• Luis Avilan

    As Braves scuffle, Nats grab first place

    The Atlanta Braves have lost 3 games in the past week when they have a had a lead in the late innings. They’ve lost 2 games where they’ve battled back to make it to the 13th inning only to give up 5 runs and the ballgame. They were swept by the Phillies who, by all indications, are on the verge of trading away some or all of the pieces that once brought them multiple division titles. And they’ve failed their starting pitching offensively time and time again with lack of run support. If the 2014 Atlanta Braves want a spot in the postseason this year, it’s time to get it together.

    When the Braves went out and signed Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran and Andrelton Simmons to long-term deals this winter, the consensus among baseball writers about Jason Heyward was that the talent and potential is there, he just hasn’t met it. Many compared he and Freeman to McCann and Francouer when they came up, saying Heyward was the expected superstar and Freeman surpassed him. Many said that Jason’s 2-year extension was a tryout, essentially, for Heyard to prove that he deserves a deal with this club. If that is the case, Heyward is more than proving himself this season. Heyward is now hitting .303/.381/.472 in his past 35 games, all of them in the lead off spot. He has upped his speed on the bases, stealing 9 bags so far. His defense in right field is likely the best in the National League. When compared to other players in either league, defensively Heyward is in the top 5 valuable players, according to Fangraphs, and surpasses teammate Andrelton Simmons.

    The legend of Evan Gattis, former ski lift operator and pizza delivery driver, continues to grow. Gattis takes a 17-game hitting streak and the most homers of any catcher in the big leagues into the series against Washington. Not only has Gattis improved behind the plate defensively and with increased authority calling games, his hitting is more consistent and his power even more dominant. Instead of hitting just fastballs out of baseball parks everywhere, he is hitting offspeed stuff with equal aplomb. Despite taking an off day, Gattis extended his hitting streak to 17 games  yesterday with yet another homer against the Phillies, his 16th on the year. Gattis has now improved his average to .294 with 7 doubles, 16 homers and 38 RBIs on the year. Gattis trails only Tommy La Stella in batting average among his teammates, though has 36 more appearances this season than Tommy. Gattis leads the team in RBI and slugging percentage (.588).

    Coming off his worst career start, Julio Teheran stepped up big time against the visiting Phils. In his last outing against the Reds, Julio surrendered 10 hits and 7 earned runs (a career first) in 6 1/3 innings. He bounced back in a big way against Philly, going 8 strong innings with only 4 hits given up and 1 earned run allowed. He lowered his ERA to 2.31 on the season. Unfortunately, Julio did not get the win due to the ongoing issues in the ‘pen and kept his record at 6-4.

    NATS AND BRAVES SQUARE OFF FOR FIRST PLACE…

    The Braves enter the 4-game series with the Nationals 1 1/2 games behind Washington in the National League East. The Nats enter the series with a 37-33 record and a 2-game winning streak. The Braves sit at 36-35, having lost the last 3 games to the previously mentioned Phillies. The Braves are tied for 2nd in the division with the surprising Miami Marlins who may or may not have what it takes to keep on winning through to September. Though only 5 and 6 games back, respectively, the Phillies and Mets don’t appear to be contenders this year with the pieces they have. The Phillies will likely sell at the deadline–maybe even a fire sale–but, the cash-strapped Mets may hang on to the less expensive pieces they have given their strength in the farm system. Of the two, the Phillies are more likely to be a spoiler alongside the Marlins, assuming Miami can’t keep pace with Washington and Atlanta.

    David Carpenter has had the worst luck on the mound of any reliever this season. His numbers bear that out. With a 4-1 record and a 4.23 ERA in 27 2/3 innings this season, Carpenter has struggled in high pressure situations in the last 2 months. His April ERA was a stellar 2.61. It then ballooned in May to 4.97 before dropping to 4.23 where it is now. His bad luck continued in the Philly series when he was removed from a game with bicep tightness/soreness and was then placed on the 15-day DL. In his place, Pedro Beato was recalled. Beato had a 1-0 record at Gwinnett in 2014 with a 3.49 ERA in 28 1/3 innings. In his 3 games with the club this season he had yet to give up a run in 4 1/3 innings. He had allowed only 3 hits in his appearances and struck out 3. Beato was sent down to Gwinnett Thursday morning and righthander Juan Jaime was called up in his place. In 26 1/3 innings at Gwinnett, Jaime has a 1-0 record with a 2.39 ERA and 13 saves. He has 20 walks to his 40 strikeouts.

