Monday, September 30, 2013

NL Playoff Matchups: A Short Preview

Well we all know where we stand now. The Braves fought hard but came up a game short of the home field advantage, and as a result they draw the Dodgers in the first round NLDS. I can't say I'm thrilled about that, as you may well know from all my comments about how they aren't the best matchup for us. However, we don't have a choice now and we have to play the hand we were dealt. It does raise a questionable point should anything go wrong that the Braves didn't play their hardest down the stretch with the best lineup in the game. Hopefully, we never have to discuss that when we win the World Series.

The Braves will face off against the Dodgers, with Games 1&2 in Atlanta, 3&4 in LA, and then a decider Game 5 in Atlanta if necessary. The first two games will be on Thursday and Friday of this week. The two games in LA will be Sunday and Monday. The Game 5 would be on Wednesday if they need it. The schedule sets up for the Braves to control the series from the onset, but they can't really afford to drop any of the home games. Why? Because if they do, the series may never come back to Atlanta. That's why it's so important to win Game 1 since it sets the tone for the series, and right now it looks like Kris Medlen will be that tone-setter. He'll likely face off against Clayton Kershaw. More to come on that and the timing of the games as we approach Wednesday.

The Cardinals will face the winner of the Pirates/Reds one game playoff on Tuesday. Their schedule follows the same pattern as the Braves on the same days, with the Cardinals holding home field advantage over the wild card winner. Honestly, I think the Cardinals are rooting for the Reds, since the Pirates actually hold a 10-9 winning season record against St. Louis this year, while the Reds only have a paltry 8-11 record. Also, the Cardinals have roughed up the Reds for an ERA over 5.00, while they haven't hit the Pirates as well with an ERA of 3.94. In the end, I don't think it really matters too much who they get, but I'm rooting for the Pirates selfishly. Why? Because I want the Braves to beat the Dodgers, the Pirates to beat the Cardinals, and that sets up a rematch of Pirates v. Braves in the NLCS. Can you imagine the hype? Braves country would be rapt with anticipation. The Pirates would be trying to exorcise 20 years of demons. The announcers would be playing Sid Bream's slide on a rotating wheel. Glorious!

After the game on Tuesday I'll preview the matchup, since we'll have times and starters defined by the clubs. In the meantime, enjoy the AL play in game tonight, and the Wild Card games tomorrow. We have a week of great baseball and this is just the beginning.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Final Week: Just one weekend left

Yes, the Braves pulled back to even with the Cardinals last night in a 7-1 win over the hapless Phillies and the sacrificial lamb of a pitcher they tossed out there. From pitch #1 when Jason Heyward went deep, you knew that kid Cloyd was in trouble. I don't waste tears on the Phillies though. We have bigger problems to worry about heading into the playoffs with competition that seems to be firing on all cylinders late in the year.

Today I take a look at the last of the possible playoff teams heading into the weekend, The Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are an odd team in that they don't do many things spectacularly, but they do everything really well. They score a lot of runs (3rd NL), but they do it with a rather mediocre batting average (8th NL). They hit some homers (5th NL), but their overall slugging is in the bottom half of the league (9th NL). Their pitching has a solid ERA (4th NL), but they actually lead the league in both strikeouts and BAA.

For a team like the Braves that last bit bothers me the most. The Reds pitchers have been able to strike out a ton of hitters, and they don't give up a ton of hits. The upside is that in matches against Atlanta, the Braves have roughed up the Cincy pitchers for a 5.00 ERA and a 4-3 record favoring the good guys. Of all the teams the Braves could face in the playoff first round, these pitching matchups seem to favor the Braves the most, since the Reds have the worst ERA against the Braves of any playoff team. That hasn't exactly equalled a blowout on the scoreboard, but over 7 games it could be a series win. Pittsburgh is a close 2nd in that stat, which is why whoever wins the wild card game would be a good opponent for the Braves. However, that only happens if we get home field advantage over the Cardinals.

The Reds have 4 key players that are the most dangerous on their team. Bronson Arroyo, who is one of the few pitchers on their staff that has contained the Braves with a 1-1 record and a 3.75 ERA against the Braves lineup. Shin-Soo Choo, who has absolutely destroyed the Braves pitching with a .393 average in 28 ABs, 3 homers, and a double. Zach Cozart with an OPS of 1.000 in 30 ABs against the Braves. And lastly, Brandon Phillips who has managed 9 RBIs in just 27 ABs versus Atlanta. Any of these guys can take over a game and really ruin the Braves day. It's all about negating their influence if the Braves draw them in the first round, and making the rest of the pitching staff and lineup for the Reds step up.

With 3 games left, we've now covered the possiblities. You have the knowledge of what these other teams bring to the table and how they fare against our Braves. Now, it's on the Braves players to keep hitting and maintain pace with the Cardinals so we can stay in the top spot for the best position. This weekend could very well be an enormous factor that we all look back on in October win or lose. Let's hope we all remember it fondly as we hoist a big trophy.

Monday I'll do the preview for the playoffs, and we'll all know where we stand. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend baseball and football, and cheer on the Braves.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Final Week: 4 Games to go

The Braves were shut out last night, and they are a half game behind the Cards with a game to play today. Win the game and they are tied with the breaker. Lose the game, and they drop back in the home field advantage race to second. I could go into the absolute crazy that was the Carlos Gomez thing with BMac, but if you watch ESPN you've already been beaten to death with that coverage. Honestly, Gomez is a fool, I'm glad nobody got hurt, and we can all move on with our lives. The Braves have better things to do than the Brewers in October. Suck on that.

But I'm almost positive they don't care. They absolutely should, but I don't think they do. You know how I know that? Because Jason Heyward got the scheduled day off last night. Jason Heyward, one of the few guys we know for a fact makes the offense go, and has been sidelined with an injury for weeks, got a day off. That's absurd. If you cared about home field, the lineup would have Jason, Gattis/Schafer, Justin, Freddie, Simmons, Elliot, CJ, and BMac in there every single night. If it doesn't, then the Braves don't care, because that's the likely lineup you'll see in the playoffs.

Today in our playoff focus, I look at the Pirates, the team that nobody expected. The Pirates have their first winning season since the famous 1992 season where the Braves ruined their dreams. How fitting would it be to face off against the Pirates again in the NLCS? If things shape up the way they are now, that's actually a likely possibility. The Pirates share a lot in common with the Braves this year. They've survived on great pitching, and their RISP hitting has been totally abysmal. In fact, the Pirates are 14th in the NL in RISP average as a team, meaning they are only slightly better than the Cubs, and actually worse than the Marlins. So how in the world are they winning games? It ain't by scoring a ton of runs, because they are actually 9th in runs scored this year in the NL, which is dead last amongst playoff teams. Nope, they've done it with the 2nd best ERA in the league, behind only Atlanta.

The Pirates have 4 starters they can select with a sub-3.50 ERA and 2 that average a strikeout every inning this season. They are second in the NL in BAA with opponents hitting a paltry .239 this season. However, since the All-Star break the Pirates have fallen away from the pack and that BAA has risen to .256, while the ERA has increased to 3.59. The difference is that they had to face a schedule loaded with tougher divisional opponents, and that has worn down some of those ridiculous staff numbers from the beginning of the season. Still, they command second place in the NL Central for a reason ahead of the Reds, they have dominated at home, and won more than .500 on the road. Though of all the teams going into the playoffs, the Pirates have the lowest run differential.

