• Paul Janish

    Braves drop series to Brewers, hold ground in NL East

    Brian McCann snapped the Braves consecutive shutouts in game 3 with a grand slam in the 1st inning.

    Brian McCann snapped the Braves’ consecutive shutouts in game 3 with a grand slam in the 1st inning.

    When baseball writers use the phrase “feast or famine” in baseball, they usually apply it to streaky players. However, the Atlanta Braves’ offense is as streaky collectively as the most streaky player in the game. Never has this “feast or famine” pattern been more obvious than it was while the Braves were in Milwaukee. They managed just 2 hits in the first game, 4 in the second and then a whopping 14 hits in the only game they walked away with a win from.

    Game 1:

    W: Peralta (5-8) L: Teheran (5-4) SV: Henderson (10)

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

    Julio Teheran’s win/loss record, somewhat like Kris Medlen’s record, does not reflect just how brilliant the young man has been for the Braves in his second chance with the club in 2013. Like Hudson in game 2, Teheran just didn’t have the backing of the offense. While Teheran’s ERA improved in his start, his record did not.

    An incredible stat turned up this series: The Braves hadn’t scored an earned run on the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen in 72 consecutive innings.

    Game 2:

    W: Badenhop (1-3) L: Hudson (4-7) SV: Rodriguez (6)

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

    Tim Hudson pitched an absolute gem and remained the losing pitcher. Hudson is now winless over his last 9 starts going back to May 5th. In those 9 starts, Huddy has received a total of 10 runs of support. 6 of those runs came in Hudson’s last 5 starts. Where Kris Medlen was once the recipient of hard luck, receiving very little run support in games when he was pitching exceptionally well, Hudson now appears to have taken on that role for the Braves.

    When the Braves wrapped up game 2 at Miller Park, they had gone scoreless for 24 consecutive innings. They lost via the shutout for the 2nd straight day, a first on the season. This particular stat is surprising given the number of shutouts the Braves have been on the bad end of this season and how frequently their offense has failed their solid pitchers.

    Game 3:

    W: Maholm (8-6) L: Figaro (1-2) SV: Kimbrel (21)

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 7 14 0
    Brewers 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 4 9 0

    Of the three pitchers the Braves sent to the mound against the Brewers, Maholm was perhaps the least sharp and likely to notch a win. The only thing Maholm had going that neither Tim Hudson nor Julio Teheran had was the support of a robust offense.

    The Braves were finally able to get runs on the board with a 14-hit effort. It was the 2nd time in the last 20 games that the Braves scored 7+ runs. And as Mike Minor noted on Twitter following the game, the Braves are now 3-0 when a Braves starting pitcher hits a homer in the game.

    Perhaps the offensive highlight of the entire game was when Brian McCann stepped to the plate in the 1st inning and hit a grand slam. McCann is now in the top 3 active catchers in home runs and trails only Hank Aaron in grand slams among Atlanta Braves.

    The Braves managed to survive many things on the trip through Milwaukee including a so-called haunted hotel and the dreaded sweep.

    BRAVES TO PLAY 2 AT KAUFMANN STADIUM…

    The Braves arrived in Kansas City following Sunday afternoon’s win against the Brewers with a day off. They will get underway Tuesday with a 2-game set against the Royals before returning home to face off against the Arizona Diamondbacks. While in Kansas City, manager Fredi Gonzalez and coach Terry Pendleton stopped by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

    With the day off behind them, the Braves will buckle down and hope to get another win for Kris Medlen who has been pitching well of late and finally getting a few wins for his effort. He will face off against Erwin Santana who has had similarly bad luck this season despite exceptional pitching. The other pitcher the Braves send to the mound, Mike Minor, suffered a loss in his last outing, but has kept his ERA below 3. His pitching has made him a likely choice for the All Star Game that will be held at Citi Field in New York next month.

    A few updates on injuries: Brandon Beachy threw from 30 and 60 feet on the 23rd and is scheduled to throw bullpen session week this coming week. This is after shutting down for a short time with elbow inflammation on the eve of his first big league start since Tommy John surgery. Ramiro Pena was sent to the 15-day DL with a shoulder strain and in his place Paul Janish was called up from Triple-A. Janish has not been seen with the big league club in 2013 after having shoulder surgery alongside Brian McCann. Luis Ayala, who has been on the DL while treating an anxiety disorder, was sent out on a rehab assignment beginning June 20th. His return to the bullpen could be very useful for the Braves as they continue to make due without 2 of their most valuable arms in Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty. Justin Upton is hoping to avoid the disabled list, still battling a sore hand. Upton was held out of Saturday’s game and it was announced on Sunday that Upton’s hand was bothering him. Giving him 3-consecutive days off might be the ticket to keep him off the DL.

