Friday, August 30, 2013

Series Recap: Indians and mini-weekend preview

Sorry for the delay everyone, I've been totally focused on a CPA conference that I was at for the last few days. In the meantime the Braves decided to go ahead and do this:






Yeeeeeeah, it's our good buddy the brooms! What a sweep of the Indians this week, and it came for the most part on behalf of the excellent Braves arms in the rotation. Game 1 was a 2-0 shutout led by Alex Wood. Game 2 was a 3-2 walkoff win by CJ with the 9th inning homer. And Game 3 was a 3-1 win courtesy of another dominant performance by Kris Medlen. Since the Braves only combined for 7 runs of total offense, it's almost unheard of that we would have come away with a sweep of the series, however it was a throwback to the days of the 90s when pitching ruled the day, and fresh young faces were the reason for clutch wins.

The Braves are a team of walking wounded at the moment. There's nothing to be done about Heyward until well after the season is over, so we're forced to play a makeshift outfield of the Uptons and various filler pieces. Even now, Justin had to leave the game with a hand injury from last night, so he is day to day even though nothing is broken. That's going to mean more time for guys like Joey Terdoslavich, BJ, and Schafer, and possibly Evan Gattis if they decide to ever let him play again. Seriously, I know he's been slumping during August, but he's not going to get better by not even letting him get in some PH attempts. He hasn't played a game now in over a week.

Some heroes of the series? Chris Johnson gets a nod for his walkoff homer obviously in game 2. Elliot Johnson gets a nice recognition for being the only guy who seemed to be able to clutch hit in Game 1, along with Wood going 5.2 of shutout ball. And BMac put up all the runs the Braves needed with a 3 run bomb in Game 3. That's pretty much it. This wasn't a week of stats, as much as it was a week of survival so far. Simmons probably had the best overall OBP with his 3/9 and a walk over the series, but the rest of the Braves were pretty spotty at getting on the bases. Only 21 hits happened in the entire series, and that's about what the Braves plate in 2 good games. That explains why the pitching was so necessary.

And the pitching was great from top to bottom. Wood only gave up 5 hits in 5.2 innings, Maholm gave up 6 and a run in his 6 innings, and Medlen gave up 6 with no runs and no walks in his 7 innings. Add into the fact the bullpen was pretty great: 2 runs in 8.1 innings, only one of which gave up the lead in the 8th when Avilan got into a jam in Game 2. Then the Braves won it in the 9th, so it didn't matter. That's the ham and egging when had going on this weekend. Even when the pitching faltered, the hitting came through just enough to cover up the mistakes.

Next up is the weekend series over a long holiday weekend. I expect most of you, like myself, will be traveling or doing fun stuff. We play a very bad Miami team at home. I'm going to forgoe the weekend series preview for a couple of reasons. One, I'm getting on a plane in like 7 hours and I'm already on mountain time. Two, it's the Marlins. We have no real reason to drop a game to this team, although we likely will due to the half-injured roster we're tossing out there. So here's the mini-preview: Minor, Teheran, and Wood (3 of your best right now) are going against Jose Fernandez (actually good) and two guys from the Marlins with 5 combined wins. Game, set, match. Just score some runs and we'll be fine.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Marlins 4 - Braves 1 
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Marlins 1
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 2 - Marlins 0

The first game seems to be an issue because the Braves struggle with Fernandez, and because Teheran had imploded at times against the Marlins. The second game should be a whitewash in favor of the Braves if Minor is remotely on his game. The third is a going to be a battle, and I like our chances with Wood, plus the Marlins can't seem to do much against him. The main reason it's questionable in scoring is this is the perfect place to dump in the backups for a roster.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Series Preview: Indians

Ok so with any interleague matchup, stats are going to be a little spotty. They just don't play each other that often. So with that in mind, I'll do a short preview on what to expect when the Braves play the last team on the schedule with a winning record so far. On to the matchups:

Game 1: Wood (2-2) v. Salazar (1-1)
Game 2: Maholm (9-10) v. Masterson (14-9)
Game 3: Medlen (10-12) v. Jimenez (9-8)

So instead of going game by game on the matchups, I'm going to give you a preview of what the Indians have been up to, since you likely haven't seen them. The Indians are second in the AL Central behind Detroit and they are currently 12 games over .500 on the year. The one guy you may recognize on the team is our good buddy Michael Bourn, who will be returning to Turner Field for the first time in a long time. He's hitting .269 on the year. Sounds a lot better than our current CF we got from Tampa. Two other guys to watch out for will be Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. Both have big home run power and can decidedly change a game with a single swing.

Of the pitchers we'll face, the only one to really worry about is Masterson, who is one of the league's best Strikeout artists. That's the kind of thing we don't like to see as a team. Masterson has a 3.50 ERA on the year to go along with his stellar record, and the Braves will have to figure out a way to make good contact in order to stay in the game. Salazar is a rookie going against our rookie in Wood, so that matchup looks to be a complete tossup. Finally, Medlen against Jimenez is a battle of guys who have had really up and down success. Melden has rebounded after a bad start, but he's fallen into a funk again lately losing his last two. Jimenez always has had a high ERA, but manages to scrap out wins with the benefit of good support, but he's also 1-3 in the month of August. It's another game that could go either way in terms of which pitcher gets the early runs, and which pitcher makes the early mistake.

Meanwhile the Braves are coming off their 1-3 series in St. Louis, and they just want some good news at home. The good news coming out of the missed Beachy start is that the early word is nothing more than inflammation. That's a lot better than the alternative. What does the CPA think about the first game against the rookies?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 4 - Indians 2

Not a ton of science here other than home/away records and general ERA feelings. However, the Braves can use a good start to shake up a rookie and let Wood first pitches out over the plate.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend Recap: Games 2-4 Cardinals

Well this didn't exactly go well, but the Braves managed to not completely screw the pooch by salvaging the last game of the series. Was it what we wanted? Not really no. But at the same time we knew going into this series that the Cardinals were in a dogfight for their division, and the Braves would be playing guys you likely had never heard of before. Both of those elements meant the Braves had a tough row to hoe against a surging playoff contender.

No excuses though, when you lose 3 of 4 in any series, you're not going to be pleased. The Braves expected better from this series, and the hitting really let them down in the first few games. In game 2 the Braves let Wainwright go for a complete game. It's never a good sign when the Braves have more strikeouts than hits at the plate, and this game was no different. Wainwright struck out 9 and the Braves only managed 6 hits off of him in his 9 innings. Freeman and CJ both had 4 of those hits, so the rest of the lineup took the day off. There's not much good to talk about with this one, other than the fact that Freddie did get another hit with RISP, so he's continued to stay hot even when the Braves go cold around him. Oh and BJ Upton actually got a hit.

Game 3 looked good in the beginning when the Braves jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but Teheran gave that right back immediately in the bottom half to tie it back up. That's not to say he didn't pitch well. Through the 6th, Teheran had only given up 2 runs, but the Braves didn't manage to score again for the rest of his time in the game. Then in the 7th, things became completely unraveled and the Cardinals scored 3 more to seal the deal. With only 7 hits, the Braves went 1-2 with RISP, but that's an indicator of how few people they got into scoring position during the game. It was just bad baseball at the plate, and a lot of it had to do with the shifts in the order. BJ continued to struggle with an 0-3 day and 2 Ks in the 7th, and the new guy Elliot Johnson went 0-4 in the 8th slot. When the back end of the order is that bad typically the Braves can't push across many runs. We need at least something out of those spots, or you're playing with only 2/3 of your team at the plate.

Game 4 was much better in terms of hitting. The Braves jumped on the Cardinals early with 3 runs in the first 2 innings. With 5 runs on 10 hits, the whole team did a better job of getting runs across, going 3-6 with RISP. Note that in this game with Simmons-Janish at the back end of the lineup, they managed 2 hits and 2 RBIs. That's a big difference than drawing an 0-for, because you know that runners are going to come around eventually to the back end spots, and you'll need the occasional clutch hit. Not like you would expect from the 1-4 guys, but still. The other bright spot was Mike Minor going 7 innings giving up only a single run. His performance with the lead early was exactly what the Braves needed to get things going. He pitched to contact, didn't strike out a ton of people, and didn't try to get too fine. Avilan and Kimbrel then came in to put the rest of the lineup on ice. Well sort of. Avilan struggled a little and gave up a run, but then Craig came in for one of his few multi-inning saves in the 8th and 9th.

