Well the Braves didn't get the sweep, and the cracks in the bullpen finally showed up. It was a matter of time before we saw the effects of only running 6 guys back there, two of which are untested rookies. You don't have the same flexibility you do when a guy normally gets in trouble. There's no way in a standard scenario that Gearrin would continue to pitch after he had issues with 3 straight batters. However, Fredi had no options left besides going to Rasmus, which isn't really an option at all. We need to get some more depth back in the pen if we want to continue winning close games down to the wire. Otherwise, we'll burn through our assets too quickly and be stuck late in series.
Still, can I really be upset about finally losing a game after winning 8 straight? Absolutely not. It was bound to happen that we would struggle with a certain pitcher eventually, and it just so happened that it was Marcum. Sean Marcum shut down the Braves for the majority of the game. In fact, the only real mistake he made was to Dan Uggla in the 7th, and that gave the Braves the 2-1 lead. Otherwise, a line of only 4 hits and no walks with 12 Ks? That should be enough to get any pitcher into the win column. But this is the Mets, and they don't support any of their starters. Teheran pitched admirably, if not wildly as well, but he couldn't continue to go deep into games after his last outing of 8.1 innings. Fredi had to pull the plug a little early, and send in the drained pen. That was the difference in the ballgame. It's also a indictment of the Mets that it took that long to close out a Braves team that had nothing going on at all that day.
The Braves didn't get a single walk. That's likely not going to work out in our favor when it comes to our offensive production, because the straight batting averages across the lineup aren't high enough to put people on base consistently. As a result, the Braves only had 5 baserunners, 4 of the starters went hitless, and BJ went 0/3 with 3 Ks. It's Memorial Day as of today, and it's time to take a serious look at our lineup. This is the point where you have to make some longer-term decisions about who to put in the forefront and who to platoon or sit down more often. We'll need to get guys like Walden and Ayala back from the DL to replace Rasmus and Carpenter in the pen. We'll also need to make a decision about Beachy when he gets back of where he fits into the pitching staff. My guess right now is that they will treat him like Medlen off his injury, and he will spend the rest of 2013 in the pen.
Other things to consider: is it time to look at moving Gerald Laird? I think he's a movable contract at $1.5M for a guy that's a legit catcher. Several teams could be interested in adding some depth at that position, and I believe you have a good mix right now with McCann and Gattis. Add into the fact that Bethancourt and Gattis could be your catching tandem of the future, and I think there's very little place for Laird on this team. The Braves might be well served to deal him for another bullpen arm, which is something we'll probably need more of down the stretch than a 3rd catcher who's played 7 games so far in May. It's a use it or lose it situation with Laird, and Evan Gattis is forcing the hand of the front brass to make a decision.
Oh and then there's our hitters. Uggla, despite the low average, is producing offensively with a higher OBP and slugging over .400. The point with Dan right now is that he may not get a lot of hits, but the balls he does hit go for extras, and he takes his walks. That's fine with me at this point. I don't need a guy like him really forcing the issue on every AB. I need a guy who's going to have a .750 OPS or more at the end of the season. Then, there's BJ. The most talked about Brave short of Evan Gattis. Not only is he the worst player on the team right now, without question, he's also one of the worst players in the MLB. I thought I'd seen signs of him getting it right, but he keeps making the same mistakes in games that he's correcting in the batting cage. It's not carrying over at all. It's going to take drastic measures with him if this goes into June, and it may require a trip down to AAA just so he can get his work in practice to translate against real pitching. I think by June 15th, the Braves are going to be forced to make a call.
This is how bad it's gotten with BJ: He's 82nd out of all OF's in the NL, regardless of ABs. There are only 91 of those in the entire league. He's 168th in OPS in the NL out of 176 possible players. Guys that are worse? Shockingly, 3 of them are Nats. Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore, and Roger Bernadina are all really struggling at the plate. All 3 of those guys are batting .147 combined in 278 ABs. Take heed Braves fans, our closest competition has even bigger problems in many areas than we do. That doesn't mean we can ignore BJ's issues though. It's getting to the point where him "working through" the issues won't be enough. That will depend highly on the Braves record, and if the Nats start to close the gap.