• Tim Hudson

    Stunned Silence After a Pair of Gut-Wrenching Losses

    The Top 10s of the 2010s, Part 4

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – Welcome to part four of my top 10 most memorable moments of Braves baseball I watched in person in the 2010s, where we remember two of the most stunning losses in Braves franchise history, let alone just this decade: The ninth-inning implosion in Game 3 of the 2010 NL Division Series against the Giants and the impact it had on me after what happened that offseason, and two years later, the game not-so-fondly remembered as The Infield Fly Game (the 2012 NL Wild Card Game).

    You’re invited to catch up on the previous entries below:

    Part 1: A Big Bang … Then a Choke

    Part 2: What Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve Been

    Part 3: Saying Goodbye to The Skipper, and The Ted

    From Elation to Excruciation: Oct. 10, 2010

    A Painful Playoff Defeat, Followed by a Much Bigger Loss

    I dreamed of this moment from the time I accepted a newspaper job in the Atlanta suburbs and moved back from the Georgia coast in August 2006 with my wife and two preschool-aged kids in tow. The chance to raise our kids in the city where my wife and I both grew up, to experience life with both sides of our family and, hopefully, to share moments like the second Sunday of October 2010:

    My two boys’ first experience attending Choptober Baseball.

    We grilled hot dogs in the parking lot and my kids tossed a football with my wife’s uncle Billy. His being there made this day all the more special. He wasn’t just family; he had become one of my best friends. He worked for Delta as a mechanic and before he got married, Billy often would fly down to the coast on weekends and hang out with his favorite niece and her sports-loving husband. We would talk life, investments, fishing, Braves baseball, Georgia football and, starting in 2002 when my oldest was born, parenting.

    When I covered UGA in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on New Year’s Day 2003, I was able – as a credentialed member of the media covering the game – to buy two tickets at face value. I bought one for my best friend since middle school. I bought the other one for Billy. He married his wife in 2004; my oldest was the ring bearer, while I held my youngest in my arms during the ceremony. And now, we were at the NL Division Series, the wild-card Braves and NL West champs Giants tied at a game apiece. My sons’ first playoff game. My first postseason game since covering Game 2 of the 1999 World Series.

    It was, to me, absolute perfection. Billy and his wife, sitting a few rows down from us, delivering a whole pizza for the boys to consume in the fourth inning with the Braves trailing 1-0. Tim Hudson grinding through seven strong innings, surrendering only an unearned run on Brooks Conrad’s second error of the game. Jonathan Sanchez no-hitting the Braves until Huddy singled in the sixth. Tight. Tense. Can’t-breathe baseball, just like I watched in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Octobers past, before I ever dreamed I’d be a husband, let alone a father times two.

    Then, the magical eighth. Alex Gonzalez’s leadoff single and, two hitters later, pinch-hitter Eric Hinske’s laser that just got over wall in the right-field corner. Turner Field absolutely turned upside down. It was the loudest I ever heard that ballpark. In the upper deck, you could feel the stadium swaying, and my 7-year-old screamed into my ear as I held him in my arms, “Daddy, the stadium’s shaking!”

    I screamed back, “this is how it used to be across the street!”

    Then, the ninth inning. You know the story. The rookie Craig Kimbrel, one strike away from nailing down the save, gave up a 1-2 single. Mike Dunn surrendered the game-tying hit. The Giants took the lead on Conrad’s third error of the game, won 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead, and would finish the Braves and end Bobby Cox’s managerial career one night later.

    Leaving that night was devastating. My wife kept telling me, “it’s alright. We’re going to win tomorrow.” But my boys were crestfallen. Even the always upbeat, ever-grounded Billy admitted, “that’s tough to take.” I couldn’t imagine a worse ending. Yes, attending the three 1996 World Series games in Atlanta was awful. But this was my boys’ first playoff game. This was a moment Billy and I talked about back when I lived on the beach and the kids were in diapers, that one day we’d all cheer on the Braves to October glory together.

    I felt crushed. Nobody said anything on the way home. But as always, I started thinking of next season. We’ll get it right. We’re going to storm through the playoffs, and all of us will be there together to see it.

    Then came the phone call in January 2011, my wife crying uncontrollably on the other end. Billy had collapsed. By the time she got to the hospital, he was gone. Heart attack. 50 years old. A few days later, I delivered the eulogy at his funeral. I shared our Game 3 experience, him serving hot dogs to my kids, how he turned and pumped his fist at us after Hinske’s homer, how he patted my shoulder postgame as we walked down the stairs to the left-field gate.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Billy. And while Game 3 in 2010 is heartbreaking to so many, excuse me if I say this one hurts me on a different level. My dear friend’s final time watching his ballclub play.

    The Infield-Fly Rule, Ruined Forever: Oct. 5, 2012

    One of MLB’s Worst Calls Ever Incenses Braves Country

    It was Oct. 2, 2012, and I sat in the third-base dugout at Coal Mountain Park in northern Forsyth County, Ga. Fall baseball, and my 10-year-old was behind the plate, getting extra reps after a full season of travel baseball. The few moments we had free that spring and summer, we snuck down to Turner Field to cheer the Braves to a playoff spot, one that young (how strange that is to type at this decade’s conclusion) first baseman Freddie Freeman clinched with a walk-off homer against Miami one week before.

    As the second inning began, I got my son’s attention and held up five fingers, and he nodded. He knew no 10-year-old throws five pitches. He turned to the home-plate ump and shared the news with him: The wild-card game would start at 5 p.m. Friday. I swear, we got three or four borderline calls that night (for the record, we knew the home-plate ump and we knew he had corporate tickets; he may or may not have delayed the bottom of the second inning texting people after the news broke … To be fair, the opposing head coach was on the phone a good bit after the ump shared the news with him).

    Fast-forward three days. A 5 p.m. first pitch on the first Friday in October, so that meant I checked the kid out of school at 11 a.m. and headed inside the perimeter. We gathered with friends on the grassy knoll across Hank Aaron Boulevard from the right-field gate, tossing a football while watching the most impressive tailgate setup I’ve ever seen roll in a few hours before first pitch, a long-bed pickup truck complete with multiple TVs streaming sports, open bars along each side of the truck, the whole nine yards.

    There is zero value in sharing the proceedings of what happened inside Turner Field that evening. All it would do is fire me up like it happened seven minutes ago, not seven years ago (although my son and I still cuss it at every mention). I am thankful we had seats high in the upper deck. As the bottles rained down on the playing surface after Sam Holbrook lost his freaking mind and made that unbelievable, inexcusable, garbage call, I couldn’t help but think how cursed my city was when it comes to big sports moments, while making sure my 10-year-old didn’t wear a Bud Light bottle across the back of his neck.

    Niekro getting rained out in the 82 NLCS opener, one out from an official game? Game 7 in 91 in the awful Metrodome? Games 3, 4 and 5 in 96, in a stadium in which I sat in the upper deck hoping to see the Braves win the World Series in person for the second straight October? The 18-inning loss in Houston in 05? All the other playoff missteps in the late 90s and the 2000s? The Falcons and Eugene Robinson the night before the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance in January 1999? Cliff Levington’s ill-fated left hook in The Omni against Boston in Game 6 of the East semis in 1988, with a conference finals berth on the line? The Falcons with a lead at home against the Cowboys in the NFC semis in January 1981 before Danny White took over in the final minutes? The Thrashers going belly-up in the first round of 2007 against the Rangers? The “most excellent” insult from the IOC at the conclusion of the 96 Olympics?

