The Atlanta Braves are 3-6 during interleague play this season, a record that hardly tells the full tale of their recent struggles. In the space of one week, the Braves were swept by the New York Yankees, lost young star Brandon Beachy to an elbow injury, and were 1-hit by the Baltimore Orioles. Will leaving the Ted for the Bronx and Fenway be conducive to turning around this interleague turmoil?
Let’s start with the highlights of the 3-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. The Braves were able to end their 5-game losing streak by coming out of the gate and beating Baltimore in game one. Rookie Andrelton Simmons showed why his offense is thought highly of in game one and then flashed the leather in game three to remind us that his defense is a step up from his predecessor as well. Craig Kimbrel continues to remind us why he was the 2011 Rookie of the Year. In game one, he notched his NL-leading 19th save of the season. In that same game, Kris Medlen returned to the ‘pen from his boondoggle in Triple-A and pitched 2 innings of scoreless ball. Chad Durbin also pitched well–something he has done consistently in recent weeks. And though Randall Delgado took the loss in the final game of the set, he was remarkable in his 8 innings of 2-run ball.
Unfortunately, the highlights for the Braves were far fewer than the low points.
The worst moment of the series came when Brandon Beachy left game two with an elbow injury. Beachy, who was pitching on extra rest due to soreness in that elbow, threw two breaking balls in the dirt and was immediately lifted in the 4th inning. Beachy will undergo an MRI today.
Jason Hammel took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Braves, but lost that bid when the Braves only hit of the game came off the bat of Jason Heyward. The no-hitter erased, Hammel was still able to throw a complete game shutout.
The entire homestand was full of roster moves, the final 3-games being no exception. To begin the series, Kris Medlen was called up from Gwinnett and veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez was designated for assignment. Following the injury to Beachy, he was placed to the disabled list and in his spot Todd Redmond was called up from Gwinnett. Redmond, a starter in Triple-A for three years, has been added to the big league bullpen. Fredi Gonzalez announced yesterday that Jair Jurrjens will be called up from Gwinnett on Friday to start. Whether that will be a spot start or more long term remains to be seen. This, presumably, has something to do with Julio Teheran only pitching 4 innings in his most recent start at Gwinnett. Kris Medlen will remain in the ‘pen for now, but could do a spot start or more in the rotation if needed without having to go back down to Gwinnett now that he is stretched out.
HEADING TO THE BRONX…
Monday: Minor (3-4, 6.01) vs. Sabathia (8-3, 3.70)
Tuesday: Hudson (4-3, 3.90) vs. Kuroda (6-6, 3.43)
Wednesday: Hanson (7-4, 3.32) vs. Hughes (7-5, 4.50)
The Braves hope to put an end to the Yankees’ surge in their own house over the next three games. They have their work cut out for them.
Mike Minor took the loss in his last outing against the Yankees at Turner Field, though he pitched 7 1/3 innings of 1-run baseball. He hopes to continue his success against the Bronx Bombers in today’s start. The keys for Minor’s success will be similar to previous outings. Keeping runners off bases with the Yankees is important, especially with the short porch in right at Yankee Stadium. This New York lineup can do damage from every up and down it, so Minor’s job will be to keep his walks down and his pitches in the strike zone. Continuing his recent trend of not giving up homers, especially multiple homers will be important as well. Given how badly the Yankees beat up the Braves’ bullpen in their visit to Turner Field, going deep into the game would be especially helpful from the young rookie.
Hiroki Kuroda has been exceptional in his last several outings. He has also pitched better at home than on the road. However, Tim Hudson may be due to finally get a win at Yankee Stadium where he holds an 0-2 record in 6 starts. On the road this season, Hudson has held his opponents to a .196 batting average. This, strangely enough with two veterans on the mound, may be the pitching matchup to watch.
Behind Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson has been the most consistent and reliable starter for the Braves. A solid outing from Tommy is desperately needed by his team right now. He faces a tough opponent in Phil Hughes who seems to have found himself and righted the ship, as they say. Hughes has looked like the 2009 Phil Hughes once again and has been helping his team immensely.
Perhaps the biggest key to the Braves’ visit to the Bronx this week will be offense. The offense has been struggling mightily without Freddie Freeman’s presence in the lineup. He recently had two cortisone injections into the knuckle of the injured finger that was nailed by a throw as he was sliding into second base and was finally able to bend the knuckle. Getting his bat back in the lineup is very important for a team that has shown throughout the season how instrumental his bat is to their overall offense.
Brian McCann may be heating up, a good sign for the catcher whose production is down so far this season. Jason Heyward got the only hit against Jason Hammel and seems to be getting key hits. More consistent production will continue to be a need the Braves have with J-Hey. This entire season could hinge on what they can get from Jason Heyward. At the beginning of the season many would have said that Braves’ offense would hinge on Heyward, but also Martin Prado. Martin Prado has stepped up in a big way and is showing every day how valuable he is to this team. Not only has his bat been huge for this struggling offense, his versatility has been a god send as the Braves deal with injuries. Prado even stepped in to play a little first base in the absence of Freddie Freeman and started an outstanding double play while there.
The Braves and Yankees get underway tonight in the Bronx at 7:05 (EST). Tonight’s game is the featured game on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball.