens as we go up to face the Mets in NY this weekend.

Go Braves!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rockies @ Braves: Game 3 Recap

Minor was firing on all cylinders yesterday, and that was the only thing that saved our bacon. In a game where you absolutely needed your starter to show up, Minor had a no-no going through six innings. I think it's a given that he was the MVP, so I'll put that right up here in the top paragraph where it belongs. He was awesome. After seven innings of work, Minor had a one-hit shutout with 4 walks and 7 Ks. Our staff had the Rockies completely off balance, as they only managed 2 hits on the day. All we needed was the single run to come up with a much needed 1-0 victory that helped us maintain our pace in the Wild Card race.

A win's a win, but they aren't all sunshine and roses. This was far from a win that should make you feel comfortable as a Braves fan. Why? We went 0-11 with RISP. Our one run came on the throwing error by the Rockies in the 4th. We only had 4 hits. Brian McCann and Dan Uggla were both back in the lineup and equally worthless. Our pitcher had more hits than half of our lineup. We're in complete disarray at the plate, held together by the almost unreal contributions of a magic 3rd baseman, who is closer to drawing a social security check than he is to the beginning of his career.

Theoretically, if you look at the game in all it's pitching glory, nobody actually scored a run. The Braves just happened to shamble across the plate because the other team booted the ball around. That was the difference. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it? Let's see how the Braves are doing on the week with the "last seven days" stats. Well, for starters we're dead last in the NL in runs scored on the week. We're hitting .228 as a team, which is one point better than the Marlins and Cubs. Great company there. We're 14th in slugging, and 8th in OBP, which means we're drawing a ton of walks, but no big hits.

We need to do a rain dance for runs. We need to do everything we can to break this streaky cycle of desperation and drought. Our approach seems to be good as we're coaxing baserunners, but we can't rely on the other team to literally throw the ball into the stands to win games. I guess my point is, don't be fooled by this win, or fall into the trap that we're a playoff caliber team. We're not right now. We CAN be. I've seen us look like that before. But as it stands, we would get smoked by any team with a remotely functional pitching staff and a pulse at the plate. Luckily the Rockies have neither, and we face them one final time this afternoon.

Go Braves!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Holiday Weekend Recap: 5 games with a Chipper Walkoff

I'm back from vacation. I'm glad I got some time to relax away from baseball and the craziness, but I'm pissed off that the Braves seemed to go on vacation right with me. If Chipper Jones doesn't go deep in Game 3 against the Phillies, we're sitting at a 1-4 mark with 2 games to go against the Rockies. Instead, we're at a rather awful 2-3 over the long weekend, and we're only 5-5 over our last 10. Worse, we've taken our streaky nature to terrifying levels over these games, going from 0 runs scored to 8 runs scored in less than a week. Let's not really worry about the individual games of the weekend, and instead let's focus on the underlying issues with the team heading into the last push of the season. I think fans are rightly concerned, and I'm going to detail why.

In the Phillies series Minor got rocked for 4 runs, Hudson got rocked for 5 runs, and Maholm got rocked for 7 runs. It couldn't have gone worse for our starting pitchers. None of them gave us a chance to win those games, even though we theoretically could have won 2 of them. Kimbrel blew a save in game one, and Chipper saved the day in game three. Here's the thing, Braves went 5-26 with RISP stranding 22 runners in that series. That's batting .193 with RISP. We scored 14 runs in the series with those stats. Do you see the issue? We're streaky because we're completely trying to be a bang or bust long ball team. We hit 5 homers in the Phillies series for a total of 9 of our 14 runs. Guys, we don't have the kind of team to rely on those power numbers. We're 8th in the NL in total homers, and it's generating more than half of our offense right now. We are supposed to be a team built on speed, timely hitting, and good pitching. As of today, we're none of those things, and it shows in the results.

Our win against the Rockies came because Medlen took the mound, the only starter in the rotation who currently has his game working. Hanson went out there yesterday and got completely stranded by the Braves bats, but he still couldn't go 6 innings. I've always questioned his pitch economy, and it comes up time and again. Giving up 2-3 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings doesn't make you a passable starter in my book. Even though the Braves scored 6 runs to win in Medlen's outing, take a look at how they did it. It was still a 2-9 with RISP performance with a run scored on a wild pitch, another run on an error, and another run on a sacfly. After the third inning, the Braves offense completely folded up shop. With the two games against the Rockies combined, the Braves are 2-16 with RISP and 12 runners stranded. That's a .125 average in those situations. It's WORSE than the Phillies series.

Some things need to happen to clean this up. Fredi has made the right choice to move Uggla out of the lineup full time now. That absolutely had to happen, because Uggla's a turnstile out there. Second, we need Andrelton Simmons back yesterday. Janish has defensively held up his end of the bargain, but we need a base hitter in the back end of the lineup to improve our RISP numbers. Third, Freddie Freeman needs to stop swinging for the fences every at bat. He's a great hitter, but he's young, and his clutch average is suffering because he's coming out of his shoes every swing. Nobody would throw him a fastball right now the way he's approaching his ABs. In his last 10 games, Freddie has 9 hits, and 4 homers. He's hitting .270, but he's not adjusting his swing for RISP, and is thus hitting .233 in that category on the season. Lastly, we need somebody besides Medlen to give our team a chance to win. Our starter ERA has exploded to 3.98 on the season, putting us 8th in the NL behind Washington, the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Reds, the Giants, the Mets, and the Phillies. Notice anything about those teams? Outside of the Marlins, it's everybody in our division and the teams we are competing with to make the playoffs. Our starters absolutely have to be better, or we're screwed.

Two games left with the Rockies, and honestly we need them both. We're 7.5 games out of the division and effectively dead there. It's Wild Card or nothing at this point, not that we ever really thought otherwise after the Nats series. Right now we're 3 games up in the WC race, with the Dodgers, Giants, and Pirates all jockeying for positions. If the NL West continues the way it has, you may see the Dodgers and Giants rough each other up too much to matter in the Wild Card. The Pirates need to continue their death spiral to make me comfortable, because there is nobody behind them worth a damn. The Cardinals are in unless they completely screw up, and I don't think they will. They are the reverse-Braves in September. They just win, and they have a run differential over 100 on the season. Let's close out the Rockies on a happy note, and move on to another hopefully easy series against the terrible Mets.

Go Braves!