    After the wild-card game, sitting on the trunk of my car with the windows down and the Braves Radio Network postgame show playing, my son and I were silent. We sat there for at least an hour. Neither of us said a single word. In retrospect, the Braves flubbed up plenty of chances in the decade. They didn’t need any help.

    But at the worst possible time, Holbrook made a call that will live in franchise infamy for as long as the Braves exist.

    —30—

    On Deck: The Newest Baby Braves Usher in a New Era

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.

    What Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve Been

    The Top 10 of the 2010s, Part 2

    By Bud L. Ellis

    BravesWire.com

    ATLANTA – It’s time for part two of my top 10 most memorable moments of Braves baseball I watched in person in the 2010s, looking at baseball’s epic final day of the 2011 regular season that found Atlanta land outside the postseason party after a painful late-season swoon, then taking a stroll through two games in which Braves starters nearly pitched no-hitters (and a nod to the lone no-hitter, at any level of baseball, I’ve witnessed in person across 40 years that also contains an interesting perspective on a tragic night in my hometown’s history).

    As a reminder, you can check out the introductory piece of the series below:

    Part 1: A Big Bang … Then A Choke

    The Long, Painful Death of a Season: Sept. 28, 2011

    Epic Late-Season Stumble Costs Braves Playoff Berth

    As late August 2011 arrived, it felt like only an act of God could keep the Braves from a second-straight NL playoff appearance. The Phillies were running away with the NL East but the Braves had found their footing, winning 16 times in 21 games to enter the final weekend of the month with the second-best record in the Senior Circuit and a 9 ½ game lead over the Giants for the NL’s lone wild-card spot.

    The Cardinals? Pfft, 10 ½ games behind the 79-53 Braves at 68-63.

    Atlanta flew to New York after taking three of four in Chicago, but Hurricane Irene was heading toward the nation’s largest city, too. The opening game of the Mets series was played in front of less than 23,000 at Citi Field and journeyman Chris Capuano destroyed the Braves, striking out 13 during a two-hit complete-game shutout. The final two games of the series would be cancelled and, with a Monday off day, the Braves suddenly had a three-day break as they were playing their best baseball of the season.

    They never recovered.

    The weirdness of that weekend in the Big Apple began the unraveling. It concluded at Turner Field on Sept. 28, the final day of the regular season. It would go down as one of the wildest, craziest days in baseball history (the Red Sox simultaneously were giving away the AL wild card), and the Braves entered that Wednesday night matchup with the division-champion Phillies having lost four in a row to fall to 10-19 since flying into New York.

    The Braves and Cardinals were tied at 89-72 as I walked into Turner Field alone for what I hoped would not be the final time that season. My sons were home with the next day being a school day, but downstairs in my filing cabinet were tickets to the first two home NL Division Series games. The sheer thought of those tickets being refunded was ridiculous just four weeks earlier, but as the losses piled up in September my sense of dread grew, and I don’t know if I’ve ever walked into a ballpark with so much doom-and-gloom as I headed to my seat in the lower level, midway between first base and the right-field corner.

    For six innings, everything was fine, and I started growing more confident. The Braves took a 3-1 lead on a Dan Uggla homer in the third and Tim Hudson cruised into the seventh inning. But with one out came two hits and an error by Jack Wilson at shortstop to score a run, and I started thinking again about how my heart was going to be shattered. After all, I sat in this stadium nearly a year before and watched the Braves fall apart in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the NL Division Series. I remember looking around and seeing people who must’ve been thinking the same thing, the wheels spinning in our heads with that, “here we go again” refrain.

    Was the seventh the start of the train careening off the tracks?

    Perhaps not. Craig Kimbrel made his first All-Star team, led the National League with 46 saves and won NL rookie of the year in 2011. Save No. 47 would at worst send the Braves into a one-game playoff with St. Louis. But Kimbrel proceeded to give up a single, get a strikeout, then walk two hitters before Chase Utley’s game-tying sacrifice fly. And as extra innings began to march on, I couldn’t help but think of all the opportunities the Braves had squandered over the past month to avoid being in this situation.

    I saw the Braves win the World Series in person in 1995. Three years earlier, I saw the Braves score three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the 1992 NL pennant in person. I’m generally an optimistic person. But that night I found myself fighting that feeling of “not again” over and over. It only grew after Chipper Jones flew out to deep left-center with a runner on to end the 10th, and it grew even more when Jason Heyward reached third on a wild pitch before Martin Prado struck out to close the 12th.

    Of course, the Phillies scored in the top of the 13th on Hunter Pence’s single that barely cleared the infield dirt. Of course, the Braves would get a runner on with one out in the bottom half, only to see Freddie Freeman – the runner-up to Kimbrel for rookie of the year – ground into a 3-6-3 double play. We knew the Cardinals already had won some 30 minutes earlier, that 8-0 result glaring on the out-of-town scoreboard in the ballpark, and when Freeman slammed his batting helmet into the ground behind first base as the season died, the deflation nearly was overwhelming.

    Other than Game 5 of the 1996 World Series, I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a ballpark after a loss as long as I did that night. But the worst part didn’t come on Sept. 28. It came the morning after, when I had to wake up two little boys for school and tell them their favorite baseball team’s season was over.

    Oh, So Close, But No No-No: June 5, 2013 and July 29, 2018

    Julio, Newk Flirt with Every Pitcher’s Dream

    In all the baseball games these nearly 47-year-old eyes have watched through the years – from playing to coaching my kids to my sports writing days and countless games as a fan – I’ve witnessed exactly one no-hitter. It came the night after the bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics, in an American Legion playoff game on July 27, 1996, in Gainesville, Ga. Andy Hussion, who would help pitch Gainesville High to a state title the following spring, twirled the gem with his dad, former Furman play-by-play man Chuck Hussion, working the PA at Ivey-Watson Field along the shores of Lake Lanier.

    The bombing was the topic of conversation everywhere, including at the ballpark. I was interning as The Times in Gainesville that Olympic summer. We were owned by The Gannett Corp. (which owned USA Today) at the time, and there were veteran newspaper people with decades of experience onsite. When the bomb went off, the presses actually stopped (just like in the movies, but never in real life). Page 1A was redone and our morning edition had the news, while other newspapers that served our area did not. I lost track of how many people in our circulation area awoke on that fourth Saturday of July 1996 with no idea what had happened downtown until they grabbed our paper from their driveways.

    Why do I share this, something that occurred so long ago? I watched two Braves take no-hit bids beyond the seventh inning in the past 40 years. Both occurred this decade. Both hold significant meaning to me, so I cheated a bit to combine both as one entry.

