May 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, Series Preview, Series Thoughts
Here are my thoughts on the Giants series. Our 50 million dollar pitching staff couldn’t deal with the monstrosity of the Giant’s potent offense, but it didn’t really matter because our bats decided they’d take the series off too. What an embarrassing series. We played like absolute crap.
Looking forward, we’ve got Haren vs. Lowe tonight. I love the Braves and all, but Derek Lowe is such a drag to watch, just unentertaining, a junk pitcher, etc… And and Dan Haren is so much fun to watch. It’s cool, though. I can do other things while Lowe is pitching and the Diamondbacks are hitting because I have virtually no interest in watching the bottom half of each inning, other than to know the score. Good thing they’ve got that scoreboard thing in the corner of the screen. Saves me lots of time to catch up on things. But really, Dan Haren is a joy to watch. So incredibly entertaining. He might be my favorite pitcher in the game right now (Maddux has retired). I previously noted the 36 most entertaining pitchers (my opinion of course), and he was number 2, behind Ubaldo Jimenez, who kind of sucks. Dan Haren is a guy you really get behind, though. Except when he’s playing the Braves. Maybe I should cheer for the Diamondbacks and if they win I’ll be prepared, if the Braves win it will be a pleasant surprise. Ha. Anyway, like I said. If you get a chance. Watch the game tonight.
After that it’s Jair Jurrjens vs. Jon Garland. Jurrjens is due for a bad game, but it shouldn’t matter because the Diamondbacks have a pathetic offense and Jon Garland is sporting a super-cool 1.55 WHIP despite tossing back-to-back quality starts. So he’s due for a bad game. Worse than normal. Which is usually pretty bad. There was much talk about the Braves bringing him in this off-season. I’m not saying he’d certainly be better than Kenshin Kawakami, but Jon Garland is just flat out boring and not good. At least Kenshin brings more flavor to the game.
Following the “no excuse for not winning” game, we’ll send Javier “innings eater” Vazquez against Doug Davis. I started out very high on Vazquez and he’s let me down thusfar like I should’ve expected. Same old song and dance. Great K/BB rates, crappy ERA. Low strand %, high BABIP. He does everything a pitcher can control and needs to do to be dominant very well (except that pesky HR% and HR/FB) but does everything we statheads throw into the luck tank that you also need to do to be dominant very poorly. I’ve concluded that he’s worse from the stretch than the wind-up which contributes to the low strand %. Anyway, he’s got the mighty task of taking on Doug Davis. Who isn’t that good but isn’t very bad. We’re in a hitter’s park and if Javy keeps it in the park and we don’t win this game I’m quitting on our offense.
The fourth match-up scares the hell out of me. And yeah, that’s right, we play 4 game series’. Because that’s the way the unbalanced schedule works. Anyway, it’s presumably Medlen vs. Max Scherzer who shut us out in an embarrassing 12-0 loss. How embarrassing? Well, the WORST LOSS IN TURNER FIELD HISTORY. Yeah, not even exaggerating. The Braves haven’t “announced” a starter for that game, but I’m betting it will be Medlen. Other possibilities include Morton, Parr, Glavine, and Tommy Hanson. Let’s not discuss Tommy Hanson, please. They’ll bring him up when they bring him up. And until then there’s no sense in fretting about it. If we win that game I’ll un-quit the Braves (assuming they do something so embarrassing in the previous 3 games that I’ll quit them before then).
Moral of the story is: Watch Haren tonight, our outfield sucks, and sometimes our 55 million dollar pitching staff can’t shut down horrible offenses in pitcher’s parks. Who knows what’s in store for this series in a hitter’s park. A lot of bad baseball, I imagine.
May 24, 2009 at 10:49 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Series Thoughts, Toronto Blue Jays
And that happened. If you polled 100 baseball experts asking them to take over/under 10% chance that the Braves, a .500 team that has played bad at home, would sweep the Blue Jays, who have the best record in baseball, with Roy Halladay facing Kenshin Kawakami in the first game, somewhere between 99 and 100 of them would take the under. And somewhere between 99 and 100 of them would be wrong, because the Braves really just swept the Blue Jays. I’m amazed.
