The Atlanta Braves wrapped a 3-game series at Turner Field against the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants with one question on their minds: What will the pitching schedule be against the New York Mets? The Braves were waiting for the final game against the Giants to make an announcement about who would be pitching in one of the doubleheader games Tuesday after ace Brandon Beachy struggled in his most recent rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett with inflammation/fluid in his repaired pitching elbow. That decision is Alex Wood. Atlanta will welcome the Mets for an unusual 5-game series, making up for weather-postponed games earlier in the season at Citi Field.
Before we can focus on how the series against the Mets will pan out, a recap of the weekend series against the Giants:
W: Bumgarner (6-4) L: Medlen (3-7)
Medlen wasn’t sharp, but once again he received no run support. This seems to be the story of Medlen’s season. While Minor has cited run support as a big part of his success this season, Medlen could easy decry the offense for leaving him in a lurch. Medlen was pitching with the added pressure of not knowing which of the starters might be sent to the ‘pen with the looming return of ace Brandon Beachy. Medlen had said repeatedly that he didn’t want to return to the ‘pen after much success as a starter last season. However, the two odd men out appeared to be Kris Medlen and Paul Maholm.
The Braves continue to lead the National League in strikeouts (615) and are tied with Colorado in home runs (91). Those two stats seem to be a huge part of the problem with run support for Medlen. In his starts, he has all too often seen his team record strikeouts and not home runs. The Braves have struggled in games that they haven’t hit a home run, winning only 4 games in which a home run isn’t put on the board. Medlen has also watching his team be shut out more in his starts than anyone else in the rotation, 3 shut outs, something that has become a trend for the Braves. In half of Medlen’s starts, the Braves have scored 2 or fewer runs.
W: Kimbrel (2-1) L: Romo (3-3)
The two big stories to come out of the second game of the series were the 2 homers by B.J. Upton and the crazy 9th inning that saw the Braves tie up the game and go on to win it on a walk-off single by first baseman Freddie Freeman.
In his last 7 games, B.J. Upton is hitting .273 with 6 hits, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 strike outs, 3 walks, a .360 on-base percentage and .636 slugging. His average is up almost 10 ticks in a week. This is a very good sign for the outfielder and the Braves who have been patient as he has worked diligently to regain his swing. Something else that is noteworthy in his last 7 games is that he has stolen 2 bases and scored 3 runs. These are both things that the Braves expected from B.J. Upton when they signed him.
While Freddie Freeman is currently 5th among 1st basemen in All Star balloting, he continues to lead the Braves offense and put his ballerina-like defense on display. Freddie finished game 2 of the series with an unbelievable .407 average with 2-outs and runners in scoring position. That puts him 7th in the National League in that category. He is now 2nd in the NL with a .446 with RISP.
W: Teheran (5-3) L: Lincecum (4-7) SV: Kimbrel (19)
The difference between Julio Teheran in the 2013 season versus when he was first put in the rotation in 2012 was no more obvious than in the final inning of Teheran’s 6-inning outing last night. Teheran allowed back-to-back singles to Posey and Pence before striking out Belt and Torres with those runners on. He allowed another single to Arias, increasing the pressure of the pinch he’d pitched into, but was able to get Noonan to pop-up to get out of the inning. While Julio Teheran can dominate on his good days, just as he had in 2012, he can now pitch out of situations that would get the better of him last season.
Teheran notched 8 strike outs before turning the game over to Avilan, Walden and Kimbrel who kept the shutout of the Giants intact while striking out 4 batters collectively. Kimbrel recorded his 19th save of the season, tying him with Mujica of the Cardinals for 2nd in the NL in saves behind Grilli of the Pirates who has an unreal 25 saves before the all-star break.
The Braves did not tally a home run in the game, looking more like a small ball team than they have most of the season when their power bats have led the way.
BRAVES BEGIN 5-GAME SET WITHOUT BEACHY…
While the plan was to use Brandon Beachy for the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the ace’s recent setback at Triple-A Gwinnett threw a wrench in the plans of Fredi Gonzalez and Frank Wren. Beachy has fluid on his pitching elbow, the elbow repaired by Tommy John surgery last summer. This leaves the Braves with a predicament they haven’t experienced yet this year–who to bring from the Triple-A Gwinnett or out of the bullpen to start in his place. The likely choice was Alex Wood and the Braves have now announced that he will get his first big league start on Tuesday. Wood was called up in May, his contract bought from the Double-A Mississippi Braves, to help in the beat-up bullpen.
Alex Wood’s numbers with Double-A Mississippi:
It’s worth noting that Major League Baseball has changed the roster allowance this season so that teams can pick up a 26th man for a day with a doubleheader. For Fredi Gonzalez, you have to assume he will be going with an extra reliever in the event that Alex Wood comes out of the game early or the game goes into extra innings.
One another note about the 5-game set: Zack Wheeler will be making his big league debut for the Mets against Maholm. Wheeler is from the Atlanta area. Wheeler has had 12 starts in Triple-A with a 4.14 ERA. Wheeler was the 6th overall pick in the 2009 draft by the San Francisco Giants and made his way to the Mets in the Carlos Beltran trade. One of the highest-praised prospects in baseball, his rise to the big leagues was slowed this season when he experienced soreness in his right clavicle.
While a question mark looms for the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Mets in terms of what the Braves will get out of Alex Wood, the rest of the pitching match ups are as follows: Monday’s game will feature Gee (5-6, 4.84) vs. Hudson (4-6, 4.41); the Mets will send Harvey (5-1, 2.04) vs. a pitcher TBD in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader; the second game of the doubleheader will feature Wheeler (0-0, 0.00) vs. Maholm (7-5, 3.65); Wednesday’s game will pit Marcum (0-8, 5.43) vs. Medlen (3-7, 3.09); and, the final game of the 5-game set features Niese (3-6, 4.15) vs. Minor (8-2, 2.68).
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.
After going 2-5 against the Dodgers and Padres on their latest road trip, you can’t blame the Braves for wanting to get back home before facing another California team. Especially when their next match-up comes against the reigning World Champion Giants who are third in the National League West with a 33-31 record. The Braves enter the series with a record of 39-27 and a 6-game lead on the Washington Nationals. The Braves will face the Giants for a 3-game set and then welcome the Mets for an unusual 5-game set due to rainouts in their previous match-ups.