Nobody is giving the Pirates much of a chance. They are 4-6 in their last ten, three normally solid starters on their pitching staff suddenly have 5.00+ ERA's in September, and their OPS in the final month is in the bottom 5 in the league. Then again, the same can be said for Atlanta's OPS, so it would be foolish not to take either team seriously. With the kind of pitching the Pirates can command at a moment's notice, and the players like McCutchen, Alvarez, and Martin who can turn the game around with the long ball, this Pirates team is going to be the dark horse contender if they make it out of the Wild Card game.

And if they do, hopefully the Braves are waiting with home field advantage.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Final Week: 5 Games to go

The Braves beat the Brewers in walk-off fashion 3-2 last night, and they cling to a slim lead in the NL home field race with 93 wins. It might take 97 or 98 at this rate with the Cardinals playing lights out baseball, so the Braves will need to stay sharp for the rubber game of the Brewers series tonight, and Maholm is going to be pitching this game for his potential shot at the playoff roster. Maholm at home is a different guy than road Maholm, so I think that would be taken into account when Fredi G pencils in his 4th starter.

To continue the series on possible playoff team matchups, I'm looking today at the Dodgers. The Dodgers are one of the few playoff teams that went through a horrible start at the beginning of the season before turning on the afterburners about mid-way through. It helped that Arizona absolutely fell apart down the stretch too. The Dodgers home and road splits are basically even. They really don't care where they play, because they can win anywhere with their pitching staff. Make no mistake, this Dodgers team is pitching first, hitting second.

If you looked at pitching after the all star break, nobody is better than the Dodgers. Not even the Braves who are a distant 2nd in ERA. The Dodgers have 3 of the best starters in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Zach Grienke. If you look at their games after the break, Grienke and Kershaw have ERAs under 2.00, and Ryu is under 3.00. That's unmatched on any staff. In a 5 game series, they can be absolutely devestating, which is one of the main reasons you'd rather face them in a longer series where you have home field advantage. Otherwise, they could just sweep you out of the building in 3 games and call it a day with their shutdown starters. Even more terrifying for a Braves team that has contact problems at times, those three pitchers have struck out a combined 515 batters this season. Yikes.

However, despite the great pitching, the Dodgers aren't exactly studs at the plate. In fact, they are middle of the pack in runs scored in the NL, and the 4th lowest scoring playoff team ahead of Pittsburgh. So why are they able to pull out games? Because they have timely hitting. Their RISP hitting is 5th in the NL, and they have the 3rd highest OBP in the NL. They put guys on and they get them over and in. It's the basic philosophy of the old Braves teams. Throw your best starters out there and manufacture runs with small ball. They do that in spades, and are tied for the league lead in sacrifice flies. If they can get a runner to third with one out, he's coming home. That's how the Dodgers have been winning games.

The key to stopping them? Don't let runners get in scoring position. The Dodgers are good singles hitters, but they are average in doubles, and below average in homers. They can get hits, but they don't really punish you with a deep ball. That gives pitchers an advantage because they can fire pitches is in the zone without much fear of a moon shot. That means you can be aggressive with these guys, especially early in the inning. As a result, the Braves have pitched them that way, and they have a 5-2 record against the Dodgers with a 1.88 ERA, best in the NL. The matchup favors our pitchers against their hitting.

But the downside is that the Braves haven't faced Kershaw, and the one time they faced Grienke, they got blown apart with a 7 inning, four hit shutout. That doesn't bode well for the possible pitcher's duel you might face against these guys, because if it comes down to grinding out the one RISP hit, the Braves aren't high in that category. What they'd need is that one long bomb to take down these LA starters, and put the fear of God into them with our power bats. We'd need a guy like Gattis staring them down late in the game grinding sawdust out of the bat ready to tomahawk a fastball at the neck into left field.

And that's what I'm waiting for. 5 more days to go before the season's over. Stay healthy and keep winning.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Final Week: 6 games to go

The Braves played the Brewers last night and lost, so we're tied with the Cardinals for first place in the NL right now, holding the tiebreaker. What's important is that the regular season is 6 days from completion, and we as fans need to be looking ahead to that finish.

What I'm going to be doing is taking a look at the other playoff teams over the next few days instead of just recapping the games left. Why? Because honestly, as much as I want us to take home field advantage, I'm getting the feeling the Braves as an organization don't really care. They don't seem to be putting the best team on the field, and they look satisfied to play wherever. I think that's stupid, but they look like they are putting an emphasis on rest, rather than fighting to the finish. Time will tell if that's the right call or not, but when Freddie Freeman is on the bench? Your best RISP hitter? That tells me you don't care.

I'll start by looking at the team that just tied us, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals hold the top spot in the NL in run differential. They have the most runs scored in the NL. They have the most doubles in the NL. They strike out the second fewest times in the league. They make contact, and they have the highest on-base percentage in the NL. This is a team that has no easy outs. From the outside looking in, the Cardinals are the odds on favorite to win the league and go to the world series if you looked only at their offense.

However, their pitching isn't nearly as strong. Their starter ERA is a 3.51, tied with the Pirates for 3rd amongst the playoff contenders. Their bullpen ERA is also at a 3.54, but that's way down the list of 10th in the NL, and 4th amongst playoff teams. Comparatively, the Braves are 1st still in that category. The Cardinals have one terrifying pitcher, Adam Wainwright. He's posted a 3.01 ERA with a whopping 214 Ks this year. Now, against a whiff-happy lineup, I'd say Wainwright is going to dominate. My guess though is that our whiffers are only going to be whiffing the scent of pine as they ride the bench. The Braves lineup would consist of contact if we were to face Wainwright, and still the numbers are terrible. Guys like Simmons are Justin haven't had a single hit off him in double digit ABs. So, I hate that matchup against pretty much anybody. The rest of their starters are gettable in my mind. Lance Lynn is nothing special, and Shelby Miller is a 22 year old rookie starter. Now, he's a really GOOD rookie starter with a 3.12 ERA, but he's still young, and that matters in the playoffs.

The real focus of the Cardinals is that they never let up at the plate. They press on every AB, and they don't give up many easy outs. A walk starts a rally with that team. You have to be spot on as a pitcher when you face them, because they can destroy you with a bad inning. The Braves aren't that different in that they can kill you with a blast, but the Cardinals can also double you to death. However, in games against the Cardinals this year, nobody pitched better against them in the NL than the Braves. With a 2.85 team ERA, the Braves were one of the few teams that slowed down the Cardinals onslaught, and that can't be said of the other playoff teams. In fact, the only one who would be close is the Dodgers with a 3.05 team ERA against the Cardinals. The Red Birds would much prefer to face a team like Cincinnati, with their 5.05 ERA.

Five starting hitters in the Cardinals lineup are hitting over .350 with RISP on the season. The Braves have one. Five starting hitters on the Cardinals are hitting .298 or better on the season. The Braves have two. Seven starters on the Cardinals have an OPS over .700. The Braves have six. Here's the key though, at home the Cardinals have an OPS of .737, and the Braves have an OPS of .752. However, in away games the Cardinals OPS is .728, and the Braves OPS is .694. That means the Cardinals only suffer a 9 point dropoff on the road in production, while the Braves suffer 58 points. That's a HUGE difference, and exactly why the Braves should be fighting to the finish so they don't lose home field.