Overall the Braves went 1-3 on the road trip. We're just going to be happy to get back home to play Cleveland after a day off today. Enjoy the time off by watching a little DVR.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Cardinals 8/22/13

The Braves didn't really have much of a chance in this matchup due to the amount of bad news they received in less than 24 hours. Not only is Heyward out for at least a month and change, but Brandon Beachy is slated to see Dr. James Andrews about his elbow on Monday. That's never good. That kind of news can really take the wind out of the sails of any clubhouse, even if they are up double digit games in the standings.

Despite getting 9 hits, the Braves went 0-3 with RISP, which is bad on two counts. First, they didn't get a key hit, and second that they only put 2 guys on second base all night. The one highlight was Justin Upton hitting a homer that scored Maholm and took the lead 2-1 in the 5th. Things were looking up at that point. However, Maholm self-destructed in the bottom half and gave up 3 runs on a series of doubles to Carpenter, Beltran, and Holliday. I remember mentioning in the prior preview that Carpenter and Beltran give Maholm troubles, and they sure did.

Maholm went 5.1 innings, only 5 hits but 5 runs, and 3 walks. Kelly went 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs. In general the pitching was pretty even until the 5th inning when Maholm imploded. If not for that, the game probably would have remained in doubt to the end. However, the way the Braves were hitting with RISP, maybe not. The new guy, Elliot Johnson, came in at second base for the Braves and provide 2 hits of his own, in addition to BMac and Simmons having multi-hit days. However, Gattis and Terdoslavich grounding into double plays really killed a couple of the Braves rallies.

Gattis is mired in a large slump right now, and the hope is that he'll be able to get out of it with some more regular playing time. The downside to that theory is when the regular playing time comes against some of the best pitching in the NL that the Cardinals have to offer. It might be tough sledding for him in this series, but I do believe that getting him back on the field is a good thing for his longer term numbers as we get closer to the end of the season.

Now we look at the weekend. The CPA will take it's shot at what will happen, after correctly predicting the Braves would have trouble last night.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Cardinals 2
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 3 - Cardinals 0
CPA Prediction Game 4: Cardinals 5 - Braves 1

These next two games, the CPA expects the Braves to shake off the hangover and get back to some semblance of normal. That means they can do some of things with RISP they haven't been doing in spades over the last week. Also, the pitching will have to be lights out, because the Cardinals are in a dogfight in their division and don't want to give up any ground. The last matchup the CPA thinks is a loss due to the insertion of Minor instead of Beachy, and Minor has really had trouble with his ERA in August. Maybe he turns the tide with a new slot in the rotation, but the Cardinals may be gunning to even up the series at this point.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Series Preview: Cardinals 4 gamer

This series would have been so great if the Braves had a full compliment of players. Now, I'm looking at it just hoping we can get two games of the four at best. My expectations have completely changed in the wake of injuries, but we can't do anything about that, and we don't have to worry about the division lead. That's the facts, and the division lead is the most positive. Let's check out the matchups:

Game 1 - Maholm (9-9) v. Kelly (4-3)
Game 2 - Medlen (10-11) v. Wainwright (14-7)
Game 3 - Teheran (10-6) v. Miller (11-8)
Game 4 - Beachy (2-1) v. Lynn (13-7)

Maholm makes his triumphant return to the mound after his injury. He'll face off again Joe Kelly, the RH reliever turned starter this year who has been very successful for St. Louis. Kelly has a 1.99 ERA in August with a 3-0 record. However, the last game he lost back in July was to the Braves, 2-0. The good news is that all of the usual suspects who are still in the lineup (BMac, Freddie, Justin, CJ) hit Kelly well when they first saw him. Maholm has faced the Cardinals several times and had his fair share of issues. Craig, Carpenter, and Beltran really give Maholm fits, so he'll have to try to minimize their chances with RISP if he wants to be successful against this high powered Cardinals lineup. That means having good control and minimizing the walks. Considering Paul's road ERA though? This game looks like a possible disaster if he's not spot on.

Medlen goes against Wainwright in Game 2, which is a huge matchup for the fans. Medlen hasn't lost a start in his last 4 (even though he got the loss in extras against the Nats). Wainwright has won his last 2 in a row, but before that he'd gone on a skid of 3 losses in a row, the first of which started with Atlanta. In that game, Wainwright was outbattled by Minor, and his offense completely abandoned him on the road. In this case, the Cardinals offense at home has been prolific, and Wainwright has maintained a 2.18 ERA in front of his crowds. Medlen will need a bit more support to overcome his road ERA of 4.38, but he knows that the Braves will have a hard time doing that if he doesn't perform in the first few innings. That's always the key with Medlen, how he pitches in innings 1 and 2.

Teheran has won his last 3 road games in a row. His road ERA is actually a respectable 3.25, and he's been pitching very well of late. The last time he faced the Cardinals, he posted a 7 inning 2 hitter, so he's comfortable working within this lineup. That's good because Miller for the Cardinals had trouble with the Braves the one time he saw them. With a .261 BAA for Miller against the Braves, he was dealt a loss in Atlanta when the Cardinals didn't have the answer for Kris Medlen. As you can see, a lot of these matchups are similar to the pitchers from the series in Atlanta, but they've been put into a box and shaken up. I actually like this matchup with Teheran going against Miller because I think it benefits the Braves due to Teheran's better road record.

Beachy gets Lynn in the anchor game. Lance Lynn has been getting increasingly worse over the last month in terms of his ERA. From 2 to 3 to 4 runs in a game, his ability to keep people from scoring runs has been suspect in August. When he's won, the Cardinals scored 6 or more runs. He lost when they didn't. That means Beachy's job should be simple. Just hold the Cardinals at bay. Sounds easy, but he hasn't faced them since 2012. This matchup should be about whether or not the Braves can capitalize on the problems Lynn has faced recently, and if Beachy can continue the progression he's made with his pitches up to this point.

The CPA (65-43) lost when the first game of the Mets series didn't pan out. How does it feel about the Maholm comeback?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Cardinals 7 - Braves 2

The CPA expects this to be a butt-kicking in favor the Cardinals. The Braves are emotionally reeling and Paul is making his first start back in a while. It doesn't set up well statistically because Paul has a terrible road ERA as well. The way the Braves can turn the tide is if Paul has changed his form on the road after the injury, and if the Braves can jump on the Cards early with some quick homers.

GO BRAVES!

Game 2 Recap: Mets 8/21/13

The Braves won the game in extra innings 4-1 on the force of a CJ homer, but it came at a terrible cost. Jason Heyward was struck in the face by a fastball from Niese, and that broke his jaw in 2 places, forcing him to have surgery today to repair the damage. The surgery went fine, but the recovery time for the injury is between 4-6 weeks, during which Jason will likely lose some weight and strength due to the lack of solid foods. Who is to say we get back the same Heyward we saw dominate the top of the order when he is able to swing the bat again? That's going to be right in the heart of the playoffs if it goes 6 weeks, so it's safe to say that this might put Jason out of the lineup for the rest of the regular season, if not more.

The game itself almost seems to have no real meaning knowing we've lost our leadoff hitter for a long time, but I'll do my best to put a bow on the 2 game series split with the Mets. Simmons had 3 hits, Freddie had 3 hits, and CJ had the 3 run homer in the 10th to win the game. Everyone else pretty much didn't show up at the plate, especially BJ and Paul Janish at the back end of the order. With those two on the field at the same time, I feel like our 7-8-9 hitters are just a complete waste at the plate. That's not a combination I would want to see often.

Wood was actually very good going 6 innings with only 1 run on 6 hits, and the one run was a mistake homer that he gave up in the 4th. The bullpen was really solid with 4 innings of shutout work on only 2 hits. Craig came into the game in the bottom half of the 10th to get his 40th save, and Avilan was the beneficiary of the win. Niese for the Mets went 7 innings of only one run work, but his bullpen couldn't hold off the Braves in the latter innings. They gave up 4 hits and 3 runs in 3 innings, and that was the difference in the game.

Again, all this sort of lacks luster when you take into account all the late injuries the Braves are facing. Hudson, Reed, Jason, Uggla, Pena, and Pastornicky are all currently on the DL, and only half of them are going to come off by the end of the season. We really need the September callups to roll around so we can fill in some gaps in our pinch hitting, as well as our fielding. In the meantime, it's never been more important to have a big lead in the division. We can weather this storm, although it may have a large effect on our chase for home field advantage.

