Braves have proven they can beat front-line starters
Despite scoring one run or less in two of their past three games, the Braves have averaged a full run per game (5.41) more than any other National League team dating back to July 26. So before getting overly concerned about the complete game gem Cole Hamels twirled at Turner Field last night, remember that while proving victorious in 15 of their past 17 games, remember the Braves have won games in which they opposed Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman.
Over the next six weeks, you are going to hear many fans and media members question whether the Braves have the offense and rotation needed to match up against the high-caliber starting pitchers that would serve as the opposition during the postseason. Like virtually every other club Atlanta would obviously be the underdog in any matchup against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. But such would not necessarily be the case in any matchup that pitted them against Zack Greinke, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke, Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani, Wainwright or any of the other starting pitchers they would most likely oppose during the NL playoffs.
With Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, the Braves have a pair of front-line caliber pitchers who are capable of matching up against each of these aforementioned pitchers and providing their offense the ability to produce the kind of necessary damage that it has produced against the highly-respected starting pitchers faced over the past 2 1/2 weeks.
With the recently much-improved Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and possibly even Alex Wood, the Braves have three more starters who have the potential to provide quality depth to the three or four-man rotations that would be assembled during the playoffs.
Wainwright, Lee, Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmerman all escaped their most recent outings against the Braves without allowing more than three earned runs. But they were doomed by the fact that Atlanta’s young starters proved capable of winning those pitching-dominated affairs that often develop during the playoffs.
To be fair, it should be pointed out that the Braves have taken advantage of the opportunities to face the disappointing offenses possessed by the Phillies, Nationals and Marlins over the course of the past week. But it should also be noted that the 14-game winning streak that ended on Saturday began with seven combined wins against the Cardinals and Rockies, two of the NL’s top three offensive clubs.
The Braves’ offense will have a chance to get back on track tonight against Phillies’ right-hander Ethan Martin, a native of Athens, Ga. who allowed his emotions to get the best of him as he allowed his once-beloved Braves six earned runs and eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings during his big league debut on Aug. 2. It will be interesting to see how he reacts while pitching in front of the large contingent of family and friends who will likely come to see him pitch for the first time at Turner Field.
More importantly, tonight’s game will provide Medlen an opportunity to build on the season-best performance he produced while limiting the Nationals to three hits in seven innings last week. For the first time this year, Medlen displayed consistent fastball command and the ability to throw his curveball for strikes and as a swing-and-miss pitch.
Nobody is expecting Medlen to duplicate the dominance he produced while posting a 0.97 ERA in the 12 starts he made during last year’s final two months. But over the past couple of weeks, he has provided regular signs of encouragement and a sense that the Braves might be able to rely on him both for the stretch run and during the playoffs.
Hanson demoted: When word spread that the Angels had optioned Tommy Hanson to their Triple-A affiliate last night, some fans used Twitter to declare the Braves the winner in the offseason trade that sent Hanson to Anaheim in exchange for valuable setup man Jordan Walden. While Twitter provides an avenue or immediate responses, I’d say these reactions were provided at least eight months after this was already obvious.
Hours before likely non-tendering Hanson, Braves general manager Frank Wren was able to exchange the declining right-hander for Walden, who was just one year removed from a 32-save season. While Walden has limited opponents to a .204 batting average and .269 on-base percentage in 43 appearances with Atlanta, Hanson has produced a 5.59 ERA in 13 starts for the Angels. In the 49 starts he has made since the 2011 All-Star break, Hanson has compiled a 5.12 ERA.