We'll see if they can keep it up tonight with Garcia facing the Brewer's Thornburg. However, Chris Johnson, another one of our best hitters, is taking the night off. I don't think they get it. If the Braves lose home field, they may end up totally regretting it in October. Along with the rest of us.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Recap: BRAVES CLINCH!

The Braves are your 2013 NL East Champions! Party time! Confetti and champagne all around! It's been 8 years since the Braves have claimed the top spot in the division, and they finally wrapped it up on Sunday by beating the Cubs and having the Nats lose to the lowly Marlins.


There's our boy Freddie getting doused with a frosty beverage in front of the logo. Nice work on the goggles guys, they do nothing! I won't bother really going into the finer points of the Cubs series because honestly, who cares now that we won? The race is over, and we're on top of the division. Now it's just about getting the gravy of home field advantage. There was some good and some bad and some ugly in this series with the Cubs, and I'll recap them all here:

The GOOD: Duh, we won the division. Oh, and we won two out of three in the series. Also, Freeman and CJ went on an unholy tear through the Cubs in these three games, notching a combined 10 hits, 7 RBIs, 3 homers, and a double. Those guys are going to be your go-to hitters in the playoffs, make no mistake. You need the rest of the lineup to step up around them, but I don't think there can be any doubt that if you need a clutch hit, you want Freddie or CJ in the box.

The BAD: The bullpen wasn't good at all. We're used to them being so good all season long, but in this series they gave up 4 runs in 3 games out of the pen. That's not acceptable for a team getting ready to start it's true first playoff series in a few years. Part of this is injury, part is fatigue, and part is simply bad timing. However, they need to lock it up and get the job done when the lights get brightest in October.

The UGLY: Dan Uggla got 6 ABs in the series and went 0-6 with 4 Ks. BJ got 4 ABs and went 0-4 with 3 Ks. They can't play in the playoffs, period. I don't want to see either of them get a single game. As far as I'm concerned, they are officially on the DL and unable to perform. Nobody wants them there, nobody needs them there, and from this point forward Elliot Johnson is your starting 2nd baseman, and Jason Heyward is your starting CF with a possibility to slot in Schafer if you don't want to play Gattis in left. Done. End of story. We're out of patience and they are out of time. Better luck next year, Dan and BJ, get out your pom-poms because you are cheerleading in the dugout from now on.

That being said, two things will make or break the Braves in the playoffs this year. I harp on the first one all the time, and that's RISP hitting. We're the worst team that's going to make the playoffs in the NL in that category. The second is starting pitching. We're 4th out of 5 in that category of starter ERA. Let's be real about our chances, a lot of things are going to have to go right for us, and to get those things, we HAVE to be at home. Our home splits are so ridiculously favorable, that to lose home field advantage would be a massive shot to our chances. The Braves can't let up now, no matter what. Get out there and go win those games to take that home field, or a lot of us will start getting very nervous when that first game rolls round.

GO BRAVES!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Series Preview: Cubs Weekend Day Game Extravaganza

Welcome to Chicago, where the players play in the day. Fans are Wrigley have an obsession with day games so get ready for 3 in a row for our Braves. The best news of this series? Jason Heyward is scheduled to get into the lineup and lead off today. Are you jacked? I'm jacked. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Maholm (10-10) v. Baker (0-0)
Game 2 - Medlen (14-12) v. Wood (9-11)
Game 3 - Teheran (12-8) v. Jackson (8-16)

The first game is Maholm on the road. Ugh. I'll preview it anyway. Maholm has been day to day since he pitched on the 8th of September in Philly, a game we lost 2-3. However, he wasn't that bad, or at least not the total greasefire he's been on the road in the past. It's very possible that against a bad team with a full compliment of Braves swinging the bats, he could secure a win. He's facing off against Scott Baker, a guy who has two starts with the Cubs this year after taking a year off from the majors. He's lost both, but didn't factor in the decisions. He's a 7 year vet, but his career ERA is above 4.00, which shows you how desperate the Cubs are for starters. It should be a win if we're hitting and Maholm keeps it in the ballpark.

Medlen has been on fire of late. The Braves have won 4 of his starts in a row, he's been solid on the road, and he's had a September ERA of 1.31. Add into the fact that he's held this Cubs lineup to a .067 BAA, and you have a very strong case that this could be a fun pitching outing to watch on Saturday. Luckily the college games are mostly awful, so you'll get that chance. He'll oppose Travis Wood, a guy who's on a roll of his own. He's 2-1 in his last 4 starts with an ERA of 2.70 in the month of September. For a guy playing on the Cubs, it doesn't get much better than that. Tempered expectations of course. The key to this game will be Justin Upton, the guy who actually has 10 ABs off Wood, which is the most of in the lineup. Justin has had success off the guy going 3/10 with a bomb. If he can tip off the other hitters in the order, this sets up an advantage for the Braves.

Teheran didn't do what I expected in his last outing. In fact, he got lit up by the Padres in a 0-4 loss. I can't really take that one game as a benchmark though, since the Braves didn't score at all, and showed no signs of giving him any support from the jump. However, what I can benchmark is that Teheran has been shaky in his last two road starts, giving up 7 total runs. He needs to make this a good road start so he can gain back some confidence before the playoffs, and the Cubs are a good target. Most of their hitters haven't faced him before, but in the limited ABs of those who have, they are batting .400 off him. Not great. Edwin Jackson goes for the Cubs, but he's been probably their worst pitcher in terms of record. Actually, there's no probably. He is their worst pitcher. Teheran simply needs to get any amount of support from the Braves, and he should have the lead in this game to work with. Look for Freeman, Justin, and BMac to crush Jackson, as they have lifetime averages over .333 with a combined 3 homers.

The CPA predicted the Braves would beat the Nats on Thursday, even when people were panicking. It looks at this weekend to see if the Braves sew this thing up in Chicago.

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

The CPA likes the Braves to win 2 of these games and clinch the division in Chicago. The first game will be typical Maholm awfulness, followed by the Braves hitters getting some better looks against two of the Cubs less than stellar starters. Let's take this thing back to Atlanta with a division championship in tow.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Nats

Feel better now? Everyone can breathe a little and relax, we're going to be okay. The Braves won a game and all is right with the world. For a while, it didn't look good. In fact, for about five innings of that game, the Braves had only amassed one hit. However, in the 6th just after CB Bucknor made another one of his famously awful calls to give the Nats the lead, the Braves busted out the bats. Dan Uggla led the charge with his first homer since I think February, and then Justin capped that off with a 2 run shot of his own to take the lead 3-2. This was of course after Fredi G and Wood had already been thrown out of the game by Bucknor for pointing out what a moron he is, and how he should have been fired at the AA level. But I digress.

The Braves win 5-2, the Magic Number is at 2, and the Nats look like they are going from furiously swimming upstream to possibly being swept out to sea. The Braves 2-9 with RISP isn't going to light me on fire with confidence about our hitting, but the clutch homers by Uggla and Justin did. Dan is obviously still trying to make a case that he's not awful and doesn't belong on the bench for the playoffs. I'm not buying yet. Maybe if he goes .300+ over the next 10 games with 5 homers? I might think about it. Otherwise, back of the line, Popeye. We need contact hitters.