The thought of sweeping the series became much more of a reality after the first game, in which Kenshin Kawakami out dueled ROY HALLADAY and the Braves won 1-0. Kenshin pitched 8 shutout innings allowing 3 hits and no walks, striking out 7. The only hit for extra bases was a double to lead off the top of the 8th. Which he successfully pitched around. With 2 outs in the top of the 8th and the runner still on 2nd, Roy Halladay was lifted for a pinch-hitter who looked at a slow curve for a called third strike to polish off what amounted to arguably the best outing by a starting pitcher of the Braves’ season.
Halladay nearly matched Kawakami’s effort, going 7 shutout innings allowing 5 singles and a walk while striking out 6. As previously mentioned, he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the top of the 8th, and was replaced in the bottom of the same inning by Jesse Carlson, who gave up a lead-off double to Matt Diaz (who is our best OF but is relegated to the short end of a platoon for no reason). Diaz advanced to 3rd on Escobar’s groundout and scored on Kotchman’s sac fly. Mike Gonzalez was brought in to pitch the 9th because it’s not like the first 4 batters up that inning were right-handed or anything. I don’t get the decision. Soriano is the better pitcher. Using Mike Gonzalez in the 9th when it’s more match-up favorable is a good decision, but making him the default closer just because he is ain’t a good decision. Gonzalez got 1 out, gave up a double, and induced a groundout which allowed the runner to advance to third. With 2 out and a runner on 3rd he induced another groundout which Martin Prado, playing 3rd for the injured Chipper Jones, charged, bobbled, recovered, and threw to first barely in time to end the game. One of the most exciting, sensational games of the year. A great win. Taking down one of the game’s greats. It was amazing. I can’t say enough about how well Kenshin pitched. He looked incredible out there. Like Greg Maddux. It was awesome.
Derek Lowe started the second game going his patented 7 and 1/3 innings allowing 2 runs. He looked angry when Bobby yanked him for Peter Moylan after retiring the only batter he faced in the 8th. Moylan walked the first batter then got a double play ball and got out of the 8th. Meanwhile, the Braves had scored 4 runs on a Kotchman double, Derek Lowe knocking in a run, and a Kelly Johnson solo shot in the 7th. The fun began in the 9th, when AGAIN, Bobby went with Gonzalez to start the inning even though 2 of the three batters due up in the inning were right-handed and Soriano was fresh, Gonzalez had been used the previous night. This time it proved to be a bad decision. He got a flyout, then he started having an episode, giving up a double, walk, single, and a walk to leave with the bases loaded, 1 out, and only a 1 run cushion. Luckily, Bobby hadn’t used Soriano yet, so Soriano came in and got a clutch strikeout and a flyout to finish the game. He really bailed Mike Gonzalez out on that one. Sooner or later, Bobby will realize that Soriano is the better pitcher, and he will use him as the default game finisher.
In the third game, Jurrjens didn’t have his best stuff, allowing 8 hits (1 double) and 2 walks while striking out 3 in 6 innings, but their offense wasn’t very interactive and most of the damage was scattered across the frames, so he finished 6 allowing only 2 runs. He didn’t factor in the decision because the score was tied 2-2 when he departed, but the Braves opened up a can in the bottom of the 7th scoring 7 runs courtesy of a home run by Kelly Johnson (his second in as many days) and McCann’s second home run of the day. We added another in the 8th. Soriano pitched the 8th with a 7 run lead because it’s not like we need to keep him fresh for when it really matters, and Acosta, who was called up to replace Parr after he threw 90+ pitches basically piggybacking with Medlen on Thursday, finished the game pitching a scoreless 9th. We used 3 relievers in the 7th inning (with the score still tied), Moylan, O’Flaherty, and Bennett. You want to know something you won’t believe. Jeff Bennett has a sub-2 ERA. Pure insanity. Unlike the first two games, which had the feeling of a World Series game, it was a relatively easy win. We really just trounced on them and put a hurtin’ to them. Good series.
Off to San Francisco to face the Giants.
May 14, 2009 at 10:07 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, New York Mutts, Series Preview, Series Thoughts
A win that put us on cloud 9, a loss that put us in the trenches, and another win that put us right back where we started. That’s what happened. Here’s how it went down.
