August 24, 2012 at 1:17 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Barry Zito, 66 game score
Least Valuable Giant: Jeremy Affeldt
Most Valuable Brave: Dan Uggla, .107
Least Valuable Brave: Tommy Hanson, 32 game score
2nd – (ATL) Dan Uggla out at home on Hanson fielder’s choice, -.112
3rd – (SF) Pablo Sandoval RBI single for 1-0 Giants lead, .144
A combination of inefficiency, bad defense and bad luck resulted in a poor outing for Tommy Hanson. He allowed five runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings, walking three and striking out four. Hanson didn’t have much command and left the ball over the plate on more than one occasion, but he was also dealt bad luck with a .412 BABIP and poor defense in a four-run fifth that knocked him out.
Aside from Hanson and the team defense, the rest of the game was just as ugly. Dan Uggla managed to get on base three times, so he was the WPA leader, but ran into two outs on stupid baserunning mistakes. The Braves turned Barry Zito into Cy Young until he ran out of gas in the ninth after 100 pitches. They scored two runs in the ninth and had the tying run at the plate more than once, but they fell flat.
August 23, 2012 at 10:27 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Reed Johnson (RF), Martin Prado (LF), Chipper Jones (3B), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), Brian McCann (C), Paul Janish (SS), Tommy Hanson (P).
Giants lineup: Angel Pagan (S, CF), Marco Scutaro (R, 2B), Pablo Sandoval (S, 3B), Hunter Pence (R, RF), Brandon Belt (L, 1B), Hector Sanchez (S, C), Gregor Blanco (L, LF), Brandon Crawford (L, SS), Barry Zito (L, P).
Jason Heyward is getting the day off with Reed Johnson taking his spot in right field and taking advantage of the left-handed Zito starting.
Brian McCann is back in the lineup after sitting for the third time in six days last night.
Buster Posey is out nursing a tight hamstring that he felt during pre-game stretches yesterday.
Game 1 vs. Giants
After a disappointing first two games to the series, the Braves managed to avoid a sweep with a 5-1 win over the Nationals in the series finale Wednesday. Kris Medlen pushed his scoreless streak to 21 innings with seven shutout innings, and Martin Prado doubled twice to lead Atlanta.
The Braves immediately hopped on a plane for San Francisco to begin a four-game series with the Giants starting tonight. The Giants currently lead the Dodgers in the NL West by 2.5 games after sweeping Los Angeles in their most recent series. Pitching remains the strength of the Giants, as they are currently eighth in MLB in ERA at 3.65 (Braves are sixth at 3.62) and fifth in FIP at 3.74 (Braves are 15th at 3.92).
The loss of Melky Cabrera was a big blow for the offense, but with bounceback seasons from Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, the Giants offense has done enough to support the pitching staff, and over a month’s stretch, the difference in results shouldn’t be that great.
The Braves will see Barry Zito in the series opener. Zito is puttering along at a 4.42 ERA and 5.19 xFIP, the latter leading all of baseball, and not in the good way. His 13.2% strikeout rate is the lowest of his career, and with a 9.7% walk rate and 40% ground ball rate, there’s just really nothing to like.
Tommy Hanson will go for the Braves coming off a solid three runs allowed over 6.2 innings against the Dodgers. He walked two and struck out five, not allowing a run until the sixth.
Outfield Leaderboard by fWAR
Cardinals – 15.7
Braves – 14.7
Angels – 14.2
Brewers – 12.4
Rangers – 11.5
Mike Trout – 7.5
Andrew McCutchen – 6.3
Ryan Braun – 6.3
Michael Bourn – 5.9
Jason Heyward – 5.8
Braves.com recap for Wednesday’s win.
AJC quotes following Wednesday’s win. Chipper Jones on Kris Medlen: “He’s poised beyond his years. He’s one of those guys that is pretty quiet, but he always walks around like maybe he knows something you don’t. He’s got Doggie’s kind of presence out there on the mound. He’s not a big guy but he walks out there like ‘I know I can get you out.’ And he’s got a few different ways to do it.”
Matthew Leach of MLB.com writes a feature on Martin Prado’s value to the Braves.
Terence Moore of MLB.com writes a feature on Michael Bourn’s defense.
The Nationals gave Chipper a touching send-off in his final regular-season game in Washington.
Around the NL East
The latest on the Stephen Strasburg situation says Davey Johnson figures two or three more starts for Strasburg, which is something I thought was already figured.
Jacob Turner pitched well in his Marlins debut, and Ozzie Guillen acknowledged Turner will remain in Miami in some form for the rest of the season.
The Marlins placed Emilio Bonifacio on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee, the third trip to the DL for him this season.
Collin McHugh will make his major league debut today for the Mets. McHugh is a product of Berry College in Rome, the first Berry player to make the majors.