Schafer finally showed up big after having what can only be described as a miserable week, as he went 2/4 with a run scored and an RBI. Justin went 2/4 with the aforementioned homer. BMac had a long shot off the center field wall that scored Simmons all the way from first, and Uggla had the leadoff bomb. The Braves didn't have a ton of chances, but they made the most of what they got, leaving only 4 guys on base. The pitching by Wood was superb before the 5th inning when things go away from him, and the calls at the plate were questionable. Then the bullpen who let us down in the first game, came roaring back to go 4 scoreless including a save by young Kimbrel. Craig looked like he was ready to chew nails out there on the mound. If blowing a save is what it took to light a fire under him, I'm happy it came before the playoff rounds.

So now the Braves enjoy a day off before heading to Chicago to face the slumping Cubs. The Cubbies have lost 5 in a row and 7 of their last 10 games. The Braves need to win two games to put this thing away, assuming the Nats don't drop a game to the crappy Marlins. Things are setting up well for that to happen, and for the Braves to enjoy a nice night on the town in Chicago when they clinch the division. Besides doing it at home, there aren't many better places to party in September than the Windy City. Hopefully they get to enjoy it soon.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Game 1 & 2 Recap: Nats

People are starting to panic. I'll say this about what happened yesterday, it was a terrible display of baseball. The Braves are playing like crap right now, and we all know it. The Nationals are playing their best baseball of the season and we know that too. If we were involved in a really tight race that depended on this series in order establish a lead, we'd be totally screwed.

But we're not involved in a close race. The magic number is 4, and there are 11 games left. If we get swept by the Nationals, I don't care. If we get swept by the Cubs and the Nats win out? Then you can start to get nervous. Otherwise, we just need to focus on what we know how to do, and that's making good contact and getting guys in with RISP. One of the reasons we lost this double header is because the Braves went 1-14 across both games with RISP. In fact, they've gone 6-54 with RISP in their last 7 games. That's a .111 average for those of you scoring at home. That's beyond dreadful, pushing the needle into nausea-inducing.

In Game 1 the Braves actually plated some runs, mostly off the homer. Bang or bust, it's what we saw when the first big slump came around in late April and early May. The most shocking part of our RISP slump was that the only guy in this game who has a RISP hit was Dan freaking Uggla. That should tell you something about how the rest of these guys are swinging it. Good for Dan though. Just don't think that means you get a playoff start, buckaroo. Gattis came through with a big 2 run homer late in the game to give the Braves a 4-3 lead, and an error by the Nats made it 5-3. However, Kimbrel was not the save machine we are used to, and he couldn't find the handle on any of his pitches. As a result, he walked 2 guys, gave up a hit and an error on Simmons, and the game was over with the Nats scoring 3 times. Craig only recorded a single out. It was hit worst outing of the year in my mind, and it just happened to come at a time where we could have used the push.

In Game 2, we didn't hit at all. Plain and simple. Garcia got into some trouble, but navigated it well to hold the damage to just a run for his tenure in the game. So the Braves only trailed 1-0 for 7 innings of baseball. Unfortunately, they only had 5 hits all day. Some guys are absolutely dead weight right now at the dish on the week. Here's a few guys that are on milk cartons. Jordan Schafer is hitting .067 in 6 games. BJ Upton is hitting .087 in 12 ABs. Evan Gattis is hitting .103, but he has 2 homers in 7 games. BMac is hitting .133 with a homer in 4 games. Also, Simmons is hitting .227 with only 1 run scored. Right now, Elliot and Chris Johnson, Justin Upton, and Freddie Freeman are carrying this team. If not for them, the Braves wouldn't have even won the 2 games they won.

I hate to say it, but we're the 24th ranked team in average this week in the majors, and that's not going to cut it for a playoff club. It sure as Hell doesn't cut it for a team that wants to win the NL outright. We have to stop hanging our heads and start making good contact. We have to stop chasing early in counts and start working pitchers into favorable situations. We need to slow down and stop pressing. We're the ones in the lead. We're the ones holding the top spot. We don't need to worry or panic, and we certainly don't need to grind it at the plate. That's what I want the attitude to be when we play tonight against the Nats.

The CPA was 1-1 on the double header, and now it looks at the rubber game. Will the Braves snap out of it in time to salvage a game and some of the fan's sanity?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 4 - Nats 2

The CPA thinks they will turn it on today. Ohlendorf has struggled with the Braves hitters in the past, and he hasn't faced them this season, nor has he faced Freeman ever in his career. I think Freddie will relish the chance to take a game back from the Nats, and I think the lineup is getting pissed off about all the negative talk. Let's hope they can push some lumber on these fools and take the magic number to 2.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Series Preview: Nats

Last one. Last series against the hated Nats. We need this one to shut them down for the division, and possibly take them out of playoff contention. Make no mistake, there's been no hotter team in baseball than the Nats right now. They are fighting for a playoff spot and trailing the Reds by only 5 games. We can take that all away with a good series this week. Unfortunately, we're playing some of our worst offensive ball at the moment. We'll need to find the sticks and pitch with panache to take 2 of the 3 this time. On to the matchups:

Game 1 - Minor (13-7) v. Haren (9-13)
Game 2 - Garcia (4-6) v. Roark (6-0)
Game 3 - Wood (3-3) v. Ohlendorf (4-0)

Game 1 will not happen tonight. There's been a horrible shooting nearby and they are still looking for the guys as I type this, so I have no if matchups will stay the same as they are supposed to do a double header tomorrow. If they do, here's what to expect. Minor is better than Haren. Minor has an ERA near 3, Haren has one near 5. Minor has won 13 games, Haren as lost 13 games. What matters currently is that Minor has lost 2 in a row on the road, and Haren won his last game in a 6 inning shutout. One team is hot, and one isn't. I'm hoping that Minor can turn that around, but he frankly hasn't been good in a month. The worst part is that he's had a very bad line against the Nats. He's pitched 2 games against them and he has a 7.04 ERA. That's...depressing. Haren on the other hand has one start against the Braves with a win and an ERA of 1.00. So while Minor is a better pitcher than Haren, this matchup really stinks for the Braves.

Game 2 will be the back end of the double header, so again the matchups might shift. If they go like this Garcia isn't a bad guy to toss against the Nats. He's got a .133 BAA, and a win with a 0.00 ERA this year in one game. I'll take that. Facing him will be Tanner Roark, a 6'2" rook who has lit up the majors in his brief appearance. A 1.32 ERA in 35 innings isn't too shabby, and he faced the Braves for 4 innings in relief, giving up only a single hit. I have no idea what to expect here, other than the Braves having a few issues hitting him early in the game. However, the more looks we have at a guy the better, typically. That means maybe by the second time through the lineup, we can get a spot for a big inning.

Game 3 is Wood with a 1.42 ERA against Washington in one game, and he goes against Ohlendorf who hasn't faced Atlanta all season. Again, this is one of those games where 3 runs may win it. The Braves will have to find a way to scrap enough to get those key hits, and Wood has to watch out for the hitting antics of Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper. Honestly, this is such a tossup that you hope the Braves can take the first two in the double header so that this one doesn't matter. However, with the other matchups, it's likely this will be a rubber game, and we'll need it to clinch.

I can't say I like any of the matchups, but then again the Braves have found ways to beat up on the Nationals so far this season. They just need to do it one more time. The CPA took a beating from the Padres going 1-2 on the series, and it will make a pick on both games of the double header tomorrow.

CPA Prediction Game 1: Nats 6 - Braves 2
CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 3 - Nats 1

The CPA expects a split. Minor has been awful against the Nats and they are on a hot streak, it may be a buzzsaw situation there. The crafty vet Garcia on the other hand may be ready to deal those Nats a late loss with his contact pitching. A split of a double header isn't that bad honestly, so we can hope for that and focus on game 3 next.

