Santana bidding for rare win vs. Braves
Looking simply at the fact that they are sending Johan Santana to the mound to face Kris Medlen tonight at Turner Field, the Mets should feel pretty good about the odds of sweeping this two-game set against the Braves.
Of course the Braves also felt pretty good about sending Tommy Hanson to the mound
Saturday night to oppose Rodrigo Lopez. Eleven runs later the D-backs snapped a seven-game losing streak and once again proved why Pete Rose has learned it’s now easier to supplement his bank account through appearance fees.
Making his second start of the season and the sixth of his career, Medlen has fewer career wins (1) as a starter than Santana’s total of Cy Young Awards (2). But by the end of the night, the versatile young right-hander could have as many career wins (1) against the Mets as Santana does against the Braves.
In his eight career starts against the Braves, Santana has never allowed more than three runs and he has been charged with two earned runs or fewer in six of those outings. But he’ll enter tonight 1-5 with a 2.21 ERA against Bobby Cox’s teams.
Santana has recorded at least two victories against each of the other 28 Major League clubs that he has made at least three career starts against. The only other clubs that he has posted a losing record against are the Angels (2-4) and Blue Jays (2-4).
The .290 batting average that Santana has surrendered against the Braves stands as the highest mark he has allowed against any organization. Taking this one step further, Medlen can feel good about the fact that he will be backed by some of the same guys who are responsible for this mark.
Careers vs. Santana
Yunel Escobar .333 (6-for-18) 1 double 1 K
Chipper Jones .294 (5-for-17) 2 BB, 2 Ks
Brian McCann .273 (6-for-22) 1 double, 2 HRs
This will mark the first time Troy Glaus has faced Santana while wearing a Braves uniform. In his 24 career at-bats against the left-hander, Glaus has hit .333 with three doubles and a homer.
It might seem ridiculous right now to play anybody in favor of Eric Hinske, who has hit .571 with five doubles and two homers while starting in left field during each of the past six games. But he is 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in his career against Santana and he has had just four at-bats against left-handed pitchers this year.
If Cox is willing to take a gamble tonight, he could be persuaded to put Brent Clevlen in left field for tonight’s game. Santana is the only pitcher that Clevlen has compiled more than six career plate appearances against.
In the process, Clevlen has hit .300 (3-for-10) with a double and a triple against Santana. But with each of his seven outs coming via strikeouts, maybe it would be better to just go with either the red-hot Hinske or Melky Cabera, who is 2-for-10 with a double and just one strikeout in his career against the Mets ace.
McCann’s struggles: Regardless of what McCann says to avoid creating an excuse, his vision problems are the primary reason he’s not producing like he did in the past. As anybody who has ever worn glasses will attest, it takes time to get used to the feel on the face and the vision that they create.
Before going hitless in four at-bats last night, McCann was showing some signs of improvement. In his previous four games he had gone 6-for-16 with a double and a homer.
Those two extra-base hits matched the total he had compiled in his previous 19 games.
Within last night’s game story, I focused on the fact that McCann is hitting just .192 with runners in scoring position this year and .222 since the beginning of the 2009 season against left-handed pitchers.
In hindsight, I should have also mentioned that this hitless evening was completed against a couple of guys who have had little trouble with left-handed hitters this year. Feliciano has limited left-handers to a .172 (5-for-29) batting average this year and the right-handed Pelfrey has limited them to a .208 (16-for-77) mark.
As McCann continues to get used to his glasses, he’ll show some of the same promise that he was building entering Monday night’s game. As a four-time All-Star, he’s likely going to once again find himself heading into the offseason with a batting average around .300 and an RBI total that is around the century mark.
But if the Braves are going to be playing meaningful games down the stretch this year, there’s no doubt that McCann is going to have to start taking advantage of those numerous run-producing opportunities that he gets in the cleanup spot.
With Martin Prado and Jason Heyward now occupying the lineup’s top two spots, McCann should start getting more opportunities to drive in runs. It’s almost ridiculous that he has sat in the cleanup spot in 27 games this season and has just 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Further showing how bad the Braves leadoff hitters were during the season’s first six weeks, Chipper Jones has sat in his customary third spot of the lineup throughout the year and totaled just 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
But following in the footsteps of Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera has shown that run-producing situations too often occur at the wrong time. In just 26 games, Cabrera has totaled 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position and hit just .171 in those situations.
Fortunately for the Braves, Nate McLouth has hit .318 in his past six games and allowed Cabrera to fill the backup role that was envisioned when he was acquired from the Yankees. If McLouth goes 1-for-4 tonight, he’ll improve his batting average to .200 – marking the first time since April 9 that he would at least be at the Mendoza Line.