With a team as talented as the Braves, it hasn’t been easy to watch them struggle over the course of the last several games. Striking out a total of 17 times against Anibal Sanchez in the first game of the series set a terrible tone for the team’s time in Detroit. Kris Medlen was the recipient of some more tough luck. And the shuffle of players in the lineup in the absence of Jason Heyward doesn’t compare to what the Braves could have with a consistent Heyward.
The Tigers scored 25 runs in the series to the mere 7 scored by the Braves.
The good news is this terrible road trip is now over and the Braves can put the tough losses and rough weather behind them.
In every possible chance, the Braves seemed to have runner on the bases in front of the 3-4 punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. This hurt them early and often in the series.
The story of the game was that Anibal Sanchez, who spent most of his career in the National League facing the Braves, struck out 17 Braves. Those 17 strikeouts set a franchise record for the Tigers. The Braves went on to strike out a total of 18 times in game 1. Both Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla were crowned with a Golden Sombrero–each striking out 4 times.
W: Sanchez (3-1) L: Maholm (3-2)
Justin Upton smashed his 12th home run of the season off Rick Porcello. Upton’s didn’t 12th homer of last season didn’t come until September 1st. Even in his best season, the earliest he’s hit his 12th bomb was June 11th of the 2009 season. 7 of Upton’s homers have come with 2 strikes. He leads the league in 2-strike homers. Upton now holds the Major League record with 10 solo home runs in the month of April. Prior to Upton, the record was held by Larry Walker with 9.
The second game of the series got away from Medlen, but the team had a chance to stay in it that was thrown away in the 8th inning when they allowed 2 runs. Medlen had pitched well, but continues to be the guy on the staff suffering from the tough luck. Medlen began game 2 with what is becoming signature Medlen–a picked off runner at first base. Few would contend that there is a right hander in the game with a better pick off move than Medlen. Where the Maddux/Medlen comparisons ring true is with the glove. Medlen appears to have many gold gloves in his future as one of the best fielding pitchers in the National League.
W: Porcello (1-2) L: Medlen (1-3) SV: Valverde (2)
In an attempt to right the ship after 2 tough losses to the Tigers, Fredi Gonzalez shook up the lineup for the final game of the series. Gonzalez put Reed Johnson in right field, Jordan Schafer in center field and Tyler Pastornicky at second base while utilizing Dan Uggla in the DH spot. Schafer became the fourth man to bat leadoff for Fredi Gonzalez in April. Giving B.J. Upton the night off may pay dividends in the upcoming home stand. Uggla could have benefitted from sitting. He went 0-for-11 with 7 strikeouts in Detroit.
What looked on paper to be a pitching duel in the making with Doug Fister and Mike Minor turned out to be exactly that. Prior to giving up a 2-run blast, Minor had given up only 1 hit. Fister’s command and fastball movement was dominant in the early frames. As Fister lost command and the rain picked up in Detroit, the Braves took advantage, scoring 2 runs off of Fister and a 3rd run on a wide throw to first by former Brave Omar Infante. Infante got the run back for his team, however, with a 7th inning solo home run off Minor. Infante went 6-for-11 in the series off his former team.
The Braves were hurt once again when the combination of Cory Gearrin and Mike Minor had two runners on the bases for reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera who took Gearrin deep. Gearrin’s scoreless streak of 12 games came to an end with the Cabrera blast in game 3.
W: Fister (4-0) L: Minor (3-2)
BRAVES HEAD HOME TO FACE THE NATIONALS…
After a road trip that included some of the worst weather the Braves have seen in several years, the team returns to Turner Field to face off against National League rivals the Washington Nationals followed by the New York Mets.
Kris Medlen gets a chance to turn around his luck in the coming series with the Nationals by facing off against Dan Haren who has been on a roller coaster so far in 2013. Both Maholm and Medlen didn’t get out of Detroit unscathed and both need to put their last 2 losses behind them. A win against someone as dominant as Strasburg would be a huge confidence boost for young Julio Teheran. One of those strange things that sometimes happens in all the numbers generated in baseball is when two pitchers end up with exactly the same record and ERA. Two such pitchers, Gio Gonzalez and Tim Hudson, will face off on Tuesday.
Braves hitting has been a story of drought and onslaught. The first 2 games the Braves lost this season were shutouts. This may be a trend throughout the season as the offense continues to struggle with the strikeout. The Braves struck out 39 times in Detroit. Something that the Braves must figure out is how to get players on the bases in front of hard-hitting Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. That 11 of 12 of Justin Upton’s homers have been solo shots speaks to the struggles of the 1 and 2-hole hitters.
The series against the Nats gets underway with Strasburg (1-4, 3.16) vs. Teheran (1-0, 5.48). Game 2 will feature Gonzalez (2-1, 4.50) vs. Hudson (2-1, 4.50). Game 3 features Zimmermann (4-1, 2.00) vs. Maholm (3-2, 3.30). And the final game of the 4-game series will be Haren (2-3, 6.29) vs. Medlen (1-3, 3.26). Game 1 of the series will be featured on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball and game 3 will be the featured game on Wednesday Night Baseball.