Results tagged ‘ Mets ’

Santana appears to be heading toward more tough luck

It’s hard to believe Johan Santana arrived at Turner Field this afternoon with a whole lot of confidence.  His Mets teammates, who have scored two runs or fewer in four of their past six games, will draw the challenge of solving Tim Hudson, who has allowed one earned run or less in nine of his past 14 starts and six of his past eight.  

Oh yeah, Santana will be also be staring at the Tomahawk-chested club that has frustrated him throughout his career.   In 11 career starts against the Braves, his teammates have never tallied more than two runs while he’s still been in the game.   This should better explain why he’s gone 2-6 with a 2.31 ERA in these outings.  

And to add to Santana’s woes, he’ll once again be facing an Atlanta lineup that includes Matt Diaz.   After striking out in his final two at-bats of an Aug. 2 matchup, Diaz enters tonight’s game with a .533 career batting average against the former Cy Young Award winner.  

The Braves will be looking to complete their first four-game sweep against the Mets since May 22, 2008.   In case you were wondering, Hudson provided eight solid innings that evening and beat Santana, who was charged with three earned runs. 

Before allowing four earned runs during his Aug. 2 matchup against Hudson, Santana had never allowed more than three earned runs against the Braves.   In fact, he’s allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his 11 career outings against them. 

Hudson hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his four previous starts against the Mets.  The lone earned run he’s allowed them in 13 innings this year came of an RBI double produced by Carlos Beltran. 

I haven’t seen the Mets lineup yet.  But I’m going to guess that Beltran will be playing.  He has hit .381 (24-for-63) with four homers in his career against Hudson. 

BRAVES LINEUP:

Infante 4
Heyward 9
Prado 5
Lee 3
McCann 2
Diaz 7
Gonzalez 6
Cabrera 8
Hudson 1 

All is quiet on the Braves trade front

Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of TheJeff Francoeur Trade.  The Braves will  commemorate the event by spending this weekend playing against Francoeur and his Mets teammates at Citi Field.

Here at Bowman’s Blog, we chose to recognize the event Thursday, when we drew a steady wave of page hits courtesy of a player, who has previously drawn comparisons to Francoeur.

Once MLB.com’s Peter Gammons mentioned Mike Minor and Corey Hart in the same tweet yesterday, Braves fans buzzed with curiosity.  From all indications, Frank Wren and his lieutenants simply sat back and recognized the fact that we are indeed in the middle of July’s rumor season. 

If there is a group of untouchables within the Braves organization, Minor ranks near the top of that list.  The 22-year-old hurler will likely be projected to be part of the 2011 Atlanta rotation. 

Yes, somebody will likely have to be moved to create a spot for Minor next year.  But for now, we should just focus on the belief that he will stay with the organization unless the Braves are blown away by the offer of a young affordable position player that they could control for at least three years. 

In other words, Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado will be sticking with the Braves unless another club is willing to offer a Jason Heyward-type player.  Last time I checked, the Marlins (Mike Stanton) and Tigers (Brennan Boesch) aren’t going to be willing to do this. 

The direction the Braves take leading up to the July 31 deadline will be heavily influenced by what Heyward shows when he returns from the disabled list after the All-Star break.  If he proves to be healthy and capable of being as productive as he was during the season’s first two months, there will be less need for Wren to pursue and everyday outfielder.

If Heyward provides confidence about what he could provide down the stretch, the Braves may simply look to add a bat to a bench that has been recently weakened while Eric Hinske and Omar Infante have been in the lineup much more often than originally projected. 

Matt Diaz’s return has already solidified the outfield mix.  If Nate McLouth is able to return from his concussion and provide some indication that he will be much more productive during the season’s second half, the Braves would then have the option of using either Melky Cabrera or Gregor Blanco as a trade chip. 

Blanco obviously has more trade value than the more-expensive Cabrera.  But more importantly, his performance over the past couple of weeks has given every reason to believe he can capably handle the center field position if McLouth isn’t able to regain his health or show the promise that was expected when the Braves acquired him last year.