    June 5, 2013: The Braves had won four in a row entering a Wednesday get-away date with the Pirates at Turner Field. Both my kids were with me, ages 10 and 9 and soaking in the initial days of summer vacation. We sat in the upper deck and watched Julio Teheran dazzle the Pittsburgh lineup. Teheran at the time still sat mid-90s with his fastball, and he had everything working. We got to the top of the eighth, everybody was standing, and I was telling my kids repeatedly not to say what all of us were thinking – fortunately, they both were old enough to understand what was happening.

    Two outs in the inning, four outs away. Brandon Inge came on as a pinch-hitter, worked a 1-1 count, then lined a single to left. Teheran retired Starling Marte to end the eighth, David Carpenter worked a perfect ninth to finish the one-hitter, and my sons and I were stunned as how close we had come to seeing a MLB no-hitter in person.

    Not too long after, something happened that made my life just about completely collapse. In some of those darkest days that followed over the next two to three years, in a season of my life where hope was almost nonexistent, that Wednesday afternoon in the sunshine at Turner Field with my boys was a bright memory and a sign of better days to come.

    It just didn’t result in a no-hitter. And that wasn’t the only close call, either.

    July 29, 2018: By the grace of God, I was in such a better place as that final Sunday of July unfolded. It was the day of Chipper Jones’ induction into the Hall of Fame. My oldest son and I gathered with friends in a hotel suite near SunTrust Park to break bread and catch up, then it was on to the ballpark for the series finale with the defending NL champion Dodgers. The Braves were working to avoid a sweep after being outscored 9-2 in the first two games, as many of our thoughts were some 965 miles northeast in interior New York.

    Sean Newcomb took the mound for his 40th major-league start. He got two runs of support in the first inning and two more in the third, and the Massachusetts lefty took it from there, walking Yasiel Puig in the sixth but allowing nothing else entering the ninth. The ballpark, already an emotional mess as many of us had strained to stream Chipper’s acceptance speech during the third inning, was teeming as Newcomb took the mound to start the ninth.

    I had no doubt Newk was going to do this. Zero. Everybody was standing. I couldn’t breathe. My oldest son was pacing like I’d never seen, and he would admit later he thought it was done, too. After two flyouts. Newcomb was one hitter away. Chris Taylor worked the count to 2-2, including a somewhat questionable pitch he took for a ball, then lined a single to left field as third baseman Johan Camargo dove to his left in vain. The Braves would win 4-1, Newcomb would throw 129 pitches on the day, and the two teams would meet 2 ½ months later in the NL Division Series.

    Oh man, talk about the ultimate “what if.” I chatted with my kid while writing this and he said to this day, he was 100 percent certain Newcomb had it. His stuff was that good. I know there’s been ups and downs with Newcomb at times, but that day in July 2018 shows his potential to dominate a great lineup.

    It also shows that no-hitters are so hard to complete, and seeing one is such a rare treat. And, every day you walk into the ballpark, there’s a chance it happens. Perhaps one sweet day, Andy Hussion will have some company on my list.

    —30—

    On Deck: Saying Goodbye to The Skipper, and The Ted

    Bud L. Ellis is a lifelong Braves fan who worked as a sports writer for daily newspapers throughout Georgia earlier in his writing career, with duties including covering the Atlanta Braves, the World Series and MLB’s All-Star Game. Ellis currently lives in the Atlanta suburbs and contributes his thoughts on Braves baseball and MLB for a variety of outlets. Reach him on Twitter at @bud006.

    Braves pitching rocked in Miami, Minor to debut

    A rotation with a team 1.90 ERA was bound to fall to Earth eventually. And so it was in Miami with Alex Wood, Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana. The Marlins swept the Braves in a 3-game series, a down point in an otherwise exciting season. Despite the month-ending series, the Braves have had a strong April behind the solid pitching of Harang, Wood, Santana, Teheran and Hale and the offensive dominance of Freeman, the younger Upton, Gattis and Simmons. They entered May with a 17-9 record.

    A few of the best stats from April:

    Julio Teheran finished April with a 1.47 ERA, the lowest of the starting rotation.

    Julio Teheran finished April with a 1.47 ERA, the lowest of the Braves starting rotation.

    • The Braves pitching staff (starters and relief corps) put up the lowest ERA in the National League at 2.69 (244 2/3 innings pitched).
    • Braves’ starters finished April with a 2.40 ERA and an 11-7 record, the best ERA in the NL.
    • David Hale put together the 2nd best ERA of MLB rookies in April (2.10).
    • Justin Upton finished April with the best batting average on the club at .323. He put up 4 doubles, a triple, 8 homers and 18 RBIs with 3 stolen bases.
    • Freddie Freeman finished April with a .305 batting average. He had 7 doubles, 6 homers and 17 RBIs in 105 at bats.
    • Andrelton Simmons put up great offensive numbers to match the stellar defense Braves’ fans are used to. He hit .280 with 3 doubles, 3 triples, 3 homers and 7 RBIs. His number of strikeouts, 3, matched the number of triples, doubles and homers he had.
    • Julio Teheran leads the Braves and is 2nd in the league in ERA (1.47).
    • Until the final series of the month, Aaron Harang led the NL in ERA at 0.85.

    MINOR MAKES 2014 DEBUT, HUDSON RETURNS TO ATLANTA…

    The Braves return to Turner Field for a weekend series against the visiting San Francisco Giants. The series marks the season debut of Mike Minor and the return of fan favorite Tim Hudson who left Atlanta in free agency this past offseason.

    Mike Minor missed most the early days of spring training due to a urethra surgery in the offseason. He then injured his pitching shoulder. Reliever Gus Schlosser, who recorded his first big league hit and pitched 11 innings, was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett with the arrival of Minor. David Hale, who had a great April in the rotation, moves to the bullpen for the time being.

    Atlanta will miss Tim Hudson’s spot in the Giants’ rotation while they’re in town. Hudson, speaking to Atlanta press Friday, said that was fine by him because pitching against the Braves would have been strange. He said he can’t help but root for Atlanta, but hopes they have a “mini slump” while his Giants are facing them.

    Lincecum (1-1, 5.96) will take the mound against Minor (–) in his 2014 debut. Saturday’s match-up with feature Vogelsong (0-1, 5.40) vs. Teheran (2-1, 1.47). The series finale will pit Bumgarner (2-3, 3.74) vs. Wood (2-4, 2.93).

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

    Hudson injury dampens Mets series, Braves head home for Cards

    In what should have been a terrific series for the Braves to continue their dominance in the National League East, the Braves watched as veteran ace Tim Hudson pitched a gem that ended suddenly with a freak accident. To say that the Braves were shaken by the injury to Hudson would be an understatement given Hudson’s role as a veteran leader in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, the Braves will face the remainder of the season without the ace.

    Following the injury and the news that Tim’s right ankle, his push off foot, was fractured and would require surgery once swelling subsided, his wife Kim tweeted the following:

    The response not just of his teammates, but of Mets’ players including Eric Young, Jr. who actually stepped on Hudson’s leg as he hit the first base bag, was moving the night of the injury. Matching it was the reaction online of current and former players across baseball from teammates Freddie Freeman, Alex Wood to former players Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine and even Burt Blyleven. Baseball writers Jon Morosi, Buster Olney and Jayson Stark all commented on how valuable Hudson is in the clubhouse and how fierce he is as a competitor. In fact, friends, fans and teammates alike all referred to Tim Hudson as a great guy before mentioning his skill as a player.