While the Braves managed to salvage 2 games against the Dodgers with wins behind Kris Medlen and Mike Minor, the Braves turned around and were swept by the Padres at Petco Park. In the final game of that series, the Braves had neither defensive nor offensive luck on their side, scoring only 3 runs on 10 hard hits and earning an error on a day that could/should have been a multi-error event. Perhaps it would have taken the sting out of being swept by the Padres if the Braves had performed better in L.A. against a Dodgers team that is without several of their superstars and is trying to decide what to do with a past superstar in Andre Ethier. The silver lining is that the Nationals and Phillies have not made up significant ground on the first place Braves.
In a season that has not gone well for veteran Tim Hudson on the road, it didn’t help his cause when he notched 2 losses on the swing through southern California. Hudson is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA at Turner Field while he is 1-6 with a 6.07 ERA on the road. His road woes seemed to be behind him when he exited his start against the Dodgers with only 1 run earned against him. However, the ‘pen did not fair as well, Cory Gearrin surrendering 4 runs in a 1/3 of an inning. Hudson notched a loss in that outing and again against the Padres when he allowed 3 runs and was not given adequate run support to overcome that. In both outings, Huddy pitched at least 7 innings. This, of course, plays into the biggest question for the Braves: Where will Brandon Beachy fit in the rotation when he returns?
Let’s explore this further. Kris Medlen has been vocal about his desire to stay in the rotation. Mike Minor has pitched like Atlanta’s ace and will not be the odd man out when Beachy returns. Teheran has been nearly as solid as Minor, showing a few weaknesses lately, but nothing to be concerned about in a young arm. This leaves Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm. The question about Paul Maholm is whether or not he is too valuable an arm to be placed in the bullpen where he would likely be used as a situational lefty or as the long man should a pitcher struggle and leave after only a few innings. The likelihood of Tim Hudson being sent to the ‘pen seems unlikely as well, given his veteran status, his salary and the fact that Hudson has been with the Braves the longest. Seniority would seem to matter in this case. Here lies the problem. Could Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez truly rationalize sending any of the 5 starters to the ‘pen in favor of Beachy who is returning from Tommy John surgery? The question certainly depends on Beachy as well. Pitchers recovered and rehabilitated from Tommy John surgery often return as strong if not stronger than they were when they got injured. There is no question that when he got injured, Brandon Beachy was the best pitcher of the 2012 season in the National League. Having said that, would putting Beachy in the bullpen elongate both this season and the 2014 season by limiting his innings out of the gate? There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among baseball writers and both Wren and Gonzalez have said as late as the Padres season that they don’t know what the decision will be.
Something good to come from the SoCal swing was the production from Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla. In his last 8 games, Heyward is batting .412 (14-for-34) with 2 doubles, 3 homers, 4, RBI, 7 runs scored, a .459 on-base percentage and is slugging .735. In Uggla’s last 9 games, he is batting .300 with 9 hits, 7 runs scored, 3 homers, 7 walks, 7 RBI, a .432 on-base percentage and is slugging .600. For Uggla, the last 9 games have increased his batting average on the season to .193. His lowest point of the season came on April 28th when he was batting .160. In addition to Heyward and Uggla, the cold bat of B.J. Upton has improved in June. Since June 1st, the eldest Upton has improved his batting average from .145 to .161. The Braves have also seen B.J. on the base paths and have been reminded of why Upton’s speed has always been such a draw.
Facing the Giants this weekend, the Braves will have to use home field advantage to get back on track. Sending their best pitchers to the mound against the Giants will go a long way to doing that. The Braves will not face Cain or Lincecum this time, boding well for Atlanta’s offense.
Game 1 of the series will pit Bumgarner (5-4, 3.58) vs. Medlen (3-6, 2.87). Saturday’s game will feature Gaudin (2-1, 2.32) vs. Minor (8-2, 2.44). And Lincecum (4-6, 4.70) vs. Teheran (4-3, 3.62) will cap the series.
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.
As the Pirates arrived at Turner Field for a 3-game set, all the talk was about how good the Pirates are in 2013. Yes, they have a superb starting rotation. Yes, they have the best bullpen in baseball at the moment. Yes, they have great young superstars in the making with Starling Marte, Garrett Jones and all-star Andrew McCutchen. But what they don’t have is that grit and ability to overcome adversity that the Braves have displayed all season.
There are plenty of good teams, even some great ones, in baseball this season. However, the Braves have been able to prove time and time again that they have incredible potential, have the ability to overcome great adversity via injury
W: Medlen (2-6) L: Burnett (3-6)
Kris Medlen, the man with the hardest luck in baseball this season, had a phenomenal outing in game 1 going 7 innings, allowing only 7 hits, recording an unearned run and 6 K’s on 102 pitches. Medlen’s ability to locate his pitches was fooling hot Pittsburgh bats. Once Medlen left the game, the bullpen gave up a run, but was otherwise solid. Going into the series with Pittsburgh, the bullpen had a streak of 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. As was previously mentioned, that streak included 3 perfect innings of relief in Sunday’s game against the Nationals.
Jason Heyward’s bat came alive in the first game of the series. He and Andrelton Simmons both recorded 2 hits and scored a run. And B.J. Upton may have recorded a strikeout and no hits, but he did make it on base 3 times. There is certainly hope of late with B.J.’s swing.
W: Varvaro (3-0) L: Melancon (1-1)
When Mike Minor allowed a solo shot to the Pirates’ Sanchez, it was the first homer he’d allowed since surrendering 6 of them in 4 starts stretching from April 28th to May 13th. This is the tale of Minor’s season, really. He and Julio Teheran have truly been the rock solid portion of the rotation for the Braves in the first two months of the season. Minor continues to impress Fredi Gonzalez with his confidence on the mound and continues to impress the league with the number of strikeouts he is able to record in each outing.
Though the offense wasn’t enough to get Minor the win, there were great signs in the walk-off win. Dan Uggla has his first multi-hit game since May 24th. Getting Uggla’s bat hot would go a long way in terms of supporting pitchers like Medlen and Maholm who haven’t received quite enough run support in their outings. Another highlight came via the bullpen. After the homer by Alvarez in the 4th inning, the pitching staff really buckled down. Jordan Walden pitched a perfect 8th inning and in 11 pitches, Anthony Varvaro pitched a perfect 10th inning when the Braves really needed it. Of course the biggest highlight for the Braves in the 10-inning battle with the Pirates was the walk-off single that scored Dan Uggla. It was Andrelton Simmons’ first walk-off hit in his young career.
W: Teheran (4-2) L: Rodriguez (6-4)
Going into the third game of the series, the Braves had the second-best record in baseball at 36-22. They were able to expand their lead on the Washington Nationals in the NL East by 5 1/2 games, but while the Braves were pulling away from the Nats, the Phillies passed the Nats by a 1/2 game in the standings. They are now just 1 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals who hold the best record.
