With offense coming from sources that have been unusually quiet all season–Brian McCann and Dan Uggla–the Braves swept the Mets in Chipper Jones’ final trip to the Big Apple. Accomplishing the sweep mostly on the backs of phenomenal pitching, for the Braves, it felt like old times.
Friday night, with Maholm on the mound, the Braves recorded their third consecutive shutout. This feat was last accomplished ten years ago by the Braves, strangely enough on the exact same dates–Sept. 4-7, 2002. In their previous 5 games, they went 4-1 with a 0.60 ERA. Offense was provided by Jason Heyward who blasted a homer in the 4th inning, his 25th on the season, and Dan Uggla who contributed a double and a home run. Maholm pitched 5 1/3 innings with 6 strikeouts. The bullpen, all 5 relievers, contributed 5 strikeouts to the shutout.
Atlanta has now won each of Kris Medlen’s past 19 starts going back to May 29, 2010. Medlen’s no earned-runs allowed streak ended at 40 1/3 innings. Though he wasn’t as sharp as he has been in his previous outings (i.e. he wasn’t shutting the door on every threat), Medlen had a great 6 innings on the hill before the rain started to fall at Citi Field. After an hour and fifteen minute rain delay, Atlanta’s bats tacked on another 4 runs. Bourn, McCann, Heyward and even Medlen had doubles. McCann got his first of 2 homers of the series and Eric Hinske added a homer of his own. Mac had a 4-for-5 day at the plate, collecting 4 RBIs. The Braves had 17 hits in game 2 and went 6-for-21 with runners in scoring position.
In game 3, Brian McCann continued his hot hitting of late, getting his 20th home run of the season. It had been 89 plate appearances since his last homer. Mac now has 2 homers in his past 6 at-bats. Another bat that has come to life of late for the Braves is that of Dan Uggla. Uggla’s double in game 3 was his fourth extra-base hit in his past 12 at-bats. Going into game 3, Dan Uggla had hit .289 in his previous 12 games, a vast improvement from his season average of .214. Tommy Hanson has looked much more in control in his last two starts, but left the game after 5 2/3 innings with little run support backing his effort. Having allowed only 4 hits and 2 earned runs, Tommy had the help of Venters, O’Flaherty, Kimbrel and Moylan to shut the door on the Mets and secured the sweep. One aspect of the Braves defense that just didn’t work Sunday afternoon was the battery’s ability to control the running game. The Braves allowed 3 stolen bases–1 each off Hanson, Kimbrel and Moylan. This certainly could have something to do with the ailing shoulder of Brian McCann, though he says it bothers him to hit more than to throw. Again the Braves struggled with runners in scoring position in game 3 going 1-for-11.
Line scores from the 3-game set:
W: Maholm (12-9) L: Niese (10-9) SV: Kimbrel (35)
W: Medlen (8-1) L: Hefner (2-6)
W: Kimbrel (1-1) L: Parnell (4-4) SV: Moylan (1)
ON TO MILWAUKEE…
Monday: Minor (8-10, 4.58) vs. Peralta (1-0, 5.14)
Tuesday: Hudson (14-5, 3.59) vs. Estrada (2-6, 3.99)
Wednesday: Maholm (12-9, 3.67) vs. Gallardo (14-6, 3.76)
The Braves are excited to get the bat and glove of Andrelton Simmons back Monday in Milwaukee. Simmons has been on the disabled list since July 8th when he slid into second base on a hustle double and fractured his right pinky. Prior to the injury, Simmons was hitting .296 with 34 hits and 15 RBIs in 33 games with the Braves this season. Paul Janish has been more than the Braves bargained for when they got him from the Reds as Simmons’ short-term replacement, but Simmons offers a more consistent bat and an upgrade in defense.
As September rolls on, there are quite a few new faces in the Braves dugout. September call-ups brought veteran reliever Peter Moylan back into the ‘pen. Moylan underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and had been rehabbing in Florida all season. Also added to the bullpen with Moylan are Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran and Cory Gearrin. With the ailing shoulder of Brian McCann and the ongoing side injury to David Ross, the Braves are happy to have the September addition of J.C. Boscan. Jose Constanza once again joins the club as a bench player and will get playing time depending on where and when Martin Prado is playing. Two new additions, not just to the big league roster, but to the club are veterans Jeff Baker and Lyle Overybay. Baker was acquired from the Tigers at the end of August after the Tigers designated him for assignment. Baker, a utility infielder, brings versitility on the bench and an always needed right-handed bat for Fredi Gonzalez. Overbay, like Baker, was designated for assignment by the D-Backs and was quickly picked up by GM Frank Wren. Overbay is another bench piece for September.
Going into Milwaukee and beyond, the biggest question facing the Braves is whether or not Tommy Hanson will remain in the rotation when Ben Sheets returns from the disabled list. Hanson is clearly the number 5 guy in the rotation. Whether Sheets will be healthy enough in his return to overtake Tommy for the last rotation spot is a question that won’t be answered until mid to late September. Sheets is scheduled to throw a simulated game today.
As the Braves begin a 3-game set with the Brew Crew, they have a 5-game winning streak and are 5 1/2 games up on their next closest Wild Card contender (St. Louis). The Braves have a 81-60 record and are 5 1/2 games behind the 1st place Nationals in the NL East. The Brewers have been on a tear of late, but remain below .500. They have a 69-71 record, are 14 1/2 games back in the NL Central and are 6 games back in the Wild Card picture.
The Braves and Brewers get underway tonight at 8:10 (EST).