    Prior to the bizarre incident on the first base bag, Hudson was pitching the best game of his 2013 season. In 7 2/3 innings, Hudson gave up 4 hits, 2 earned runs, walked 3 batters and struck out 9. With the season-ending surgery, he will have put together an 8-7 record with a 3.97 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and just shy of 100 strikeouts. Given some of the struggles he endured in the first half, Hudson finishes his injury-shortened season strong. He had a rocky June, going 0-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 6 starts, but had turned his season around in July where he went 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 3 starts.

    One point worth noting is that this was Hudson’s final season under contract with the Braves. At his age, 38, and the extent of his injury, there is the possibility that he won’t be back in a Braves uniform, if a big league uniform at all. Braves fans everywhere are wishing that not to be the case and sincerely wishing Huddy a speedy recovery.

    Hudson was the story of the series, but here are a few notes on the series:

    • The Braves took 2-of-4 in New York, bringing their season record to 57-45. The Braves lost 4-of-7 on the road, pushing them to 25-30 on the road this season.
    • Alex Wood made a spot start for the injured Paul Maholm in the season finale, notching a no-decision after going 4 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits, 4 earned runs and striking out 5.
    • Shortstop Andrelton Simmons Simmons now has more homers with 11 than Freddie Freeman (10), Heyward (7) and B.J. Upton (8).
    • Dan Uggla hit his 21st home run of the season off Zach Wheeler. Uggla leads the club in homers.
    • After being helped out by an incredible defensive play by Jason Heyward preventing the tying run and perhaps the winning run in the 9th inning of the 2nd game of the series, Craig Kimbrel recorded his 28th save of 2013 (3rd most in the NL).
    • In the game that saw Tim Hudson go down, Evan Gattis hit his first home run since returning to the Braves lineup with an injured oblique. It was El Oso Blanco’s 15th home run of the season.

    BRAVES OPEN HOME STAND AGAINST CARDINALS…

    The Cardinals, fresh off a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies will arrive in Atlanta for a 3-game weekend series that kicks off the Braves’ home stand.

    Brandon Beachy was solid in his recent outing with the Gwinnett Braves.

    Brandon Beachy was solid in his recent outing with the Gwinnett Braves.

    After the series in New York, the question everybody is asking is what’s next for the rotation? It cannot be said frequently enough how important pitching depth in a big league system is.

    The night that Tim Hudson was injured, Brandon Beachy pitched at Triple-A Gwinnett. His numbers were exceptional, pitching 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 earned run on 99 pitches. Prior to needing Tommy John surgery just shy of last year’s all-star break, Beachy held a league-leading 2.00 ERA in his 13 starts. Brandon Beachy will make his 2013 debut on Monday in the place of Hudson.

    If Alex Wood can start again in the place of Maholm while he remains on the disabled list, the Braves have enough arms with Beachy back. However, how well this rotation can pitch is another matter. Kris Medlen had more or less prepared himself for a trip back to the bullpen after his last three starts. Over his last 3 starts, Medlen went 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA. Paul Maholm had been inconsistent in his last several outings, putting up an 0-3 record with a 10.13 ERA in his last 3 stars. The best news was that Tim Hudson was turning around his season. That leaves Minor and Teheran who have been the most consistent pitchers in the rotation and perhaps two of the better pitchers in the league. The Braves’ rotation was in a good position among the NL. For that to continue, Maholm and Medlen must straighten out their issues and Beachy will need to be the Beachy of old. Atlanta’s front office will now be focusing on a starter prior to next week’s trade deadline, either instead of or coinciding with looking for a bullpen arm.

    Now for the pitching match ups against the St. Louis Cardinals. Friday’s game will feature Wainwright (13-5, 2.44) vs. Minor (9-5, 2.98) and will air on MLB Network. Saturday’s game, telecast on FOX, will feature Kelly (1-3, 3.88) vs. Teheran (7-5, 3.25). The series finale on Sunday will air on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and will feature Miller (10-6, 2.77) vs. Medlen (6-10, 3.78).

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

    Braves drop series to Philly, take talent to South Beach

    Closer Craig Kimbrel was the single Braves selection to the 2013 All Star Game.

    Closer Craig Kimbrel was the single Braves selection to the 2013 All Star Game.

    Since the Braves swept the Diamondbacks, they have gone 2-4. They now fly south to Miami to face off on the vast expanse that is the field at Marlins Park. Hoping to pick up a few wins within their division, the Braves will play a 3-game set in Miami before returning to Turner Field to face the Reds on the eve of the all star break.

    On Saturday, the Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel, was named to the National League all star roster. Kimbrel has a 1.72 ERA in 31 1/3 innings pitched this season with 46 strikeouts and 23 saves. He was the sole selection to the roster for the first place Atlanta Braves. Snubbed were pitcher Mike Minor and first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman is one of 5 players on the final vote ballot including Adrian Gonzalez, Ian Desmond, Yasiel Puig and Hunter Pence. Freddie has a .306 average, 9 homers, and 56 RBIs this season. He leads the other 4 final vote contenders in RBIs. Freddie trails only Yasiel Puig in average, but has played in over 40 games more than rookie Puig.

    Game 1:

    W: Lee (10-2) L: Maholm (9-7) SV: Papelbon (18)

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

    The Braves were unable to get to Cliff Lee further adding to the story of Lee’s season. Unfortunately, the entire game didn’t remain in Lee’s favor. Atlanta put 4 earned runs on the board in the 7th inning, all charged to Cliff Lee. Those 4 earned runs in the 7th inning matched the total number of ERs Lee had allowed in his previous 52 innings pitched against Atlanta.

    Game 2:

    W: Hudson (5-7) L: Kendrick (7-6)

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 1 2 0 1 2 0 4 1 2 13 19 0
    Phillies 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 4 9 1

    In Hudson’s previous 8 starts, the Atlanta offense had scored a total of 11 runs of support. Through 5 innings Saturday, they had given him 6 runs to work with. They went on to score 13 runs on 19 hits in the game. It was one of the first games in Hudson’s 2013 season when he was given breathing room to use his sinker without the fear that opposing batters would get the ball out of the infield and eventually score. Huddy’s win added to his ridiculous stats of being 157-6 in his starts when he has been given four or more runs of support before being pulled from the game.

    votefreddieEvery starter in the lineup got at least one hit. Starter Kendrick was knocked out of the game after 5 innings. Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson led the offense. Simmons, Uggla and Heyward had homers in the game and Andrelton finished the game a double shy of the cycle.

    Since the Braves’ doubleheader on the 18th of June, Andrelton Simmons is batting .286 with 20 hits in 70 at-bats, 2 triples, 2 homers, 2 stolen bases and only 5 strikeouts. Like Simmons, Uggla has turned around his season since trying out new contacts. Since June 23rd, Uggla is hitting .286 with 12 hits in 43 at-bats, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 3 homers and 12 RBIs. Uggla holds the team lead with 16 homers. When Jason Heyward went on the disabled list after an emergency appendectomy on April 20th, he was hitting for a .161 average. He is now hitting .228. Since J-Hey’s return on the 17th of May, he has hit .264 with 11 doubles and 5 homers.