    The first game of the 2-game set in Kansas City will feature Medlen (4-7, 2.96) vs. Santana (5-5, 2.64). The second game of the series will feature Minor (8-3, 2.89) vs. Mendoza (2-4, 4.30).

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

    Braves beat Miami, take it to the (Citizens) Bank

    Mike Minor will look to keep the good times rolling vs Doc Halladay on Saturday

    There are three things that can be counted on in the final month of the Braves season. First, Chipper Jones is going to receive rousing ovations everywhere he goes. Second, this team will be streaky. And, Kris Medlen will dominate.

    These certainties do not mean that others won’t step up. As we saw in the Miami series, contributions are coming from the usual suspects as well as the most unlikely players.

    Monday night, do-it-all Martin Prado went 4-for-4 and got his NL-leading 55th multi-hit game of the season. Martin Prado may do it quietly, but his presence in the lineup and in the field is MVP-worthy for the Braves. Having played each of the bases, shortstop and left field this season, Prado has reminded check-writing GM Frank Wren that his versatility is incredibly valuable.

    Tim Hudson won his 15th game of the season in Miami, a pretty incredible feat for a guy who missed the first month of the season recovering from back surgery. Monday night the Braves spotted their starter 4 runs to begin the game. For Tim Hudson, that’s a magic number. Hudson now has a 168-28 record when his team has scored 4 or more runs in his starts.He is 153-6 when the team gives him 4 or more runs of support while he is still in the game. His latest start continued this trend. In addition to these unreal stats regarding Huddy’s wins with run support, Atlanta has now won 19 of his 25 turns in the rotation this season.

    If the hard luck pitcher for the Braves this season has been Mike Minor, the hard luck position for the Braves has easily been that of shortstop. Paul Janish, who came to the Braves in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, did an admirable job filling in for Andrelton Simmons while he was out with a fractured pinky. Now Janish, who was filling in again for an ailing Simmons, is out with a dislocated shoulder. In Monday’s game, Janish landed hard on his left shoulder in a diving play and was not able to continue. X-rays confirmed that his shoulder is dislocated. The Braves are hoping to get Simmons back at some point during the weekend series. Simmons, like Janish, injured his own shoulder on a diving play at shortstop. In the meantime, Martin Prado got a start at short and Tyler Pastornicky gives Fredi Gonzalez some options.

    Paul Maholm has been two different players since being traded at the deadline from the Cubs. In his first 4 starts for Atlanta, he was 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA, .198 batting average against him, with 26 strikeouts and only 6 walks allowed. In those 4 starts he thrice pitched 7 innings and had a complete game. In his past 5 starts he has gone 2-3 with a 6.12 ERA, .305 batting average against him, with 19 strikeouts and 10 walks allowed. With the bottleneck of starts for the Braves going into the playoffs, Maholm will have to step it up in his final appearances.

    Though Michael Bourn has been slumping since the all-star break, Atlanta is 48-15 this season when Michael Bourn has at least one hit and scores at least one run. With a hot Michael Bourn, contributions from McCann and Uggla, the continued plate presence of Heyward and Jones, and the consistency of Martin Prado, this offense could be a force in the final days of the season.

    A note on the bullpen: While Jonny Venters seems to be going backwards since his phenomenal season last year, Eric O’Flaherty stumbled early in the season, but is returning to the dominate form the Braves were accustomed to last season. O’Flaherty has made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances since July 15th, a period of 20 1/3 innings pitched. Since September call-ups, Cory Gearrin has not been as sharp as he was in the early days of August as evidenced by him giving up the game winner in the second game of the series (albeit some of the blame falls on Jason Heyward for an ill-conceived dive). However, even with the struggles of Gearrin, there is little doubt when the game is handed over to Atlanta’s bullpen. Kimbrel as the stopper leaves no doubt.

    In Chipper Jones news, the veteran tied Lou Gehrig in all-time hits at 2,721. Also while in Miami, the Marlins honored Chipper Jones and presented the third baseman with a fishing rod and fly fishing gear. Chipper was also announced as one of the six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year.