Next up, the Cardinals series preview. Let's take 2 of those 4 and come back home to sort out this lineup.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Mets 8/20/13

The first game didn't go like we wanted. In fact, it didn't even start well with the Mets scoring the first run in the 1st inning. However, it went off the rails when the Braves couldn't manage to stop the bleeding in the 6th inning. Beachy did a good job of keeping it close until that point, but he gave up a huge homer in the 6th to Byrd, and that was the difference in the game. The Braves would rally back 3 innings of their own in the 7th, but the bullpen gave up another homer to Davis in the 8th, and that would put a 2 run cushion on the board heading to the 9th. The Braves couldn't rally back this time.

The Braves got 8 hits but only managed to get 3 guys in scoring position. They went 1-3, but you need more opportunities than that in a game if you want to be successful. The Mets went 2-8, but they did damage with the long ball, a sort of role reversal from the usual Braves outing. Typically it's the Braves who damage with dingers, not the other way around. Simmons was the one guy who plated a bases clearing double in the 7th that gave the Braves their 3 runs, but that came on 2 outs and Freddie couldn't get him home in the following AB to tie the game. The Braves never touched 2nd base again after that inning, leading to the loss.

Beachy wasn't bad, despite the line of 6 inning, 4 runs, 3 earned, and 5 hits. He didn't walk anyone, and he struck out 4, but the bad pitch that cost him was the homer to Byrd. He was 19/24 first pitch strikes, so he wasn't falling behind or getting himself into trouble, it was a simply a matter of the Mets making good contact in a row. The unearned portion was BMac making a throwing error that cost the Braves a run in the 6th. That doesn't happen, maybe the Braves are tied in the 7th at 3-3 instead of down a run. We'll never know because it didn't work out that way.

Because today was a day game, the recap wasn't ready in time for a CPA prediction, but it's currently in extras so hopefully the Braves can get the split. I'll recap that tomorrow in addition to the series preview on the Cardinals. Hopefully we can get the bats going, because it's been pretty quiet lately.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Series Preview: Mets 2 gamer

This will be a short preview because 1 - it's the Mets, and 2 - it's only 2 games. There is only one rule to a 2 game series if you want to be successful (Win the first game). Other than that, I don't really care what happens because 2 game series aren't really baseball. They are just a makeup, even-out, whatever from a 4 gamer or rain delay. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Beachy (2-0) v. Wheeler (5-2)
Game 2 - Wood (2-2) v. Niese (5-6)

Given that you want to win Game 1 the most of the two game series, so you can end up playing with house money in Game 2, I'm glad we have Beachy going as the starter. Granted, it's against Zach Wheeler in possibly our last look at the kid before they shut him down for the season, so it won't be easy. However, with the way Beachy is pitching (2 straight wins, 4 wins for the Braves in a row) you have to like your chances. Wheeler beat the Braves in July, but that was because the Braves surrendered 7 runs in that game to Wheeler's 4. It's not like we didn't get to the kid, we just couldn't get out of our own way, and that was one of Wood's first starts. Nobody really has any solid stats against Wheeler because he's new, so you have to rely on the Braves finding a way to score a few RISP hits before the bullpen shows up. Beachy hasn't faced the Mets all that much either, so this one could be wide open.

Game 2 is a day game in NY, meaning the stadium will probably be empty of fans, other than the Braves fans on vacation or taking the day off. Alex Wood is pitching and hates facing the Mets. He made a long relief spot against the Mets in June, and got a loss. He had the aforementioned 7-4 loss in July. The Mets lineup hit him for over .350 on average in a limited sample. It's not pretty. It's got all the trimmings of a give-up-lineup game where we roll out the B-team and pitch a guy who we know isn't a good matchup. The thing that might keep us in the game is that Niese stinks against the Braves too, and he's been doing it a lot longer than Wood. He beat Atlanta in June after giving up 3, but also lost big to the Braves in May after surrendering 7 runs in 4 innings. He isn't likely to have a clean sheet in the day game, so if Wood can turn the tide he can get some much needed support.

The CPA didn't do well on the weekend, only grabbing one win. It predicted a series win but got the order wrong. Anyway, here's the look at the Beachy v. Wheeler matchup.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 4 - Mets 3

The CPA thinks that Beachy is going to give up a couple of runs, but that Wheeler will as well. The difference will be in the late game where the Mets bullpen has been 11th in the NL and the Braves is 1st. If this game is within a run late either way? The CPA likes the Braves chances.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend Recap: Nats Series

Two extra inning games and one 2-1 close win were what the Braves had to weather in order to win this series on the weekend against the Nats. The hitting was...uneven on both sides, and that's what led to a the majority of these games going to extras. However, with liberal use of the bullpens, Atlanta was the team that came out on top.

Game 1 was the Justin Upton show, as he was responsible for the game winning walkoff homer in the 10th inning. The rest of the hitting was situationally awful for the most part. The Braves managed 9 hits and 3 walks, but they went 0-5 with RISP. The Nationals were only slightly better by going 1-10 on the day with RISP. With a combined 15 runners stranded, either team could have wrested control of the game long before it went to the 10th inning. However, it was only a matter of time until the Nats bullpen gave up a long bomb to somebody, and that somebody was Justin Upton. Key homers would become a theme in this series as the Braves transitioned into Game 2 on Saturday.

Game 2 was probably one of the weirdest starts to a game I've seen in a long time. Both starting pitchers looked completely lost on the mound. By the end of the 2nd inning, both starting pitchers were in the dugout. Minor had absolutely no strikeout pitch working, and he'd given up 4 runs in 1.2 innings including 4 walks and 4 hits. Strasburg then decided after walking Jordan Schafer to throw 3 wild pitches in a row, two of which flew behind Simmons. The home plate umpire had enough of that, and ejected Strasburg for trying to throw at the batter. The funny part is that I'm not entirely sure it was intentional, I think he just mentally self-destructed. Either way, it was a battle of the bullpens for the rest of the game, and that would be important. The Braves battled, but again hit absolutely horribly with RISP, going 0-7. Anything else would have won the game. The only thing that saved the Braves was the long ball, one by Freddie, one by BMac, and 2 by Heyward including a 2 run shot in the 9th that sent the game into extras. And how far into extras did it go! 15 innings later, the Nats finally capitalized on a Kris Medlen mistake (yes, he was the only guy left who was able to pitch out of the pen) and hit a homer of their own to win the game 8-7. Live by the long ball, die by the long ball.

Game 3 happened on Sunday afternoon after a small rain delay, under a grey canopy that has seemed to hold all weekend and well into Monday. While the Braves didn't collect as many hits, their RISP hitting was much improved, and that's the reason they ended up winning the game 2-1. By the way, that's the second 2-1 over Washington for Teheran in a row. The lineup, full of mostly the backups after a long 15 inning game the night before, went 3-7 with RISP and a double by Freddie Freeman. This game wasn't about the hitting though. It was about the pitching. Julio was not economical with his pitches, but he still managed to go 6 innings of scoreless baseball. The bullpen surrendered a run when Downs put 2 men on base and Carpenter couldn't hold the Nats down, but he did stop the bleeding long enough to get out of the inning with the lead. At that point, Walden and Kimbrel came in for the 8th and 9th to shut the door with 4 Ks total. Also Teheran manged to plunk another guy on the Nats, further endearing himself to that team I'm sure. I still think we haven't seen the last of the bean ball wars when the Braves end up in Washington for the final series in September. Plus, the Braves will have eliminated the Nats at that point most likely, leading to even more bad blood.

Now the Braves fly up to the Mets Citi Field for a 2 game series before going to a 4 gamer in St. Louis for the weekend. Series Preview up tomorrow.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weekend Series Preview: Nats in Turner Field (possibly with rain)

The weather here in the Atlanta area has taken a surprising turn towards the cool and rainy. As someone who hates the hot weather in August, I'm very pleased. As a baseball fan, I just hope it doesn't give us even more rain delays than usual on our Braves games. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Wood (2-2) v. Jordan (1-3)
Game 2 - Minor (12-5) v. Strasburg (6-9)
Game 3 - Teheran (9-6) v. Gonzalez (7-5)

You want to talk about a game where I have absolutely no idea what to expect? Game 1 is that game. You have Alex Wood facing a Nats lineup he's never seen, and you have Taylor Jordan facing a Braves lineup he's never seen. Two rookie guys with literally less than 50 innings of MLB work are going to be twirling the ball in a game tonight, and nobody has a freaking clue what could happen. Then again, that's never stopped me from making a semi-educated guess. What I know is that Alex Wood has been much better in his home games with a 2.39 ERA and 1-1 record, but that also includes some of his pen work. In 3 home starts he's only given up 3 earned runs, so I like what the kid has done inside Turner Field against teams like the Marlins, Rockies, and Reds. However, the results have been mixed on the bottom line of wins, and that falls a good bit on his offensive support. In fact, we lost a game 0-1 against the Marlins because the Braves couldn't score a run at all. Wood was a ND in that outing. Taylor Jordan has been pretty consistent in his home/road splits, but that consistency isn't necessarily good. He's posted a 4.22 road ERA, slightly above his 4.14 overall ERA, but his hit totals are shockingly high. MLB hitters have been able to toast him for 52 hits in 45 innings, and he's only walked 8 guys. That means his rather high WHIP of 1.31 is mostly hits, and that can bear succulent fruit for a Braves club that can really jump on a starter leaving fat seeds over the middle of the dish.