    Chris Johnson continues to be the most consistent hitter in the Braves’ lineup. Johnson leads the club in average and doubles. He trails only Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman in hits despite trailing them both by at least 40 at-bats. Oddly enough, Johnson has given the Braves more offensive production than Justin Upton–the player he was traded with to the Braves.

    Game 3:

    W: Pettibone (5-3) L: Medlen (6-8)

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

    On another day, Kris Medlen may have walked away with a win against the rival Phils. However, his outing was marred by early command issues and though he recovered after the first inning, his command disappeared again in the 4th inning. For their part, the offense was terrible. Medlen actually was the first batter to get a man across the plate in the 5th inning. That run was quickly eclipsed by the solo shot he surrendered to Domonic Brown in the bottom of the inning. Frustration was rampant on the part of the offense, displayed by B.J. Upton when he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes at the plate following yet another strikeout.

    Brian McCann continued his 8-game hitting streak with another multi-hit game. Sunday’s game was the first of his 8-game streak in which McCann didn’t have at least 1 extra-base hit. Coming into the game, McCann was 16-for-28 with a .571 average. Since June 23rd, McCann has 19 hits in 39 at-bats, 6 doubles, 3 home runs and 11 RBIs. He has a .487 batting average, .535 on-base percentage and is slugging .872. Since the 23rd, he has improved his batting average from .246 to .293.

    BRAVES BEGIN QUICK TRIP TO FLORIDA…

    As the Braves arrive at Marlins Park, they will face a team that no longer has starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco. The Marlins are 3-3 since the start of July. While the Braves hold a 4-game lead on the Nationals in the division, the Braves have not fared well against teams in the NL East. The Braves need to scratch out wins against the Marlins, Phillies and Mets to keep the Nats at bay (and the Phillies, for that matter).

    An injury update: Evan Gattis started swinging Thursday and throwing Friday. His oblique is progressing, but he obviously will not return before the all star break. Brandon Beachy will make a rehab start in the next several days barring any setbacks in his recovery from the fluid that developed on his pitching elbow following his return from Tommy John surgery. The schedule for his rehab start will hinge on Gwinnett’s schedule with the Triple-A all star game on the horizon. As the Braves currently have only 2 catchers on their roster, the emergency backup catcher would be recent call-up Joey Terdoslavich. We will inevitably hear talk once again about what happens to the rotation when Beachy returns in the coming weeks. At the moment, Maholm, Medlen and Hudson have had an equal number of struggles and the bullpen has a rhythm now with the current arms available.

    The first game of the series will feature all star-worthy Minor (8-4, 3.15) vs. Slowey (3-6, 4.24). Tuesday’s game will pit Teheran (6-4, 3.23) vs. Alvarez (0-0, 5.40). The finale game of the series will feature Maholm (9-7, 3.81) vs. Turner (2-1, 2.30).

    One last note on the ASG Final Vote ballot: You can vote for Freddie Freeman online or on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EST), any tweet that includes the designated player hashtag (#VoteFreddie) will be counted. Vote early and vote often!

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

    Braves cap alumni weekend with sweep, welcome Marlins

    Hudson continued to struggle in his Saturday start at Turner Field. He walked away with a no-decision.

    Hudson continued to struggle in his Saturday start at Turner Field. He walked away with a no-decision.

    With alumni weekend closing and the remnants of the number retirement ceremony for Chipper Jones still on the field, the Atlanta Braves finished Sunday with a sweep of the first place Arizona Diamondbacks.

    It was a brilliant weekend for the offense and for young Julio Teheran. However, there were some who did not fair as well this weekend, the most significant being Tim Hudson. Huddy’s frustration continues as he once again walked away without a win Saturday, despite being at home where he has pitched much better in 2013 than he has on the road. Hudson’s frustration was on full display after the game when he ranted to the media about Fredi Gonzalez pulling him. For a change, the Braves gave the veteran run support, something that has been severely lacking in Huddy’s starts this year. He was given a 2-run lead twice by his offense and surrendered that lead in the next half inning both times. Prior to Saturday’s game, Hudson had been given a total of 3 runs of support in his 5 June starts.

    The offensive struggles of Jason Heyward in April and June seem to have taken a backseat in the month of June. His hot hitting continued this weekend. J-Hey is a whopping 32-for-101 (.317) with 8 doubles, 4 homers, a .378 on-base percentage and is slugging .515 slugging in his past 25 games. These games come after he missed time for an emergency appendectomy. Without the early struggles of Heyward, though he did have a stint on the DL, Freddie Freeman continues to be Atlanta’s most consistent hitter. His 3-run jack in the final game against Arizona was essential to Paul Maholm’s game. In his last 43 games, Freddie Freman is hitting .327 (53-for-162) with 7 homers and 34 RBIs. Freddie has 18 multi-hit games in those 43 games. He leads the club in RBIs.

    Line scores from this weekend’s games:

    Game 1:

    W: Teheran (6-4) L: Delgado (0-2) SV: Kimbrel (23)

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Arizona 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
    Atlanta 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 x 3 11 0

    Game 2:

    W: Walden (3-1) L: Hernandez (4-5)

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Arizona 0 0 0 2 0 2 0 1 0 5 10 1
    Atlanta 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 7 x 11 11 0

    Game 3:

    W: Maholm (9-6) L: Cahill (3-10)

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Arizona 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 8 1
    Atlanta 0 1 3 0 2 0 0 0 x 6 10 0

    BRAVES WELCOME MIAMI MARLINS…

    With the Marlins coming into town, the standings in the National League East remain with the Braves on top of the Nationals with a 6 1/2 game lead. Miami is the cellar-dweller in the NL East. Philadelphia and the Mets trail the Nationals in that order.

    An update on injuries: Evan Gattis has not resumed baseball activity after straining his oblique. Despite the date of injury being pushed back to make his eligibility to return earlier, it appears unlikely that he will be ready to return after his 15 days on the DL and may just then be starting a rehab assignment. The Braves announced that Ramiro Pena has undergone season-ending shoulder surgery. Fredi Gonzalez says that he hopes to get Pena back by Spring Training. Brandon Beachy has resumed throwing his bullpen sessions and will do so again on Monday. Whether he experiences any pain will determine when he will begin another rehab assignment. Beachy was on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett when fluid on his recently repaired pitching elbow was found. Beachy was leading the league in ERA before the all star break last season before blowing his elbow out and requiring Tommy John surgery. Jordan Schafer still has some fluid and swelling on the ankle that could the brunt of a foul ball while Schafer was at the plate near the end of the week. He and the Braves hope he will be available for Tuesday’s game. Reliever Luis Ayala is nearing the end of his rehab assignment and could bolster the bullpen in the coming week. With the question of where Beachy fits into the rotation, who the odd man out is upon Beachy’s return, and the rehabilitation of Ayala and Cristhian Martinez, it would still appear the Braves will be looking before the trade deadline for another reliever.

