August 14, 2012 at 9:02 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves
Braves lineup: Michael Bourn (CF), Martin Prado (LF), Freddie Freeman (1B), Chipper Jones (3B), Brian McCann (C), Dan Uggla (2B), Reed Johnson (RF), Paul Janish (SS), Tim Hudson (P).
Padres lineup: Alexi Amarista (L, 2B), Everth Cabrera (S, SS), Chase Headley (S, 3B), Yonder Alonso (L, 1B), Mark Kotsay (L, LF), Will Venable (L, RF), Cameron Maybin (R, CF), John Baker (L, C), Clayton Richard (L, P).
Game 2 vs. Padres
The Braves fell to the Padres 4-1 on Monday as Eric Stults shut Atlanta down over seven-plus innings. The Nationals blew out the Giants in their series opener, making it a 5.5 game lead for Washington.
Because the Braves seem to struggle against soft-tossing lefties, it won’t get any easier as they face Clayton Richard in the second game. Richard has had a solid season for the Padres, earning a 3.79 ERA and 4.06 xFIP over 161.2 innings. His strikeout percentage is down to only 12.7%, which is why I discounted his strong first half, but he continues to pitch well, including a complete-game shutout against the Cubs last time out.
Richard’s success has come in large part by a 5.3% walk rate combined with a 55.3% ground ball rate. At Petco, that kind of combination usually spells success, and it’s no different in this case. He holds a .280 wOBA against and a 11.3% HR/FB rate at home compared to .326 and 16.9% on the road.
Richard will throw a sinking fastball in the low-90s paired with a solid changeup to keep right-handed batters honest and a slider he keeps down and away to lefties. He will also slow down the breaking pitch to around 80 miles per hour at times as a curveball.
Tim Hudson is coming off perhaps his worst outing of the season in which he allowed six runs in 4.1 innings against the Phillies. It was the shortest start of his season, as well as the most home runs allowed in a game at two. He’ll be looking to get back on track against a slightly weaker Padres offense.
Six-Man Rotation Announced
The Braves announced they will go to a six-man rotation for the next two weeks to give their starters a couple extra days of rest over the stretch. The move will begin when Tommy Hanson is activated from the disabled list and inserted into the lineup Friday against the Dodgers.
While the announcement has caused a splash around the community and on Twitter, it’s one that shouldn’t have much of an impact. A couple days worth of rest is nice to the ears, but over the course of a season, it’s not a big factor. And while the main complaint for six-man rotations is the fact that your best pitcher isn’t starting as often, the Braves don’t have a clear No. 1 starter, and they are all on a fairly equal playing field right now.
Fredi Gonzalez said he will take the five best pitchers at the end of August and use them throughout September. If he remains true to this, there’s a good chance Kris Medlen will be one of those five. Medlen has allowed just three runs in 16-plus innings as a starter. Hanson will need to rebound quickly once he comes off the disabled list.
The Braves also have until Friday to determine whether they want to keep their bullpen or bench intact, as a Hanson activation means a player will go down. While a decision remains open, one might argue optioning Tyler Pastornicky for a couple weeks wouldn’t cause great harm, as Martin Prado is capable of filling in at shortstop in a pinch. That final roster spot might be more valuable in the bullpen than on the bench right now.
Braves.com recap for Monday’s loss.
AJC quotes following Monday’s loss. Chipper Jones on Eric Stults: “That guy was painting. He was throwing four-seamers and cutters and back-dooring it. He’s got a good change-up. We just couldn’t get anything going, and everything they hit fell in. It’s one of those nights that’s frustrating. We just for whatever reason are not swinging the bats real good right now.”
Andrelton Simmons hopes to begin baseball activities soon. He met with the Braves doctor Monday and has begun therapy on his injured hand, but the timetable remains early September.
Matt Diaz is headed for surgery on his ailing right thumb, effectively ending his season and possibly his Braves career.
J.P. Breen of FanGraphs looks at whether Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel should be considered candidates for the Cy Young Award.
Around the NL East
The Nationals destroyed the Giants 14-2 to take a 5.5 game lead over the Braves in the NL East. As noted in the recap, the Nationals have the best run differential in baseball at +108, better than the Yankees’ +103 and Cardinals’ +101. The Braves are tied for fourth with the Rangers at +76.
Despite the win, the Nationals got banged up a little. Jayson Werth was scratched with a sore right ankle, an injury he usually has during spring training and goes away after a day or two. Michael Morse left the game early with a swollen right thumb after getting jammed during batting practice, but he said he probably would have stayed in had the score not been so lopsided.
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post explains the rotation situation with the Nationals. Their off day on Thursday sets them up to where they can start Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Ross Detwiler in the three-game series against the Braves, splitting up the left-handed pitchers that are currently pitching back-to-back days.
While that’s usually not a problem, Kilgore explains a good point: “He likes to have Craig Stammen, his right-handed long reliever, available behind Detwiler and Gonzalez, because if they falter early he can face a right-handed heavy lineup. When they pitch back-to-back, it makes it more difficult to have Stammen ready.”
Cole Hamels threw his second consecutive shutout, allowing seven hits, one walk and striking out five in a win over the Marlins.