    The Carpenter injury is part of larger issue in the bullpen. The consistency of what was once the best bullpen in the league and maybe all of baseball has been a major problem for Atlanta. Avilan has moments where he reminds us of the dominant reliever he was in 2013 when he recorded a 1.52 ERA and went on that ridiculous scoreless streak. But he’s still carrying a 4.70 ERA this season with a 3-1 record in 23 innings pitched and that isn’t helping the embattled ‘pen. Avilan had a 2.53 ERA in May, but his 5.40 ERA in June has risen in key spots when the Braves couldn’t shut down their opponent in late innings. At least his 5.40 ERA in June isn’t as bad as his 7.36 ERA in April? We need the old Avilan back. Fortunately for the Braves, Shae Simmons has been a solid relief option for them. In his 8 1/3 innings, many of them high pressure outings, Simmons has a 1.08 ERA with 8 strikeouts.

    The Braves and Nationals get underway today with Floyd (1-2, 2.98) vs. Zimmerman (5-3, 2.98). Friday will feature Minor (2-4, 4.42) vs. Strasburg (6-5, 3.06). Saturday’s game will pit Teheran (6-4, 2.31) vs. Fister (5-2, 3.08). And the series will wrap on Sunday with Santana (5-4, 4.12) vs. Roark (6-4, 2.85).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves take shortened series, head to Big Apple

    What was supposed to be their Achilles heel–starting pitching–has turned out to be the greatest strength in the early going for the 2014 Braves. The rain-shortened series in Philadelphia once again put the dominant starting pitching on display with great outings from Ervin Santana, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood. Unfortunately, the all or nothing offense was only able to notch one in the win column of Julio Teheran after waiting ’til Santana left the game to explode Monday night and offered no run support for Alex Wood in another solid outing from the young pitcher.

    Evan Gattis went on a tear in Philly hitting .667 while slugging 1.667.

    Evan Gattis went on a tear in Philly hitting .667 while slugging 1.667.

    Part of that all or nothing offense was Evan Gattis. In 2 of the 3 games played in Philadelphia, Evan Gattis reminded us of why he was one of the most dynamic hitters on the club last season. He hit .667 with 6 hits, 3 homers and 4 RBI with only 1 strikeout. Wednesday night Gattis put 4 hits on the board, a career high. He added to his superb career April numbers. Over 30 games going back to last season, Gattis has hit .303 (33-for-109) with 8 doubles, 10 homers, 23 RBIs, an on-base percentage of .342 and a .651 slugging percentage. Gattis has 5 dingers in his past 3 games at Citizens Bank Park.

    Justin Upton arrived in Philly the hottest hitter in baseball and the reigning NL Player of the Week. Unfortunately, his terrible road numbers weren’t snapped in Philly. At home, Justin is hitting  .591, with 4 diners and 8 RBIs (6 games). His road numbers are another story. He is batting .118 with a .211 on-base percentage (9 games).

    The surprise of the series was, of course, Dan Uggla’s offense. Where his defense stumbled, including a costly error in Philly’s game 1 rally, his offense made up for it. The highlight of the series for Dan was a grand slam in game 1 that capped a game-winning rally by the Braves. It was Dan’s second homer of the game. He and Gattis both notched 2 homers in that game. Uggla finished the 3-game series in Philly with 3 hits, 2 homers, 5 RBIs, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts. He hit .273 with an on-base percentage of .333 and slugged .818.

    With an all or nothing offense there are bound to be nights when gems from starting pitching don’t get rewarded with a win. Such was the case with both Ervin Santana and Alex Wood in Philly.