Minor against Strasburg. I think I've seen this before. Heck, I'm sure I saw this a couple weeks ago. In that outing, neither starter factored in the decision, but it ended up as a Braves 3-2 win courtesy of Tyler Clippard. Here's what we know about the two pitchers when they face off. Mike is good at home, but not great. He averages out around a 3.00 ERA inside Turner Field, but the shocking stat is that he has double the amount of homers surrendered at the Ted as opposed to other parks. The good news is that he has half the amount of walks. So while Mike is more likely to pitch to contact in Atlanta, that also opens him up to the long ball. Mike should watch out for Ramos if he gets the start, because that guy has lit him up for 5 hits in 7 ABs including a bomb. Strasburg on the road has been a complete disaster for the most part. He's 1-5 in decisions with a 4.88 ERA, 7 homers, and an almost 2-1 K/BB ratio. Comparatively at home he's had a 7-1 K/BB ratio with a 1.58 ERA. He really hates leaving Washington for some reason. There are some weird stats with Stephen against the Braves. One of them is that whoever happens to play middle infield (with Dan out and Pastornicky having ACL surgery), they haven't had a hit. Janish and Simmons are a combined 0-14 career against the power righty. However, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman post averages well over .400 against Strasburg, and Brian McCann is .300+ with a bomb. We'll need a few knocks by the Uptons (traditionally not great off Stephen) if we want to get even.

Teheran and Gonzalez anchor the series with a Sunday matchup that should provide some pop. Teheran has had his toughest time in the division against the Nationals in 4 games with a 3.75 ERA. Gonzalez has had his toughest time in the division against the Braves in 4 games with a 5.87 ERA. The amount of starters with .300 averages off each guy is staggering. In fact at last count, I think the Braves have 4, and the Nationals have 4. With 8 guys possibly playing in the game that can hit like that situationally, runs could get up there. HOWEVER, I said that last time in Washington and the game ended up being a 2-1 win for the Braves. And the time before that in Atlanta it was a 2-1 win for the Braves. Maybe this time it will be a 2-1 win for the Braves? Probably not though, because baseball doesn't repeat itself THAT often.

Now for some CPA (64-40) which was a run off the score on Game 3 of the Phillies. Let's see how it feels about the games this weekend, including the first game between a pair of unknowns.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Nats 4 - Braves 2
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Nats 4
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 4 - Nats 1

The CPA favors the Braves in all of these games except the first one. The reason being is that the Braves traditionally don't hit well off unseen pitching, and the weather looks dicey. Couple those two things together and it's not a good recipe for the Braves victory. In the other two games though? The Braves look strong with Minor and Teheran on the mound. All they need is a few early runs to settle in, and the Nats will fold like cheap cardboard while the Braves take another series win.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Phillies 8/14/13

Chalk one up for the good guys after another long rain delay. I'll admit I was worried when the Braves had to wait out the weather for the 2nd game of this 3 game series, but it turned out in our favor when Jason Heyward blasted a homer on the first Braves AB of the game. Lannan could barely cope with the onslaught of early hitting, and as a result he was gone by the 2nd inning. The bad news for Lannan is that it may be a season-ending knee problem that he aggravated in the game. That meant the Phillies bullpen had to shoulder the load. They weren't able to stop the avalanche in the 2nd as the Braves put 3 more runs on the board to make the game 5-0. That's when Beachy went to work.

Beachy went 6 strong innings, 5 of which were shutout innings before finally surrendering a 2 run homer in the 6th. Knowing how much of a perfectionist Beachy is, he's probably still mad about that homer today. The good news is that he admittedly had all 4 of his pitches working, and that made him difficult to hit. The Phillies only tallied 6 hits off Brandon with no walks and 4 Ks. Also, after all the kudos I gave Carpenter yesterday, he struggled in the 9th inning, giving up a homer and a walk, thus opening the door for Kimbrel to get his 38th save. I'd like to think that was on purpose, but I think Carpenter just didn't know Ruf for the Phillies can absolutely ton the ball. Either way, it was a decent pitching performance by all involved to keep the Phillies to 3 runs.

The hitting fell off after the 2nd inning, but when it was hot it made the difference in the game. The Braves had 6 runs on 9 hits, 5 walks, and 6 Ks. Jason Heyward was extremely impressive with a homer and a double on the day, and Simmons managed a double and a run as well. CJ also really came through in the 2nd with 2 outs by knocking two guys in to make the game 5-0, and also racking up 3 RBIs on the day. Chris Johnson continues to be the unsung story of the Braves dominance this year. He's slugging now .480 on the season to go with his NL leading batting average of .337, and he's had 53 RBIs even though he spent almost 30% of his ABs in the 8th slot. The RISP hitting for the Braves yesterday was only 2-10, so not up to par, but when you are able to get into the bullpen in the 2nd inning of any NL team with a lead? You should win that game.

Now we have a nice off-day before the Nats roll back into town. I'm sure they'll be ready to take some revenge on Julio after the Bryce Harper dust-up, but I hope that's the only satisfaction they get all series. What I really want is for the Braves to take 2 of 3 against them, and basically put the 2nd to last nail in the coffin of that club. The last nail will come when that magic number reaches 0.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Phillies 8/13/13

That game didn't go at all like I expected, but in a good way. Kris Medlen, who has really labored with the Phillies in past, finally looked like the Medlen we saw from 2012. He was in full command, making good pitches, keeping the ball down, and getting through innings with a minimum of stress effort. As a result, Kris was able to mow through 7 innings with only a single earned run on 5 hits and one walk. The bullpen then shut the door with Carpenter in the 8th and Kimbrel in the 9th. Some of you have had your doubts about Carpenter, but I think it's important to note: David Carpenter has only given up a single earned run in the entirety of August over 8 innings, and that was in an 11-2 win over the Rockies. In fact, the last time Carpenter has held the opponent scoreless in 28 of his 32 appearances for an ERA of 1.76 on the season. He's been very clutch, and moved into a nice setup role for a guy like Kimbrel. Craig was so dominant last night he got a save on 9 pitches, putting away the Phillies to get his 14th consecutive save, and 37th on the season.

The bats were not booming, which I had expected against a guy like Martin for the Phillies, but they still got the job done. 2-9 with RISP is nothing to write home about, especially when the Braves left the bases loaded when BMac grounded into a double play. Unfortunately for us, Brian has been in a wicked slump in the month of August batting just .211 with only 4 RBIs. This is on the heels of a blistering July where Brian hit .337 with 6 jacks. That's sort of been his M.O. over this season. He had a good May then a bad June then a great July and now a bad August. A lot of that has to do with wear and tear, and Brian had a knee issue that was bugging him over the Miami series. I'm not averse to giving him a large rest in September so that he's fresh for the October run.

The key players in this game were Justin, Jason, and Johnson. The Triple J's managed to collect 5 hits, 2 runs, and 2 RBIs on the way to the Braves 3-1 win. The third run came on Tyler Pastornicky streaking to the plate after Kris Medlen knocked a long double past a confused right fielder. Medlen was doing it from all parts of the field last night to collect his 4th win in a row, and draw even at 10-10 on the season. Considering the absolutely awful start he had with run support, that's outstanding how he's rounded out as we crest the final hill to home field advantage. (Except for the World Series because Bud Selig is a turd).

The CPA (63-40) was shocked at the lack of hitting and the missed opportunities in a game it expected to be higher scoring. It was not shocked that the Braves won. Now it looks at the rubber game between Beachy and Lannan.