In the first game, Santana vs. Lowe, neither pitcher was particularly brilliant. Santana pitched 6 and 1/3 innings of 1-run ball before being pulled with a runner on 1st. The Braves had baserunners all night against him, but being Johan Santana, he was able to strand most of them. We worked the count well, something we haven’t done all season which pisses me off, and he was at over 100 pitches when he was pulled. Mets and Braves fans alike can both attribute to what unfolded in the latter stages of the game to the Mets bullpen imploding and shoddy defense, as they allowed 6 runs (only 3 earned), in the next 2 and 2/3 innings. The big hit was had by Matt Diaz, who singled off Pedro Feliciano with the bases loaded in the 7th to plate 2 runs and break open the lead. Why Jerry Manuel left Feliciano, a lefty, in to face Matt Diaz, a righty who a) murders left-handed pitching and b) is pretty much completely inept at hitting right-handed pitching, I will never know, but it cost the Mets. Feliciano of course didn’t lose that game by himself, 3 other Mets relievers pitched and they all allowed runs. Also, if Jose Reyes makes a fairly routine play Feliciano gets out of the inning clean. Lowe allowed 3 singles, 2 doubles, and 2 walks in his 6 and 2/3 inning 2-run performance. He only struck out 1 batter and it wasn’t his best game. He did have the sinker working, inducing 15 ground-ball outs. Carlyle gave up a run in the 9th, but the Braves had already scored 8 to the Mets 2 at that point, so it wasn’t like they were close to threatening. Moylan and Soriano were both used in the game. I have already been on my rant about how abused our bullpen has been, so I won’t go there in this post.
I want to take a second to say how impressed I am with Lowe as an individual. First of all, Bobby Cox says Lowe is the hardest working pitcher he’s ever had. Bobby Cox has been in this league a long, long time, and for HIM to say someone is the hardest working he’s ever had, that means A LOT. Secondly, here’s a quote from David O’Brien about the mood in the clubhouse after the first game:
Lot of optimism in that clubhouse after this one. I asked Lowe about the 5-1 trip and he said this was what a lot of people, the Braves included, had been waiting to see from this team.
And he said he likes their chances to win this series, particularly with “our best pitcher going tomorrow.” Those were his words about Jair Jurrjens
Lowe is the guy who signed the big 60 million dollar contract this off-season, but he’s humble enough to say that a sophomore 23-year old who most people had never heard of before last season is our best pitcher. That’s just impressive to me. I’m usually not impressed with Derek Lowe’s outings, but dang, he impressed me more with that quote than he possibly could with an outing.
The second game. Ugh. I wish I could forget it. Jurrjens spun a gem, allowing 5 baserunners through 7 innings, 4 hits and a walk. In the 8th, he gave up 2 singles and a double which Jose Reyes tried to stretch into a triple and was thrown out doing so (he was actually safe, the ump blew the call), with a flyout somewhere in there, and exited the game having allowed 2 runs in 7 and 2/3 innings. Moylan failed to retire the only batter he faced and O’Flaherty got us out of the inning still up 3-2. Mike Gonzalez gave up a lead-off double to Carlos Beltran who stole 3rd a batter later (the replay showed he was out and again the umpires blew the call, but I guess it evens out because they get the run either way) and came home on a sacrifice fly. 3-3. Jeff Bennett came on to pitch the 10th. Stop right there. I know what you’re thinking. But, it was probably Bobby’s best option at the time. Soriano was unavailable because he’d been used way too much for the past week, Gonzalez, Moylan, and O’Flaherty had all been used, and you want to save your long-men (Parr and Carlyle) for either a) later in the game if it goes past 10 innings or b) the next day because Jo Jo Reyes was scheduled to pitch. Anyway, Bennett walked in the winning run. And guess who drew the walk? Yep, that’s right, the only good player on the Mets who is actually playing well right now, Carlos Beltran. By the way, that dude is really damn good. One of the top-5 players in the game I’d imagine. Not far out of it if he is.