    Ervin Santana pitched 6 solid innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 run and striking out a career high 11. However, Luis Avilan game up 5 runs in relief that allowed the Phillies to rally and take the win out of Santana’s hands. In one of those strange scoring events in baseball, Avilan was credited with the win after the team rallied at the top of the next innings after he crumbled on the mound. David Carpenter recorded his second career save, his first save with the Braves.

    Julio Teheran’s brilliant complete game shutout was matched with a brilliant outing by opponent Cliff Lee who also went the entire game. Teheran went the distance allowing 3 hits, 0 runs and striking out 4. Lee, perhaps more dominant, went the distance while allowing 11 hits. The tipping point was the homer Lee gave up to Evan Gattis, the deciding run for the Braves. Cliff Lee is the only pitcher in big league history to lose 2 games where he has allowed 1 run and struck out 13 or more batters. Lee has had tough luck numbers against the Braves recently. In his last 2 starts against Atlanta he has pitched 17 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 26 strikeouts. Yet he has a record of 0-2. It was a great win for young Teheran for many reasons, but that he achieved it against the opponent he did is huge.

    A.J. Burnett threw 7 innings of 3-hit ball that resulted in no runs for the Braves. His 5 strikeouts were outmatched by the 7 K’s of Alex Wood. However, Wood’s 8 innings of 8-hit ball surrendered a single run that proved to be all the Phillies needed when the offense couldn’t get Wood any run support. It was one of the best outings we’ve seen from Wood in his young career.


    BRAVES, HARANG RETURN TO CITI FIELD…

    Aaron Harang spent part of the 2013 season with the New York Mets. In 4 games started with the club, he had an 0-1 record and a 3.52 ERA with 26 strikeouts (23 IP).

    Friday night’s game will be the first time that Jason Heyward will face Jonathan Niese since being hit in the face by a pitch last season, costing him a good chunk of the second-half of the season with a broken jaw. Heyward is 9-for-24 with 2 HRs against Niese.

    Freddie Freeman hits the Mets very well and has taken the place of Chipper Jones as the player with the most success against the club. Freeman is 9-for-27 with 2 HRs against Niese and over the past 21 games Freddie is 29-for-81 (.358) with 6 homers and 20 RBIs against the Mets.

    Atlanta hopes to have closer Craig Kimbrel back in their arsenal this weekend. Kimbrel hasn’t pitched since last Saturday due to shoulder soreness. Shut down, but not placed on the DL, Kimbrel has never had any type of arm soreness or injury before now. The Braves, playing it safe, gave the closer extra time to make sure he was 100% healthy. In a bullpen session Wednesday, Kimbrel reported no discomfort in his shoulder. In 5 2/3 innings this season, Kimbrel has allowed 1 run, has 12 K’s, and has 5 saves. He remains 10 saves away from tying John Smoltz on the all-time list of Braves with the most saves.

    The Braves will send former Met Aaron Harang (2-1, 0.96) to the mound in the season opener against Jonathan Niese (0-1, 3.46). Veterans Ervin Santana (1-0, 0.64) and Bartolo Colon (1-2, 6.00) will square off in the second game. David Hale (0-0, 2.89) will cap the series against Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.67).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

     

    Notes from Braves sweep of the Tribe

    The Braves swept the visiting Tribe at the Ted this week, bringing their total number of sweeps this season to 12. They now hold a record of 81-52 (.609), the best record in Major League Baseball, with a 13 game lead in the National League East.

    Here are a few notes from the Braves’ sweep of the Indians:

    Medlen on Thursday: 7 inn, 6 hits, 6 K's, 0 BB, 0 ER.

    Medlen on Thursday: 7 inn, 6 hits, 6 K’s, 0 BB, 0 ER.