The standings mattered very little when Julio Teheran took the mound in the finale. Before an afternoon crowd at Turner Field, it was clear early on that Teheran had something special going against the Pirates. His fastball had late life on it, his pitches were nailing the spots catcher Gerald Laird was calling for and his poise on the mound resembled that of a veteran ace. The 22-year-old showed why it was important for the Braves to hang with him as he struggled in the early going last season with the big league club.
Teheran took a no-no into the 8th inning. His first attempt at a no-hitter was blown after 7 2/3 innings when Brandon Inge laced a drive down the right field line. Teheran’s 7 2/3 innings of hitless baseball added to an impressive season. He has now gone 8+ innings in 2 of his 15 big league starts. And each time he goes out there, Teheran has the potential and the arsenal to go deep in a game. You can count on the fact that this won’t be the last time we see Teheran throw a gem like this.
The Braves didn’t need much by way of offense, but they had contributions from some of the more unlikely guys in the lineup. Andrelton Simmons led off an inning for the Braves 10 times in the 33 innings of the Braves/Pirates series. This is precisely what Fredi Gonzalez is looking for in a lead-off man and what he never got from B.J. Upton. Simmons leading off bodes well for the Braves. In addition to this, the Braves saw some pop off the bat of Gerald Laird. He and Evan Gattis went back-to-back with homers against the Pirates. It was the sixth time Braves homered back-to-back this season. For Laird, it was his 1st homer since May 28, 2012 while with the Detroit Tigers.
It’s important to note just how special the rapport is that Gerald Laird has built with young Julio Teheran. It is clear watching the two in a game that Teheran trusts Laird’s judgement and follows his lead. This battery has been brilliant all season and while there is certainly more offense to gain from putting Gattis or McCann behind the plate when Teheran is pitching, the role of Laird will turn out down the road to be very important in the development of Teheran.
FRESH OFF SWEEP, BRAVES FLY TO LOS ANGELES…
Following Teheran’s impressive 7 2/3 innings of no-hit pitching Wednesday, the possibility of Teheran being the odd man out when Brandon Beachy returns from the disabled list later this month. He and Mike Minor have been the most consistent pitchers in the rotation. Currently, both Mike Minor and Kris Medlen are in the top 20 in baseball in ERA (Minor 9th with a 2.52 ERA and Medlen 20th with a 3.14 ERA). Paul Maholm is too valuable as a starter to be sent to the ‘pen as a situational reliever or even a long man. The work that was put into moving Medlen into the rotation as well as his strength as a starter, despite his misleading win-loss record, doesn’t suggest he would be the obvious choice to send to the ‘pen when Beachy returns, either. Ace Tim Hudson certainly isn’t going anywhere, though his outings have not been as strong as Atlanta would like. There is certainly the possibility that Beachy could stay in the ‘pen as Medlen did when he returned from Tommy John surgery. This would better enable the Braves to keep an eye on his inning count, preserving him for the postseason. There is no question that his return presents the toughest obstacle for Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez, but an obstacle that can only have positive results.
Going into Los Angeles, the Braves face a team that is dealing with the disappointment of not being as good as they were made out to and paid to be. The Dodgers are currently last in the NL West, 9 games back in a division led by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They are below .500 with a record of 25-33. Their pitching is currently 7th in the National League in ERA. Luckily, the Braves will once again not have to face ace Clayton Kershaw on their trip to L.A. The Dodgers are currently 13th in the NL in runs scored with only the Nationals and Marlins behind them. Despite their lack of runs scored and winning, the Dodgers are 6th in the league in team batting average (compared to the Braves who are 11th).
The Braves will miss Kershaw because of the pitching schedule, but they’ll also miss a handful of Dodgers due to injury. Capuano, Beckett, Billingsley, Crawford, Ellis and Kemp are all hurt. The Kemp injury is particularly good news to Tim Hudson who has been hit hard by Kemp over the years.
Thursday night’s game at Chavez Ravine will feature ace Hudson (4-4, 4.80) vs. Greinke (2-1, 4.80). The second game of the series features Maholm (7-4, 3.68) vs. Ryu (6-2, 2.89). Game 3 of the 4-game set features Medlen (2-6, 3.14) vs. Fife (1-0, 4.50). The final game of the series against the Dodgers will be Minor (7-2, 2.52) vs. Lilly (0-2, 5.09).
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.
The Atlanta Braves spent the first two months of the season largely on the road. Their home numbers hardly reflected the early going because Turner Field began to feel like the visitor’s park due to them being there so rarely. For instance, Tim Hudson’s numbers during April and May at home hardly looked like they belonged with his overall ERA because he’d had far too many horrific starts on the road. Of course, in baseball all things balance out, every batting average comes down to earth and no ERA stays at zero forever.
Numbers may fluctuate, but the Braves have to be looking forward to the success that could lay before them in the month of June. Of the 26 remaining games in June after finishing the series against Washington, just 9 of them will be played against teams that at the time of this post have a record of over .500. Those teams include the Pirates, the Giants and the Diamondbacks.
With the amateur draft approaching this weekend and just over a month left of all star voting, it is relevant to ask where the Braves currently sit. The obvious questions are will the offense live up to its potential and will the bullpen be able to survive the losses it has sustained.
In terms of offense, there remain questions about the Upton brothers. Whether Justin’s production will drop off as we’ve seen in recent weeks and whether B.J.’s swing is repairable are the major questions for the offseason acquisitions. The Braves are not getting the kind of offense from Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward that they are both capable of. Heyward has shown signs of life lately, homering against the Pirates in the first game of the series. Dan Uggla has always been a streaky hitter, but he has not lived up to the promise he held when the Braves traded Omar Infante to the Marlins for him. Andrelton Simmons can be an offensive force for the Braves. However, his aggressiveness on the base paths will always put him in the position of being prone to injury. Taking the extra base on an out-of-the-box single isn’t always necessary and especially not when it puts his body in danger of injury on the slide. Andrelton will grow into his skills and until then, what the Braves get from him on offense will be worth it because his defense is so spectacular.
The Braves bullpen has had its share of tribulation this season given the major losses it has suffered. Taking into account that at one point the Braves were without O’Flaherty, Venters, Walden, Martinez and Ayala (Walden has since returned), it is remarkable that the remaining members of the ‘pen have been able to keep the ship afloat. As Atlanta put away the Nationals Sunday, taking 2-of-3 for the rival Nats to bring their lead in the NL East to 6.5 games, the bullpen had an active streak of 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. As a group, they pitched 3 perfect innings in Sunday’s finale. It isn’t all bad news, though. With Brandon Beachy returning from Tommy John rehab in June, one arm–an arm that hasn’t been determined–will join the ‘pen.