The third game went pretty much exactly as advertised. Jo Jo Reyes started and was awful as usual. He left having already allowed 2 runs and the bases loaded with no outs in the third, and Buddy Carlyle promptly gave up a grand slam to Fernando Tatis. To that point we had scored 4 runs, so down 6-4 wasn’t that awful. Niese started the game for the Mets and was chased in the 5th. The Braves battled back and scored 3 more runs to take the lead, but Soriano gave up a run in the bottom of the 8th (probably because he’s been so over-used), and the bats on both sides of the ball kind of died until the top of the 12th, when Martin Prado hit a home run to make it 8-7. At that point, the Braves had used all 13 position players, 6 relief pitchers, Reyes, and Kawakami had pinch-hit. Luckily the 1 pitcher Bobby saved was Gonzalez, who, despite being very wild and looking like he had nothing left in the tank (though he still hit 95 with his fastball), pitched around a double to Jose Reyes (that missed being a game-tying home run by about a foot), and nailed down the save. The Braves used 22 players in that game, which has to be a record for the season. Lowe, Vazquez, and Jurrjens were the only players we didn’t use. Thank god today’s an off-day.
It was an exciting series. It felt like October. Both sides made their share of bad plays, but both sides made their share of excellent plays. Good baseball all around.
Looking forward, we’ve got the Diamondbacks at the Ted for a weekend series. Vazquez, Kawakami, and Lowe will pitch. They’ll be opposed by Doug Davis (who kind of sucks, even though he’s a remarkable story), Max Scherzer (young strikeout machine who I will make it a point of interest to see in person), and Jon Garland (groundball specialist who isn’t that good and has been pitching horribly this season). Reasons I’m dissappointed about how the schedule treats us: I don’t get to watch Dan Haren face the Braves. Reasons I’m excited about how the schedule treats us: I don’t have to watch Dan Haren face the Braves. Webb is on the DL by the way, so we didn’t exactly miss their 2 best pitchers by luck of scheduling.
Davis has been pitching well of late, but the regulars in the line-up hit lefties well (Kotchman, Diaz (not really a reg), McCann, Francoeur, Kelly). It seems like a good day to rest Schafer and let Infante get some work in at Center. I’d play Diaz, Infante, Francoeur, Kotchman, Kelly, Yunel (who interestingly hits righties better than lefties), Chipper, and B-Mac. All of those guys are either a) right-handed hitters, b) left-handed hitters who hit lefties as well as righties, or c) switch-hitters named Chipper Jones.
Scherzer is going to be fun to watch. He’s a guy who you can get into his head, so be patient, wait for a mistake, and do some damage. Garland isn’t a quality pitcher, and his BB/9 is throught he roof, so patience is huge. Stay away from the DP too, he’s a ground-ball specialist.
Overall, this is a very sweepable series. May we do so.
Players I like watching on the D-Backs: Stephen Drew (a favorite of mine), Justin Upton, Dan Haren (who we won’t see), and Max Scherzer.
May 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, New York Mutts, Philadelphia Philthies, Series Preview, Series Thoughts
Again we win a series in Philly, although we didn’t play as well as we did in the first series. We lost the first game behind Reyes’s terrible outing. He gave up 8 runs (only 4 were earned because of 2 errors in 1 inning, 1 by Escobar and 1 by Reyes, both on routine plays). Anyway, we pretty much didn’t have a chance after that and never really threatened to come close to the 10 runs they eventually scored. Kotchman hit a 3-run blast off Lidge in the 9th, but that would only make us 4 runs away, and we lost 10-6.
Vazquez was vintage in the 2nd game striking out 7 in 7 and 2/3 innings while allowing 4 hits (2 home runs) and 2 runs (both earned) while walking none. The offense scratched across 6 runs, McCann and Escobar both hit 2-run homers. We used Gonzalez in the 9th to protect a 4-run lead for some reason, which pissed me off because he’d been used 3 of the past 4 days. And it turns out, he’d be needed the following day, so he’s now pitched on 5 of the past 6 days including 2 in a row. And he won’t be available for the first game against the Mets and Santana. A starter that we’ve needed a closer against every time we’ve faced him last year.
Anyway, in game 3 Kawakami labored through 6 innings of 2-run ball. He looked sub-optimal and really struggled, but 2 runs in 6 innings is a quality start nonetheless. The Braves got 3 RBI’s from Kotchman and 1 from Garret Anderson. The bullpen shut them down. O’Flaherty pitched the 7th, Gonzo the 8th because Howard, Ibanez, and Stairs were due, and Soriano the 9th. The Braves won 4-2.