    • With his 3-run home run in the series finale, Brian McCann has not recorded 19 homers on the season. He now has 4 HR and 18 RBI in situations where there are 2 outs and RISP this season.
    • In Kris Medlen‘s 5 August starts, he pitched 33 innings, gave up 11 earned runs, walked only 4 batters, struck out 28 and had a 3.00 ERA. The series finale got Kris Medlen his 4th win of the month, including the strange outing when he was needed in the ‘pen and recorded the win. In Thursday’s win, Medlen went 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 6 and strikeouts on 96 pitches.
    • On Wednesday, Dan Uggla (2B) was activated from the 15-day DL after undergoing successful Lasik surgery to correct his vision. Todd Cunningham (OF) was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
    • Atlanta is 16-3 with 2.21 ERA in their past 19 home games.
    • As a starter this season, Joey Terdoslavich (OF) is hitting .375 (12-for-32). As a bench bat, he is hitting a poor .192 (5-for-26).
    • Luis Avilan, one of the most dependable set-up men in the league, has allowed a run in 3 of his past 7 appearances. He had just 1 unearned run in his previous 35 appearances.
    • In Tuesday’s home opener, Elliot Johnson‘s first home at-bat with the Braves resulted in a 2-run triple. Before that 2-run triple, Elliot had 1 hit in his previous 39 ABs when facing American League pitchers.
    • Justin Upton left Thursday night’s game with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch at the plate. While the x-rays were negative, he is listed as day-to-day. Each of the Braves starting outfielders (Upton, Upton and Heyward) have sustained injuries this season, as have backup outfielders Schafer, Johnson and Gattis.
    • Craig Kimbrel continues to dominate opponents. In the series finale, he recorded his 43rd save of the season, 32 of those saves consecutive. Kimbrel’s ERA is now a ridiculous 0.97. Despite having what appears to be his best season yet, Kimbrel has 12.9 Ks per 9 innings, his lowest SO/9 rate of his young career. He is on pace to surpass his Rookie of the Year season high of 46 saves.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Sweep of Cards, trade for Downs, Beachy back & Rocks up next

    Atlanta traded Cory Rasmus (RHP) for Scott Downs (LHP). Downs is 2-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 43 appearances.

    Atlanta traded Cory Rasmus (RHP) for Scott Downs (LHP). Downs is 2-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 43 appearances.

    Fresh off a stunning sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, Braves’ fans learned Monday morning that the Braves had traded Cory Rasmus (RHP) to the Angels for Scott Downs (LHP). Downs joins a bullpen of untouchable relievers.

    In 27 innings, the Braves held the St. Louis Cardinals to 3 runs, 2 of them coming in Kris Medlen’s 6 innings of the series finale. This despite the Cards coming into Atlanta with the most runs, RBIs and the highest batting average, on-base percentage and OPS in the National League. The series showed just how much promise a future rotation with the young Teheran, Minor and Medlen poses. Adding in rehabbed Beachy and the Braves’ rotation easily becomes one of the best in baseball. With Wood currently in the rotation and Beachy joining it tomorrow, the average age of the Braves rotation is 24.4 years old.

    The Braves pitching dominance is not solely the product of the starting rotation. Atlanta’s bullpen is the best in the business with 1-2-3 punch of Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel from the 7th inning on. Craig Kimbrel recorded consecutive saves against the Cards, passing the 30 save mark. Kimbrel is just the second closer in franchise history to have 3 – 30 save seasons. Kimbrel’s 3 seasons with 30 saves happen to be consecutive and include his only 3 full seasons in the big leagues. Kimbrel joins Braves’ hall of famer and future inductee to Cooperstown John Smoltz in the category. Kimbrel isn’t the only reliever having an exceptional season. Luis Avilan has not allowed an earned run in 27 straight innings. In those 27 appearances, hitters have an .079 average against him and have struck out 16 times.