Atlanta has had its share of surprises this season, not all of them bad. Ramiro Pena has been one of the best pick ups for the bench in recent years. With the trade of Martin Prado, the Braves were desperate for a do-it-all utility man and they were more than rewarded for picking him up. Evan Gattis continues to impress everyone in baseball. Gattis won Rookie of the Month in the National League for the second straight month. He is the first Braves rookie to win in back-to-back months since Jason Heyward did so in 2010. Heyward came in 2nd in 2010 behind Buster Posey who was awarded NL Rookie of the Year. The Braves starting rotation has been pleasantly surprised to be carried by the young guns at the tail end, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. And in the ‘pen, Luis Avilan has been impressive. Had the ‘pen not been decimated by injuries in the first 2 months, Avilan would have been a perfect candidate to join the rotation for spot starts.
The Braves face Pittsburgh not only after beating Nationals, but knocking down the injured Nats one more peg. The day the Nats finally got away from Turner Field, their on-base percentage actually dropped lower than that of the barely out of the minors Miami Marlins. While they certainly have dealt with injuries, the Nationals have not seen the Gio Gonzalez of last season, their bullpen is shaky at times and they aren’t getting the offensive production that was such a surprise to baseball last season.
Pittsburgh is, in many ways, what the Nationals were last season at this point–the surprise story of baseball. They have starting pitching that has dominated. They have perhaps the best bullpen in baseball right now. The offense is firing on all cylinders with all star Andrew McCutchen leading Garrett Jones, Starling Marte and Jose Tabata. They are in a market that is small enough to not get the kind of attention the bigger clubs in the game get. And the managerial competence of Clint Hurdle cannot be overlooked. If a team like the Nationals could be the Cinderella story of 2013, the Pirates have that potential this season.
Once the Braves wrap with the Pirates, they head to Los Angeles to face the highly disappointed and disappointing Dodgers. Barring a rain out or change in the pitching schedule, Atlanta will luck out once again and miss the most dominant pitcher in the National League, Clayton Kershaw. The southern California swing will go from Chavez Ravine to Petco Park and then the Braves will return home to face the Giants. Putting additional distance between themselves and the rest of the NL East will be a top priority for the Braves as they make their way through a mild June.
In an unusual interleague series that began north of the border and concluded in Atlanta, the Braves took one game in Toronto and one game at home, splitting the series with the Blue Jays.
Game 1 (Toronto):
Perhaps the only highlight of the Blue Jays rout of the Braves to begin the series was the 2-run blast by Evan Gattis who continues to impress all of Major League Baseball with his power and versatility.
Tim Hudson has been terrible on the road of late, but his road woes are not all of the story. He has allowed 19 earned runs over his last 19 2/3 innings pitched.
Young Cory Rasmus came out of the bullpen in the 7th and something happened that hasn’t happened since 2010–he faced his older brother Colby. The last time this happened in MLB was in 2010 when Jeff and Jered Weaver faced each other. It was not a sharp outing for Cory who gave up 3 runs in 2 innings.
W: Buehrle (2-3) L: Hudson (4-4)
Game 2 (Toronto):
Brian McCann is back and there is no denying that when he is right, he is one of the best hitting catchers in the big leagues. McCann had his first multi-homer game of the 2013 season at the Rogers Centre. It was the 9th multi-homer game of his career. His second homer of the game game in the 10th inning and proved to be the winning run of the game for Atlanta. McCann’s 2 homers were not the only for the Braves. Gattis and Schafer also went yard. Gattis and McCann had swapped duties in game 2–one catching and the other serving as designated hitter.
It just wasn’t Maholm’s night. In the 1st inning of the game, he had very little command of his fastball and was unable to hit his spots. For a pitcher like Maholm, who simply doesn’t have the velocity to blow it by batters, there was no hiding how poorly his pitches were and the hard-hitting Blue Jays capitalized. Maholm’s 1st inning behind him, he did settle in. When he handed the game over to the bullpen, Avilan, Gearrin and Kimbrel were able to hold the Blue Jays scoreless. This was a good sign for the bullpen that has struggled since the loss of O’Flaherty and was a sign of things to come in game 3 when they picked up Kris Medlen.
W: Gearrin (2-1) L: Weber (0-1) SV: Kimbrel (16)
Game 1 (Atlanta):
The Braves recorded their 7th shutout loss of the 2013 season. Strikeouts were once again an issue for the offense. The Braves have now struck out at least 10 times in 24 of their first 52 games. The Braves have an amazing record of 29-6 when they record at least 1 homer. They are 2-15 on the season when a home run isn’t recorded.
After Medlen was hit by the line drive, the bullpen was solid. For perhaps the first time since the loss of O’Flaherty to Tommy John surgery, the ‘pen was able to buckle down, work together and get the Braves through the remainder of the game scoreless. Though the Braves didn’t get the win, this loss fell on the shoulders of the offense and not the ‘pen.
W: Perez (1-0) L: Medlen (1-6) SV: Janssen (11)
Game 2 (Atlanta):
Prior to the final game against the Blue Jays, the Braves announced that they had designated Juan Francisco (3B) for assignment to make room on the roster for relief pitcher Alex Wood. Francisco will now either be traded, claimed off of waivers or released. Francisco went 3-for-30 with 14 K’s in his last 11 games with the Braves. In that time, he did not record an RBI. For the season, he was batting .241 with 5 homers and a whopping 43 strikeouts. He had a terrible average of .159 in May.
The Braves required an extra arm in the bullpen for the final game of the series after the ‘pen had to step in and pitch 7 innings after Medlen was hit by a line drive in the first game in Atlanta. The Braves purchased the contract of Alex Wood from the Mississippi Braves. Wood faced the minimum in a scoreless 9th inning. He was called up less than 24 hours before making his first big league start in Atlanta.
Mike Minor continued a great start to the season with another solid outing. Minor pitched 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 of them earned, no walks and 5 strikeouts.
Simmons had committed five errors in the 92 career games he’d played entering Friday. He’s committed 3 in the 7 games that have followed. Simmons went 43 games w/o an error but now has three in 7 games, this one opening door for three runs in the sixth. Tied up 3-3
Two offensive highlights from the game came from Reed Johnson and Ramiro Pena. Johnson belted his 1st home run as a Brave. His 2-run homer was his 5th career pinch hit homer. Pena had a career-high 4 RBIs in the game as he started in the place of the resting Dan Uggla.
W: Minor (7-2) L: Dickey (4-7)
HERITAGE WEEKEND PITS BRAVES AGAINST RIVAL NATS…
Following the split series with the Blue Jays and the Nationals’ loss to the Orioles, the Braves have a 5 1/2 game lead on the Nats in the NL East.