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 6 - Phillies 4

Lannan has had major problems on the road, and his record shows it. He's 1-4 in 6 games with a 7.53 road ERA. The downside is that he's managed to pitch the Braves pretty well in the past. In that scenario, I think it's important to look at the recent efforts over the historical trends. The CPA weighs them out and makes an adjustment based off those outings and the bullpen for the Phillies, which is very suspect. Beachy had a great last outing, but it was against the Marlins, so the CPA thinks he'll get touched up a little more by a better hitting team. Even so, it believes the Braves win this series.

GO BRAVES




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Phillies 8/12/13

I have a theory. Whenever a game gets interrupted by rain, the Braves end up hitting poorly. Last night was delayed by over 2 hours, and the Braves couldn't hit a lick against Cole Hamels. Only 6 hits and 1 run crossed, compared to the 5 runs the Phillies plated. Teheran wasn't sharp in his first view of the Phillies lineup, and that cost him. I think he just wasn't mentally prepared to be in a low-scoring affair, and he just made too many mistakes up in the zone. The biggest one was the 3 run bomb to Cody Asche in the 6th. That sealed the game.

I will admit I was disgusted by BJ last night on his attempt to chase down a fly ball by Cole Hamels that turned into a triple and the opening run. He had a beat on the ball and he was running to the left center part of the field on pace to get it. However, he just sort of put his glove up late at the last second and totally missed it. Now, granted it's a hard play, and if he had laid out for it he might not have caught the thing. However, watching it live I have a hard time saying he gave that play the full effort it needed. I know for a fact after watching Jason Heyward play center a few weeks ago that Jason is getting dirty on that play rather than just tossing a hard out there. Couple that with the fact he went 0-3 again at the plate, and there are lots of Braves fans who are still sorry he ever showed up in this town. I don't want another Dan Uggla on our hands, but while I like Dan's general attitude, I really don't like BJ's at all when he makes a mistake (he complains/tantrums at everything).

The pitching was bad and the hitting was bad. Those usually lead to losses. The Braves only went 1-9 with RISP, and that was in the 9th inning when the game was already decided. The good news is that the rain should stay away tonight, and the Braves are facing off against a pitcher they roasted last time in Ethan Martin. Medlen looks to make it 4 in a row with a win tonight, but he's had a rough go against the Phillies this season and in 2012. The Braves, who were so hot at the plate during their streak, have cooled off a lot in the last week, only hitting .254 as a team. McCann, Simmons, and Uggla have fallen way off on the week, and that's been a problem for getting those occasional runners in. Meanwhile, Justin, Freeman, Heyward, and CJ are still lighting it up, and BJ has been hitting .313 on the month. The team just needs to turn the focus back to the field instead of the standings. I think being this far up and coming off a long streak has made the team a little lazy, and that's bound to happen when you have to wait 2 hours just to start a game. Everyone is just swinging at the first thing and ready to get home.

The CPA looks to right itself after getting soaked in Game 1. Will Medlen get his win and take this match to the rubber game?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 8 - Phillies 5

The CPA likes a lot of runs in this game. Both pitchers have had major issues with the opposing lineups, and they have both given up large run totals in prior outings. That benefits the Braves at home given their current setup, as long as the game starts on time without rain.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Series Preview: Phillies

I'm late on getting the preview done (doctor's appointments today and the AC in my condo went out) so I'm low on early witty banter. The Phillies are awful. We shouldn't lose this series. No excuses. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Teheran (9-5) v. Hamels (4-13)
Game 2 - Medlen (9-10) v. Martin (1-1)
Game 3 - Beachy (1-0) v. Lannan (3-5)

Notice anything about the Phillies pitching records? Nobody is over .500, and the closest is a guy they had to start because of injuries in August. In Game 1, Teheran goes against Cole Hamels, a pitcher who has been mostly trouble for Atlanta historically. I say historically because this year we've faced him once and roughed him up for 5 runs on the way to a 7 run Braves win. However, despite the recent success, it's a case of haves and have nots with the Braves lineup against Hamels. If you're CJ, Bmac, Justin or Freeman? You're blasting this guy.  If you're Uggla, BJ, or Heyward? You're not really feeling good about this matchup. Simmons has only a single hit, but he got it in 3 tries this year, so he warrants some more looks before drawing any conclusions. Overall though, you want the Braves to have the hot hands up when runners are on against Cole. If you're Teheran, you're facing most of the Phillies lineup for the first time, and he's been very solid in those occasions. I like the Braves chances here if they can make Cole nervous with the big 4 hitters.

Medlen needs more runs. It's never going to be enough, but I would like to see him continue this hot streak of 3 wins in a row. That means he'll need the support, because he's pitching good enough to get a fourth win, but he's also received an average of 6 runs per game in that streak. That never hurts. Against the Phillies, he'll need even more help since they have clubbed him to a fine pulp in the past. A .333 team average in 84 ABs isn't good. It's even worse when you have a 1.000+ OPS in that stretch. Medlen has gone against the Phillies 3 times this season and come up on the losing end twice with an ERA of 6.61. That means even the 6 runs of support he got in this streak wouldn't be enough. He'll have to get the ball down and stop flying open on his pitches in order to keep the Phillies lineup at bay. The good news is that he's facing off against Ethan Martin, a guy the Braves destroyed for 6 runs in 4.1 innings. If Martin can't shake that off, he'll be in for a long day in Turner Field with the way these Braves are hitting.

Beachy was about as dominant as he could be coming off surgery. An 8 inning shutout against the Marlins in his last outing was an exclamation point on his MLB readiness declaration. Now granted, the Marlins could barely score off the kids at the Little League World Series, but it's still a nice confidence boost for Beachy. Now, he'll face the next step up from the Marlins in terms of hitters. The Phillies are mostly overpaid old wankers, but they can still occasionally knock a ball out of the park if you aren't paying attention. With the exception of Carlos Ruiz, Beachy isn't scared of anybody in this lineup, and he should just try to go after them if the Braves can grab a quick lead. That shouldn't be a huge problem with John Lannan pitching, because the team average off him is a hearty .293 with a slugging over .400. The key to this game will be minimizing the damage from any hits the Phillies collect, because their RISP hitting is still a dangerous .254 on the season, 5th in the NL. However, their overall run production is 11th, meaning they don't get a bunch of chances. That will be the thing to watch in this game, if Beachy can keep the Phillies from getting to 2nd base.

The CPA predicted another sweep, and collected only 2 of the 3 on the weekend series. That means its moves to 62-39 on the year. Now it takes a look at Game 1 between Teheran and Hamels.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 4 - Phillies 2

The CPA believes that Teheran holds a large advantage on the Phillies who don't have a lot of experience against his arm. Plus, the Braves have roughed up Hamels once already this season, and he's in the midst of completely giving up on his team supporting him (as the 5-13 record indicates). Smash em early, smash em hard.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: Marlins

Well all good things must come to an end. The Braves finally met their match in the ironic form of the Miami Marlins. The Braves have only lost 16 games at home this season, and 3 of them have gone against the Marlins. That's just silly. The Marlins can barely tie their own shoes, let alone score runs, but when the Braves fail to plate even a single run in Game 2? Well statistics show that you lose 100% of those games.

Game 1 was exactly what you expected from a good Braves offense. Early and often. In the first inning, the Braves jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the back of two homers, one by Justin and one by CJ. I was at that game, and I must say we were all pleasantly shocked. We weren't used to see that kind of explosion right off the bat. I can say with some certainty that the boys were showing off for a famous celebrity I got a picture of in the SunTrust seats: Evander Holyfield. That man is literally impossible to miss when he's walking around. It's almost akin to seeing Bo Jackson wandering around the stadium. They are just instantly recognizable due to their size. Needless to say, the Braves showed off their own power with 3 homers that sealed the Game 5-0. The shutout was courtesy of Mr. Beachy, who looked about as good as he had since the prior year. If you're looking for signs of progression from the young lad off Tommy John, that game was a great indicator that he is on the way back.

Game 2 was an offensive disaster on both sides. Both teams went 0-1 with RISP. I didn't believe that was humanly possible to have BOTH teams only get one runner in scoring position all game, and then both fail at getting a hit as well. However, it happened. Recapping this particular game almost causes me physical pain from the derth of statistics. Here's what I can tell you. Both teams had 3 hits a piece. Both teams struck out in the double digits. There was a 54 minute rain delay in the 2nd that possible threw everyone off their game. Jim Joyce decided he didn't like whatever name Chris Johnson called him in the first AB, and tossed his butt out of the game. He was replaced by the struggling Paul Janish, who is making BJ's slumps at the plate look like a stroll through a dewy freaking meadow. Paul has yet to collect a hit in 2013. In fact his last his was in August of 2012. Yes, I had to look that up. There's a reason he only comes in as a defensive replacement these days. Anyway, the game was awful, and we lost because it was the inevitable conclusion that someone would make a stupid mistake. That was Walden giving up a leadoff triple and a wild pitch in the 9th. Ho-hum the streak is dead.