GO BRAVES

Weekend Series Recap: Padres

I hate recapping series like this, because we came into it expecting to beat a bad team, and we left with a losing series at home. I can't tell if it was just because the Braves were only in town for a short while, so they were fatigued? Or if they just didn't have the same focus they've had in other games? Whatever it was, the product on the field wasn't up to par, and they should start to feel a little heat. We're running out of games to start kicking this thing back into high gear, and right now I don't feel like this is a team that can beat a hot squad. We'll find out with this series against Washington because there's nobody hotter in baseball right now.

Game 1 was the bullpen blowing it. Plain and simple. David Hale had a gem going for 5 innings of shutout ball, and the bullpen completely lost it. Ayala and Walden both gave up 2 runs in 2 innings apiece, and that gave up a 3-0 nothing Braves lead, turning it into a 4-3 Braves loss. Now, the bullpen has been mostly fantastic all year, so we can't really complain when they blow a single game, however, it doesn't mean we have to like it. Still, the Braves had 5 hits and 3 runs, but on 0-4 with RISP. They were lucky to get that many runs on so few hits, because offensively they didn't have it. Once again, it was one big inning that plated all 3 runs, and the rest of the game they were totally ineffective. Freeman, Justin, and BMac had the hits, 2 of them homers. Everyone else? Goose egg. That can't happen this far into the season. We need more from these guys against bad teams to close the door. If it happens AFTER we clinch? Fine, I can live with that. I just don't like how lazy we seem at the plate right now, and it's showing up in the box scores.

Game 2 was the same story, except the pitching didn't let us down. Braves had 9 hits, 2 runs, and went 2-8 with RISP. Not fantastic, and certainly could have been another losing line, but Medlen was dazzling. He went 7.1 innings with only 4 hits and no runs. He was lights out on the Padres, and the only run they collected was off Kimbrel, who finally gave up a homer before closing the door on a 2-1 win. This is the pitching we'd need in the playoffs, which is a little scary. I'm not sure Medlen can be shutout on against a team like the Cardinals, but if the Braves bats aren't firing, he may have to be. The big key in this game offensively was Freddie going yard, and having a 3/3 day with a walk. He's been one of the few guys on the team who day in and day out gets the job done. If we could populate a roster with 8 Freemans, we'd win the World Series in a sweep.

Game 3 was a 4 hit, no run disaster. 0-6 with RISP, and Teheran got rocked for 4 runs after pitching 5 innings of shutout ball. Frankly, if the Braves had put anything up on the board, we may have taken him out and put in the bullpen. What ended up happening is Julio lingering in a tie game for one too many innings, and getting lit up. CJ, Freeman, and Justin had the hits along with Juilo himself. The rest of the lineup? GOOSE EGG. Oh look, BJ played and went 0-3, that's nice. He's had 1 hit in 8 games. Can we just declare him a failure this season yet and wait until next year? Or do we have to continue to pretend he might make it into a playoff game? He won't. Fredi G isn't that stupid.

The Nats are up next, and I'll have a preview up next. We're looking at some weird stuff with a shooting in Washington right now, so I'm not sure what that means for the game, or for the city in general. Stay posted.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekend Series Preview: Padres

It's a quick and dirty 3-gamer back in Turner Field before the Braves have to hit the road again. That means we're looking at a lot of pitchers you've likely seen very little of (on both sides) in this homestand. As such, I'll give you a look at what to expect for the matches against the Padres. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Hale (0-0) v. Kennedy (6-9)
Game 2 - Medlen (13-12) v. Erlin (2-2)
Game 3 - Teheran (12-7) v. Smith (0-1)

Welcome to the majors David Hale. For those of you that don't know, and I'm guessing that's a lot of you, David Hale is a 25 year old rookie out of Marietta, went to Princeton, and he's graduated every year he's been in the minors from rookie ball up to AAA. He's started 20 games in AAA with a 3.22 ERA and a WHIP of 1.39 on the season. Is he ready for a primetime starter job? Personally, I think he's probably not quite yet, but we'll see how it works out. My biggest concern is the kid's command, as he's known for a lot of strikeouts, but he's also known for a lot of walks to go with them. At the MLB level, in today's pitchcount-obsessed world, tons of walks and Ks mean tons of pitches, and that means an early exit. Keep an eye on his command against the Padres. He'll face off against Kennedy who should be well-known amongst Braves fans. He's a 6-year vet who spent a lot of time with the Dbacks and Padres in his tenure. He's also been smoked by Atlanta twice this season for a 5.79 ERA. If the Braves can keep their head on straight, and David Hale doesn't walk the lineup, this sets up for the Braves to take game 1 at home.

Medlen looks to extend his winning streak in Game 2. The Braves have won his last 3 starts in a row, and they look to make it 4 against Robbie Erlin, a rook with a 5.56 ERA in 6 starts. It's a complete mismatch on paper in favor of the Braves. Medlen has held the Padres lineup to a .556 OPS, which is just silly, and Robbie Erlin has an 8.62 ERA when he goes on the road. It's about as far apart in terms of numerical advantages as you're likely to see, but be forewarned. The Braves have had horrible luck hitting guys they've never seen before, regardless of ERA. That means they may struggle to find the ball without their regular leadoff guy in the lineup.

Game 3 features Teheran versus another guy you've never heard of, Burch Smith. Burch is so new he doesn't even have a picture on the website. I know little about this kid except his parents obviously hated him enough to give him the name Burch. It sounds like a grumpy muppet. Also he's posted a 9.17 ERA in the majors in 4 starts, so he has good reason to be disgruntled. Teheran is on a two game winning streak and looking to tack on. He had issues with the Padres earlier in the season, but he'll look to right the ship from his awful 6 run outing in SD. He's out for revenge, and Burch is a good candidate for a whooping.

The CPA won again and goes to 74-50, with a 4 game winning streak. Love that money! What about the weekend matchups?

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

The CPA likes the Braves in a sweep. The Padres are tossing high ERA guys at us, and with the exception of David Hale, we're posting two of our best at them. Game 1 may be close, and the CPA predicts a tossup on that with a home field advantage, but David may be able to pull them through. The rest of the games just rely on the Braves converting their chances against rookies. Get to it and seal this thing up!

GO BRAVES!

Game 4 Recap: Marlins 9/12/13

Braves closed out another good series with a 6-1 win on Thursday afternoon in front of dozens of Miami fans. That makes it a 3/4 win series for the Braves, and the magic number falls down to 6. The Nationals seem intent on winning also against bad teams, so we may not clinch this thing until we play in Washington or later. They are also making a last gasp push at the Wild Card if the Reds falter. The Braves would love nothing more than to go into Washington and taking 2 of 3, crushing their dreams for good.

But what happened in this game on Thursday? Well for starters, Freddy Garcia actually pitched really well. I was certainly concerned about tossing out the backups and Garcia in a game I wanted to win, but he pitched to contact and went 6 innings with only 5 hits and 1 run surrendered. Walden came back into the fold and went an inning in relief, along with Varvaro and Carpenter to shut it down. The key hitters in the game were Gattis, Freeman, and CJ, as they combined for 7/14 and 6 RBIs at the plate. BJ and Dan Uggla played and BJ got a hit. Dan got nothing. Combined they were 1/8 with 3 Ks. I never want to see them play for the rest of the year. They are officially on the DL in my mind, and we'll have to wait to next season to see what happens. I think the Braves will do everything in their power to get Dan Uggla out of here, and they'll probably pay 2/3 of his salary to do it. BJ? We'll ride him for another couple of years and see if he can't get it going the year after his big contract. Everyone hopes this is just a one year thing, and he'll settle in. I think he might, but not for the rest of 2013.