Despite the loss, the first game of the split-series in Atlanta was a good sign for Atlanta’s bullpen. Carpenter, who Braves’ fans haven’t seen much of, pitched 3 scoreless innings in relief. He could very well become the long man in the ‘pen in the absence of Cristhian Martinez. If he can be a reliable arm for Fredi Gonzalez to turn to in tight spots, that will surely help with the bullpen situation. Jordan Walden appears healthy. He hit 97 mph on the strikeout that ended the 8th inning. His velocity returning, without the prior soreness, puts him in a good position to be the setup man for Craig Kimbrel.
The Braves are in a precarious situation with B.J. Upton as he attempts to get himself right. BJ Upton is batting .148/.236/.252. We’re a third through the season and he has just 8 RBI. In game 2 in Atlanta, B.J. Upton was quite obviously frustrations when he threw his bat and his helmet striking out for the second time in as many at bats in the game. He had been held out of the lineup for several games as he worked with hitting coaches Walker and Fletcher to try to get his swing right. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that he is on the right track. B.J. Upton is qualified worst in the National League in strikeouts with 1 K for every 2.9 plate appearances. In a strange twist, Jordan Schafer, who was a huge disappointment to the Braves in his first stint with the team, has been one of Atlanta’s hottest hitters. In addition to his surprising offense, he has been a solid defender in the outfield with Justin Upton and Jason Heyward.
The big stories of May have come via the younger guys on the roster. Mike Minor and Julio Teheran’s combined in May to go 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA in their combined 10 starts. Between them they had 55 strikeouts in 69 innings. Rookie Evan Gattis had 17 hits, 6 homers and 16 RBIs in 62 plate appearances in May. He has a .298 batting average with one day left of May. Chris Johnson, who becomes the everyday third baseman with Juan Francisco DFA’d, had 14 hits, 5 RBIs and a .304 average in 50 plate appearances in May. And quietly, Freddie Freeman has had a torrid May. In 114 plate appearances, he has 32 hits, 19 RBIs, a .305 batting average and a .360 on-base percentage.
Beginning today and going through Sunday is the Atlanta Braves Heritage Weekend at Turner Field. The event pays tribute to the rich heritage in the Atlanta area and includes a Champions of Justice Discussion Panel today, focusing on the role of sports in civil rights. Saturday’s game will pay tribute to the Negro Leagues and will again feature the Atlanta Black Crackers throwback uniforms that the Braves sported earlier in the season. The Nationals will wear the uniform of the Homestead Grays.
Atlanta Braves Heritage Weekend will feature Strasburg (3-5, 2.49) vs. Teheran (3-1, 3.67) Friday night. Saturday night’s game appearing nationally on FOX will feature Gonzalez (3-3, 3.90) vs. Hudson (4-4, 5.37). Sunday afternoon’s finale will feature Karns (0-0, 6.23) vs. Maholm (6-4, 3.74).
Despite a bizarre weather-induced suspension in the 8th inning of game 1, the Braves were able to play the remainder of game 1 prior to game 2 and won both. The Braves took another series, this one within the division, before heading north to face off against the AL Toronto Blue Jays.
Somewhat lost in the absurdity of suspending the game in the 8th after the Braves ‘pen gave up the tying runs was the fact that Medlen got the no decision yet again. He is now 1-5 with a 3.16 ERA in his 10 starts. His ERA is in great shape, but he has been the recipient of all of the hard luck of the pitching staff.
Evan Gattis did what Evan Gattis does best–he was clutch. He now leads the Braves with 29 RBIs in just 122 at bats. He hit a pinch hit blast that should have been a game-winning RBI, instead it became the 3rd potential game-winning RBI that was wiped out by the bullpen blowing the lead. Of course, the ‘pen blew the lead in the middle of the 8th due in part to terrible weather that was preventing any sort of grip on the baseball.
W: Varvaro (2-0) L: Lyon (1-2) SV: Kimbrel (15)
The story of game 2 truly was Mike Minor. In addition to pitching a true gem, Mike Minor was 2-for-3 at the plate with his first career home run. He is the first Atlanta pitcher to have at least 10 strikeouts and a home run in a start since Kevin Millwood during the 1999 season. Minor went 7 1/3 innings, allowing no runs, 2 walks and 10 strikeouts. On the matter of pitch counts, Minor threw 113 pitches. This is in line with the number of pitched both Teheran and Maholm have been allowed to throw in recent outings.
Jason Heyward’s contributions to the team since returning from the disabled list cannot go without note. J-Hey is hitting .267 with 2 doubles, 6 walks and 4 K’s in 30 AB’s since he came off the DL following his emergency appendectomy in Denver. Through game 2 of the series, the Braves had gone 8-0 since his return.
W: Minor (6-2) L: Gee (2-6)
Rookie Julio Teheran surrendered more walks in his outing than he had in his previous 5 outings. He left the game with a 2-1 lead after 6 2/3 innings pitched. Teheran gave up 5 hits, 1 run and those 3 walks, while striking out 5 on 93 pitches.
Strikeouts were once again an issue for Braves hitters against Shawn Marcum. Marcum matched his career high of 12 strikeouts against Atlanta. His season high had been 7 strikeouts prior to Sunday’s game.
Dan Uggla hit a 2-run blast to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead in the 7th. For Uggla, it was his 10th home run. At that point in the game, Uggla had both of the Braves 2 hits off Marcum. Uggla appears to be seeing the ball well and heating up. His bat is a welcome addition to the hot-and-cold offense.
The story for the Braves once again was how inconsistent the Braves’ bullpen is and how much they are struggling to bridge from the starters to closer Kimbrel. Gearrin gave up 3 runs in the 8th, blowing the lead that Atlanta had when Teheran left the game.
W: Hawkins (1-0) L: Gearrin (1-1) SV: Parnell (7)
BRAVES ON THE ROAD TO TORONTO, JAYS FLY SOUTH TO ATLANTA…
In one of the strange scheduling quirks of the 2013 season, the Braves will fly to Toronto to face the Blue Jays for 2 games and then the Blue Jays will follow them south to Atlanta for 2 games. The split-series will give the Braves the opportunity to insert both Evan Gattis and Brian McCann in the lineup without having to play Gattis in left field. Gattis and McCann will each get a start behind the dish and a start as designated hitter on the short road trip.
An update on injuries: Jordan Walden threw a side session Sunday and will get in a rebab appearance before his anticipated return on Wednesday. That is assuming that he doesn’t encounter any setbacks. His arm is certainly needed in the ‘pen, especially without a true setup man for Craig Kimbrel.
