With back-to-back sweeps of the Dodgers and the Twins, the Braves face off against an old nemesis, the New York Mets, this weekend with nothing but confidence. As they displayed in the final game of the series, the Braves can put all of their bench players in the lineup to give some of the regular starters a rest and they still dominate. They’ve proven time and time again that they can send anyone from their ace Tim Hudson to the rookie Julio Teheran to the mound and get results. They’re gaining confidence in the new-look bullpen, with Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro picking up more and more of the work and Cory Gearrin coming into his own as one of the better relievers in the National League. Right now, despite adversity, the Braves are winning baseball games and reminding the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with.
In game 1 of the series, Julio Teheran went to the mound and showed the Twins that he may not be the most talked about rookie in the game, but he has the stuff to get any batter out. Now with a 3-1 record and a quickly dropping 3.99 ERA, his wins are more reliable and predictable than even those of Kris Medlen. Teheran pitched 8 2/3 innings, giving up only 1 run on 5 hits. The only run he surrendered was a solo homer. He walked only 1 batter and struck out 4. Teheran’s pitching gem was backed by a 3-RBI game for Dan Uggla who smashed a home run off Kevin Correia. And Cory Gearrin secured his first save of the season.
In game 2 of the series, Tim Hudson battled the elements. Huddy threw 43 pitches before the teams were forced to leave the field for a 76-minute rain delay. Though Hudson was able to continue pitching after the delay, his start was shortened to 5 innings. His 5 innings were solid with only 2 earned runs. Hudson’s home ERA dropped to 2.84 (in comparison to his road ERA that is sitting at an ugly 7.36). In one of those strange happenings of baseball, Gearrin blew the save and then closer Craig Kimbrel entered the game to recording the win. The ‘pen was less than effective, allowing the same amount of runs as Hudson in 1 inning fewer. However, the Braves were able to get away with the win, increasing their winning streak to 5 games. Other highlights of game 2: Brian McCann hit his 4th home run of the season (4 of his 10 hits in 37 at-bats have been home runs) and Evan Gattis launched a pinch hit homer in the 9th to tie the gave for the Braves.
Game 3 of the series was one of the most exciting, if not lopsided, in recent weeks. Putting together a roster of mostly bench players, Fredi Gonzalez reaped the rewards of fabulous offense from Evan Gattis, Jordan Schafer and Chris Johnson. He once again got to see the defensive might of Chris Johnson at third base. If there remained any doubt on the part of Gonzalez as to which player should receive the majority of the playing time, hopefully Fredi took note of just how well Chris Johnson played in the finale. Chris Johnson and Jordan Schafer now have the best averages and on-base percentages of the team. The biggest blow to the Twins came off the bat than, of course, Evan Gattis. Gattis hit his first career grand slam in the 4th inning to give the Braves an 8-0 lead. It was the 10th home run for Gattis, 3 of those pinch hit homers. He is tied for 4th in the National League in homers, quite a feat given that the others in the top 10 have at least 20 more at-bats than him. Gattis homered not long in the 4th inning after B.J. Upton homered for the first time in a game in which brother Justin didn’t. Chris Johnson’s double following the Gattis grand slam knocked starter Vance Worley out of the game. Cory Rasmus made his debut out of the ‘pen after Paul Maholm went 7 1/3 innings giving up only 1 unearned run. Rasmus gave up 2 additional runs, but the Braves’ cushion of 5 runs easily gave them the 8-3 victory.
BRAVES FACE OFF IN FLUSHING…
With the new interleague setup in 2013, essentially an interleague game being played every day, the schedule is even more unusual this season than before. The coming road series is case in point. The Braves will face the Mets at Citi Field for a 3-game weekend series and then they fly to Toronto for 2 games against the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays will then follow the Braves south to complete their 4-game tilt, the remaining 2 games at Turner Field. How that makes any sense, only MLB’s front office knows.
By way of an update on injuries, Brandon Beachy will make another rehab start today in Gwinnett. He remains on track to join the club in June. Fredi Gonzalez has said that Jordan Walden will not be ready to come of the disabled list on Monday as played. He needs a few more innings of work in the minors as well as a bullpen session. And Cristhian Martinez remains at extended Spring Training in Florida where he is rebuilding arm strength. A time table for his return has not yet been determined.
Against the Mets, the Braves will send the back end of the rotation to the mound. Tonight’s game will feature Medlen (1-5, 3.02) vs. Hefner (0-5, 5.00). Saturday’s game will feature Minor (5-2, 2.78) vs. Gee (2-5, 6.04). The series finale Sunday will feature rookie Teheran (3-1, 3.99) vs. Marcum (0-5, 6.59).