If the Braves reach a point where they are seeking an outfielder to play on an everyday basis, Hart won’t be high on their wish list.  While producing a career-best season this year, Hart is setting himself up to earn $7-8 million via arbitration next year. 

The Braves would be hesitant making this kind of commitment to a player, who combined to hit .265 with 32 homers and a .757 OPS during the 2007 and ’08 seasons.  But the primary reason they wouldn’t offer the Brewers a highly attractive packages stems from the fact that Hart will be eligible for free agency at the end of the 2011 season. 

The Brewers have spent the past couple of years attempting to get the Braves to trade for Hart. Right now, it appears they’re still not ready to bite. 

Still the odds of Hart landing in Atlanta might actually be higher than those surrounding the possibility that Yunel Escobar will be traded before the trade deadline.   The Braves simply aren’t willing to sell low on a guy, who they still view as the game’s top defensive shortstop.

Manager Bobby Cox complimented Omar Infante the other day by saying he could be an everyday shortstop.  But it’s quite obvious that Infante wouldn’t bring the same defensive value as Escobar, whose presence strengthens the value of Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe, who both rank among the top three NL starters in groundball/flyball ratio. 

While the Braves may not currently be major players on the trade market, they could see one of their former hurlers influenced if the Yankees conclude their current negotiations to land Cliff Lee. 

If the Yankees do land Lee (and it appears they will), they will likely trade Javier Vazquez. One scout told me this morning that he was hearing Vazquez would be dealt to the Phillies in exchange for Jayson Werth. 

But with Chase Utley sidelined until at least the latter portion of August, I find it hard to believe that the Phillies would be willing to trade another key piece of their lineup to strengthen their shaky rotation. 

NOTES: Julio Teheran was scratched from his latest start with Class A Myrtle Beach to allow him to be ready to pitch in this weekend’s Futures Game. Mike Minor is also scheduled to pitch for the U.S. team. The game will be shown live by MLB.TV and ESPN 2 at 6 p.m. ET Sunday…Highly-regarded, 18-year-old shortstop Edward Salcedo has hit .269 with two doubles and two triples in his first 26 at-bats since being promoted to Class A Rome. 

      

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.  

Slumping Mets limp into Atlanta

With their pitching staff providing indication that April was a fluke and Jeff Francoeur duplicating the nosedive he experienced in Atlanta last year, the Mets will limp into Turner Field tonight looking much more vulnerable than that club that swept the Braves at Citi Field less than a month ago.

That three-game series in New York proved to be one of the ugliest the Braves have played in recent memory.   Brian McCann was confused about the infield fly rule.  Yunel Escobar decided he wanted to deny Troy Glaus an RBI on a routine sacrifice fly.  Then to end the forgettable weekend, the Braves were handed a 1-0 loss when rain prevented the resumption of play after the fifth inning of the series finale.

There was a sense that things could get wore for the Braves.   But even the harshest cynic would have had a tough time believing that just four days later, manager Bobby Cox would be staring at a nine-game losing streak and the reality that he would have to spend at least the next two weeks without both Yunel Escobar and Jair Jurrjens.  

When Jurrjens and Escobar were both injured on April 29, there was reason to believe if this would be a season that would lead Cox to wish he had retired one year earlier.  But 18 days later, there is reason to wonder if this is a season that is fittingly shaping up to once again show the kind of steadying influence Cox provides through disastrous stretches.  

The Braves certainly haven’t escaped their early-season mess while winning five of their past six games.  But they have at least put themselves in a good position as they enter a 13-game stretch that will carry them into a three-game series (May 31-June 2) against the Phillies.   

But before looking ahead to this week’s two-game set against the surging Reds or the opportunity to play the Pirates both of the next two  weekends, the Braves must first look to take advantage of the slumping Mets, who have lost five straight and seven of their last eight games.  

When the Braves were in New York, the Mets were in the midst of a 10-1 stretch during which their pitchers posted a 1.99 ERA.    This same pitching staff has posted a 5.38 ERA while going 4-11 in May.   <p>

When he got re-acquainted with some of his former Braves teammates last month, Francoeur was in the early stages of the slump that has led to the .214 batting average that he will carry into tonight’s series opener against Derek Lowe.  