    Offensively, the Braves continue their all-or-nothing approach at the plate. There have been positive signs from the likes of Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons. Heyward hit .273 during the Cardinals’ series with 3 hits, 2 homers and 3 RBIs. The positive sign being that he didn’t strike out during the series. And he did this while hitting in the lead off spot. His defense, particularly in the unusual position of center field, has been nothing short of spectacular. Though Andrelton Simmons’ power detracts from his batting average and sets him up for a higher strikeout rate, he is currently the third hardest player to strike out in the NL. He averages 1 K every 12.8 plate appearances. As of this morning, Chris Johnson leads the National League in hitting. He is behind only reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera in all of baseball. With a .338 batting average (now having a qualifying number of at-bats), Johnson is ahead of Yadier Molina (.334) and Michael Cuddyer (.330). Johnson has 104 hits, 22 doubles, 6 homers and 34 RBIs.

    With a sweep of the Cardinals, the Braves’ record stands at 60-45. They have an 8 1/2 game lead over the Washington Nationals in the NL East.


    BEACHY MAKES 2013 DEBUT AGAINST ROCKIES…

    Baseball can be all about timing. Some call it luck. For the Braves, Tim Hudson’s devastating, season-ending ankle injury could have been season-altering. However, the timing of Brandon Beachy’s rehab worked out perfectly for him to take the place of the veteran ace. Beachy had a slight setback at Triple-A Gwinnett some time ago, but has recovered completely from that setback as well as the Tommy John surgery that shelved him last year just before the all-star break. Beachy will make his 2013 season debut tonight against the visiting Colorado Rockies.

    The Braves face the Rockies at a time when the Rockies are trying to stay competitive in the NL West. With the surging Dodgers and the more consistent Diamondbacks, the Rockies find themselves 8 games back in the division. The Rockies hope to insert Carlos Gonzalez in their lineup while in Atlanta. CarGo has been dealing with a sprained right finger since before the all-star break, something that kept him out of the Home Run Derby. His bat and defense will certainly go a long way to keeping the Rockies in the hunt.

    Tonight Braves’ fans will be treated to De La Rosa (10-5, 2.97) vs. Beachy (–, -.–). The second game of the season will feature Nicasio (6-4, 4.40) vs. Wood (0-2, 3.42). Likely the pitching match-up to watch will be in game 3 with Chatwood (7-3, 2.48) vs. Minor (10-5, 2.89). The 4th and final game of the series will feature a pitcher TBD vs. Teheran (7-5, 3.07).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.

    Braves facing Pirates to start mild June schedule

    The Atlanta Braves spent the first two months of the season largely on the road. Their home numbers hardly reflected the early going because Turner Field began to feel like the visitor’s park due to them being there so rarely. For instance, Tim Hudson’s numbers during April and May at home hardly looked like they belonged with his overall ERA because he’d had far too many horrific starts on the road. Of course, in baseball all things balance out, every batting average comes down to earth and no ERA stays at zero forever.

    Numbers may fluctuate, but the Braves have to be looking forward to the success that could lay before them in the month of June. Of the 26 remaining games in June after finishing the series against Washington, just 9 of them will be played against teams that at the time of this post have a record of over .500. Those teams include the Pirates, the Giants and the Diamondbacks.

    With the amateur draft approaching this weekend and just over a month left of all star voting, it is relevant to ask where the Braves currently sit. The obvious questions are will the offense live up to its potential and will the bullpen be able to survive the losses it has sustained.

    In terms of offense, there remain questions about the Upton brothers. Whether Justin’s production will drop off as we’ve seen in recent weeks and whether B.J.’s swing is repairable are the major questions for the offseason acquisitions. The Braves are not getting the kind of offense from Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward that they are both capable of. Heyward has shown signs of life lately, homering against the Pirates in the first game of the series. Dan Uggla has always been a streaky hitter, but he has not lived up to the promise he held when the Braves traded Omar Infante to the Marlins for him. Andrelton Simmons can be an offensive force for the Braves. However, his aggressiveness on the base paths will always put him in the position of being prone to injury. Taking the extra base on an out-of-the-box single isn’t always necessary and especially not when it puts his body in danger of injury on the slide. Andrelton will grow into his skills and until then, what the Braves get from him on offense will be worth it because his defense is so spectacular.

