The Atlanta Braves have not made a blockbuster trade for a starting pitcher as many thought they would have by now with the Tuesday trade deadline looming. The almost Ryan Dempster deal fell through, and the Cubs’ right-hander remains in Chicago–at least for the moment. And Brewers’ ace Zack Greinke was traded to the L.A. Angels.
With Atlanta’s top two targets off the board (though there’s a slight chance a Dempster trade to ATL could still happen) and the overall field of potential starting pitching trade targets narrowing, the Braves have turned a good bit of their attention toward plan “B”: trade for a reliever instead of a starter and move Kris Medlen to the rotation.
Medlen is now slated to make his first start of 2012 on Tuesday, unless the Braves swing a deal for a starting pitcher by the July 31 — 4pm EST non-waiver trade deadline. To make room for Medlen, struggling starter Jair Jurrjens has been moved to the ‘pen for now.
The Braves signed Miguel Batista to a minor league deal (Batista was designated for assignment by the Mets). He has been assigned to triple-A Gwinnett and will add to the Braves pitching depth, though he is unlikely to factor into Atlanta’s big league plans in any significant way this year.
Meanwhile, the Braves welcomed the division rival Philadelphia Phillies to Turner Field over the weekend. The Phils were fresh off a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, but the Braves–in turn–swept away any hope they may have had of resurrecting their flat-lining playoffs ambitions.
Braves pitching was in high gear against Philly. Ben Sheets outpitched newly re-inked Cole Hamels. Sheets game up 1 run to the Phillies in the first inning, his first run allowed as an Atlanta Brave. He is now 3-0 in 3 starts with an 0.50 ERA since joining the team. Though Mike Minor still didn’t receive much run support, two runs were enough to get the young starter a win and Craig Kimbrel his 30th save on the season. While Minor had his early struggles, in July Minor gave up 16 hits, 4 walks, struck out 26, notched a 1.98 ERA, and only allowed batters a .172 average against him in 27 1/3 innings pitched. Minor appears to have finally figured it out and with a little run support could be exactly what the Braves needed when Beachy went down with injury and Jurrjens wasn’t effective in his return to the rotation. Veteran Tim Hudson doesn’t appear to be bothered by the bone chips in his ankle. Even against top tier pitchers like Doc Halladay, Hudson has shown that he can still compete and be dominant.
The biggest story for the Braves right now, believe it or not, is the offense. Jason Heyward is firing on all cylinders. He hit his 16th home run of the season against the Phillies and stole his 15th base. Brian McCann began a torrid streak before the all-star break and has continued it in the games since. In addition to McCann and Heyward returning to form, a healthy Freddie Freeman is delivering in the clutch and in RBI situations like he did in the early part of the season and constantly last season. Prado and Bourn remain a force both getting on base and on the base paths. The one piece of the puzzle that is not working at all is second baseman Dan Uggla. Last year at this time Uggla was in the midst of a 33-game hit streak. This season Uggla can’t seem to make anything happen and is racking up strikeouts faster than ever in his career. If he continues on this pace, Uggla will strikeout 186 times, the most in his career. By comparison, Tim Hudson has four hits in his past seven at-bats. Dan Uggla, on the other hand, has four hits in his past 36 at-bats.
Chipper Jones had an exceptional series against the Phillies capped by passing Pete Rose on the all-time list of extra-base hits by a switch hitter. Chipper’s 1,042 extra-base hit passed Rose and leaves him behind only Eddie Murray’s 1,099 hits. Murray played 21 seasons, Rose had a 24-season career and Chipper is concluding his career in his 19th season.
Line scores from the weekend series with Philly:
W: Sheets (3-0) L: Hamels (11-5)
W: Minor (6-7) L: Blanton (8-9) SV: Kimbrel (30)
W: Hudson (10-4) L: Halladay: (4-6)
BRAVES LOOK TO EXTEND HOT STREAK AGAINST THE FISH…
Monday: Buehrle (9-9, 3.31) vs. Hanson (11-5, 4.39)
Tuesday: Nolasco (8-9, 4.80) vs. Medlen (1-1, 2.48)
Wednesday: Zambrano (5-9, 4.54) vs. Sheets (3-0, 0.50)
Thursday: Eovaldi (2-6, 3.94) vs. Minor (6-7, 5.18)
The Braves remain 0-12 on Mondays and surprisingly haven’t won a game on a Monday since August 22, 2011 at Wrigley Field, an 18 game drought. Will Tommy Hanson rebound from his last start–a win, but with the most unusual line in a long time–and put away the Marlins on a Monday?
Miami has been in talks to trade ace Josh Johnson. Those talks hinge on an asking price that many teams find insane. The Marlins have traded numerous players as the trade deadline nears, essentially giving up on their season now. While players like to say that all the trade talk doesn’t bother them on the field, the Marlins may not be able to walk the walk to back up that talk. A team that just lost Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez might be exactly what the Braves need to extend their 5-game winning streak.
The Braves welcome the Marlins beginning tonight at 7:10 (EST).
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