    A team that won’t be buying at the trade deadline is the Miami Marlins. As the Marlins roll into Atlanta, there are few things going well for the Marlins. The Marlins have only said they will not be selling Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins should be without Matt Diaz, Chris Coghlan and Casey Kotchman for the series. They have spoken about wanting to trade pitcher Ricky Nolasco. The Marlins are currently 18 games back in the division, the furthest out in their division of any team in either league including the Houston Astros. The Marlins have 28 wins, the least for any MLB team.

    The 3-game set against the visiting Marlins will begin with Koehler (1-5, 4.78) vs. Medlen (5-7, 3.02) on Tuesday. The second game of the series will presumably feature Nolasco (4-8, 3.93) vs. Minor (8-3, 2.98). And the series finale will feature Turner (2-0, 1.76) vs. Teheran (6-4, 3.12). There is certainly the possibility that Nolasco has thrown his last game for the Marlins and the probables are subject to change.

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

    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 fair poorly in SoCal, head home to face Giants

    After going 2-5 against the Dodgers and Padres on their latest road trip, you can’t blame the Braves for wanting to get back home before facing another California team. Especially when their next match-up comes against the reigning World Champion Giants who are third in the National League West with a 33-31 record. The Braves enter the series with a record of 39-27 and a 6-game lead on the Washington Nationals. The Braves will face the Giants for a 3-game set and then welcome the Mets for an unusual 5-game set due to rainouts in their previous match-ups.

    While the Braves managed to salvage 2 games against the Dodgers with wins behind Kris Medlen and Mike Minor, the Braves turned around and were swept by the Padres at Petco Park. In the final game of that series, the Braves had neither defensive nor offensive luck on their side, scoring only 3 runs on 10 hard hits and earning an error on a day that could/should have been a multi-error event. Perhaps it would have taken the sting out of being swept by the Padres if the Braves had performed better in L.A. against a Dodgers team that is without several of their superstars and is trying to decide what to do with a past superstar in Andre Ethier. The silver lining is that the Nationals and Phillies have not made up significant ground on the first place Braves.

    In a season that has not gone well for veteran Tim Hudson on the road, it didn’t help his cause when he notched 2 losses on the swing through southern California. Hudson is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA at Turner Field while he is 1-6 with a 6.07 ERA on the road. His road woes seemed to be behind him when he exited his start against the Dodgers with only 1 run earned against him. However,  the ‘pen did not fair as well, Cory Gearrin surrendering 4 runs in a 1/3 of an inning. Hudson notched a loss in that outing and again against the Padres when he allowed 3 runs and was not given adequate run support to overcome that. In both outings, Huddy pitched at least 7 innings. This, of course, plays into the biggest question for the Braves: Where will Brandon Beachy fit in the rotation when he returns?

    Let’s explore this further. Kris Medlen has been vocal about his desire to stay in the rotation. Mike Minor has pitched like Atlanta’s ace and will not be the odd man out when Beachy returns. Teheran has been nearly as solid as Minor, showing a few weaknesses lately, but nothing to be concerned about in a young arm. This leaves Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm. The question about Paul Maholm is whether or not he is too valuable an arm to be placed in the bullpen where he would likely be used as a situational lefty or as the long man should a pitcher struggle and leave after only a few innings. The likelihood of Tim Hudson being sent to the ‘pen seems unlikely as well, given his veteran status, his salary and the fact that Hudson has been with the Braves the longest. Seniority would seem to matter in this case. Here lies the problem. Could Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez truly rationalize sending any of the 5 starters to the ‘pen in favor of Beachy who is returning from Tommy John surgery? The question certainly depends on Beachy as well. Pitchers recovered and rehabilitated from Tommy John surgery often return as strong if not stronger than they were when they got injured. There is no question that when he got injured, Brandon Beachy was the best pitcher of the 2012 season in the National League. Having said that, would putting Beachy in the bullpen elongate both this season and the 2014 season by limiting his innings out of the gate? There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among baseball writers and both Wren and Gonzalez have said as late as the Padres season that they don’t know what the decision will be.

    Something good to come from the SoCal swing was the production from Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla. In his last 8 games, Heyward is batting .412 (14-for-34) with 2 doubles, 3 homers, 4, RBI, 7 runs scored, a .459 on-base percentage and is slugging .735. In Uggla’s last 9 games, he is batting .300 with 9 hits, 7 runs scored, 3 homers, 7 walks, 7 RBI, a .432 on-base percentage and is slugging .600. For Uggla, the last 9 games have increased his batting average on the season to .193. His lowest point of the season came on April 28th when he was batting .160. In addition to Heyward and Uggla, the cold bat of B.J. Upton has improved in June. Since June 1st, the eldest Upton has improved his batting average from .145 to .161. The Braves have also seen B.J. on the base paths and have been reminded of why Upton’s speed has always been such a draw.

    Facing the Giants this weekend, the Braves will have to use home field advantage to get back on track. Sending their best pitchers to the mound against the Giants will go a long way to doing that. The Braves will not face Cain or Lincecum this time, boding well for Atlanta’s offense.

    Game 1 of the series will pit Bumgarner (5-4, 3.58) vs. Medlen (3-6, 2.87). Saturday’s game will feature Gaudin (2-1, 2.32) vs. Minor (8-2, 2.44). And Lincecum (4-6, 4.70) vs. Teheran (4-3, 3.62) will cap the series.

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

    Braves split series with Nats, welcome Mets

    Fresh off a disappointing series in Detroit, the Braves opened their home stand with a 4-game set against the Nats. The Washington Nationals arrived in Atlanta having lost the previous 7 meetings with the Braves, 4 of them when the Braves visited D.C. in April. They would lose 2 more games to their division rival before finally taking 2 from the Braves, splitting the series at 2 a piece.

    The big news for the Braves yesterday was that Justin Upton had been named National League Player of the Month for April and Evan Gattis was named NL Rookie of the Month. In his 26 April games, Upton posted a .298 average with 5 doubles, 12 homers and 19 RBIs. Justin Upton’s torrid home run hitting is tied with the Marlins entire roster at 12. Evan Gattis appeared in 21 games in April and posted a .250 batting average. In those 21 games, Gattis had 6 homers, 5 doubles and 16 RBIs. Gattis came through in the clutch for Atlanta, notching 5 game-winning RBIs in the month.

    The story of the Nats/Braves series at the Ted was the 200th career win for veteran ace Tim Hudson. Hudson became only the 3rd active pitcher with 200 or more wins, joining Andy Pettitte and Roy Halladay.

    Game 1:

    Manager Fredi Gonzalez went with his 11th different lineup in 11 games in game 1 of the series. Fredi hoped to take advantage of the success Dan Uggla has had against Strasburg. Uggla finished the game with a .476 lifetime batting average against Strasburg.While the hitting was able to bring 3 runs across the plate off 7 hits, the real story of the game was pitching.

    Julio Teheran pitched with the confidence that was lacking in his counterpart Stephen Strasburg. While Strasburg looked frustrated on the mound and left after a bicep strain, Teheran pitched well, leaving after 5 1/3 innings pitched. He gave up 10 hits, giving up only 2 runs and 1 walk. Teheran struck out 5 and threw 58 strikes of his 91 pitches/58 strikes.

