• Exclusives

    Braves sweep Cards, open 4-game homestand

    By Tara Rowe

    If the Braves had unfinished business with the St. Louis Cardinals after a wild September that saw the Braves collapse and the unlikely Cardinals snag the National League Wild Card, the Braves certainly made a statement in St. Louis. The Braves left St. Louis having scored 23 runs off of 36 hits. This isn’t the 2011 Atlanta Braves, folks.

    While Mike Minor was not sharp in his matchup with Jaime Garcia in the first game of the series, the offense once again picked up a struggling pitcher. Minor showed improvement in one key area–bases on balls. Minor did not give up a walk in this outing and struck out 7 hitters. Jason Heyward crushed a 2-run bomb in the 12th inning to give the Braves the lead, a 2-run lead that the Cardinals were not able to answer. The win went to veteran reliever Livan Hernandez.

    Brandon Beachy is becoming the story of the season for the Atlanta Braves. In 6 innings, he allowed only 2 hits and 1 earned run against the Cardinals.¬†Beachy is making a case for why he should be selected to the All Star Game. Like his teammate Freddie Freeman, he doesn’t appear to be suffering from anything resembling a sophomore slump.

    Beachy is now 3rd in ERA in the National League at 1.60 behind Ryan Dempster (1.02) and Johnny Cueto (1.12).

    Game 3 of the series in St. Louis looked to be the toughest pitching matchup of the set, but what appeared on paper was not so on the field. Undefeated, new starter Lance Lynn gave up 3 runs in a rough 3rd inning. Those 3 runs could have meant the end for the Cardinals, but that didn’t keep the Braves from tacking on. In the 7th inning, Jason Heyward came through with a 3-run double. Yes, the same Jason Heyward who struck out 4 times the day before.

    Tommy Hanson was stellar, allowing only 1 run in his 5 innings of work. Tommy walked 3 batters and struck out 9. Unfortunately, his command disappeared in the 6th inning when he loaded the bases without recording an out. 1 of the runners Hanson was responsible as able to score, but the ‘pen got him out of the jam without further damage

    The Braves’ bullpen was hit-and-miss. Durbin and O’Flaherty shut down the Cardinals, despite the mess they came into when Hanson exited. Cristhian Martinez struggled. Martinez allowed the Cardinals 3 runs in the 9th inning.

    Atlanta handed Lance Lynn his first loss as a starter and walked away with the sweep.

    The Braves left St. Louis leading the National League East, leading the National League in runs scored (2 runs ahead of the team they just swept), and on an historic offensive pace that obliterates the team they were in 2011.

    FOUR GAME HOME STAND…

    The Braves have a somewhat unconventional 4-game home stand ahead that includes 2 games against the Cincinnati Red and 2 games against the Miami Marlins. Four days at Turner Field before an interleague matchup against the Rays in St. Petersburg will be a nice break for the Braves who saw the Rockies, Cubs and Cardinals all on the road.

    Monday: Bailey (1-3, 4.93) vs. Delgado (2-3, 4.54)

    Tuesday: Cueto (4-0, 1.12) vs. Hudson (1-1, 4.50)

    Wednesday: Buehrle (2-4, 2.81) vs. (2-2, 6.59)

    Thursday: Nolasco (4-1, 3.65) vs. Beachy (4-1, 1.60)

    Surprisingly, Braves’ pitching, with the exception of Brandon Beachy, is not living up to its potential while the offense is over-producing. The offense is producing at a rate that is refreshing for Braves fans who watched their team drop far too many games last season due to inadequate run support. Where the Braves are 1st in runs scored in the National League, they are 12th in team ERA.

    The Braves face a difficult task with Tuesday’s starter Cueto. Hudson alone will be tasked with keeping Votto in the park. It would appear that Tuesday’s game will be the toughest of the 4-game homestand, but like Lance Lynn, the Braves can always hope to hand Johnny Cueto his first loss of the season.

    For the pitching to live up to it’s promise, Hudson may need a few more outings to really settle in. His one win came in a game he didn’t pitch spectacularly and his one loss came in a heartbreaker in which he pitched the best baseball we’ve seen from Huddy in at least a year. Hanson has appeared to have a bit more zip on his fastball in his last two outings, great news for a team that has worried about his velocity so far this season. It’s important to remember just how young Randall Delgado and Mike Minor are. Both young pitchers will come into their own as they get a little experience under their belts. This rotation has the potential to be just as good, if not better, than both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s hard to imagine how good the Braves will be when this piece falls into place with their new potent offense.

    The 4-game homestand begins tonight at  7:10 (EST).