At the Rogers Centre, game 1 of the split-series against Toronto will feature Hudson (4-3, 4.98) vs. Buehrle (1-3, 5.90). Game 2 will feature Maholm (6-4, 3.38) vs. Morrow (2-3, 5.50). The Braves and Blue Jays will then relocate to the Ted where game 1 will feature Rogers (1-2, 4.56) vs. Medlen (1-5, 3.16). And game 2 at the Ted, the final game of the split-series will feature Dickey (4-6, 4.85) vs. Minor (6-2, 2.47).
With back-to-back sweeps of the Dodgers and the Twins, the Braves face off against an old nemesis, the New York Mets, this weekend with nothing but confidence. As they displayed in the final game of the series, the Braves can put all of their bench players in the lineup to give some of the regular starters a rest and they still dominate. They’ve proven time and time again that they can send anyone from their ace Tim Hudson to the rookie Julio Teheran to the mound and get results. They’re gaining confidence in the new-look bullpen, with Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro picking up more and more of the work and Cory Gearrin coming into his own as one of the better relievers in the National League. Right now, despite adversity, the Braves are winning baseball games and reminding the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with.
In game 1 of the series, Julio Teheran went to the mound and showed the Twins that he may not be the most talked about rookie in the game, but he has the stuff to get any batter out. Now with a 3-1 record and a quickly dropping 3.99 ERA, his wins are more reliable and predictable than even those of Kris Medlen. Teheran pitched 8 2/3 innings, giving up only 1 run on 5 hits. The only run he surrendered was a solo homer. He walked only 1 batter and struck out 4. Teheran’s pitching gem was backed by a 3-RBI game for Dan Uggla who smashed a home run off Kevin Correia. And Cory Gearrin secured his first save of the season.
In game 2 of the series, Tim Hudson battled the elements. Huddy threw 43 pitches before the teams were forced to leave the field for a 76-minute rain delay. Though Hudson was able to continue pitching after the delay, his start was shortened to 5 innings. His 5 innings were solid with only 2 earned runs. Hudson’s home ERA dropped to 2.84 (in comparison to his road ERA that is sitting at an ugly 7.36). In one of those strange happenings of baseball, Gearrin blew the save and then closer Craig Kimbrel entered the game to recording the win. The ‘pen was less than effective, allowing the same amount of runs as Hudson in 1 inning fewer. However, the Braves were able to get away with the win, increasing their winning streak to 5 games. Other highlights of game 2: Brian McCann hit his 4th home run of the season (4 of his 10 hits in 37 at-bats have been home runs) and Evan Gattis launched a pinch hit homer in the 9th to tie the gave for the Braves.
Game 3 of the series was one of the most exciting, if not lopsided, in recent weeks. Putting together a roster of mostly bench players, Fredi Gonzalez reaped the rewards of fabulous offense from Evan Gattis, Jordan Schafer and Chris Johnson. He once again got to see the defensive might of Chris Johnson at third base. If there remained any doubt on the part of Gonzalez as to which player should receive the majority of the playing time, hopefully Fredi took note of just how well Chris Johnson played in the finale. Chris Johnson and Jordan Schafer now have the best averages and on-base percentages of the team. The biggest blow to the Twins came off the bat than, of course, Evan Gattis. Gattis hit his first career grand slam in the 4th inning to give the Braves an 8-0 lead. It was the 10th home run for Gattis, 3 of those pinch hit homers. He is tied for 4th in the National League in homers, quite a feat given that the others in the top 10 have at least 20 more at-bats than him. Gattis homered not long in the 4th inning after B.J. Upton homered for the first time in a game in which brother Justin didn’t. Chris Johnson’s double following the Gattis grand slam knocked starter Vance Worley out of the game. Cory Rasmus made his debut out of the ‘pen after Paul Maholm went 7 1/3 innings giving up only 1 unearned run. Rasmus gave up 2 additional runs, but the Braves’ cushion of 5 runs easily gave them the 8-3 victory.
BRAVES FACE OFF IN FLUSHING…
With the new interleague setup in 2013, essentially an interleague game being played every day, the schedule is even more unusual this season than before. The coming road series is case in point. The Braves will face the Mets at Citi Field for a 3-game weekend series and then they fly to Toronto for 2 games against the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays will then follow the Braves south to complete their 4-game tilt, the remaining 2 games at Turner Field. How that makes any sense, only MLB’s front office knows.
By way of an update on injuries, Brandon Beachy will make another rehab start today in Gwinnett. He remains on track to join the club in June. Fredi Gonzalez has said that Jordan Walden will not be ready to come of the disabled list on Monday as played. He needs a few more innings of work in the minors as well as a bullpen session. And Cristhian Martinez remains at extended Spring Training in Florida where he is rebuilding arm strength. A time table for his return has not yet been determined.
Against the Mets, the Braves will send the back end of the rotation to the mound. Tonight’s game will feature Medlen (1-5, 3.02) vs. Hefner (0-5, 5.00). Saturday’s game will feature Minor (5-2, 2.78) vs. Gee (2-5, 6.04). The series finale Sunday will feature rookie Teheran (3-1, 3.99) vs. Marcum (0-5, 6.59).
It’s safe to say that the Atlanta Braves put their horrid road trip behind them with a home sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the timing could not have been better given the blows to the Braves of late, especially in their injury decimated bullpen.
Before a rundown of the injuries the Braves are currently faced with, the line scores from the 3-game set against the Dodgers:
W: Maholm (5-4) L: Rodriguez (0-2) SV: Kimbrel (12)
W: Gearrin (1-0) L: Jansen (1-2) SV: Kimbrel (13)
W: Avilan (2-0) L: Jansen (1-3) SV: Kimbrel (14)
The highlights of the series included a go-ahead homer by Evan Gattis in game 2. Gattis said the at-bat reminded of his time in the Venezuelan Winter League. He said he hadn’t had “many at-bats with that kind of intensity” and that he loved it. 6 of Gattis’ 8 home runs have given the Braves the lead. Each game of the series featured solid pitching performances. Minor and Medlen pitched just as well as Maholm, if not more so, but the hard luck continues to be with Medlen and Minor’s 9 strikeouts couldn’t do anything about the lack of run support while he was in the game. Another great moment of the series was when, just after Gattis homered to give the Braves the lead in game 2, Andrelton Simmons knocked a homer in the very next bat. Andrelton’s homer came off Kenley Jansen who is also from the island of Curacao. Simons has known Jansen since he was 4-years-old and they played baseball together in their native country. Of course, the moment on every highlight reel was the grand slam by Justin Upton. Upton now has 14 homers since joining the Braves. Unbelievably, his 14th homer of the 2012 season didn’t come until September 15th. The fastest he has ever reached the 14 homer mark was on June 23rd during the 2010 season. Clearly he is on an incredible pace this season.