Looking forward to the Mutts series, we’ll face them for 3 games in our first trip to Citi Field. Interestingly, we’re matched up perfectly. #1 vs. #1, #2 vs. #2, and #5 vs. #5. Unfortunately, their #1 is named Johan Santana and ours is named something else. Jurrjens should have the edge over Pelfrey and we have no idea what to expect out of Niese, but he’s been terrible at AAA so I like our chances to take 2/3 from the Mutts. It’d sure make me happy.
Having McCann back is so huge. He really is our only good, young player. The way he takes pitches and works the count is unique on our team and universal on most good teams. Although Kotchman has been taking a lesson or 2 from him recently.
Hopefully we’ll put it together a good series and upset the Mutts’ winning streak. I hate the Mets.
Game’s about to be on.
It’d be great to take 4/6 from the Mutts and Philthies on the road and get back to 500 in the process.
May 6, 2009 at 4:03 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, New York Mutts, Series Preview, Series Thoughts, Transactions
Well, at least the Braves will be nice and rested for the Marlins series, because they completely took the day off on Monday and Tuesday. I’m not even going to talk about the Mets series because it’s just going to piss me off. I’ll just leave you 2 quotes. First is from Matthew Pouliot of Circling the Bases:
The Braves rewarded Garret Anderson’s refusal to go on a rehab assignment by inserting him right into the cleanup spot in his return from the disabled list. He went hitless — against Livan Hernandez of all pitchers — but he did make it through nine innings without being charged with an error.
We don’t know the circumstances surrounding Garret’s alleged refusal to go on a rehab assignment, but we do know that he sucks and shouldn’t be starting.
The second is from our back-up catcher, David Ross (per the AJC):
Ross said, “Schafer isn’t the only one struggling. I’m struggling. It’s a team unit. Schafer was getting some hits early. Everybody struggles at times.”
Ross makes a great point. I’ll take it a step further. Everyone on the offense is struggling. Our offense is just absolutely pathetic.
Looking forward, which is an easy thing to do given our pathetic preformance so far, we’ll be facing the fish down in South Florida for another 2-game set. It’s a quirky thing with MLB scheduling, but every team had a 2-game series on Monday and Tuesday and everyone has a 2-game series on Wednesday and Thursday. The people that do scheduling are a lot smarter than I so I’m sure they have a good reason for doing so.
Anyway, we’re sending Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens, our 2 best starters, to the hill for this series. They’re sending Graham Taylor and Anibal Sanchez, their 2 worst starters, to the hill for the series. If you’ve never heard of Graham Taylor that’s because he has a grand total of 8 and 2/3 major league innings under his belt. He’s taking the place of the injured Andrew Miller, who beat us at the Ted earlier this season. We need to win both games and you would think we’d be favored, but if our offense doesn’t start putting pressure on them EVERY INNING as opposed to 10% of the time, we won’t win 75 games.
We need another bat. We should’ve pulled the trigger on that Ryan Ludwick deal a long time ago. I supported it at the time and I still say not acquiring Ludwick was the biggest blunder of the off-season. Here’s how I would’ve approached the off-season if I were in Wren’s shoes.
Start with 45 million dollars. Non-tender (or trade for a box of baseball cards) Francoeur and Diaz for another 4 million. Trade Diory Hernandez and 2 other minor-leaguers for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham before the Nationals can pull the same trade. Trade Kelly Johnson and Rafael Soriano for Ryan Ludwick and a minor leaguer. Sign Derek Lowe for 4 years 48 million (no way any other team is going to match that). Sign Orlando Hudson for 2 years 16 million to replace Kelly Johnson. Match the Red Sox offer for Smoltz (1 year, 10 million). Sign Kerry Wood for 2 years 22 million. Sign Will Ohman at 2 years 5 million. Sign David Ross, Infante, and Norton as Wren did.
Ohman, Wood, Gonzalez, Carlyle, Bennett, Moylan, and someone.