August 23, 2012 at 12:53 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Kris Medlen, 69 game score
Least Valuable Brave: Chipper Jones, -.104
Most Valuable National: Michael Morse, .115
Least Valuable National: Ian Desmond, -.352
2nd – (WAS) Kurt Suzuki grounded into inning-ending double play with runners on corners, -.124
4th – (ATL) Chipper Jones grounded into double play with two on, no outs, -.124
5th – (ATL) Martin Prado two-run double for a 2-0 Braves lead, .272
6th – (WAS) Adam LaRoche fouled out with bases loaded, one out, -.118
6th – (WAS) Ian Desmond fielder’s choice out with bases loaded, two outs, -.117
8th – (WAS) Desmond grounded into inning-ending double play with two on, -.234
Kris Medlen had another outstanding game to push his scoreless streak to 21 innings. He has pitched consecutive shutouts with a combined total of 12 hits, one walk and 13 strikeouts over 16 innings.
Medlen induced 15 whiffs in this start, including five each on the curveball and changeup. The more he progresses with his breaking pitch, the more excited I get and the further he can go in a starting role. This was highlighted by Bryce Harper’s third at-bat. Medlen had gotten Harper with two weakly hit outs on changeups away in his first two plate appearances, and after throwing a 2-1 changeup away in his third at-bat, Medlen went 2-2 curveball inside, which Harper swung over the top of and missed. It was great sequencing and is a brief example of Medlen’s use of the curve.
Martin Prado broke through with two big doubles, while Jason Heyward tacked on two singles. Hopefully the timely hits will fall the Braves’ way as they hit the road to San Francisco.
August 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Martin Prado (LF), Reed Johnson (CF), Jason Heyward (RF), Chipper Jones (3B), Freddie Freeman (1B), David Ross (C), Tyler Pastornicky (2B), Paul Janish (SS), Kris Medlen (P).
Nationals lineup: Jayson Werth (R, RF), Bryce Harper (L, CF), Ryan Zimmerman (R, 3B), Michael Morse (R, LF), Adam LaRoche (L, 1B), Ian Desmond (R, SS), Danny Espinosa (S, 2B), Kurt Suzuki (R, C), Ross Detwiler (B: R, T: L, P).
Game 3 vs. Nationals
It comes down to hoping to avoid a series sweep as the Braves lost 4-1 on Tuesday.
The Nationals will start Ross Detwiler in the series finale. Detwiler has a 3.25 ERA and 4.28 xFIP in 122 innings this season, using a solid 52.8% ground ball rate for his success. He won’t get a lot of strikeouts – 14.9% – but he avoids walks and home runs at a very good rate.
Also, the Braves can’t make the excuse of facing a soft-tossing lefty, as Detwiler ranges 90-94 on the fastball with sink. He’ll throw a slider to left-handed batters and a changeup to right-handed batters, but the sinking fastball is overwhelmingly his go-to pitch
Kris Medlen is riding high right now, coming off his first career complete-game shutout with no walks and six strikeouts against the Padres. However, like Paul Maholm a night ago, this will be Medlen’s first test against a contending team since joining Atlanta’s rotation.
Braves.com recap for Tuesday’s loss.
AJC quotes following Tuesday’s loss. Paul Maholm against Jesus Flores: “It wasn’t even supposed to be a strike or anywhere closer to a strike. I was just trying to throw a cutter in and go back down and away and I hung the pitch, and he obviously hit it well enough to get it out.”
Chipper Jones sat out Tuesday’s game with usual soreness. He is expected back in the lineup today.
The Braves will play the minor leaguers again March 30 next year, but this time at Mississippi’s park.
Braves prospect J.R. Graham threw six one-hit innings for Double-A Mississippi on Tuesday. Graham has a 3.41 ERA in 34.1 innings since being promoted from Single-A Advanced Lynchburg, where he had a 2.63 ERA and 68 strikeouts to 17 walks in 102.2 innings.
August 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Game MVP: Stephen Strasburg, 69 game score
Least Valuable National: Danny Espinosa, -.057
Most Valuable Brave: Freddie Freeman .085
Least Valuable Brave: Dan Uggla, -.155
2nd – (WAS) Ian Desmond solo homer for a 1-0 Nationals lead, .124
5th – (WAS) Jesus Flores three-run homer for a 4-0 Nationals lead, .136
Same thing, different day.
August 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (LF), Jason Heyward (RF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), Brian McCann (C), Juan Francisco (3B), Paul Janish (SS), Paul Maholm (P).
Nationals lineup: Jayson Werth (R, RF), Bryce Harper (L, CF), Ryan Zimmerman (R, 3B), Michael Morse (R, LF), Adam LaRoche (L, 1B), Ian Desmond (R, SS), Danny Espinosa (S, 2B), Jesus Flores (R, C), Stephen Strasburg (R, P).