Game 3 could have easily been a game where the Braves turned off their brains and just let another game slide. They didn't. More importantly, Freddie Freeman didn't. The Braves let the lead slip early when the Marlins crushed Mike Minor for 3 runs in the 2nd inning. It was looking ugly before Freeman reminded everyone why he's a potential NL MVP candidate for the year. In the 5th inning, down 3-1, with 2 runners, Freddie belted a long shot to left center that went 400 feet and gave the Braves a 4-3 lead. The Marlins would get another run off Minor to make it 4-4, but BJ would come through with a sacrifice fly to retake the lead, followed by Gattis and CJ piling on with doubles to seal the game. The Braves went 5-14 with RISP, 4 doubles, a homer, 9 runs, and they only struck out 6 times. It's basically my perfect type of game. Minor wasn't sharp but he managed not to lose his cool completely after the disaster in the 2nd inning, and he went on to pitch 7 innings with 4 runs on 6 hits. Like I said, hardly award winning ball, but he got the support he needed to collect a win. Sometimes it's just about being slightly better than the other guy that day.

Next up, the Phillies come into town to see if they can't spoil our fun. I've heard from their front office that they still believe they are in the NL race. I think they are just a shade under completely delusional. Perhaps their common sense is buried under the unyielding weight of those huge unmovable contracts? We'll find out in the coming series.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Weekend Series Preview: The Marlins

Are those stinky fish already back in town? Of all the teams we've played in this stretch of good baseball, this Marlins team undoubtedly has the worst record. Guess that means we need to take it to them in our town. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Beachy (0-0) v. Turner (3-3)
Game 2 - Wood (2-2) v. Eovaldi (2-2)
Game 3 - Minor (11-5) v. Alvarez (2-1)

Most of these matchups are awful. The Braves are tossing their mid-season projects against the Marlins mid-season projects. The exception is obviously Minor in game 3, but in Game 1 you have Beachy trying to get right against Jacob Turner. Whereas Beachy is a mid-year guy, Turner has actually been around all season for the Marlins, but he's been on the receiving end of a bunch of no decisions. He's also only 22, but managed to beat Atlanta in his only appearance against them. Beachy on the other hand is 26, the Braves have won both his starts, but Beachy hasn't been a factor. The ERA is a solid 9.00 for Beachy right now. Short of him literally giving up a run every inning, he will improve that today. As for Turner, he's held a respectable 2.68 ERA on the season. Ok, that's actually really good for a pitcher on a bad team. The fact he has a 2.68 ERA and only a 3-3 record shows exactly how much of a greasefire the Marlins really are. This is exactly the type of guy that shut the Braves down when they were having hitting problems mid-season. Now? The Braves are all over the ball at the plate. Can Beachy stop the bleeding long enough for the Braves to outpace Turner? There's a streak at stake!

Wood in Game 2 could be pretty decent if he continues on his trend thus far. He's managed to win his last two outings with very effective numbers, giving up a combined 4 earned runs across 13 innings. He's also been very good about not walking people, which is going to be very key against a Marlins lineup looking for easy runners. Eovaldi has been very sharp across his last 3 outings, giving up only 3 total runs. However, the Marlins are such a disaster that the only decision he has in that same time frame is a single loss. Imagine pitching 20 innings with an ERA of 1.35, and you drop a game on your record as the only result. That's the kind of baseball these fish are playing. Their pitching actually isn't bad, but their hitting is downright offensive.

Minor v. Alvarez should be a whitewash in favor of Minor. We all know that. We expect that. The Braves are 2-1 against the Marlins this year when Minor pitches, with an ERA of 2.50. The Marlins are 1-1 against the Braves when Alvarez pitches this year, but his ERA was 5.73 against our team. While both guys can toss a clunker, the obvious advantage goes to the pitcher with the best experience on his side, and that's Minor. Also, the advantage goes to the Braves at home, who are 38-15 now on the year. I fully expect that Minor will try to pitch to contact on everyone but Stanton and Ruggiano, working those guys on the corners. That should hopefully keep his count down so that he can go deeper in this game.

The CPA is up to 60-38, even if it incorrectly guessed that the streak would be over twice by now. What about the weekend?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 4 - Marlins 2
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Marlins 1
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 7 - Marlins 3

It might be wishful thinking, but the CPA thinks another sweep is possible. Given how bad the Marlins are on paper this isn't exactly rocket science, but they have shocked us a few times this year when we couldn't hit. That will not be a problem IF the lineup continues to produce like they have over the rest of this streak.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Nats SUPER SWEEP






Yep we're past brooms and we've moved on to the Street sweepers now. The Nats held out high hopes of staying in the division race by sweeping us, and they got swept in return. How? Because the Braves converted their chances at opportune moments, and they had the bullpen pitching the Nats could only dream about. That means we crack out the heavy duty machinery sweep of 13 games!

Headline by USA Today was "Braves are amazing and nobody is noticing." Oh really? I think we're noticing. The delay today is due to a project at work taking priority and some health stuff, so I apologize for the late writeup. However, it's worth noting the Braves have an off-day anyway, so you don't need the CPA to predict anything tonight. The game yesterday including 6 Braves runs on 15 hits, a 4-12 RISP number, and BJ Upton going 4/5 on the day. What? Yes, BJ went 4 for 5 in one game. The world, she is a changing. Perhaps when it's right for the Braves, EVERYTHING is right.

Heyward, Justin, Freeman, and Simmons also had multi-hit games. The Nats went 0-4 with RISP, and only Werth had a multi-hit game. That was the difference at the plate. The difference on the mound was Medlen weathering the storm, and the Nats bullpen giving up 4 runs. Medlen wasn't incredibly sharp, but he had his moments. 3 runs on 3 hits isn't too shabby over 7 innings, but they do add up when you give up a large gopher ball. The bullpen of course was great over 2 innings, giving up only two hits. HOWEVER, Craig did really struggle to get the save in the 9th when he had to go over 35 pitches just to finish the job.

What more can I say? I'm afraid to gild the lily further is to chance a jinx. The Braves are on an unprecedented tear, and it's showing up in great ways on the field. Everybody is locked in. Everyone is ready for the next game, but I guarantee Craig is ready to relax after his 36 pitches. Time for a break.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Nats 8/6/13

You know what's better than 11 wins in a row? TWELVE WINS IN A ROW! The Braves last lost a game on July 25th. Does anybody remember that? It was against the Mets. Everyone on that rollercoaster of fandom was whining about OOOOOH the Braves are bad on the road, and OOOOOH we can't win with these injuries, and OOOOOH why can't we get hits? That was eons ago it seems like. I had to look back at my entries from before this started, and a lot of what I was selling to the public was relaxation pills. We had an 8 game spread before this all started. We had a bad injury to a pitcher that looked to be devestating to the rotation. We had a team coming off a rather mediocre road trip against the Mets. Things look a lot different now don't they?

The Braves didn't hit well in this game. They collected all their necessary offense in the 5th inning with a Gattis 2-RBI single. That was it for run scoring. McCann, Uggla, and Teheran had hits. BJ had two hits and Justin had two hits, so both of the brothers put in some good work. The Nats went 0-5 with RISP, the Braves went 1-5 with RISP. That was the difference in the ball game. Sometimes you don't have to be great, you just have to be one better than the other guy. With the kind of pitching we got from Teheran and the bullpen, that's all it took.

The pitching was what stole the show. Teheran made a single mistake in his 6 innings of work to Bryce Harper, who jacked a solo shot to center in the 3rd inning and gave the Nats the 1-0 lead. That would also prove to be the source of some consternation as Bryce took a little too long admiring his own handiwork. As a result, Teheran decided to show Harper how a fastball felt in the broadside on his next AB in the 5th inning. There were some words exchanged, both benches and bullpens sauntered to the baseline to have a quick pow-wow, but on the whole it looked like a big boy version of a middle school dance. Both teams were just separated on different sides of the line staring at each other with hostile intent. Now of course in the big leagues, you can't SAY you hit somebody on purpose, so you have to have the normal song and dance where everyone on the Braves denies they went at Harper. That's totally ridiculous though. Julio absolutely threw at him, and he did it because Harper pimped his homer in the 3rd. Now, there could be some retaliation, but I doubt it would come in Game 3. The Nats will probably wait until next series and wait to toss at a Braves player in another scenario. That is unless either team gets a big lead. Then all bets are off.