    When Teheran left the game, the game was tied. He then handed it over to Jordan Walden, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel who were absolutely dominant. Walden, EOF and Kimbrel retired the last 11 batters they faced. As Kimbrel said after the game, the Nats acted at the plate as if they had no idea that Walden had a changeup. Walden’s changeup was as nasty as any pitch we’ve seen from the former closer who was acquired in the Tommy Hanson deal. Jordan retired each of the 5 hitters he faced in his appearance and all 3 of his strikeouts came with the change up as the put-away pitch.

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

    W: Walden (1-0) L: Clippard (1-1) SV: Kimbrel (9)

    Game 2:

    Game 2 was all about Tim Hudson. Between his dominant pitching and his timely hitting, Tim Hudson finally achieved the milestone of 200 career wins. Hudson’s 1st career win came on June 13, 1999 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ironically, that Dodgers team had current Nationals manager Davey Johnson at its helm. With the win, Hudson became the 110th pitcher in MLB history to reach 200 wins. He is now the 5th Braves pitcher to win 200 games, over 100 of those games coming in a Braves uniform. Huddy now has a .655 career winning percentage. That is the 12th highest win percentage all-time and the 2nd among all active pitchers.

    Not only did Hudson leave the game after 7 innings of 1 run baseball, he allowed only 3 hits, 2 walks and struck out 6. Huddy stepped up with the bat, also. Tim had a double and he homered (with help from Bryce Harper), scoring 2 runs. It was the 2nd multi-hit game for Huddy this season, the other also coming of the Nationals. He’s hitting .429 on the season.

    Though it was Hudson’s night, it was also a night of firsts for young Andrelton Simmons who hit his first career leadoff home run.

    Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez struggled once again against the Braves. It was the 5th straight start Gio had gone 5 innings or less against the Braves. A perplexing stat for Gio is that he has surrendered 11 runs in the 7 innings he has pitched against the Braves in 2013. Yet, Gio has given up only 7 runs in 23 innings against all other clubs he has faced.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Nationals 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 1
    Braves 2 2 0 1 3 0 0 0 x 8 12 0

    W: Hudson (3-1) L: Gonzalez (2-2)

    Game 3:

    The final two games of the series were simply a matter of bad luck. Paul Maholm has dominated left-handed hitting this season. In 2013, lefties are hitting .091 (3-for-33) against him. Maholm pitched well in his 8 innings, giving up only 3 hits and 2 runs, but it wasn’t enough with zero run support behind him. Mahiolm retired the final 13 batters he faced and made each of those outs look effortless.

    In addition to pitching well, Paul Maholm had his 3rd career double. That double added to the incredible hitting Atlanta’s pitching has contributed so far in 2013. Another of those strange stats: Tampa Bay has 10 hits from all players who have hit in the DH spot. Atlanta’s pitching staff has 10 hits to match that. The strong hitting of Hudson has led the staff in what is looking like a bit of a competition. Minor has continued the solid hitting he has displayed since his call-up and Teheran, Maholm and Medlen have stepped up their game. Hitting for this staff isn’t just about laying down a good bunt.

    Hitting isn’t the only thing the pitching staff has stepped up. The defense of the pitching staff has greatly improved. Medlen fields off the mound like the shortstop he used to be. Teheran and Minor have learned from Medlen. Both Hudson and Maholm have been good defenders off the mound in their careers.

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

    W: Zimmermann (5-1) L: Maholm (3-3) SV: Soriano (8)

    Game 4:

    The hard luck pitcher on the Braves’ staff so far this season is hands down Kris Medlen. In his quality starts, Medlen has been the recipient of poor run support. Medlen’s starts tend to coincide with the games when the Braves’ offense is cold. Medlen pitched 7 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks and struck out a whopping 8 batters. Unfortunately for Medlen, Dan Haren seemed to finally get his control back in his outing. Haren had been hit hard since the season began, but was nearly untouchable for the Braves.

    The only offense to speak of in the final game of the series came from Dan Uggla who smashed a home run to left field. It was Uggla’s 5th homer of the season and improved his batting average to .167. Unfortunately, that is also the projected batting average for Uggla in the 2013 season. It is just a reminder that the Braves are getting virtually nothing from B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, and Jason Heyward. Andrelton Simmons does appear to be breaking out of his early slump, quite possibly because he isn’t trying to hit home runs in each at-bat.

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

    W: Haren (3-3) L: Medlen (1-4) SV: Soriano (9)

    BRAVES WELCOME NL PITCHER OF THE MONTH HARVEY & METS…

    The Braves will not have any returns from the disabled list while the Mets are in town, but there will be some big additions to the roster in the days ahead. Brian McCann is hoping to be back for next week’s series against the Cincinnati Reds. McCann homered for Class-A Rome in his final rehab game there. He has since joined Triple-A Gwinnett and went 1-for-4 with an RBI single Thursday. The consensus seems to be that Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird will remain on the roster when McCann returns. Gattis can play first base and left field in addition to catching. McCann likely won’t be able to catch in more than a couple consecutive games right away. Jonny Venters played catch Tuesday for first time since being shut down and going on the disabled list in March with an elbow strain. According to reports, Venters felt no discomfort while throwing at a distance of 60 feet. His return will be important, especially now that the Braves have placed Luis Ayala on the 15-day DL with an anxiety disorder. Whether Ayala is able to return after 15 days remains to be seen. One other update on injuries: Brandon Beachy, who was the best pitcher in baseball last season before needing Tommy John surgery, has only 3 more side sessions before he can begin his rehab assignment. Though roster decisions will have to be made, the return of McCann, Heyward (still recovering from appendectomy), Venters and Beachy will be huge for the Braves.

    The Braves are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies at 17-11 for best record in the National League. Only the Boston Red Sox have a better win-loss record than the Braves in Major League Baseball. The Braves are set to face the Mets who are 4 games back in the NL East with an 11-15 record. Braves pitchers have the best ERA in the National League at 3.10. Mets pitchers have a combined 4.11 ERA. Where the Braves and Mets are comparable is in batting average. The Braves have a .239 BA while the Mets have a team .237 BA.

    Matt Harvey, the reigning NL Pitcher of the Month, will square off against the Braves in the series. Braves hitters have not seen much of Harvey and that may play a key role in the matchup. The only Braves pitcher with success against Harvey, in limited at-bats, is Jason Heyward (.333, 1-for-3 with a home run) who will still be on the DL throughout the series. Unlike Harvey, the Braves have seen a lot of Niese and have hit him hard. Look to see Reed Johnson in right field against Niese. And if any pitcher can be exactly what B.J. Upton needs, Shawn Marcum may be the guy. In 2010, Upton hit .417 off Marcum (5-for-12 with 1 BB).

    Friday will feature Marcum (0-2, 7.94) vs. Minor (3-2, 3.13). Saturday’s game will pit Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. Teheran (1-0, 5.08). And the finale will reigning NL Pitcher of the Month Harvey (4-0, 1.56) vs. 200-game winner Hudson. (3-1, 3.86).

