Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekend Recap: White Sox Series July 19-21

If anybody is shocked that the Braves lost a series to the White Sox, you haven't been paying attention. The Braves aren't good on the road, regardless of the opponent. Anybody expecting winning road trips by looking at the other team will be sadly mistaken. That's not how this works. The Braves win when they hit, and they hit randomly on the road. Three things usually have to be in play for the Braves to win on the road: 1 - Maholm or Hudson can't be pitching, 2 - The Braves can't be facing a pitcher they have limited or no experience against, and 3 - They need to score first or have a big homer in the first 5 innings. Two out of those three usually means the Braves have a shot. One means it's dicey at best. None? Good luck.

If you can feel the panic tightening around you neck like a hangman's noose, it's time for a reality check. Look around the league. You know who won in the division this weekend? NOBODY. That's the point. Another weekend falls off the calendar, the and Braves knock off another road series without losing ground. In fact, they actually gained a game on the Nats who got swept. Two games shy of 100, and the Braves are still in first. That's what matters from this weekend.

The Braves won game 1, and then headed straight into a two game losing skid at full speed. Even with Hudson on the mound in the first match, the Braves still managed to get a large early homer that set the tone, followed by another one in the 5th to take game. Simmons had the first, McCann the second. With the offense set up by the bomb, the pitching only had to hold on for dear life. Hudson barely did that, but he did manage not to completely screw up in a road game, giving up only 4 runs after the Braves had sunk five into the score sheet. That, my friends, qualified him for a the rare road win. Note that in Game 1, 9 hits plated 6 runs. That's important to note, because the homers were the difference. Fate would not be so kind in the anchor game.

Game 2. I'd be lying if I said the Braves didn't play well. They did play well. The offense plated another 6 runs on 10 hits. It was a great offensive performance. HOWEVER, the game broke rule 1 of road wins. Maholm was pitching. Spotted a 4 run lead, Maholm had no business losing this game. That is until he tossed up a gopher ball to Rios that resulted in a grand salami. At 7 runs in 3 innings, he conjured memories of the time I wanted to punch Mike Minor in the face for similar outings. Will he turn it around like Minor? Maybe, because a lot of what happened could fall on a wrist injury that Maholm is having evaluated today. We'll see what happens to him in the rotation, but if the injury is enough to case the kind of issues we saw on Saturday, the Braves will have no qualms about shitting Paul down.

Game 3 had another 9 hits, but only 1 run to show for it. The downside of playing all 3 catchers in the lineup at the same time is that you have catchers on the basepaths in key positions. That means that when players get hits with RISP, a catch is going to have a hard time scoring from second. As a result, the Braves lost a game where they went 3-8 with RISP, and only scored a single run. Unfortunately, this game broke rules 2 and 3 of road wins. The Braves didn't score first or get a big homer, and they were facing a pitcher they hadn't seen. Minor pitched well, but didn't get anything to show for it when the Braves stranded a bases loaded, nobody out, scenario in the second inning with nary a run. At that point, I declared the game a loss as a blatant overreaction that proved prophetic. Replace Maholm with Minor in Game 2, and you have 2 wins in this series. Frustrating, but true.

The best performers of this series? McCann's 3 run homer in the first match was the game winner. Justin went 4-12 on the weekend for a .333 average and two runs scored in the first game. Freeman went 3-7 in the two games he played including a 2 run homer, so I think his thumb is fine. Who forgot to get off the plane ride? Reed Johnson went 1-8 including getting robbed of a homer that would have given the Braves lead. Uggla went 1-10 on the weekend with an early homer in Game 2 that was totally wasted by Maholm's pitching. However, he went 0-3 with RISP, and that made a huge difference in Game 2 and 3. Things could have been worse. We could have had BJ in the lineup. We lost a series where we scored 14 runs as a team. That's on the pitching, and it's 100% on Maholm that we didn't win 2 of 3. 

Now, the Braves get ready to play a 4 gamer road series with the Mets. The good news? Teheran and Medlen lead the way against a team that they had owned so far. The bad news? It's a road series, of course. Weren't you listening? I thought we did all of those at the beginning of the year. Wasn't the back half supposed to be all home games and back rubs? I didn't get mine. This is crap. Anyway, series preview up next.

GO BRAVES!

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