The bullpen was it's usually stellar self, posting 3 innings of work with only a single hit. Kimbrel striking out the side, along with Walden striking out the side the inning before, was great stuff. Even better was Kimbrel striking out "Mr. Whinypants" Bryce Harper to end the game swinging. Teheran gave up the one run on 4 hits in 6 innings, and he struck out 4 while walking 2. One downside to mention was that Jason Heyward left in the very beginning of the game due to a stiff neck, but he was replaced by Gattis who got the game winning hit. So, these things seem to work out. Also, Jason didn't seem to have any problem getting off the bench to the dance in the 5th inning. I think he'll be fine. You know what else is fine? 14.5 games up in the standings with 48 to play. The Magic # is now 35.

The CPA was right on another Braves win, although slightly off on the total. Ok a lot off. Still, wins are wins. What does it think about the Zimmerman v. Medlen matchup? Can we get a sweep?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Nats 3 - Braves 1

The CPA thinks the train finally stops here. A quadruple sweep seems ridiculous, but it's still possible. The numbers favor the Nationals because Zimmerman has been so sharp against the Braves lineup, and in his only game this year he went 8 innings with only 2 hits surrendered. The problem with Zimmerman is he eats innings, and the Braves don't get to the pen. IF they can work enough pitches to remove him from the game earlier, they might have a shot late.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Nats 8/5/13

Amazing game last night. The CPA was actually very close to the truth on it's analysis, as this turned out to be a battle of the bullpens due to Strasburg's early struggles with pitchcount. The Braves really worked on extending ABs against the young starter, and that proved to be very effective in grinding out a couple of runs before he was over 110 pitches in the 7th inning. That meant the Braves got a crack and the sweet, juicy underbelly of the Nationals team (their bullpen). More importantly, the Nats never seem to learn from their mistakes. Who was the first pitcher they put out there on the mound to face the Braves after Strasburg left the building? Tyler Clippard. For those of you that don't know, Clippard might as well be putting it on a tee for the Braves in his previous appearances. In fact, in this year alone Clippard has 4 appearances, 4 earned runs in 3.2 innings, 6 hits, 4 walks, and a .400+ BAA. But nooooooooooo, toss him out there Davy Johnson, he's probably due.

He wasn't. Justin Upton got him into a bad count and jacked a no-doubter over the left field fence that ended up winning the game. When I say Justin's right now, folks, he's spot on. The 7 day stat total for him includes 14 hits, 3 doubles, 4 homers, 10 RBIs, and 4 walks. He's got an OPS you have to send off to NASA to calculate. Not really, but it's over 1.400 so it's huge. He's a big reason along with Freddie Freeman that the Braves won yesterday. Freeman was the guy who got 2 singles that plated both Justin and Jason to provide the other two runs. I heard recently on the radio that the Braves have tied a record for two separate 10 games plus winning streaks in the same season, held by only 5 other teams in history. That's pretty epic, and a lot of it has to do with great hitting, but also some very solid pitching when the hitting wasn't great.

The pitching was very key last night. Minor went 6 innings with 8 hits, but stayed out of big damage by only keeping it 2 total runs. Was it his best? No, I wouldn't say that. It was a solid performance that put the team in a position to win. The bullpen for the Braves, however, was completely awesome. David Carpenter danced in and out of trouble in 1.2 innings of shutout work, Avilan came into the game for a single pitch of dominance, and Walden put the save together even after letting up a leadoff hit. I'd venture to say I'd take a battle of the bullpens any day of the week with the Nats, because ours is just so much better than theirs. How much better? We're #1 in the majors, and they are 20th. So about 19 spots better in ERA.

The CPA was right and moves to 59-37. Now it looks to see what will happen in the matchup of Teheran and Gonzalez.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 6 - Nats 3

The CPA doesn't like the historical trend of Teheran against the Nats. It's been very ugly with him giving up several multi-base hits to multiple hitters in the Nats lineup. The Braves have roughed up Gonzalez this year quite a bit, though, and they have also been on a tear offensively. Is Gonzalez due or will the Braves continue to drive up a struggling starter's ERA? The CPA thinks the Braves get to 12 in a row.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Series Preview: Nats

Oh those pesky Nats. Not so pesky in the last month or so. If we go in there now and take 2 of 3 games in their house? They will be about a week from completely derailing any hopes they have left. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Minor (11-5) v. Strasburg (5-9)
Game 2 - Teheran (8-5) v. Gonzalez (7-4)
Game 3 - Medlen (8-10) v. Zimmerman (13-6)

Minor and Strasburg will be the marquee matchup, mostly on name value. In reality, it's a mismatch. The Braves lineup has always hit Strasburg well, at a .300+ team clip. Plus he's never received a win in 3 games against the Braves this year alone. Minor on the other hand hasn't faced Washington this year yet, but he's been about 10x as sharp as his prior year efforts thus far. Take that logic and apply it to Minor's last 4 starts. He's 3-1 with only 5 earned runs total in those 4 starts. That's pretty solid. What about Strasburg? Try 0-3 with 15 earned runs. That's two guys trending in totally different directions. I love the matchup here.

Teheran has been a surprise to some, but not to me. I knew from spring training that this kid was special, and he's proving me right start after start as we get deeper into the season. The Braves are 3-0 in his last 3 starts, and he's only given up 2 runs in 18 innings of work. That's an ERA of 1.00 for those of you at home. The bad news? The Nats have lit him up in the past. I mean destroyed. Their lineup is hitting at a .359 average off him with a 1-1 record in his starts this season. Meanwhile, the Braves haven't hit the Gonzalez much at all as a lineup, with a paltry .235 BAA against the lefty. The upside is that Gonzalez hasn't been himself lately, with a 5.34 ERA in July. His last outing was a 10 earned run beatdown by a hot Tigers team. We know what that feels like. Maybe we can inflict similar pain, although the matchup doesn't favor us.

If you put arrows on the two pitchers in the anchor game, both would be trending up, but for the wrong reasons. Both Medlen and Zimmerman have had inflating ERAs in the month of July, and that's mostly due to a bad habit of giving up early runs and big homers. Zimmerman gave up 6 homers in 5 starts in July, while Medlen just gave up 3 in his last start in Philly. This is the kind of matchup that can go either way, but historical hitting trends favor Zimmerman's approach against the Braves. Our lineup doesn't hit Zimmerman well at all, for only .200 across the team, with several guys like Simmons, BJ, and Gattis not having a hit off him at all. Medlen does a decent job against the Nats lineup, but it's nowhere near that dominant. The key here will be for Medlen to not give the Nats anything early, and for the Braves to manufacture a few runs off Zimmerman before getting to the bullpen fast. The more pitches he has to throw, the better.

The CPA is on a good run, going 2-1 over the weekend, 58-37 on the whole. Let's look at the first match between Minor and Strasburg.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Nats 4

This game could be decided by bullpens. We haven't traditionally done well on the road until the last series, so maybe the Braves can carry over the momentum. However, it eventually will wear out and it's only a matter of time. The numbers on this are closer than I would like because Strasburg is better at home, but bad against the Braves. The Braves need to get to Strasburg in the first two innings and run up his count so he doesn't settle into a groove.

GO BRAVES!

Weekend Recap: Phillies

I never thought we'd see this guy again. A triple sweep? The industrial sweep twice in a season? My lordy, we're on fire! Ten games in a row, and 12.5 games up in the standings! The Braves are trying their best to put this thing on ice in August. Since the Nats are next on the hit list, perhaps they can really put foot to throat with a good road series in Washington.

How did they do it in Philly with a smattering of young pitchers against the likes of Lee and Lannan? Hitting of course. The Braves put another 15 runs across the plate over 3 games, and that was enough to get the sweep. The Phillies only touched up our guys for 9 and that wasn't good enough to do anything. Even though game 2 went to 12 innings, I never felt like we were out of any of these games at any point. Maybe during Game 1 when the Phillies were up 2-1 going to the 5th I was kinda thinking about it, but then we scored 5 runs to really put that to bed.

I'd rather look at these games as a whole than individually. Especially because the Braves won them all in a pretty similar fashion. In games 1&2, the Braves put a crooked number up in the 5th to take the lead, and in Game 3 they just started the onslaught right from the first pitch in inning 1. Chris Johnson only went 4-11 so he's probably furious with himself. However, the big surprise this weekend was Justin Upton. A 4-13 series may not sound like much, but he also took several walks and plunked 2 homers to boot. That's the kind of production we haven't seen since April. Anybody looking at Justin's swing right now could tell you one thing: it looks right. That's a simple analysis but it's the most important for a guy that's struggled with injuries and setbacks.