    The story line of the second half continues to be Kris Medlen. Since July 1st, Medlen holds an 8-0 record in 88 innings pitched with 85 strikeouts, opponents are somehow managing a .186 batting average against him, he has a silly 0.795 WHIP, and an equally silly 0.72 ERA. Atlanta now holds a record of 24-4 in Kris Medlen’s 28 career starts dating back to 2010, 21 of those wins are consecutive. Atlanta is a perfect 10-0 in his 2012 starts. In his most recent outing, Kris Medlen’s line: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.

    Line scores from each of the 3 games:

    Game 1:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 4 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 7 11 0
    Marlins 0 0 0 4 0 0 1 0 0 5 14 0

    W: Hudson (15-6) L: LeBlanc (2-5) SV: Kimbrel (37)

    Game 2:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E
    Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 3 7 0
    Marlins 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 4 8 0

    W: Bell (3-5) L: Gearrin (0-1)

    Game 3:

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

    W: Medlen (9-1) L: Johnson (8-13) SV: Kimbrel (38)

    FINAL TRIP TO PHILADELPHIA…

    Friday: Hanson (12-8, 4.33) vs. Kendrick (9-11, 3.95)

    Saturday: Minor (9-10, 4.31) vs. Halladay (10-7, 4.03)

    Sunday: Hudson (15-6, 3.77) vs. Lee (6-7, 3.27)

    The Braves will thankfully miss Cole Hamels while they’re in Philadelphia.

    Despite trading away Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton at the trade deadline, the Phillies have been on the rise. Though the Phils are 15 1/2 games back in the National League East, they are 4 games back in the NL Wild Card race. Their hopes withering with the Cardinals, Brewers and Dodgers ahead of them, the Braves could be the final nail in the coffin of the Phillies’ season. There isn’t much the Braves would like more than to end their rival’s hopes for the postseason.

    The Phillies are fresh off a sweep of the Mets, a team that has all but given up on their season. Kyle Kendrick has been successful for the Phils of late and will face of Tommy Hanson. Though Hanson has not been the Tommy of old since returning from the disabled list weeks ago with a low back strain, the Braves hope the playoff atmosphere might right the ship for Hanson. Hanson is likely pitching for a playoff spot at this point in the season with Ben Sheets sitting in the bullpen awaiting word of his fate. Tommy has a career 2.05 ERA at Citizens Bank Park.

    Brian McCann has owned the Phillies this year. The catcher has 6 home runs and 17 RBIs in 11 games against the Phils in 2012. Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla both have solid numbers against the Phillies.

    The Braves enter the 3-game set with an 86-64 record and the Phillies sit at 76-74.

    The Braves and Phillies get underway at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 (EST). Game 2 of the series will be broadcast nationally on MLB on FOX at 4:05 (EST) Saturday.

    Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.

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

    Braves roll past Mets, welcome first place Giants

    SS Paul Janish made his Braves debut over the weekend

    Fresh off a sweep of the rival Phillies, the Braves went into the All-Star break knowing that they would continue to contend in the National League East. The questions about starting pitching and the injury to shortstop Andrelton Simmons were partially answered over the weekend as the Braves swept the New York Mets.

    Beginning Friday night, the Braves plugged Jack Wilson in at shortstop in the place of Andrelton Simmons. However, Wilson left the game with a dislocated finger and the Braves were forced to utilize super utility man Martin Prado at short. Going forward, Prado would be needed in left field, the impossibility of platooning Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz there evident, and Frank Wren began looking for available shortstops who could fill in until Simmons comes off the disabled list. Wren found the answer in Paul Janish of the Cincinnati Reds organization. Janish was traded for Triple-A pitcher Todd Redmond on Saturday.

    Friday night’s game showcased a team that has been streaky when key players are missing from the lineup. This time the Braves were without catcher Brian McCann who was paternity leave for the birth of his son. David Ross, the best backup catcher in the league, stepped into McCann’s place and belted a 3-run home run in the 3rd inning off Chris Young. Jason Heyward came through with an RBI and stolen base, continuing the hot streak he began began in the two weeks leading up to the All-Star break. And Craig Kimbrel, the best and most consistent closer in the game, notched his 26th save as the Braves beat the Mets 7-5.