    The Braves bullpen has had its share of tribulation this season given the major losses it has suffered. Taking into account that at one point the Braves were without O’Flaherty, Venters, Walden, Martinez and Ayala (Walden has since returned), it is remarkable that the remaining members of the ‘pen have been able to keep the ship afloat. As Atlanta put away the Nationals Sunday, taking 2-of-3 for the rival Nats to bring their lead in the NL East to 6.5 games, the bullpen had an active streak of 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. As a group, they pitched 3 perfect innings in Sunday’s finale. It isn’t all bad news, though. With Brandon Beachy returning from Tommy John rehab in June, one arm–an arm that hasn’t been determined–will join the ‘pen.

    Evan Gattis won the National League Rookie of the Month award for the 2nd consecutive month in May.

    Evan Gattis won the National League Rookie of the Month award for the 2nd consecutive month in May.

    Atlanta has had its share of surprises this season, not all of them bad. Ramiro Pena has been one of the best pick ups for the bench in recent years. With the trade of Martin Prado, the Braves were desperate for a do-it-all utility man and they were more than rewarded for picking him up. Evan Gattis continues to impress everyone in baseball. Gattis won Rookie of the Month in the National League for the second straight month. He is the first Braves rookie to win in back-to-back months since Jason Heyward did so in 2010. Heyward came in 2nd in 2010 behind Buster Posey who was awarded NL Rookie of the Year. The Braves starting rotation has been pleasantly surprised to be carried by the young guns at the tail end, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. And in the ‘pen, Luis Avilan has been impressive. Had the ‘pen not been decimated by injuries in the first 2 months, Avilan would have been a perfect candidate to join the rotation for spot starts.

    The Braves face Pittsburgh not only after beating Nationals, but knocking down the injured Nats one more peg. The day the Nats finally got away from Turner Field, their on-base percentage actually dropped lower than that of the barely out of the minors Miami Marlins. While they certainly have dealt with injuries, the Nationals have not seen the Gio Gonzalez of last season, their bullpen is shaky at times and they aren’t getting the offensive production that was such a surprise to baseball last season.

    Pittsburgh is, in many ways, what the Nationals were last season at this point–the surprise story of baseball. They have starting pitching that has dominated. They have perhaps the best bullpen in baseball right now. The offense is firing on all cylinders with all star Andrew McCutchen leading Garrett Jones, Starling Marte and Jose Tabata. They are in a market that is small enough to not get the kind of attention the bigger clubs in the game get. And the managerial competence of Clint Hurdle cannot be overlooked. If a team like the Nationals could be the Cinderella story of 2013, the Pirates have that potential this season.

    Once the Braves wrap with the Pirates, they head to Los Angeles to face the highly disappointed and disappointing Dodgers. Barring a rain out or change in the pitching schedule, Atlanta will luck out once again and miss the most dominant pitcher in the National League, Clayton Kershaw. The southern California swing will go from Chavez Ravine to Petco Park and then the Braves will return home to face the Giants. Putting additional distance between themselves and the rest of the NL East will be a top priority for the Braves as they make their way through a mild June.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.

     

    Braves win streak snapped by KC, next up: Pittsburgh

    The 2-game set between Atlanta and Kansas City at Turner Field ended in a draw. While Atlanta rebounded in spectacular fashion with a 4-run 8th inning off Kelvin Herrera in game 1, Atlanta’s bats went cold in game 2. The expanded strike zone of plate umpire Doug Eddings and the pitching of Wade Davis shutout the Braves, snapping their 10-game win streak.

    Game 1:

    What started out as a solid outing by Kris Medlen with merely little run support behind him turned into a home run parade in the 8th inning when Juan Francisco, Justin Upton and Dan Uggla went back-to-back-to-back. Francisco had his first career multi-homer game.

    Justin Upton’s 8th home run of the season continued his torrid April and put him atop the league in homers. 6 of those 8 home runs have come with 2 outs. In addition to being atop the league leader board in home runs, Justin Upton became the first player in Braves history to hit 8 homers in the first 13 games of the season. Prior to his 8th homer, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Eddie Mathews held that record with 8 homers in the first 16 games of a season.

