Braves ready to return to action
Since Hurricane Irene forced them to leave New York earlier than expected this past weekend, the Braves have spent the past three days idle and gaining a half-game lead in the National League Wild Card standings.
While the Braves were twirling their thumbs in Atlanta these past three days, the Giants were in San Francisco losing two of three and falling nine games back in the National League Wild Card Standings. With the defending World Series champs having lost 20 of their past 30 games and 11 of their past 18, it might be time for their Braves to be more concerned about where the Cardinals sit in their rear view mirror.
Losers of 11 of their past 19 games, the Cardinals sit 9 1/2 games back in the Wild Card standings. They will host the Braves in St. Louis Sept. 9-11.
So 46 years after leaving Milwaukee to come to Atlanta, it looks like the Braves will be returning this October to face the Brewers in the playoffs for the first time. This would leave the Nationals/Expos as the only National League team the Braves have never faced in a playoff series.
As things currently stand, the Braves will open their National League Division Series against the Brewers and the top-seeded Phillies would face the D-backs in the other.
For those of you still clinging to hope that the Braves might make a miraculous run that nets them a division title, the Phillies own a 6 1/2-game lead in the NL East standings. If the Braves are going to make this race interesting, they may have to sweep next week’s three-game series in Philadelphia.
It appears the pitching matchups for next week’s series will be Derek Lowe-Cliff Lee Tim Hudson-Vance Worley and Brandon Beachy-Roy Oswalt (if healthy).
The rotation the Braves set coming out of this weekend’s unexpected break was not too surprising. Jair Jurrjens will take the mound tonight with three days of extra rest. Derek Lowe will take the mound Wednesday with two days of extra rest and Tim Hudson will have just one extra day of rest when he starts Thursday’s series finale against the Nationals.
The Braves needed to get Jurrjens back to the mound as soon as possible with the hope he will find some consistency before the postseason arrives. With Lowe and Hudson, they have a pair of veterans, a.k.a. creatures of habit, who don’t like to have the schedules altered in a drastic manner.
As Beachy nears the end of his first full season as a starter, he could benefit from the three extra days of rest he will carry into Friday’s start. Unfortunately for Minor, he was the pitcher most affected by these changes. He’ll be working with 10 days of rest when he opposes the Dodgers Saturday.
The Braves were unable to send Minor to the Minors to make a start over the past couple days. Had they done so, he would have had to remain in the Minors for 10 days or until the affiliate’s season. With each of the Braves’ affiliates ending their seasons Sept. 5, this was not going to work.
When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said last week that Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran are expected to be among the Minor Leaguers promoted when the rosters expand in September, he said they would likely remain with the Triple-A Gwinnett club until it concludes its season, including the playoffs. The G-Braves are tied for the lead in the International League’s Wild Card race and they are just 2 1/2 games behind Durham in the division standings.
Of course Gonzalez said this before he knew he would have to align his rotation for a doubleheader against the Mets on Sept. 8. Minor would be on schedule to start one of those games and there is certainly a chance Teheran or Delgado could start the other game.
Teheran was named the IL’s Most Valuable Pitcher and Rookie of the Year. Freddie Freeman won the same ROY award last year. Outfielder/DH Stefan Gartrell was the only other G-Brave selected to the IL’s postseason All-Star team.
Teheran has gone 15-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) for Gwinnett this year. The 20-year-old right-hander has recorded 121 strikeouts in 141 2/3 innings and allowed opponents to hit .227 against him this year.
With Teheran and Minor showing signs that they are both ready to be part of a Major League rotation, the Braves have a problem that many clubs would like to have. This overabundance of quality starters will likely lead us to spend at least a portion of third consecutive offseason wondering if Derek Lowe will be traded.
Even with another splendid September, I’d say there is still a slim chance teams will be willing to assume the $15 million salary he has remaining on his contract next year.
Heading into the All-Star break, it would have seemed much more likely that they would have attempted to trade either Jurrjens or Tommy Hanson this winter. Now with Hanson’s shoulder ailing and Jurrjens trying to get back on track, they might not be able to get the return they desire.
Of course this is all just speculation at this point.
When general manager Frank Wren was in a somewhat similar position a couple years ago, he managed to get Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Dunn and a Super-Sized Melky Cabrera in exchange for Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan.
Anybody who has ever served as a general manager has been forced to hide somebody like Kenshin Kawakami in his closet. But when it has come time for Wren to make a significant offseason trade, he has proven to be quite successful.
See Jair Jurrjens/Gorkys Hernandez for Edgar Renteria or Omar Infante/Will Ohman for Jose Ascanio.