As has been typical lately, all the Atlanta scoring came in a flurry in the 3rd and 4th innings. The Braves plated 4 runs in the 3rd, and Freddie hit a 2 run homer in the 4th. Freddie gets the rare game MVP for his 3/4 day with a homer, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, and a walk. He did it all on his birthday, so he got a nice present from the pitchers that day. CJ also had 3 hits, including 2 doubles to go with his 2 RBIs. Gattis had just the one double, but it plated 2 runners as well. The rest of the lineup was mostly non-functional, except Justin who nabbed 3 walks and 2 runs as a result.

Now the Braves come home for a quick turnaround 3 game series against the Padres before they head to Washington. The weekend series preview is up next.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Game 3 Recap: Marlins 9/11/13

As expected, the Braves offense finally had a slump day, and it happened against a likely rookie of the year candidate in Fernandez. Simmons actually had a great day at the plate going 2/3 with a walk, a double, and a triple. Gattis hit another huge homer that went 412 feet. Also Schafer had a nice double in the game. Otherwise? The Braves went 1-10 with RISP, stranded 8, only had 7 hits, and in general didn't get the job done in key positions. That was bound to happen eventually since they've been riding a razor's edge at the plate in terms of situational hitting.

Meanwhile, Minor had a horrible outing. He's been going downhill in the latter half of the year, and it's starting to be a concern. In this game he went 6 innings, gave up an astounding 11 hits, 5 runs, and 2 homers including one to the pitcher. In his last 6 games, Minor has given up 4 runs or more in 4 of them. That's not good at all, and it should be concerning to fans that his ERA has been near 4.00 since the beginning of August. In the last 3 games specifically, he's been giving up homers, and that's the old Mike Minor problem. We can't have that as we wind down to the playoffs.

The homer he gave up to Fernandez started a bit of a broohaha as the rookie pitcher apparently showboated too much. This led to McCann getting in his face, CJ getting ready to slug the guy for apparently spitting on 3rd base, and the benches cleared. No punches were thrown, but there was a lot of pearl clutching about HOW TO PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY. Please, this is the end of the season guys. Everyone settle the hell down and focus on closing out this division. Fernandez met with his manager after the game and got a lesson about what is appropriate, and supposedly he apologized for being Bryce Harper for 30 seconds. Water under the bridge, as he's shut down for the season no anyway.

Today the Braves play a day game  to get out of Miami with a possible series win. Alex Wood is getting skipped in the rotation, so Atlanta will likely be sending out the giveup lineup with Freddy Garcia on the mound. I'm not pleased. I just want to finish this thing off instead of screwing around with resting people. Anyway, the CPA (73-50) won against last night with it's prediction of a Marlins win. Now it's ranks this day matchup to find out if the Braves walk out with 3 games or a split.

CPA Prediction Game 4: Braves 2 - Marlins 1

Eovaldi has shut out the Braves for 2 games in a row, but most pitchers can't keep that streak up for long against a power team. It doesn't have to be flashy, but a two run bomb might be the difference in this game according to the CPA. Look for Simmons to factor into this game given the prior history.

GO BRAVES!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Game 2 Recap: Marlins

To quote the CPA from yesterday, "Look for [Julio] to try and strikeout a lot of guys early which may mean the pitch count gets up there. Also look for Freddie to be a difference maker in this one."

Julio struck out 6 in his 6.2 innings, so he didn't get after guys like it expected, and in fact he gave up the lead in the first inning with 3 runs. However, Freddie Freeman absolutely was a difference maker in that game. Freddie went 2/4 with 2 runs and a walk. The other difference makers were Gattis, McCann, and CJ, who combined for 5 hits and 4 RBIs. The RISP hitting was basically terrible as the Braves left chance after chance on the basepaths, going 3-16. However, even though they stranded 10 guys, the pitching picked up the slack after Julio's first inning explosion, and they shut out the Marlins from that point onward.

The biggest moment in the game came in the 7th inning when the bases were loaded with 2 outs, and Stanton was due up at the plate. Fredi G made a pitching change to bring in Ayala, and he fanned Stanton on three pitches to escape the jam. That was the closest the Marlins came to winning the game, but the Braves were not to be denied. Also, this was another case of the Braves getting all their runs in early spurts, and then completely shutting down for the duration. The Braves scored 2 in the first, 2 in the third to take the lead, and then nobody on either side crossed the plate for the rest of the game. This gave the announcers plenty of time to question how the Marlins come up with their inflated attendance numbers.

Justin had to leave the game in the fourth with a knee bruise, but it's nothing serious. He should probably get the day off today and then come back in for the fourth game of the series. Also in the ancillary box score, Gattis had another error. He's still a liability in left field, but he's been on a tear since he's come back from the AAA hiatus. In fact, he's hitting .261 over the last week with 2 homers on 6 RBIs. That's on a week where the Braves as a team have been struggling to score runs, so El Oso Blanco is the big RBI fish right now. 

The CPA was correct in predicting a 1 run Braves win last night, so it's up to 72-50 now. What about the tough pitching matchup between Minor and Fernandez tonight?

CPA Prediction Game 3: Marlins 4 - Braves 1

Minor hasn't been sharp lately, and seems to always go one inning too long before he gets into trouble. The Braves are still really streaky at the plate, and you have to believe in one of these games they simply aren't going to score many. Against a guy like Fernandez, who is being shut down after this game, the CPA believes he's going to pitch like there is no tomorrow. Because there is no tomorrow for him.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Game 1 Recap: Marlins 9/9/13

Hey that's one way to knock off a losing streak! Have a huge inning in the 4th and then just coast to the finish line on good pitching. I'll take that any day of the week. So will Kris Medlen for that matter, as he's been completely starved for offense.

The big inning started with a Justin double, then a Freddie double, then a Gattis double to score 2. Then a BMac walk, a CJ single that scored a run, Simmons lineout, Elliot Johnson single to score a run, a Medlen K, and a wild pitch that scored the 5th run. That's all your offense, and it all happened for the Braves in the 4th inning alone. In fact, the Braves didn't get a single hit after that inning, and they didn't get a hit before that inning. 8 innings of nothing, and 1 inning of brilliance. Talk about feast or famine inside a single game.

The pitching was fantastic for 6 innings, and then Medlen stayed in one inning too long in the 7th and gave up 2 runs. Other than that, and Fredi G did let him have some leeway there, Medlen was spot on. The bullpen put out the flames and proceeded to go into shutdown mode for the rest of the game and the win. The Braves went 4-9 with RISP while the Marlins went 3-9, but the results were wildly different. Mainly it was the plethora of doubles that sealed the victory for the Braves.

The downside is still the leadoff spot. Jordan Schafer went 0-4 in this game. This follows an 0-12 in Philly in the leadoff position. In fact, we haven't had a leadoff position hit since September 3rd when BJ had 2 against the Mets. The loss of Jason Heyward in that slot could not be more obvious, and the offense is much worse without him there. In that regard, the news has been good that Jason is ready to take batting practice, and he's on target to make it back into the lineup near the end of the regular season. It can't come fast enough to get him on track for the playoff push, because we are absolute desperate for some production at the top of the order right now.