Smoltz, Lowe, Jurrjens, Olsen, Hanson/Reyes/Morton/Campillo
Schafer, Willingham, Chipper, Ludwick, McCann, Hudson, Escobar, Kotchman
Norton, Infante, Prado, Ross, and Josh Anderson.
That team is a lot better than this one.
But hindsight is 20/20, and I do think Wren did a fairly good job of putting the team together.
We need to win some games. Starting… Now.
May 4, 2009 at 12:27 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, New York Mutts, Series Preview, Series Thoughts
2 rain delays. 2 losses. 2 games under .500. It was a bad weekend. Frustrating baseball all around.
In the first game, the Braves were up 7-2 behind Derek Lowe’s pretty ordinary 6.2 innings, 8 hits, 2 BB, 2 ER, 3 K’s and a trouncing of Mike Hampton after 7 innings, and the rain started to pour. 2 hours later, for god knows why, they decided to finish the game. At 11 PM with 7 innings played and the home team up by 5, just go ahead and call the game. I don’t think the visiting team will complain about not getting the last 6 outs to try to score at least 5 runs. Another decision that makes you go, “what?”.
The second game was also rain-delayed. This time, after a mere inning and a half, so it was fun seeing one of the more anticipated pitching matches of the young season shortened to 9 outs and turned into a bullpen game. I hate bullpen games. I didn’t really watch this one. We lost 5-1.
The third game was back and forth, but more back than forth. Reyes was good through 5 then completely lost the ability to work the count and get people out in the 6th inning. He allowed 5 of the 6 batters he faced in that inning to reach safely (though one was a bunt single). Jeff Bennett relieved and somehow only gave up 1 run with the bases loaded and 2 outs to get. We later tied the game, lost the lead, got closer, got farther, and gave up. Pretty standard crappy Braves.
I didn’t enjoy the series. The pitching wasn’t particularly good (Lowe’s outing was hardly a gem, Reyes blew up, and Jurrjens only got 6 outs before mother nature peed on him(he had actually given up 4 hits (1 HR) in those 2 innings, so maybe mother nature did him a favor)). Our offense wasn’t anything special. Our defense was pretty crappy. We’re now 29th in defensive efficiency. That’s pathetic. I’m spitting out short, declarative thoughts. We’re still 30th in baserunning, also pathetic. Our pitching staff is 3rd in the league in runs allowed. Imagine if they had a competent defense behind them.
The good news is we’re playing the Mutts next, and they suck too. The better news is we don’t have to face Santana, so we face decent chances of scoring 3.5+ runs/game this series. We’ll send to the hill Javier Vazquez tomorrow and Kenshin Kawakami on super-duper 8 days rest Tuesday. I think the reason Javier Vazquez has never been a “great” pitcher is because he throws too many strikes. He’s got the stuff, command, and constantly ranks near the top of the league in strikeouts. But he throws something like 158% strikes, so hitters probably feel pretty good about going up there, taking 3 hacks, putting the ball in play, and seeing what happens. He isn’t a groundball guy, so you like your chances against him if the ball is put in play. Regardless, I love watching him (more than any other member of our rotation and a lot more than any other member besides Jurrjens).
Vazquez and Kawakami will be opposed by John Maine and Livan Hernandez. Maine was supposed to start today, but the game was rained out. Probably not a tactically terrible decision by the Mutts. I’d rather pit Santana against the Phillies and whoever starts (Chan Ho Park is scheduled, lets see if they make a change) than the Braves and Kawakami. Livan sucks, but there’s no evidence that Kawakami doesn’t suck and the Mutts probably think Livan has a good chance to beat Kawakami. It would be ideal (for them) if they pitted Santana against Vazquez, but they can’t do that thanks to schedules.
The Mutts weren’t good at the Ted in 2008 (1-8). I hope that continues in 2009. They haven’t been very good this year in general. They’ve got no leadership, no chemistry, and no pitching staff behind their starting ace and relief ace (provided Putz continues to suck). They have worse problems than the Braves do. All the Braves’ problems could be solved by a) not making stupid mistakes, b) giving 100% effort when you’re on the field (mental and physical effort go hand in hand), and c) acquiring a power-hitting left fielder. The Mutts basically need to do that and acquire about 8-11 new pitchers. We’ll see who is better prepared to play ball this series and next week in NYC.