BRAVES WELCOME AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL TWINS…
The Braves will be at home for 30 of their next 55 games. A welcome change given how little they’ve played at Turner Field thus far. They’ll welcome the Minnesota Twins Monday and then will go on the road for a series with the Mets and 2 games of a split series with the Blue Jays. Then next weekend we’ll see the Nationals at the Ted for Heritage Weekend.
A recap of the Braves’ injuries:
The common wisdom about the Atlanta Braves is that they will strike out in 2013 at a torrid rate, they will hit home runs at a pace not seen in the franchise for decades and they will bring dominant defense to each game. Common wisdom didn’t hold up while the Braves were on their recent road trip. Sure there were strikeouts, home runs and defensive gems, but there were also blunders and dry spells that made the road trip almost unbearable. Losing 6 of the 10 games on the trip, it’s no wonder the Braves are thrilled to be back at Turner Field to face the Dodgers and Twins.
But should the team be happy to return home? Here are some curious numbers about the Braves’ performance at Turner Field this year:
- Braves are last in the league in hits at home.
- They are second-to-last in the league, behind only Miami, in runs and RBIs at home.
- And they’re 12th in the NL in stolen bases at home.
These numbers might seem alarming until you consider one important fact. As of Sunday morning, the Braves had played just 16 games at home all season. No other National League team has played fewer than 21 home games to this point. For instance, the team Atlanta defeated on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have played 24 games in front of their fans.
Every other team in the league has played at about 1/3 more home games in 2013 then have the Braves. So… there’s no need to be alarmed by the modest offensive totals at home.
In fact, the Braves have the 6th best team OPS at home, .764, in the NL. And despite so few home games, relatively speaking, Atlanta is 6th in the NL in homeruns at home.
On the pitching front, it will obviously be good for the pitching staff’s stats to spend some time at the Ted. Braves’ pitching is 2nd in the NL behind the Pirates in ERA at home. They are 7th in ERA on the road. Keep in mind, though, that the Braves are 1st in innings pitched on the road and 15th (last) in innings pitched at home–a difference of 226 innings on the road to 136 at home.
When you put it all together, the Braves are 11-5 at Turner Field. Home sweet home.
As the Braves kicked off the 3-game set with the Dodgers Friday, there was a familiar face in the lineup that they haven’t had for nearly a month. Jason Heyward has rejoined the club after completing a rehab assignment following an emergency appendectomy during the frigid series in Denver. While at Triple-A Gwinnett for his 6-game assignment, Heyward hit .300 with 6 hits, a double and 6 RBIs.
Having Heyward back in the lineup means less potential playing time for Evan Gattis given that Gattis had picked up some playing time in the outfield when perennial All-Star catcher Brian McCann came off the disabled list. However, Gattis is still a huge bat off the bench and on McCann’s off days, as he proved with his go-ahead 2-run shot in Saturday evening’s contest.
With Heyward’s return the only real question in the Braves’ outfield is what to do with B.J. Upton while he is in a tremendous slump. You clearly can’t bench the guy with the highest free agent contract in the history of the Atlanta Braves. But how do you reset his timing so he no longer looks so lost at the plate? Having Jason Heyward’s bat back in the lineup makes this less pressing. Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer and Evan Gattis did a fantastic job filling in while Heyward was out, but there is no denying the dynamic talent of Jason Heyward. Having his speed, defensive prowess and offense is big for the Braves right now. Add his talent to that of the incredible Justin Upton, who smashed a grand slam last night and set the Braves up for the win against the Dodgers, and the Braves have something special that will win them many games.
Something the Braves experienced on the road trip that is very unfamiliar to them was inconsistency in the bullpen. The Braves have been lucky the past few seasons to have Craig Kimbrel, Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters to shutdown the game for them. Last season with injuries here and there, the Braves were able to lean on Chad Durbin out of the ‘pen. This season they haven’t had the kind of consistency from Avilan and Walden (who is now on the DL) that they would like. That has put additional pressure on Kimbrel and O’Flaherty and they haven’t always been able to pitch under that pressure. They haven’t had Jonny Venters as part of their 1-2-3 punch this season and that has taken a toll. And after resuming throwing once shut down for a month with elbow soreness, Venters felt soreness return. His visit with Dr. James Andrews resulted in immediate Tommy John surgery, his second. The Braves will not see Venters pitch again for 12 months and chances are when they do see him again, it won’t be in a Braves uniform given that 2013 was his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Then came another bombshell for the Atlanta bullpen when news broke on Saturday that O’Flaherty has a torn UCL in his pitching elbow, which almost certainly means season-ending surgery for him as well.
Relievers Luis Ayala, Christhian Martinez and Jordan Walden are also on the disabled list. There is no timetable for Martinez or Ayala to return to the club. This has left a large hole in the ‘pen with Avilan and Gearrin now splitting the setup duties. Prospects J.R. Graham and Alex Wood are not currently considered options for call-up, Graham was recently shut down with pitching soreness. In the meantime, Cory Rasmus has been called up from Triple-A Gwinnett to help in the ‘pen. In his 19 appearances in Gwinnett, he has an 0.93 ERA with a 1-1 record.
Safe to say, injuries have taken a sledgehammer to Atlanta’ vaunted bullpen.
All the same, the Braves are quite happy to be home. Why the Braves have spent 26 of their first 40 games on the road is just another of those scheduling issues that never seems to be resolved. There will be teams that spend a big chunk of their early schedule away from their home ballparks. However, it would make sense that the teams in warmer climates would naturally be at home more frequently in the early going. Colorado, Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit would be the obvious choices for more road games in the first month of the season, but that would just make too much sense. Instead, the boys from Hotlanta are on the road, battling rain and snow. At least this last terrible road trip was not impeded by weather. Though, maybe weather would have helped their cause. It certainly couldn’t have hurt.
Atlanta has gone through a terrible stretch of baseball having lost 4 of their last 6 games on the road. With just 3 more games on the road before a travel day and a return to Turner Field for a 6-game home stand, the Braves need to salvage as many of the the remaining 3 road games as possible. Taking 2 of the 3 games in Arizona would give the Braves a winning percentage for the 10-game road trip.