Oh yeah, and the CPA (71-50)? Exactly right yesterday! BOOYAH! What about game 2?

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 2 - Marlins 1

The CPA isn't expecting a ton of runs in this one, mostly because the Braves are really streaky at the plate right now, but Julio has managed to fire on all cylinders against the Marlins. Look for him to try and strikeout a lot of guys early which may mean the pitch count gets up there. Also look for Freddie to be a difference maker in this one.

GO BRAVES!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Series Preview: Marlins 4 games

We need some wins. This losing streak nonsense is for the birds. There's no better team to get right against than the Marlins, so I want to at least get 2 games out of this road trip 4 game series. On to the matchups!

Game 1 - Medlen (12-12) v. Alvarez (3-3)
Game 2 - Teheran (11-7) v. Koehler (3-9)
Game 3 - Minor (13-6) v. Fernandez (11-6)
Game 4 - Wood (3-3) v. Eovaldi (3-6)

Medlen wants to win another game so he can get his record up above 50/50. He's been one of the few Braves pitchers that's been on a winning streak of late, winning his last 2 matchups against the Mets and the Indians. Right now, Kris has his ERA under 3.50, and his WHIP is sitting at a respectable 1.28 on the season. However, on the road, Kris has seen his ERA go up to 4.23, and the opposing BAA hit .258. That's cause for concern against most teams. It's less worrysome against a Miami team that scores the lowest run totals of anyone in baseball. Alvarez has major problems (.293 BAA) with the Braves, so this sets up well for us as the Marlins are 1-2 in his starts against Atlanta this season.

Teheran needs a good game. He's been hot and cold in alternating starts, so I'd like to see him stay hot off a win against the Marlins last week where he only allowed one run. He's dominated the fish this season in 3 starts with a 2.41 ERA and a 2-0 record. Opposing him will be Tom Koehler, who earned a no decision in his one appearance against the Braves, but the Marlins went on to lose the game 11-3. So, on paper this sets up as a complete mismatch in favor of the Braves. That means we'll have to ramp up the hitting a bit to get Julio on the right track, and Koehler has been known to really labor after pitch #30 to hitters. That means as we get into the 3rd inning, look out!

Minor always seems to draw the best pitcher the opposing team has to offer. In this case, the one bright, shining light in the Marlins organization is Jose Fernandez. He's not just good, he's probably one of the top pitchers in the NL right now. Not only does he have an 11-6 record on a ballclub that has only won 53 games, but he also has a 2.23 season ERA, a WHIP of 0.97, and 182 Ks. He's an artist out there. The Marlins have only lost 2 of his last 10 starts, once to the Pirates, and once to your Atlanta Braves. Fernandez actually dominated most of the Braves lineup in that start, except for Freddie Freeman and Elliot Johnson who put the team on their shoulders. Minor has been slacking of late, with an ERA of 4.71 in August, but he rebounded against the Phillies allowed just those 2 runs in 7 innings. He didn't get any support to bail him out though. He likely won't see a ton against a Marlins Ace, either. It'll be a battle to see who blinks first on this game.

Wood needs to rebound. He's had two bad outings in a row, and one of them was the 7 run shellacking by Miami. He has to get that bad taste out of his mouth if he wants to get on track for October and earn the chance to start. The problem lately is that he's just leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate, and the hitters are lacing hits to all parts of the field. The Marlins don't usually rough anybody up, so he mentally needs to put that aside and go dominate with the same stuff he was throwing in August. Meanwhile, Eovaldi was the beneficiary of that last Wood implosion, and the only win he'd had in weeks. He's not a good pitcher, and yet he's beaten Atlanta twice in a row. He's got our number for some reason, and the Braves at some point those numbers have to come back to the mean. However, in two games so far, Eovaldi hasn't allowed a Braves run. That cannot stand.

Tonight the CPA (70-50) looks at the first game of the Marlins series with Medlen and Alvarez. My feeling is that Medlen dominates. Does the CPA agree?

CPA Prediction Game 1: Braves 5 - Marlins 2

Yes, the CPA thinks Medlen cruises in this game and the Braves turn on the offensive spigot again. The key in this game will be Freddie Freeman and the Johnson boys. They all have owned Henderson Alvarez with a combined 7/17 and a bomb. Make it happen boys!

GO BRAVES!


Weekend Series Recap: Phillies

That was ugly. Things didn't go the way we planned at all. Instead of winning a series or even winning a game, the Braves got swept in an offensively challenged series that rivaled one of the worst we've played since Detroit. Am I worried about that? Not at all, I had better things to watch this weekend and so did you. The Braves took that same attitude onto the field and they lost by one run in 3 straight games. Luckily the rest of the league at the top decided to take a siesta as well.

Game 1 featured 3 hits by the Braves. I'm not sure how to even recap that. Simmons hit a homer. There was your offense for the day. Minor went 7 innings and only allowed one bad hit, which just happened to be a 2 run homer in the 7th that lost the game. Still, you shouldn't win games with 3 hits. Here's the hilarious thing. We didn't get a runner in scoring position, so there's no stat for that. Yeah, I'm appalled too.

Game 2 was better at the plate, but Wood had a bad outing and cost the Braves big. With a 2-0 lead, Wood immediately gave it back in the 3rd, and extended the Phillies lead to 4-2 in the 5th. Wood only went 4.2 innings with 4 runs on 9 hits. He simply didn't have it, and the Braves still managed to climb their way out of the crapper to tie the game at 5 in the 9th. Miracle right? Simmons with another homer put the Braves in a spot to take it to extras, but Freddie Garcia blew it with a walkoff homer to Galvis that won the game for Philly in the bottom half. Even though the Braves went 2-7 with RISP, the pitching was the big problem in game 2, and that turned out to be a problem heading into the Sunday match.

Game 3 was the giveup lineup featuring the Paul Maholm experience. The Braves had 2 hits. Both by Evan Gattis. Both solo homers. The rest of the lineup was thinking about ice cream or something. Possibly they were watching the Falcons game too. I'm not sure, because I don't think anybody was actually watching this mess. Maholm gave up 2 runs in 6 innings on the road, which is like, ridiculously awesome for him. And yet, nobody cared enough about his pitching to give him some runs. Nobody except El Oso Blanco that is.

Fun stats from the weekend. And by fun I mean terrible and depressing. BJ Upton went 0-12 on the series with 7 Ks. He's got the return on investment of a junk bond. Justin went 0-8, and didn't play most of Sunday. McCann went 0-6 and didn't play Sunday. Uggla went 0-6 with some walks. The entire team is batting .226 on the week with an OPS of .665. That's so bad it's almost a miracle we won 2 games. The team looks bored out there. The magic number is down to 9, but at some point we need to turn this ship around. The best place to do that is against a bad Marlins team. Enough swinging and missing, lets get back to the bomber mentality.

Series preview for the Marlins up next.

GO BRAVES!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekend Series Preview: Phillies

Guess what? The Braves are heading up to Philadelphia for a series, and you probably won't notice much given that it's a huge football weekend. However, if you get some time to check out the games, give them a look. We've got some good matchups on the horizon, so here we go.