After Francoeur batted .457 with three homers in his first 10 games this year, some Braves fans were wondering why he couldn’t have produced these kinds of numbers under the tutelage of Terry Pendleton.    But in some ways his struggles this season mirror those that he experienced last year in Atlanta.  

Since hittting .302 with a .947 OPS through  his first 14 games this year, Francoeur has batted .154 with a .421 OPS in the 24 games that have followed.  

Last year, he hit .304 with a .780 OPS in his first 14 games and then batted .204 with a .528 OPS over the course of his next 24 games.  

Like Francoeur, Mike Pelfrey enters tonight’s matchup against Lowe without the same kind of confidence that he possessed when he tossed five scoreless innings against the Braves on April 25.   At the time, he hadn’t allowed a run in 24 consecutive innings.   

Through his first three starts in May, the 26-year-old right-hander has completed 17 innings and allowed 13 earned runs.   When he last opposed the Braves at Turner Field on July 17 of last year, he was tagged for nine earned runs and nine hits in just 4 1/3 innings.  

Smoltz vs. Glavine:   If you’re not watching “24” or the game tonight, I really don’t know what else you could be viewing.  But if you want to watch Tom Glavine and John Smoltz play a competitive round of golf tune to the Golf Channel at 9 p.m. ET tonight to see them featured on Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World of Golf.  If you don’t have a DVR, the match will be shown multiple times throughout this week.
 
 

Home Run Derby prediction and other ASG Monday odds and ends

If home-field advantage for this year’s World Series was determined by the winner of tonight’s Home Run Derby, then I’d have to say the National League should be feeling good.

Because I’d like for you to read more than two sentences of this entry, I’m not ready to pick my individual winner for tonight’s event.  But if you were simply looking at it from an NL vs. AL perspective, this would be a mismatch.

In fact, I’d probably take Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder against most any other Major League foursome.  Thrown up against Carlos Pena, Brandon Inge, Joe Mauer and Nelson Cruz and it’s apparent why the NL should plan to at least carry bragging rights into tomorrow night’s game.

My prediction is that Pujols, Fielder, Howard and Pena will advance to the semifinals.  Pujols will edge a fatigued Fielder in the finals.

If you haven’t caught today’s story about Brian McCann, check out some of the praise the Braves catcher got from other NL All-Stars.

Here are some interesting quotes from today’s media session:

Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino on last week’s  Jeff Francoeur-for-Ryan Church swap between the Braves and Mets:

“It kind of caught me by surprise. I’m not saying that I hadn’t heard that the Braves might be trying to move Francoeur.  But to do it between the Braves and the Mets just caught me off guard. But you know what, I think they’re both good players and sometimes a change of scenery can help a guy.  It happened last year with us, with (Brad) Lidge.  A change of scenery and one year later he’s perfect.  So I think sometimes things like that happen for a reason.”

Mets third baseman on how Francoeur might fare in New York:

He came up and played so well that the expectations were placed so
high.  He’ll help us immediately defensively with as much ground as he
can cover and with his throwing arm.  With that spacious outfield,
that’s going to help us immediately. If he can back to that form from a
few years ago, you’re talking about an All-Star-caliber player year in
and year out.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira about how the New York scene might affect Francoeur:

I don’t know exactly what’s inside his head, but hopefully this is kind
of a new beginning for him and he can just let his talent play through.

If you’re losing and you’re playing bad, it doesn’t matter where you
are. Whether you’re in the American League, National League, New York
or wherever, you’re not going to be happy.  But if you’re playing well
and your team is winning, there’s no better place in the world to play
than New York.

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, when asked if his skipper was pretty excited about having the chance to direct the NL team tommorow:

He’s played it pretty low-key so far.  He hasn’t danced yet.  He hasn’t stripped naked yet.  I’m hoping he doesn’t do that.

Where will this three-game winning streak lead?

Welcome back to Braves Mountain.  We once again ask you to keep your hands and feet inside the car as we continue this ride includes both quick ascents and frustrating descents.   And we are happy to announce that the early portion of this week’s journey has provided more reason to believe that the light at the end of the tunnel will still be lit after the All-Star break.
 
