When the full story of the 2012 season is written, there will be two story lines for the Atlanta Braves: A streaky team who, when winning, shows absolute dominance, and a team that pressed on despite the various pieces not clicking all at once.
The latter of those story lines was on display against the Colorado Rockies the past 4 days as the pitching, minus Tommy Hanson, was incredible and the offense was, well, not. While the Braves notched 25 hits over 4 games, they went a horrid 3-for-35 with runners in scoring position.
Kris Medlen, freshly minted National League Pitcher of the Month for August, continued on the incredible streak he began when he joined the rotation. Medlen, who in recent weeks has been referred to as the next Greg Maddux, has only 1 unearned run on his line in his past 37 1/3 innings and the team has won each of the last 18 games he has started going back to 2010. Medlen has 50 strikouts and has allowed only 5 walks. As a starter this season, he has a 6-0 record with an unbelievable 0.54 ERA. In his past 2 starts alone, Medlen has 21 strikeouts and allowed no walks. Even with his combined ERA as a starter and reliever, on the season Medlen is sporting a 1.56 ERA. It has become clear that if the Braves are in a position to play in a 1-game Wild Card showdown to enter the playoffs, the Braves will want Kris Medlen on the mound.
Tommy Hanson has been all over the map since returning to the rotation from the disabled list. Whether he is healthy or not has not been answered. While he didn’t pitch poorly in his 5 2/3 innings, he certainly isn’t giving the Braves as many innings as Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Tim Hudson are. In Tommy’s defense, the offense was horrendous in game 2 of the series. Despite getting 9 hits, the Braves went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The Rockies were able to shutout the struggling Braves offense.
Mike Minor has been the hard luck pitcher for the Braves, but when he wins and when he loses lately, he is pitching effectively and proving that the rookie has grown into a very good pitcher. Minor took the mound in game 3 knowing that his team had lost 11 of their last 17 games. He gave it his all, going 7 innings and allowing only 1 hit and 0 runs. Minor allowed 4 walks while striking out 7. In relief of Minor came Craig Kimbrel who pitched in a 4-out save situation, his first in a multi-inning save opportunity. Run support has often eluded Mike Minor, but the 1 run scored by Chipper Jones turned out to be just enough. 23 batters reached base in game 3 and only 1 crossed home plate.
In perhaps the most bizarre win of the Braves season or any recent season, the Braves sent Tim Hudson to the mound and like their chances against the Rockies in the series finale. With high expectations for Hudson, their proven ace, they weren’t expecting to win the game on an unearned run due to an unusual set of circumstances. In the second inning, the only scoring play of the entire game, began with perhaps the most unlikely batter with a bunt hit single–Juan Francisco. That bunt was followed by a double by the hitting-challenged Dan Uggla that moved Francisco to third base. Then came a sight you hardly ever see in professional baseball. The pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, missed a throwback from the catcher and while the fielders scrambled to back him up, Juan Francisco scored. That unearned run was the only run by either team. Tim Hudson’s 7 shutout innings with the bullpen shutting the door on the Rockies made that 1 run by Francisco all the Braves needed.
Some odd stats from the final game of the series: The only other time the Atlanta Braves won consecutive 1-0 games happened July 21 and 22, 1971 against the Padres. Pitcher Tim Hudson is hitting .363 (8-for-22) with 2 doubles and 2 RBIs over his last 10 games. And while Chipper didn’t start the final game of the series, his numbers against the Rockies are otherworldly. Chipper’s career numbers against the Colorado Rockies: .323/.426/.607 with 31 home runs. Like I said, otherworldly.
Line scores from each of the 4 games against the Rockies at Turner Field:
W: Medlen (7-1) L: Chatwood (4-4)
2-for-9 with RISP
W: Torres (4-1) L: Hanson (12-8)
0-for-7 with RISP
W: Minor (8-10) L: White (2-8) SV: Kimbrel (33)
0-for-11 with RISP
W: Hudson (14-5) L: Chacin SV: Kimbrel (34)
1-for-8 with RISP
LAST TRIP TO THE BIG APPLE FOR CHIPPER…
Friday: Maholm (11-9, 3.79) vs. Niese (10-8, 3.55)
Saturday: Medlen (7-1, 1.56) vs. Hefner (2-5, 4.52)
Sunday: Hanson (12-8, 4.40) vs. Young (4-7, 4.48)
The big story in the Big Apple this weekend is that this will be Chipper Jones’ final trip there before his retirement. In each of the cities he has visited for the last time, he has been honored on the field and greeted with enthusiastic applause. The trip to Citi Field promises to be the most interesting of his final visits. There has been no love lost on the part of Mets fans when it comes to Chipper, but as Chipper recently noted, he has always held New York to a “higher standard.”
If you think Chipper’s numbers are good against the team that just departed Turner Field, the Rockies, his numbers against the Mets are ridiculous. Chipper’s career line against the Mets at Shea Stadium: .313 with 19 HRs and 101 RBIs (88 games played). Chipper’s career line against the Mets at Shea, Citi and the Ted: .314 with 49 HRs and 158 RBIs. When anyone hears the name “Mets Killer,” the first name that comes to mind is Chipper Jones. The name is well-earned.
The Mets welcome the Braves to Citi Field tonight at 7:10 (EST). Game 1 is the MLB.TV free game. Game 2 will be the featured game of the week on MLB on FOX Saturday at 3:30 (EST).
Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.