    After an incredible roller coaster on offense, the wind was let out of the sails when when Luis Avilan came into the game in relief and crumpled to the ground as he was about to throw. He immediately grabbed for his leg and was helped off the field. It turned out that Avilan had a hamstring strain, luckily not an arm injury of any kind, and was dealing with muscle cramping. After hydrating, Avilan was limping around today, but is hoping to avoid a trip to the disabled list. Avilan has a 1-0 record with a 2.08 ERA in 4 1/3 innings pitched. He has been a reliable arm out of the ‘pen for the Braves and has contributed to the relievers’ record of not allowing a single inherited runner to score.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Royals 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 8 1
    Braves 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 x 6 9 3

    W: O’Flaherty (3-0) L: Herrera (1-1)

    Game 2:

    Mike Minor took the bump and did a fantastic job despite a very unusual strike zone employed my plate umpire Doug Eddings, but he took a tough loss when the Braves couldn’t get a run on the board. Minor went 6 innings, gave up 5 hits, 1 run and struck out 5. The only run for the Royals to cross the plate was thanks to former Braves Jeff Francoeur in the 4th inning with 2 outs. Francoeur plated Alcides Escobar.

    The Braves had one opportunity to score when Juan Francisco was thrown out at the plate as Chris Johnson doubled. It was a repeat of a play during game 1 when Andrelton Simmons was sent around third and thrown out at the plate by right fielder Jeff Francoeur.

    Like Mike Minor’s outing, Luis Ayala had an impressive outing in relief. Ayala went 2 innings, surrendering only 1 hit and striking out 2 Royals. Since Ayala joined the Braves he has given up only 1 hit in 3 innings and has 2 strikeouts. Should the injury to Avilan send him to the disabled list, the Ayala pickup will turn out to be crucial. Prior to Avilan’s injury, Ayala’s pickup had been important with the loss of Venters and Martinez to the DL.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Royals 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 8 1
    Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 0

    W: Davis (2-0) L: Minor (2-1) SV: Holland (3)

    BRAVES HIT THE ROAD FOR PNC PARK…

    The Braves begin a 10-game road trip in Pittsburgh tomorrow. Though their streak was snapped by Kansas City, the Braves are by no means slumping. Their 2 losses this season have both been shutouts, but they have won every game that they have hit at least one home run in.

    It was announced just prior to the Kansas City series that the projected return for Freddie Freeman is Monday the 22nd. Freeman will have his first workout tomorrow with Gwinnett. Freddie will have a 3-game rehab stint with Gwinnett and then, if all goes well, will join the team in Colorado on Monday.

    While the Braves have been hot and their 10-2 record has had Major League Baseball abuzz, the team is by no means firing on all cylinders. As @FriedBasballATL" href="https://twitter.com/FriedBasballATL/status/324346330401099777">someone much smarter than me said, the Nationals equivalent to Atlanta’s injury situation would if they were without Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, Ryan Mattheus, and Henry Rodriguez. The Braves have been winning with very little production from Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. Those three and Andrelton Simmons are at the Mendoza Line (.200) or below. The ‘pen is without workhorse Jonny Venters and Cristhian Martinez. Walden, who the Braves acquired in the Tommy Hanson trade, has not been a part of the equation thus far. And Julio Teheran has yet to get a win in 2013. Then consider that the Braves are without silver slugger Brian McCann who might be back at the end of the month, backup shortstop Paul Janish who is without a timetable for return, first baseman Freddie Freeman and hurler Brandon Beachy who won’t be back ’til June. Consider just how good this team could be with all the pieces in place and working together.

    The 4-game set against the Pirates will begin Thursday with the face off of Teheran (0-0, 7.36) vs. Locke (1-1, 4.09). Friday night’s game will feature veteran Hudson (2-0, 2.50) vs. TBD. The Saturday matchup will be Maholm (3-0, 0.00) vs. McDonald (1-2, 5.27). The series finale on Sunday will be Medlen (1-1, 1.42) vs. TBD.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.