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

     

    Braves take series in tundra, prepare for Tigers

    The Braves knew that going into Colorado they were going to be facing tough weather. However, they had no idea that Colorado would bring a postponed game, a doubleheader, and the loss of right fielder Jason Heyward to a burst appendix. With game 1 postponed due to snow flurries and poor visibility, the Braves and Rockies squared off in a doubleheader Tuesday with a game time temperature of 23 degrees. The grounds crew at Coors Field did a phenomenal job preparing a field that had been covered in snow mere hours before and were able to maintain the field throughout the series. By the time game 3 rolled around, the Braves were thrilled to be playing in 48 degree weather.

    Game 1 of doubleheader:

    Returning to place where he once worked as a ski lift operator, Evan Gattis thrived. Gattis had both a game-winning RBI and a game-ending put out when he threw out a runner at second base. The rookie smashed his 6th homer of the season. He has now homered in each of the stadiums in which he has played.

    Reed Johnson started in right field in place of Jason Heyward who will be on the 15-day DL as he recovers from laparascopic surgery to remove his appendix. Reed took advantage of the playing time, going 4-for-4, 3 of those doubles. He hasn’t had many chances this season given that the 3 outfield starters are more or less every day guys, but getting some playing time in Heyward’s absence may improve his bat when he comes off the bench in the future.

    The Mike Minor that emerged in the second half of the 2012 season is becoming one of the better pitchers in the Braves’ rotation. Minor pitched 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs. He struck out 5 and walked 2. Coincidentally, Minor has allowed only 5 hits in each of his 4 starts this season. His next start against Doug Fister is the best pitching matchup of the Detroit series.

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

    W: Minor (3-1) L: Francis (1-2) SV: Kimbrel (8)

    Game 2 of doubleheader:

    Braves’ bats didn’t go cold between games in the doubleheader. Justin Upton smashed his 11th homer. He now holds the Atlanta Braves franchise record with 11 homers in April. Prior to Upton’s 11th homer, the record stood at 10, a feat accomplished by Ryan Klesko and twice by Andres Galarraga. His 11 homers in April add to the 6 he hit in Spring Training. He has certainly made a case for National League Player of the Month, though his biggest competition comes from the rival Washington Nationals in Bryce Harper.

    Game 2 saw something the Braves hope to see more of this year: Justin and B.J. Upton knocked back-to-back home runs. The Uptons became the 2nd pair of brothers in Major League Baseball history to hit back-to-back homers in a game. Prior to the Uptons, the only brothers to do so were Lloyd and Paul Waner who did it in 1938 with the Pirates. This was the third time the Uptons have homered in the same game since joining the Braves this season. B.J. Upton has yet to homer in a game in which his brother didn’t.

    It certainly helped the Braves that the Rockies went an incredible 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Clearly, they had plenty of opportunities, but squandered them. Julio Teheran gave up 8 hits in his 7 innings pitched, but managed to hold the Rockies to only 1 run. The run support Teheran received in the 4th and 5th innings allowed him to continue a few more innings. This was Teheran’s first win of the season and hopefully gives him a confidence boost going into his next start.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Braves 0 0 0 3 2 1 0 0 4 10 14 1
    Rockies 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 12 0

    W: Teheran (1-0) L: Garland (2-1)

    Game 3:

    Veteran Tim Hudson took to the mound in frigid Colorado attempting to get his 200th career win under his belt. Unfortunately, the baseball gods were not smiling on Huddy again Wednesday. He had a great outing, going 6 innings and leaving with a 2-run lead, but the game got away from the Braves in the late innings as the game finally ended after 12 innings. Tim Hudson’s next shot at his 200th career win will come Tuesday against the Washington Nationals at Turner Field.

    Dan Uggla is hitting .185, but the final game of the series showed signs of life with Uggla. Recovering from a calf strain, Uggla stepped up in game 3 going 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and a double. He improved his batting average from .167 to .185. He challenged himself on the base paths, though he clearly still doesn’t have full strength in that left calf. Of course, it didn’t help anything that it was so cold in Colorado. An off day before the Detroit series begins is exactly what Uggla needs. The Braves would surely love to have his bat in action and they would love to see him get on base, whether by hit or walk, keeping down the strikeouts.

    Braves’ fans saw something they rarely see in game 3–a blown save by Craig Kimbrel. Though the Braves didn’t lose the game on that blown save alone, it set up the 3 extra frames pitched by Cory Gearrin, Jordan Walden and Luis Ayala. Ayala hoped to avoid letting a lead-off double Wilin Rosario hurt him by pitching around hot-hitting Michael Cuddyer, but that strategy backfired when Yorvit Torrealba ended the game on an RBI single.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 R H E
    Braves 0 0 0 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 10 0
    Rockies 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 6 15 2

    W: Belisle (1-1) L: Ayala (1-1)

    BRAVES MEET TIGERS FOR NEGRO LEAGUES WEEKEND…

    This weekend is a special one in baseball as the Detroit Tigers host Negro Leagues Weekend. It is the 11th annual weekend celebrating the African-American leagues that features the talents of men like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Oscar Charleston. On Saturday, the Detroit Tigers will wear throwback uniforms honoring the Detroit Stars and the Atlanta Braves will be sporting Atlanta Black Crackers throwbacks. The Detroit Stars played in the Negro National League from 1920-1931. The Atlanta Black Crackers played in the Negro Southern League during that period. The Detroit Stars saw many talented players come through including Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe and Norman “Turkey” Stearnes. One of the most recognizable names from the Atlanta Black Crackers was Red Moore, the first baseman who is in the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame. Saturday’s game will be one of the three featured games on FOX and the series finale will be on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

    One of the biggest things the Braves need to improve on is getting runners on before Justin Upton gets to the plate. His home runs are more often than not solo shots. Atlanta’s leadoff hitters are .207/.275/.341. and hitters in the 2 hole are even worse at .147/.270/.293. Getting Andrelton Simmons and B.J. Upton into a consistent rhythm would be very beneficial to the Braves as they clearly have pop in the middle of the lineup with Gattis and Upton (even to a lesser extent with Freeman and Uggla).

    Something worth noting is that the Braves are not taking advantage of their speed while on the base paths. Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons and B.J. Upton, all with significant speed and base running intelligence, have only 5 stolen bases between them. In fact, Gerald Laird has as many stolen bases as Jason Heyward with 1. Justin Upton actually looks to be improving on the base paths, with 3 stolen bases so far. He showed speed from time to time with Arizona, stealing around 20 bags a season. His older brother averaged a least a dozen more per season. Fredi Gonzalez is no Bobby Cox by any means, meaning he doesn’t put the runners in motion often, but an improvement of a few bags per player could really add a dimension to Atlanta’s game.

    The Braves will luck out and miss both Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in their trip to Detroit. Instead, the series will begin with Maholm (3-1, 1.03) vs. Sanchez (2-1, 1.75). Saturday’s game will feature Medlen (1-2, 2.16) vs. Porcello (0-2, 11.08). Perhaps the best matchup of the series comes in the finale: Minor (3-1, 1.80) vs. Fister (3-0, 2.00).

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