Not much going on right now. We need to stop sucking.
April 30, 2009 at 3:05 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, NL East News, Series Preview, Series Thoughts, St. Louis Cardinals
I predicted 1 out of 3 in that series, but I didn’t expect it to happen in that fashion. We didn’t win when 2 of our best pitchers went, but we won when Jo Jo Reyes pitched. Go figure.
In the first game we made a bunch of stupid mistakes, stranded a bunch of runners, and wasted a brilliant performance by Jurrjens to lose 3-2. I was pretty mad after the game because we played like crap. In the 2nd game, Jo Jo Reyes pitched 7 innings allowing only 1 run. We got lucky when Matt Diaz swung at ball 4 with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th, hit the ball off the end of the bat, Kahlil Greene made a terrible play, and the ball got through the infield on the ground for a 2-run single. Gonzalez pitched a perfect 9th striking out the side against the heart of the order. His fastball was back up to 94 MPH and he looked truly dominant. Much reason to be encouraged there.
In the 3rd game Vazquez pitched 8 innings allowing 5 runs. Four of these runs came in the 5th inning when Vazquez allowed 6 hits (no walks), all singles, and not a one of them was hit hard. There were a few bloops and a few ground-ball singles. Folks, that isn’t Vazquez’s fault. Singles are largely luck and defense. Vazquez allowed 3 other hits in the 7 other innings he pitched and only 1 of them was for extra bases (a double). He walked 1 and struck out 8. Allowing 10 baserunners in 8 innings usually doesn’t result in 5 runs. I’ve got no complaints about how Vazquez pitched, he was just on the bad end of some terrible luck tonight.
On the other hand, Wainwright walked 5 batters and allowed 7 hits (1 for extra bases, a double by Kotchman) in 6 innings while striking out only 2. When you’re getting 2 runners on an inning you’re supposed to score more than 3 runs. Mac at Braves Journal makes a great point about our lineup:
But he [Adam Wainwright] got some good defense and the Braves’ peculiar lineup arrangement kept the most successful hitters (Infante had three hits, leading off; Kotchman had two and a walk in the cleanup spot; Schafer walked three times and stole a base hitting seventh) from interacting properly.
It reminded me of a great quote by Bill James on a similar subject. Bill James is the answerer p.s.:
Q: On the topic of batting orders, does it make sense to space out your best hitters instead of clumping them together. This would seem to give an advantage because the team never has to deal with a weak bottom half. You always have a good hitter up, or on deck. Also this might mess with the pitchers mind cause he wont be able to “rest” pitching to 3 or 4 bad hitters in a row.
A: It would seem to me that this offers speculative advantages and tangible disadvantages. Offense is interactive. If you have three good hitters, probably the worst thing you can do with them is to bat them 3rd, 6th and 9th.
We didn’t bat our 3 best 3-6-9, but 1-4-7 is the same thing. It just wasn’t the Braves’ night. By the way, in the series Yunel Escobar was 2-12 with no walks, grounded into a double play, and made 2 baserunning errors. Pretty weak.
We averaged 12 and 2/3 baserunners per game this series and managed to scratch across 7 total runs (2 and 1/3 runs per game). I’m not concerned with the lack of offense because we’re getting on base. We aren’t going to keep getting unlucky and stranding 10 runners a game. It will come. Don’t panic.
The offense DID receive a boost when Kelly Johnson was lifted from the 2nd game in favor of Omar Infante, who also started the final game of the series. Johnson has been struggling to the tune of a 4 for 39 slump and he needs some time to re-group. Well, I really don’t know what he needs, other than to start hitting.
The pitching staff allowed 10 total runs. The Cardinals were averaging 6 runs a game going into the series and they averaged 3 and 1/3 during our series. We can and will win games with this pitching staff. It is top-notch.
The 2nd win was huge. We’d had baserunners all night, failed to score, finally got a clutch (lucky) hit that put us on top, and Gonzalez delivered big-time. He was downright dominant in that outing and I’m looking forward to having him pitch the 9th for us in the future. Reyes’ outing was very encouraging too. More on this later, but the Braves will push back Kawakami’s start 3 days because he’s experiencing shoulder soreness and Reyes’ strong outing probably makes them feel much more comfortable about doing that.
