• Exclusives

    Braves drop series by the Bay, Upton’s return to Arizona

    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:

    Game 1:

    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.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 0 2 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 6 11 0
    Giants 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 8 1

    W: Teheran (2-0) L: Vogelsong (1-3) SV: Kimbrel (11)

    Game 2:

    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.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 3 0
    Giants 0 0 0 6 0 2 0 0 x 8 11 0

    W: Cain (2-2) L: Hudson (4-2)

    Game 3:

    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.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 7 0
    Giants 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 4 x 10 14 0

    W: Bumgarner (4-1) L: Maholm (4-4)

    Game 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.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 2
    Giants 0 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 x 5 10 1

    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).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.