With last night’s win over the Phillies, the Braves once again matched a season-best three-game winning streak and if this year’s trend continues, you may want to put your hands in the air and at least attempt to enjoy the rush created by the descent that could follow. 

“We’ve proven both ways that momentum doesn’t help us or hurt us,” Matt Diaz said after highlighting his three-hit performance with a homer and two RBIs last night. 

After sweeping the Nationals (April 10-12) to move to 5-1 on the season, the Braves immediately followed with a five-game losing streak and an eight-game stretch that included just one win. 

When the Braves gained another three-game losing streak April 22-25, they soured those positive vibes by enduring a nine-game stretch that included just two wins. 

How about that inspiring three-game sweep of the then-American League East leading Blue Jays in May?  Well as you likely painfully remember, that was followed by an 11-game stretch that included just three wins. 

But providing reason at least some reason for optimism is the 7-4 stretch that followed the three-game winning streak achieved (May 9-11) against the Mets and Phillies. 

“We’ve gotten excited before and then went on a losing streak,” Brian McCann said. “So we’ve just got to keep playing and see what happens.  We can’t worry about what we have or haven’t done.” 

While taking the first two games of this week’s three-game series against the front -running Phillies, the Braves are now just three games out of first place for the first time since May 27.  Considering that they’ve gone 14-17 since that date, they have to be greatly appreciative of the generosity provided by the Phillies and Mets.
  
Dating back to May 28, the Mets have gone 12-19 and the Phillies have gone 14-16. 

Regardless of what happens against the Phillies tonight, Braves fans should guard against saying anything like, “this is a great time to be playing the Nationals.”  This was a popular cry after the Braves lost of five of six to the Marlins and Pirates in April. 

Then we all watched as the Braves managed to lose two of three games in Washington D.C.  But this wasn’t anything new.  They’ve lost nine of the first 12 games they’ve played at Nationals Park and seven of the 12 games they’ve played against the Nationals since last year’s All-Star break.

Remember when the Braves lost 14 of the first 16 games they played against the Phillies last year?  Well, while winning six of the first eight games played against the defending world champions this year, they’ve moved to 10-16 against them since the start of the 2008 season.   During this same span, they’ve gone 10-14 against the Nationals.
 
All-Star stuff:  With All-Star voting set to close tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET, it would be nice to see Braves fans show some final-hour support by voting  for Brian McCann, who has seen Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina take a more commanding lead when results have been updated both of the past two weeks.

McCann leads all NL catchers in batting average (.310) and OPS (.906) and despite battling left-eye vision problems throughout the season’s first five weeks, he ranks second and both homers (8) and RBIs (33).  With 44 more at-bats, Molina has totaled five homers, tallied 24 RBIs and compiled a .728 OPS. 

While the St. Louis fans have taken advantage of the opportunity to see Molina behind the plate for the start of the July 14 All-Star Game at their own Busch Stadium, McCann seems to still be a lock to gain his fourth consecutive All-Star selection in what is his fourth full Major League season. 

Whether he’ll be joined by Javier Vazquez, Jurrjens and/or Rafael Soriano remains to be seen.  But all deserving pitchers were given more reason for hope on Wednesday, when Major League Baseball announced that the rosters would be expanded to 33 players to accommodate a manager’s selection for one extra pitcher.

Player balloting will determine eight reserve position player and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers) for both rosters.  Eight more selections, including the extra pitcher, will be made by the managers, with input provided from league officials.

Soriano has actually produced the best credentials among Braves pitchers to pitch in this year’s Midsummer Classic.  
Along with being perfect in his six save opportunities, Soriano ranks third among NL relievers with a 1.23 ERA, third in OPS (.457) surrendered, fifth in both batting average allowed (.160) and slugging percentage allowed (.216),  and sixth with a 0.90 WHIP.  

Having watched Jurrjens limit his Phillies to a two-out, seventh-inning single on Wednesday night, NL manager Charlie Manuel might be further persuaded to include the 23-year-old right-hander, who ranks fifth in the NL with a 2.73 ERA. 
 