Game 1 - Minor (13-5) v. Lee (11-6)
Game 2 - Wood (3-3) v. Kendrick (10-12)
Game 3 - Maholm (10-10) v. Hamels (6-13)

The marquee matchup happens right off the bat with Minor versus Lee. Both guys have blistering records heading into September, and both guys are well known for getting strikeouts. Minor has had some good luck against the Phillies lineup in terms of keeping them in the ball park, something he had trouble with against other teams, unless it's Ryan Howard. Howard is the one guy who consistently takes Minor deep with 3 homers in just 15 ABs. However, Ryan is out for the rest of the season with a knee problem. That's a big advantage to the Braves and Mike. Lee on the other hand has few problems with anybody in our lineup. The best you might get is a guy like Justin who has hit over .400 against him in 17 ABs, with 3 doubles. However, across the board the Braves hit less than .700 OPS off Lee, and their record against him this year is 1-2. Minor hasn't faced Philly at all this season, so that should be interesting.

Wood hasn't been stellar in his last game against Miami, but we can't hold that one game against him. Instead, we can look to see how he rebounds on the road with a full compliment of Braves behind him. He's started on the road against Philly once before and did very well, netting a 4-1 win. Given that their lineup has such limited looks at him, you like your chances when Wood goes into this game. He's going against Kyle Kendrick, a guy who has watched his ERA explode over 7.00 in the last month. And that's not playing against good teams. That's pitching against the Cubs, the Mets, the Nats, and the Rockies. I think from a pure numbers standpoint you have to like your chances in this matchup as the Braves, even with the young rookie on the mound.

Maholm on the road. Should I recap further? Ok, he's 4-8 on the road with an ERA over 6.00. More? Ok, he's given up a .288 BAA against the Phillies, and he's lost 4 road games in a row. I honestly don't know how we can win this game short of Hamels coming out there and wetting himself on the mound. However, that might actually happen. Hamels has been through a stretch where he couldn't win a game in a whole month. The reverse side of that is he hasn't lost a game now since August 12th, and he's been just on a ridiculous tear. It's the hot hand versus the road grease fire. Considering the game is on Sunday at 1:35, I suggest not watching and tuning into the NFL instead. I think you'll be pleased with the results.

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

The CPA agrees with my assessment. The Braves take the first two, and lose the last one when Maholm tips over. The first game is probably the most important, since it's the closest and most competitive. I think we really need to establish a lead, because playing from behind on the road isn't going to work well against a guy like Lee.

GO BRAVES!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Game 2 & 3 Recap: Mets

The rest of the Mets series is in the books, and none too soon. The Mets are my least favorite team this season by far due to how much injury heartache they've caused us. I can't say I'm sorry to see them go. We get to enjoy the rare off day while we wait for the Phillies series next on the docket.

The 3-1 victory on Wednesday was one that you can chalk up to Turner Field magic for sure. The Braves were getting pretty much dominated by Carlos Torres for 6 innings, but for one guy. The White Bear, Evan Gattis refused to be leashed by Torres. He went 3/3 on the day and had an amazing game-tying homer in the 7th that got everyone out of their seats. Then, in that same inning, Simmons hit a 2 run bomb to take the lead for good. When the Braves couldn't get it done with RISP, they relied on pitching and the long ball to take care of business. Meanwhile, Kris Medlen only allowed 7 hits and one run in his 7 innings of work. The Braves as a team only went 0-1 with RISP, which is semi-hilarious that they only had one runner in scoring position all night, and they still won the game.

The game yesterday was a complete disaster, but that's to be expected when Fredi G decides to roll out the giveup lineup. Kevin Loe was your starter, and he's not an MLB talent in my mind. I can say that after watching him struggle now in 2 games with an ERA near 8.50 on the year, all against the Mets. The Mets aren't good. They shouldn't be able to rough you up for that many runs. In any case, Loe only 4.1 innings with 11 hits, 5 runs, and 3 walks. The Braves never recovered from that at the plate, even though they gave it a decent effort. The main problem? 0-9 with RISP. You can't do that in a game where you spot a team 5 runs and hope for the best. The good news is that Paul Janish had two hits, and Evan Gattis nabbed another hit. The bad news? Gattis or BJ should have been charged for an error when they both misplayed a ball in the OF that cost the Braves the 5th run. They didn't charge it, but that's probably home cooking. Gattis continues to look lost in the OF, but his bat is getting hotter.

The loss means the Braves are only 2 games up now on the Dodgers in the home field advantage race, and the magic number holds steady on the Nationals at 10 games. As you can tell, we could really care less about the division magic number, because it's inevitable at this point. The real test will be getting home field from the surging Dodgers, because that means we hold the #1 slot against the WC team that wins the one game playoff. That could be a big boost for us in a game where we hold one of the best homefield advantages in all the MLB.

Series preview on the Phillies weekend series tomorrow. We're down the stretch now, and football is about to kick into high gear. I plan on running recaps until we win the division, and then doing updates as the Braves finish off the season every few days. That's the plan right now, and we'll hopefully be NL East champs by next week at some point.

GO BRAVES!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Recap: Marlins plus Game 1 of the Mets

After this weekend, I think we can all say one thing is for certain. The Braves are playing great baseball when it's not a day game. Friday and Saturday, the Braves won each game with furious bouts of good pitching, and in the case of Saturday BJ Upton decided to emerge from his shell for a weekend while he took over a game. Chalk up one for the struggling BJ since we wouldn't have won that game without him. Then, they lost 7-0 on Sunday day game where they just removed several starters about midway through because they realized it just doesn't matter right now when you have a huge lead in both the division and the NL. Oh, and when the Mets came to town yesterday? They smoked them with the big bats and Freddie Freeman.

What's the most important takeaway from these games? Well I'd say that it's the Braves ability to get things done when they know they have a huge lead and no real reason to give 100% effort. They are still fighting day in and day out to win games, and with the exception of the complete disaster that was Sunday afternoon, they did just that. Game 1 only netted 5 hits total for the Braves, but they pitching of Julio Teheran carried the day with 6.1 innings of 1 run work, followed by a shutout bullpen performance. The whole reason they won that game was Freddie Freeman's 2 run homer at the beginning, and after that, the lineup just rested. In Game 2, CJ and BJ had 4 hits each in a game that was almost entirely dominated by those two guys, including BJ's walkoff single in the 11th to win the game. They went 1-8 with RISP in Game 3 and scored nobody, so I won't really bother recapping much about that one. Wood had a horrible day and it showed up big in the box score. He went only 2.1 innings with 7 runs and 8 hits. Then, yesterday Freddie Freeman hit a homer and a double for 5 RBIs against the Mets, and the Braves went an astounding 8-20 with RISP in a game where they scored 13 runs to win.

The magic number continues to fall down to miniscule 11 now, and nobody is even worried about it anymore. By the time we actually clinch, it will be a ho-hum, foregone conclusion. Now everyone just wants to know when we clinch homefield. It's probably the best feeling as a Braves fan that we've felt in a long while, because this is what it was like for so many years as we just beat the rest of the division about the head and neck in September. Tonight the Braves continue this series against the Mets with Torres going against Medlen. Let's see what the CPA thinks about the matchup.

CPA Prediction Game 2: Braves 4 - Mets 3

Medlen may give up a couple of runs, but Torres hasn't won on the road yet, and we're not going to let him start now. Simmons and Bmac both really enjoy hitting off this guy so look for both of them to have good nights against the righty Torres.

GO BRAVES!