    Saturday, the Braves once again sent Martin Prado out to shortstop, proving again the value of his versatility. Tommy Hanson, who had previously been a force for the Braves and the most consistent starter, struggled early and often. Josh Thole and Ike Davis helped the Mets secure 9 hits and 6 earned runs off Tommy. Throughout the second game of the series, the Braves battled every step of the way as a group. Hits from Freddie Freeman and Eric Hinske fueled the offense, but it was Jason Heyward coming through in the clutch with a 2-out single that hammered the Mets’ bullpen in the 3-run 8th inning. Chipper was not one of the Braves to get a hit, snapping his 14-game hitting streak. The Braves ‘pen held that lead with the untouchable performance of closer Kimbrel, giving him his 27th save on the season and the team an 8-7 victory.

    RHP Ben Sheet's first start as a Brave exceeded expectations

    While neither of the starters Friday nor Saturday night took a win, Sunday’s starter was a complete unknown. Unknown in the sense that when Ben Sheets was signed by the Braves just before the All-Star break, the Braves had absolutely no idea what they would be getting from him. He was a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing and if Sunday’s outing is any indication, the Braves may have just struck gold.

    Prior to Sunday’s game, the Braves made numerous moves including brining in Paul Janish from Cincinnati, a trade made on Saturday; Jack Wilson was sent to the 15-day DL and Randall Delgado was sent back to Gwinnett; and, the Braves purchased the contract of RHP Ben Sheets prior to his first start since July 19, 2010 for the Oakland Athletics.

    For having missed all of the 2011 season to Tommy John surgery, Ben Sheets looked sharp out of the gate Sunday. In his first start in nearly two years, the big right hander threw 6 scoreless innings and allowed only 2 hits. It was a remarkable feat for a guy who didn’t know if he would ever pitch again and for a Braves’ GM who took on the right hander without any guarantee that Sheets would in fact bring something to the team. With 88 pitches, Sheets notched 5 strikeouts and gave up only 1 walk.

    The Braves roughed up Johan Santana in the 5th inning and the Mets were never able to come back from the 6 runs the Braves tagged on the board then. Quietly, amid the hot bat of Jason Heyward and the consistency of Martin Prado and Michael Bourn, Freddie Freeman is producing in big ways. His 3-run home run with 2 outs off Santana was just another example of how important Freeman is to the lineup. When healthy, Freeman can easily carry this offense.

    The bullpen shut down the Mets after Sheets’ departure, securing a 6-1 win over the Mets and the 3-game sweep.

    FIRST PLACE GIANTS ARRIVE AT THE TED…

    Tuesday: Zito (7-6, 4.01) vs. Jurrjens (3-2, 4.97)

    Wednesday: Vogelsong (7-4, 2.36) vs. Minor (5-6, 5.97)

    Thursday: Bumgarner (11-5, 3.15) vs. Hudson (7-4, 3.80)

    Beginning the series against the Giants, the Braves are 2 1/2 games behind the first place Washington Nationals in the NL East. Scraping out a couple of wins against the dominant Giants would put the Braves in great shape to overtake the Nationals in the NL East this weekend when the Braves head to D.C.

    Braves’ pitching will be essential to wins this series with the pitching-dominant Giants in town. Jurrjens will take the mound with a 3-0 record and 2.13 ERA in 4 starts since he was recalled from Gwinnett. This is the Jair Jurrjens the Braves need and whatever happened at Gwinnett seems to have turned Jurrjens around. Returning to form and continuing to remind the Braves why he has been successful for them in the past is important to the second-half for Atlanta. While Zito has been better than expected for the Giants, Atlanta’s offense getting to him early could open the door for another win for JJ.

    One more note on Braves pitching during the S.F. series: Mike Minor has won the rotation spot for the time being with Delgado being sent to Triple-A. Minor must continue to pitch effectively, giving the Braves quality starts, if he hopes to stay in the rotation for the duration. While the Giants are known for their pitching, the pop of Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera is something that Minor and his battery mate McCann will have to be ever cognizant of. Minor cannot let the long ball get him. Avoiding walks and home runs will spell success for Minor and will ensure his confidence does not take a drumming.

    The Atlanta Braves are riding a 7-game winning streak as the Giants roll into town, proving once again that the most consistent thing about the Braves this season is, well, their inconsistency. Atlanta has been one of the most, if not the most, streaky teams in baseball in 2012.

    The Braves welcome the Giants tonight at 7:10 (EST).

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