Before a preview of Justin Upton’s return to Chase Field as the Braves square off against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a wrap-up of the series in San Francisco:
Starting the series off on the right note was important in Cincinnati and the Braves looked to repeat that in the first game of the series against the Giants against Ryan Vogelsong. The Braves had hit Vogelsong well in their prior match-ups, but the Vogelsong on the mound for the Giants Thursday night was hardly the Vogelsong of games past. He has had only 1 quality start in 2013. Vogelsong was unable to locate his pitches, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits in 4 1/3 innings. The Braves were able to close the door on Vogelsong and the game in the 4-run 5th inning.
The Braves’ bullpen (with appearances by O’Flaherty and Kimbrel) was solid, allowing 1 hit and 0 runs between them. With the 7 innings Teheran pitched, the ‘pen didn’t have to get far. There seems to be a trend with the ‘pen–when the starter goes deep, the less they have to accomplish, the sharper the bullpen is.
Brian McCann homered in the 2nd inning off Vogelsong, his 1st of the season and since his return from the disabled list Monday in Cincinnati. McCann has looked healthy and effective, both at the plate and behind it. In his 5 games since returning, he now has 5 hits, 7 RBIs, and 2 HRs including the one he hit in game 1 of the series.
W: Teheran (2-0) L: Vogelsong (1-3) SV: Kimbrel (11)
Tim Hudson had been nothing but dominant against the San Francisco Giants in recent outings. However, notching his 202nd career win against them was not in the cards. His opponent on the mound, Matt Cain, took a nasty line drive off his hip and still managed to pitch 8 innings of 2-run baseball. Hudson, on the other hand, lost control of the game in the 4th inning when the Giants scored 6 runs. Hudson was only able to pitch 3 2/3 innings before turning the game over the bullpen. Strangely enough, Hudson recorded 4 strikeouts, despite giving up 8 hits, 1 walk and those 6 earned runs.
The Braves were unable to break the stranglehold Cain had on them until the 5th inning when they scored 2 runs. Those 2 runs would be the only of the entire game for Atlanta. Brian McCann’s 2-run homer off of Cain in the 5th accounted for both runs. His 2nd homer of the series looked even more like vintage McCann and may be the ultimate clean bill of health for the All Star catcher.
W: Cain (2-2) L: Hudson (4-2)
Paul Maholm had another outing where he received no run support in the early innings and then lost control in the 5th inning. We have seen this trend with Maholm where he pitches great until the 4th or 5th inning and far too often has received little to no run support up until that point. Saturday’s game was no exception. Maholm pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits, 3 walks and 6 earned runs. Gearrin and Avilan picked it up from there, not allowing any runs, but when Anthony Varvaro came in to relieve, he gave up an additional 3 runs.
While it wasn’t the sharpest pitching the Braves have ever put on display, the hitting was nonexistent. This, too, is a trend with the Braves. It is feast or famine. The only RBI recorded in the game came at the hands of the pitcher, Paul Maholm. Gattis had a double, but that was not enough given the number of runs surrendered by the pitching staff. The Braves recorded 12 strikeouts.
W: Bumgarner (4-1) L: Maholm (4-4)
Kris Medlen has had the worst luck in baseball so far this year. For as hot as he was last season after joining the rotation, he has been equally cold this season. It hasn’t helped that he has received an average of 2.66 runs of support in his outings. Compare that to the 4.94 average runs in support of Hudson’s outings, the 4.43 average in support of Minor, the 6.24 for Teheran and the 3.68 for Paul Maholm. The baseball gods must not be smiling on Medlen because the bats go cold when Medlen takes the hill.
Medlen pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up 8 hits and 5 runs (3 of them earned and 3 off the home run ball). The real struggle of the game was the strike zone. He walked 5 batters with his spotty command.
In 2 of the 4 games in San Francisco, the hitting of Evan Gattis accounted for most, if not all, of the Braves’ scoring. Gattis recorded a 2-out RBI double. The Braves struck out only 8 times against Lincecum and the Giants’ pitching staff, but it was clear they could not get a read on the improved stuff of Lincecum.
Something unusual happened in the final game of the series: The Braves’ defense was terrible. Offensive struggles seemed to follow the team onto the field. Both Dan Uggla and Justin Upton received errors in the field.
W: Lincecum (3-2) L: Medlen (1-5)
JUSTIN UPTON RETURNS TO CHASE FIELD…
When the Arizona Diamondbacks made their interest known to the league that they’d be entertaining offers for Justin Upton, the Braves knew that Justin Upton could be a star in Atlanta. However, like other teams, including the Seattle Mariners who had a deal ready to go until Upton blocked it, the Braves couldn’t understand why the D-backs had given up on a young man with such potential and so many tools. A change of scenery may have been just what Justin Upton needed, though. Since joining the Braves, he is hitting .269 with 35 hits, 12 homers and 21 RBIs. In the first 37 games of last season, Upton hit .234 with 30 hits, 4 homers and 13 RBIs.
In comparison, two of the players that the Braves gave up to get Justin Upton haven’t exactly panned out for the D-backs. Martin Prado, the most versatile the Braves have had in years, has been versatile for the D-backs, but hasn’t produce the way he had for the Braves. Prado is currently hitting .223 with 35 hits and a mere 9 RBIs. Randall Delgado, part of Atlanta’s rotation last year, is not even a part of Arizona’s starting rotation. At Triple-A Reno, Delgado has a 9.09 ERA in 34.2 innings pitched.
During the SF series, the Braves signed left-handed reliever Juan Cedeno. Cedeno’s minor league contract with the Braves could result in his call-up to the big club quickly given the struggles of Atlanta’s ‘pen in recent days. Cedeno, who is the same age as Varvaro (29), was part of the Yankees organization as a prospect. He pitched with their Triple-A affiliate in Scranton during the 2012 season and was released in 2013. In 11 innings at Scranton, Cedeno recorded an 0.82 ERA. He surrendered 8 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 5 walks and 9 strikeouts. In his 2 years in Triple-A, Cedeno has a 2.52 record in 75 innings with 66 strike outs.
Jason Heyward is close to returning to his spot on the roster. In his 3rd rehab game at Triple-A Gwinnett yesterday, Heyward had 2 hits and 3 RBIs. This was a vast improvement over the 1st game at Gwinnett when he went hitless in 5 at-bats (striking out 3 times). He then missed the Saturday game due to soreness around the site where his appendix was removed. As of now there is no exact date for Heyward’s return.
In attempt to right the ship, the Braves will pit Minor (4-2, 2.96) vs. Miley (3-1, 2.93) in game 1 of the series. Tuesday’s game will feature Teheran (2-0, 4.84) vs. Corbin (5-0, 1.75). And the series finale features veterans Hudson (4-2, 4.70) vs. Kennedy (1-3, 4.83).