After unpredictable start Braves look to rebound

Going to have to guess some of you went to bed on Sunday night wishing you had never wished the Braves could be just like the Yankees and Red Sox.   <p>

Three weeks after Ohio University, Norfolk State, South Florida and Lehigh created hysteria in the NCAA Tournament, we enter baseball’s first full week with the Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Giants all sitting with 0-3 records.

Meanwhile, the Mets and Orioles remain two of baseball’s undefeated teams.

Welcome to early April Madness.

Imagine the odds Vegas would have put on each of these six teams entering Monday with these records.   The winnings would have likely equaled those of a Superfecta ticket that only included horses that went off at 15-to-1 or higher.

Heck, you probably would have gained a decent return by simply betting either the Mets or Orioles would escape Opening Weekend unscathed.

Still while it’s nice to see the excitement created this weekend in Baltimore and Queens, it still seems pretty safe to assume the Mets and Orioles are still bound to finish at or near the bottom of their respective divisions.

Since learning the Braves ended up winning 101 games, the last time they lost their first three games of the season, some of you have said, “You can’t compare this team to the 2003 team.”

Understood.  That team proved special as Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield all hit more than 35 homers while Russ Ortiz notched a 21-win season that surprised everybody involved. Memories of that team center around the offense, which was also fueled by Marcus Giles’ 49 doubles and Chipper Jones’ 106 RBIs.

But these developments certainly were not predictable when the team totaled two runs and suffered two shutout losses in its first three games.

OK, enough of all of the comparisons.  By now, you’ve heard all you want about how the 1998 Yankees and 2007 Phillies also lost the first three games of their respective seasons.  Really the only thing most of you wondering is if the Braves will follow a similar path or the one that they traveled this past weekend in New York.

There were obviously very few encouraging signs from the offense this weekend.  Jason Heyward recorded a double and a triple.  But at the same time, there are still going to be times when he is going to have trouble catching up to the fastball.  Remember, he’s still a work in progress.

Tyler Pastornicky showed some patience in the eighth spot of the lineup during his fifth inning plate appearance on Thursday.  After falling behind with an 0-2 count, he worked a walk.  At the time, it seemed he had aided the Braves by turning the lineup over.

But things got interesting when Johan Santana then walked Tommy Hanson to load the bases and push his pitch count to a point where he was unable to return for the sixth.

Setting the tone for the remainder of the weekend, the Braves were not able to take advantage.  Michael Bourn struck out to kill the fifth inning threat and the Mets bullpen completed seven scoreless innings during the first two games of the series.

The Braves offense will try to get on track tonight against J.A. Happ, who just happens to be 2-0 with a 1.72 ERA in six career starts against the Atlanta.  If you are looking for the bright side of this picture, each of these starts was made with the Phillies.

Stay Hot.  Or would it be more fitting here to say “Stay Cold.”

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez does not have Heyward in tonight’s lineup. Instead, he is playing left-handed hitting third baseman Juan Francisco and using Matt Diaz in right field.   Diaz has eight hits, including two doubles and a homer, in 15 at-bats against Happ.

Heyward and Francisco have never batted against the left-hander.

Really not sure why Heyward is not in tonight’s lineup. Check braves.com and my Twitter page for updates.

Keep an eye on Brandon Beachy during the early innings as he makes his first start for the Braves tonight.  Beachy struggled during the early innings of his final two exhibition starts and then found a groove in both outings.

BRAVES LINEUP (4/9/12)

Bourn  8

Prado 7

McCann 2

Uggla 4

Freeman 3

Diaz 9

Francisco 5

Pastornicky 6

Beachy 1

11 Comments

Yes, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Giants are also 0-3. But anyone comparing the Braves to the Yankees and Red Sox is in deep denial. I still like the Braves’ 2012 pitching staff a lot. But this team has major offensive problems. Even before the September collapse, this was not a very good offensive team in 2011. The September collapse was not a sudden change in direction. The Braves had trouble scoring runs throughout last season, and they are still having a lot of trouble scoring runs. No significant changes have been made, except that bench is weaker now. But the rest of the Division has gotten better, with the exception of the Phillies….who were already better than the Braves. The Braves only had twelve hits in three losses to the Mets over the weekend. The return of Chipper Jones won’t fix this. Getting swept by the Mets is not a good sign of things to come. And, yes, I am well aware that there are still 159 games to play. But if the Braves don’t start scoring runs, they will fall way behind in the Division in April and May. The GM will have to make changes in one form or another. If that happens, the pitching staff is good enough to lead a comeback later in the season. But in the meantime, it’s time to face the music. This isn’t a very good baseball team.

Let me add that Chipper’s 40 year old knees are fragile (to say the least) and requires rest every few days. Bravos have a RF we may all soon call “Frenchy 2″ a CF that will bolt to another club before or after 2012 and a SS that will, at best, hit around “The Mendoza” line his rookie year. Also have the “$64 Million Dollar Question” as to why Ugg CAN’T hit a lick in April? Any April! Starting pitching has good potential but can’t carry the load unless we score and score in a hurry. 81 and 81 season at best…

Where do you suggest we make offensive improvements? What position?

Get this guy out of the infield…holy crap he is awful.

Works in progress. Isn’t that what Gwinnett is for?

I say we fire Frank Wren. That is the only solution. His last minute spring shopping has already cost us two wins four games into the season. Frank Wren is a -2.0 WAR GM.

This is downright embarrassing. Francisco was a coveted 3rd basemen. Those are Frank Wren’s exact words. Why? I guess if you want someone that can’t field the position, then yes he would be coveted. Why did we even need him? Prado can handle 3B. If he wanted to bring someone else in, then bring in a left fielder. I doubt there was anyone available that was going to do more for us than the Diaz/Henski platoon. So, we gave away a minor league pitcher for absolutely nothing. Then we kick a kid to the curb who had a sub 1 era for the spring to bring in this other schmuck that is doing the same thing he did for the Nationals. Giving up HR’s. What a freaking joke this club is becoming. It’s easy to blame Wren, but where is the oversight?? Last I checked John Schuerholz is still the president. Wren works for him. What is it he does all day? Apparently, he is not watching over this club.

Wonder what Brooks is doing? :)

Lets see here’s an idea…let’s sign everyones rejects that no one wanted cuz they will be so much better for us! Juan Francisco – cut by the reds but we need him; Livan Hernandez – cut by the Astros sure we’ll take him ( but make sure you collect your social security check before you report to camp), oh let’s not forget the chad durbin not good enough for Washington but sure he’s just what we needed in Atlanta! Everyone in the division got better and we totally went backwards and that’s totally on frank wren! I don’t want to hear its only 4 games into the season because the writing was on the wall from the start of spring training! The time to act is now q tip before its too late!!!!!!

I think we need to face facts …. The quality of of starting staff is suspect. These guys are throwing 100 pitches and barley making it to the 5th

What is the definition on insanity, again? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? This is the same team we fielded last September. Bad AB’s, stranding runners in scoring position, bad fielding, pitchers not being able to pitch past the 5th inning, bullpen giving up additional runs screwing up any possibility of a come back, and horrible offense. If I was playing against the Braves I would throw a lefty every time. I’d call up minor league lefties if I didn’t have enough on my roster. This team is way too talented to play this kind of baseball. I’m inclined to agree with Bill. Front office and management has to be held accountable. We have been outplayed by the two worst teams in the NL. Do they need motivation and a “fire” lit under their bellies? What more fire do you need after choking last season? Is that not enough “fire” for the team?
Like I said – INSANITY. No improvements. It’s the same team that choked. It’s the same approach that choked. Nothing is different.

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