Game 2 vs. Nationals
The Braves missed several opportunities to take the opening game of the series in Washington, eventually falling in 13 innings by the score of 5-4.
They will look to rebound and avoid a second straight series loss in the second game, but it doesn’t get any easier. Stephen Strasburg will start for the Nationals, looking to build on a season in which he holds a 2.91 ERA and 2.80 xFIP over 139.1 innings. His 30.6% strikeout rate leads the majors, as does the xFIP by a pretty wide margin. Not only that, he owns a 7.4% walk rate and 44% ground ball rate while allowing just 12 home runs, so he basically does everything perfectly.
But if there’s one team that knows how to get to him, it’s the Braves. They have faced Strasburg four times this season, scoring 11 runs off him in 20.1 innings. Aside from two wretched starts against the Phillies and one bad one against the Padres, Strasburg’s ERA against the Braves is his highest among teams faced at 4.87 this season. Of course, he also pitched seven shutout innings against the Braves in one of those four starts, so that goes to show anything can happen over a seven-inning sample.
The Braves will turn to Paul Maholm to get them back on track. Maholm has allowed just four runs over 23 innings as a Brave. His most recent outing was one-run ball over seven innings with seven strikeouts against the Padres. The Nationals will be his first test against a contending team since the trade.
Braves.com recap for Monday’s loss.
AJC quotes following Monday’s loss. Dan Uggla: “I was going over pretty much every situation that might or could happen. I was like ‘if he hits a ball to my left’ or hits a ball hard right at me, I can just tag Kurt and touch first and we can be out of it. He hit me a tough groundball that I had to drop to my knees to catch and I didn’t exactly know where Kurt was. Once I got up and I just tried to throw the ball home, I couldn’t get the thing out of my glove.”
Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes a feature on Chipper Jones.
Larry Granillo of Baseball Prospectus compares Chipper to Cal Ripken’s final season as a reason Chipper should go out on top.
Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs tries to explain how former Brave Todd Redmond’s fastball is so successful.
Around the NL East
Nationals recap for Monday’s win.
Keith Law writes on what is causing Bryce Harper’s struggles (Insider). Law’s two big keys are soft stuff away and facing left-handed pitchers. Harper has always had trouble with changeups and breaking pitches away, but he’s now trying to overcompensate and getting beat inside on fastballs, as well. Law suggests sitting Harper against lefties down the stretch.
Nationals first-rounder Lucas Giolito re-injured his pitching elbow and will be evaluated this week.
The Marlins have had internal discussions regarding locking up Giancarlo Stanton long-term, but nothing concrete. Stanton is arbitration eligible following the 2013 season.
Jacob Turner will officially make his Marlins debut Wednesday as part of a doubleheader.
Johan Santana’s back stiffened considerably on Monday and he will undergo an MRI. Santana’s start Thursday is now in question, and it’s unknown at this point whether he will pitch again this year.
August 21, 2012 at 2:17 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Transaction Analysis
As I linked to earlier in the news post, the Braves signed first baseman Lyle Overbay to a minor league deal and will send him to Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday.
Overbay will be on the Braves bench come Sept. 1 when rosters expand, providing Atlanta a bat to solidify the left-handed half of its pinch-hit crew.
It was reported a couple weeks ago the Braves were looking hard for a left-handed bat for the bench, getting linked to names such as Johnny Damon. It’s a sign that they aren’t satisfied with Eric Hinske’s production, and for good reason. Hinske is hitting a lowly .205/.282/.299 with a .254 wOBA and just one home run. It’s apparent that he can no longer be trusted with the big pinch-hit at-bat late in the game.
Meanwhile, Overbay is hitting .292/.367/.448 with a .347 wOBA and 10.9% walk rate in 110 plate appearances this year. That includes a .364 wOBA against right-handed pitchers, compared to Hinkse’s .273.
Overbay has two 20-homer seasons to his name, but he has never been known for pop. However, he does know how to get on base, owning a career .344 wOBA with an 11.3% walk rate. While the pinch-hit home run is always big, having the ability to get on base late in the game means a lot. Overbay is capable of doing this, while Hinske has proven he can’t right now.
Signing Overbay is another shrewd move by Frank Wren in shoring up what was a weak bench just a few weeks ago. The addition of Reed Johnson in the Paul Maholm deal was a great move in that it gave the Braves a legit right-handed bat that they lacked since Matt Diaz went under. While trading for Paul Janish was out of necessity, it still proved to be a great move, and Janish should provide sound defense off the bench when Andrelton Simmons returns.
The bench was perhaps the Braves’ weakest link earlier in the season, but several solid moves by Wren changed that quickly. Overbay is just the latest example.