Odds and ends: Giants return to Atlanta; Hanson needed extra rest
Coming off Sunday’s disappointing loss, the Braves will open a four-game series tonight against the Giants, who are making their first return to Atlanta since clinching the National League Division Series in October.
The defending world champion Giants come to town having won just five of their previous 16 games. With Sunday’s victory over the Marlins, they notched a second consecutive win for the first time since beating the Phillies on July 27 and 28.
During this 16-game skid, they have batted .245 and averaged 2.4 runs. Their pitchers have posted a 3.74 ERA during this short span.
But obviously statistics from small sample sizes really do not matter at this time of year. Remember that vaunted Giants pitching staff that dominated October. Well it posted a 4.55 ERA in August last year.
The Braves took three of four from the Giants when they were in Altanta last August. They could certainly strengthen their postseason hopes if they are able to do the same thing this week.
As Tim Hudson prepares to battle Madison Bumgarner in tonight’s series opener, the Braves own a four-game lead over the Giants in the Wild Card race. The Cardinals are five games back and there isn’t another NL team within 10 games of the Braves, who had won five straight before losing this weekend’s final two games against the Cubs.
Hudson certainly didn’t mind seeing Carlos Beltran leave the National League East when he wast traded to the Giants a few weeks ago. Beltran has hit .351 with four homers and a 1.016 OPS in 74 career at-bats against the Braves veteran hurler.
Fortunately for Hudson, Beltran has been bothered by a strained right hand since he was traded and he has not played since Aug. 7.
As the Braves squandered four-run lead yesterday, there were obviously a number of things that went wrong. At the end it was yet another game where you had to question the quality of depth in the bullpen.
Coming fresh off the disabled list without a rehab appearance, Scott Linebrink allowed singles to the only three batters he faced in the sixth inning. Then showing he can handle the stress of a tight situation, Arodys Vizcaino struck out the only three batters he faced.
In the process, Vizcaino was charged with a wild pitch that Brian McCann was unable to block in the dirt. This allowed the Cubs to tie the game. McCann had caught just five innings in the previous 18 days and he was not too familiar with Vizcaino’s sharp curveball. This proved to be a bad mix.
With that being said, the Braves certainly had reason to be encouraged with what they saw from Vizcaino yesterday after he entered a tight situation for the first time in his career. Last week, I wondered whether the 20-year-old reliever was ready and there was more reason to wonder after his debut.
But in his past two outings, Vizcaino has impressed and given reason to believe the Braves might be able to rely on him being that reliable extra right-handed reliever they’ve needed for the past couple weeks.
It also looks like Peter Moylan is prepared to show he can fill that need. Moylan, sidelined since having back surgery in May, threw live batting practice at Turner Field this afternoon. Check braves.com later today to get his thoughts.
Moylan has told teammates that he has been feeling great. He’s seemingly nearing that point where he will be cleared to make the Minor League rehab appearances (probably at least three) he will need to make before being activated.
When Randall Delgado takes the mound to start in place of the injured Tommy Hanson tomorrow night, he will likely be much more comfortable than he was in June when he was scratched just before a Minor League start and then made his Major League debut against the Rangers the next night. Delgado has worked 13 consecutive scoreless since being promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett.
The Braves certainly made the right move giving Hanson a few extra days to rest his shoulder after he was diagnosed with tendinitis for the second time in two months. In fact there probably should have a possibility of him making Tuesday night’s start.
Before Sunday’s game, Hanson said when he returned from the DL in June to face the Mariners, he was still feeling some tightness. Thus, the Braves simply need to give him as much time as necessary to make sure he’ll be ready to be a factor down the stretch.