I don’t have many complaints about the series. We played pretty well this series and most things didn’t break our way. That won’t continue. I was pleased with the result. We’re inching towards being ready to compete in a big-time series. I wonder what type of big-time series we’ve got coming up?
Well, we’re playing the Astros next, which isn’t a big-time series, but the Mets come to town for 2 games following the Astros series. Hopefully we’ll be ready to kick some butt by then.
Speaking of the Astros series, we’ll pitch Lowe, Jurrjens, and Reyes this weekend and they’ll be opposed by Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, and Roy Oswalt. Look, I hate how Mike Hampton cramped our payroll all those years he spent on the DL, but I like the guy. It isn’t like he WANTED to be injured and didn’t want to pitch, he’s just fragile as glass. I wish him well, just not against the Braves Friday night. He’s been pitching well recently and has a 3.86 ERA. Ortiz is sporting a super-cool 5.30 ERA and 1.74 WHIP and there isn’t an excuse for not scoring off of this guy, even with McCann out of the line-up. If we don’t win this game for Jurrjens I think he should be allowed to line all the position players’ wives/girlfriends up, pick one, and do something sexually filthy (I’ll let you use your imagination to keep the post PG-13) with her in front of everyone in the middle of the clubhouse, because that’s the kind of treatment he’s been getting from them lately. I’ll get to McCann in a second. Oswalt has an 0-2 record despite his fairly decent 3.96 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. I still like our chances at home with Reyes pitching, especially if he pitches anything like he did Tuesday night. This seems to be a very sweepable series and that’s the expectation I have for the club going into it. We’ll see if I’m disappointed or not.
I said I’d get to McCann. McCann went 1-3 while DHing for Myrtle Beach tonight. He’s using a different contact lens in each eye. I’m legitimately concerned. The way this has been handled leads me to believe the organization is hiding something, which is NEVER good. When the organization hides things it is usually because they’d hurt attendance if revealed and they hope it just sort of “corrects itself” before they have to reveal anything. How many times have we heard about a pitcher “diagnosed” with “elbow inflammation” with the organization saying he’ll make his next start only to see him going under the knife for Tommy John surgery 2 weeks later? We’ll see. If he’s activated on May 8, I’ll be beyond thrilled. Unless the organization is really THAT stupid and they’ll run McCann out there with crappy vision just to salvage attendance.
The most recent topics of discussion have centered around the line-up. While I don’t think line-ups matter all that much, here’s how I’d line ‘em up (full health assumed):
Interestingly, Escobar hits RHP better than LHP. I know it is weird, but just one of those things. He hits into ENTIRELY too many double plays to be hitting in the 2-hole. I’m sick of seeing the lead-off man get on only for Yunel to erase him in front of Chipper Jones. In these line-ups, we minimize the double plays batting him 1st (where you always lead off the 1st inning and are more likely to lead off any other inning in the NL because the pitcher makes the last out a lot and they like to walk the number 8 hitter and pitch to the pitcher) and 5th where he can’t take the bat out of Chipper or McCann’s hands. Switching it around that much based on platoons probably isn’t a good idea, though. That’s why I’m only a critic and not an actual manager.
As I previously stated, Kawakami’s start has been pushed back 3 day so he can recover from shoulder soreness that he’s experienced. This goes back to my Kawakami article. You expect things like this to happen when you’re adjusting to a 5-man rotation and a larger baseball. We’ll see how he responds to the extra rest. He’ll be going on 8 days rest so that should be more than adequate and I’m expecting him to respond positively and turn in a strong outing. We’ll know more on Tuesday. I don’t think we’re dealing with an injury here, he’s just not used to doing what the organization is making him do. I think this shuffling of the rotation will mark the end of our 4 and 1/2 man rotation gimmick.
Other news around the NL East:
The Nationals have re-shuffled their bullpen. Again.
Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge will both attempt to avoid the DL on Friday when they throw bullpen sessions. Hamles sprained his ankle in his most recent start and Lidge has been battling knee inflammation.
Have no fear, Marlins (and baseball) fans. Hanley will return Thursday.
The Mets are having bullpen issues again. Putz has been erratic and they’ve blown leads a few times already this season.
Until next time,