Fredi also did the unthinkable this series and put BJ right back into the game when he came off the DL. I'll be honest, I never saw that coming, but I should have. My own advice a month ago was that as long as we had a huge lead, BJ would be playing in CF. Guess what? We have a gigantic lead. That means he's gonna play. Get over it now, because it's not changing. And to BJ's credit, he went 3/9 on his two games played. Honestly, we've seen much much worse. Plus he was robbed a homer in game 3 by the stupid replay rules. You know how umps get better at replay? When they look at it more often than just random boundary calls on homers. They even get those wrong at this point. You think Ed "Gunz" Hoculi of the NFL refs gets a homer call wrong? Please. Dude's got a PHD in replay at this point.

What else can I say? It's getting redundant as the Braves go on a tear. We win, they lose. Let's keep that going as we head to the Nats house to make their Natitude a little Saditude.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekend Series Preview: Phillies

The weekend series looks like it will revolve around the Braves ability to continue to produce runs with this lineup on the road. The home games have been proven a resounding success, but the road affairs have typically left Braves fans wondering what went wrong. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Medlen (7-10) v. Martin (0-0)
Game 2 - Beachy (0-0) v. TBD
Game 3 - Wood (1-2) v. Lannan (3-4)

So right off the bat you should notice this isn't exactly the best set of pitching matchups we're likely to see. In fact, Pettibone was scratched from the game 2 start with arm something or other. He probably saw the scoreboard from Atlanta and thought better of it. In any case game 1 features Medlen coming off a win at home against the Cardinals. However, when it comes to the Phillies, he's been less than stellar. In fact the Phillies lineup has a combined .373 average off him, but the good news is that guys like Ryan Howard and Dominic Brown are sitting on the DL. That may help Medlen's chances to keep the game in check long enough for the Braves to get to Ethan Martin. Martin is a rookie who's never pitched in the majors before. Hmmm. Can't really preview that at all. Hit em hard, Braves!

Game 2 isn't worth discussing unless we know what scrub Philly plans to toss out there. We know Beachy was shaky in his last game, and got nailed for 7 runs. However, his history against the Phillies is stellar with a .222 BAA. If the Phillies pull a guy out of the stands to pitch, and Beachy can give up less than 7 runs, we might have ourselves a good ballgame.

Game 3 involves Wood, coming off his first win of the season versus Lannan who has given Atlanta fits over the last 3 years. This is the kind of game where Philly fans would see an advantage on the pure matchup. Lannan is 6-1 in his last 8 starts against the Braves with a 2.96 ERA. The Braves have had trouble really getting to the lefty previously, but they are coming off one of their hottest hitting series of the year. Wood has obviously never faced the Phillies as a starter before, but he's struggled in the two games of relief he had this year against their lineup. It'll be some lefty on lefty action in this game with the winner likely the guy who keeps the other lineup from going deep.

The CPA won against last night, moving to a 56-36 record. 20 games over .500 baby! On to the weekend predictions.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 6 - Phillies 4
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 5 - Phillies 2
CPA Prediction Game 3: Phillies 3 - Braves 1

The CPA likes the Braves hot hands in the first two games, but the troubles with Lannan give the Phillies the edge over our rookie hurler in Game 3. Can't say I argue too much with that logic. Hopefully the lineup continues to find the RISP magic it held in Turner long enough to transfer it to Citizen's Bank Park.

GO BRAVES!

Game 4 Recap: Rockies 8/1/13



DOUBLE SWEEP! Who likes brooms? We like brooms! What's this, seven games in a row? Awesome. These recaps are becoming very similar. Let me break it down for you. The Braves destroyed the Rockies with another 11 runs. They've scored 40 runs in this 4 game series. It's just been an unyielding assault on the Rockies' pitching since the very first game, and now it's culminated in another sweep, and an 11.5 game lead in the division.

Should we do this again? I'm going to. The Braves scored 11 runs on 14 hits, including a 5 run 8th inning. Let me run that down. Terdo singles, Heyward walks, Justin homers to score 3, Freddie doubles, Cunningham reaches on an infield dribbler then goes to second on a wild pitch, BMac sacrifices in Freeman from third and Cunningham advances, CJ singles to score Cunningham, and then Dan "I hate rallies" Uggla grounded into a double play. Somehow, Uggla and Gattis managed to go 0-8 on a day where the Braves scored 11 runs. I don't know how that's possible.

The pitching was good by Teheran, but he took so many pitches to get his 11 strikeouts that he was done by the 5th inning. That's OK because he was up by 4 and qualified for the win. As a result he gave up only 1 run, even though he really battled in the early innings. The bullpen came in after that to only give up 1 run in 4 innings on 4 hits. The game looked a little out of sorts in the 7th when the Rockies put 2 on with 2 outs, down by 3. The tying run came to the plate in the form of Rosario, one of their power hitters. However, Avilan was able to induce a ground ball out to the SS to kill the singular threat the Rockies mounted all night.

The big concern right now amongst pundits and fans is what will happen with BJ when he gets back. People are watching these huge numbers and dreading what Fredi G will have to do when BJ is deemed healthy. I look at this a couple of ways. For one, I don't think they'll put him in right away. I don't think any MLB manager is going to change anything until the team loses again. There's just no reason to stop the train by tinkering with the lineup. The second the Braves lose, I think that gives Fredi an opportunity to work him back into the lineup on an irregular basis. I don't think for a second he's just going to saunter back on the field and hold the everyday job unless he is really performing differently than we've seen.

Next up the Braves face the Phillies in a road trip. As we all know, road games are a lot different for this team than home games. The series preview for the weekend is coming up a bit later.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Rockies 7/31/13

Is this real life? Are the Braves really scoring an average of almost 10 runs a game in this series? What is going on? Well, the answer is that they are taking advantage of opportunities they were constantly missing earlier in the season. Strikeouts are down, RISP numbers are up, and hits are coming from all positions in the lineup. I know what you're thinking, "Wow this coincides really nicely with Dan Uggla not being a complete failboat and BJ being on the DL." Congrats, you've located a large reason these rallies keep going through the lineup. With those two guys not acting as rallykillers, the Braves are free to wallow in buckets of runs. To quote a famous 7th inning stretch song, "I don't care if BJ ever gets back."

By the time the Braves finished the 3rd inning, the game was over. The Braves didn't like 6 run innings, so they decided to go one better and make it 7. Here's a recap of the 3rd. Heyward walks, Justin singles, Freddie singles scoring Jason, Gattis singles scoring Justin, BMac homers scoring everybody, CJ singles, Dan decides to be different and strikes out, Simmons doubles, Minor singles to score CJ, Heyward sacrifices to score Simmons, Justin strikes out to end the inning. I don't get tired of doing that. I wish I could do it every recap so I can detail how we batted around the order. That's awesome.

How about some individual numbers? Freddie went 4/4 with 2 RBIs, and 2 runs. Justin went 3/5 with a run. Heyward somehow got on base 3 times without the benefit of a hit and only one walk. Gattis, Simmons, and CJ all had 2 hits a piece. The Braves as a whole went for 9 runs on 15 hit with 2 walks. What was that RISP number? Oh, it was 7-17 that's all. Amazing. Simply amazing. We're not just winning these games, we're running the opposition off the field in the first 4 innings. Lost in most of this was the fact that Mike Minor had an absolute gem of a game going. He managed to go 7 innings with no runs and only 2 hits. TWO HITS? If it wasn't for the fact the Braves put a 9-spot on the scoreboard, we'd have been absolute lavishing Minor with praise. As it stands he just faded into the background with his dominant stuff.

Some other things to note: McCann now has his 15th homer on the season, Chris Johnson's average is now .342, and Freddie Freeman now has 71 RBIs on the season. If that seems like a lot of RBIs, that's because it's 5th in the NL. So yeah, it's a lot. Also, CJ is leading in batting average in the NL by 12 points. So that's awesome too. Man, it's an embarrassment of riches around this place. I'm almost giddy with excitement.

The CPA was deeeeeeead wrong about the game last night. What does it think today?

CPA Prediction Game 4: Braves 6 - Rockies 2

Why not? We can't have 10 runs every night, but the Braves are firing on all cylindars right now. No reason for them to cool off until the Rockies leave town.

GO BRAVES!