Thursday, March 14, 2013

Training Games 18-20: Nationals, Cardinals, Marlins

If wins matter to you, then these games would have mattered bigtime, since the Braves won them all. Personally, I was happy to see a few things that were consistent across all these matches. The Braves were getting hits with RISP. That's the key. That's what I want to see later in March.

Strasburg went one inning too long in his 5.1 innings, and we made him pay big time. In the sixth inning, the Braves exploded for 6 runs on 7 hits. Reed Johnson got a single, then Pastornicky singled, the Schafer walked the bases loaded. All this came with one out. After that? Floodgates opened. Justin Upton smashed a liner to score two. Francisco Ks. BJ smashed a liner to score another guy. Then we had back to back doubles by two of our AAA guys to score 3 more. It was just a hit parade to know out the young phenom Strasburg, who has to be put in bubble tape because he's delicate. He's a unique snowflake. We beat him up nicely, and I liked it. Braves went 5-8 with RISP in that game. However, it also came with 9 Ks, but I'll forgive that for 7 runs scored. Shockingly, those 7 runs came on no homers.

On to the Cardinals. The Braves put their foot on Westbrook and Lyons pitching for the Cards, and they never let up. Teheran was perfect as well. He pitched 5 innings of NO HIT ball. No hits, two walks, and 6 Ks. Unreal. The kid was on. The Braves went 9-20 with RISP and scored 12 runs with only 5 strikeouts and 5 walks. That's a much improved patience at the plate than I've seen lately, and it showed up in the box score. The player of the game in my mind had to, yet again, Evan Gattis. He went 2 for 2 with 3 RBIs as the catcher. He's absolutely raking right now. In his limited ABs with RISP, Gattis is batting .429 with 7 RBIs. Thats in a total of 7 ABs. He's averaging a run an AB with RISP right now. My mind is blown. BLOWN!

Last on the docket was the crappy Marlins, who sold off most of their players for candy in the offseason. Medlen gave them 2 hits, and that was it. No runs and 3 Ks in 4.2 innings. He would have gone longer, but he took a scary liner off his pitching arm in the 5th inning, and they decided to rightly pull him from the game. The good news is that he's fine and showing no signs of any damage. We can all breathe a small sigh of relief there. Meanwhile, Venters went into complete greasefire mode. He came in to relieve Medlen and walked the bases loaded, then walked in the only run of the game for the Marlins in the 6th. I've heard rumblings that we're trying to move him in a trade, but he's not helping his cause. The bats were quiet on both sides, but the Braves struck when it mattered. They went 1-6 with RISP, which sounds bad, but with only four hits in a 2-1 win we can live with it. Freddie Freeman provided the first homer of these three games with a solo jack in the third inning, so he gets my game ball vote.

In terms of overall issues, Venters is starting to scare me a little. He's gone six games now, and he's sporting a 4.26 ERA with a .367 opponent batting average. That's terrifying as a middle reliever. His job is to primarily keep games on ice, and that batting average is a bad sign. Cristhian Martinez is also a concern in the middle relief department with his 7.36 ERA in 7.1 innings of work and a .300 opponent average. I'm not loving those guys in their traditional roles so far. Meanwhile, Dan Uggla has 5 errors now in the field, and Chris Johnson has 3. I'm not ok with that at all in our infield. So far Juan Francisco has 0 errors in 73 innings as third, and I'm much more comfortable with his bat. The sad part is that we have literally not better option at 2nd than Dan Uggla. He could quietly murder this team's chances this season with his glove AND bat. My panic meter with him is at a 5/10.

Good news? The Uptons are raking. Freeman is smashing the ball. Heyward is smashing the ball. Evan Gattis is making a name for himself. Joey Terd is killing it. Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson are in a race for 3rd that's too close to call. So much about this team looks great. April can't get here fast enough.

Go Braves!

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