Jurrjens’ 6-6 record is a product of the same inconsistent support that has saddled the 5-7 Vazquez, who will get his own opportunity to audition in front of Manuel while attempting to retake the NL strikeouts lead during tonight’s series finale against the Phillies.
 
Along with currently being just seven strikeouts shy of the NL-leading mark posted by Tim Lincecum, Vazquez also ranks second in the NL with a 1.06 WHIP (walks plus hits/innings pitched).  His 3.03 ERA ranks eighth and with 11 quality starts, he’s and Jurrjens both rank eighth among the Senior Circuit hurlers.

Along with his losing record, Vazquez’s candidacy could be further burdened by the fact that he’s scheduled to start just two days before the All-Star Game.  Jurrjens is slated to go one day earlier. 

Getting back to work

If you are not complaining, then you are not watching.  Or is it more appropriate to say, if you are not complaining, then you are not blogging?

Whatever the case, even if the Braves had started this season 11-4 (as opposed to 7-8), we’d all still be voicing our concerns about a specific aspect or aspects of the club.  To truly enjoy the splendor of a 162-game season, you basically have to treat every day like a new episode of “24”.

Of course in relation to “24”, we all know that Jack Bauer is going to eventually escape or overcome any and every terrorist attack that he encounters.  In the baseball world, we’re not so sure about tomorrow will bring.

The suspense of this current season has us wondering when Brian McCann might regain his optimal vision and help the slumbering Braves offense to awake.

During the last nine games, the Braves have scored 24 runs (11 in one game), batted .229, recorded a .312 on-base percentage and produced a .345 slugging percentage.   The sample size is too small to provide reason to worry.  But it is somewhat telling to see that left-handed hitters have batted just .181 during this span. 

That number is a direct reflection of the recent struggles encountered by McCann, who has just one hit in the 19 at-bats he’s totaled over the past nine games.  The Braves can only hope that his vision continues to improve to the point that he’s able to prove why many believe he’s the game’s top offensive catchers. 

We’ve all discussed how losing Chipper Jones for an extended period would be a crushing blow to this club’s postseason aspirations.  While this is true, you could argue that McCann’s presence is even more important because his absence directly affects Jones’ potential production. 

As long as opponents are fearing McCann in the cleanup spot, Jones is going to have the necessary protection that will allow him to see good pitches on a regular basis.  

If McCann continues to struggle or is forced to miss time, you’ll either see Jones’ walk total rise or his impatience grow to the point that he’s chasing bad pitches far too often.

In the event that McCann is forced to miss an extended period, Jeff Francoeur might be the best option to fill the cleanup spot.  It would be interesting to see how often opposing pitchers would be willing to challenge him to find out if he truly has turned things around. 

In a team-high 60 at-bats, Francoeur has batted .317 with a .795 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).   As long as he stays patient, the power numbers will increase as the summer progresses and you’ll likely once again see him produce another 100-RBI season.

The most encouraging aspect about Francoeur’s start stems from the fact that he’s hit .471 (8-for-17) with runners in scoring position.  While the sample size is small, there’s at least indication that he’s no longer pressing like he did when he hit .193 with RISP last year.  

(While looking for Francoeur’s stats, I noticed Andruw Jones has five hits in his first six at-bats with RISP.   It’s still amazing to think that Andruw had 128 RBIs while hitting just .207 with RISP in 2005.)

Rotation producing optimism:   Most of the optimism the Braves possessed entering the season centered around their reconstucted rotation.   So far this new group of starters has lived up to expectations.  They rank second in the National Leauge with a 3.27 ERA and the 88 innings they’ve completed are five fewer than the League-leading total completed by the Pirates. 

Javier Vazquez could have won each of his first three starts and Jair Jurrjens has been nothing but impressive since proving fortunate to win his first two outings. Derek Lowe showed his potential dominance on Opening Night and provided more reason to believe he’s at his best during big games.

The only two losses Lowe has incurred during his past 14 starts have occurred at excitement-starved Nationals Park.  But it should be noted that he pitched effectively during both of those outings. 

The Braves haven’t provided any indication that they’re going to promote Tommy Hanson within the next week.  They are in position where they can continue to let the 22-year-old right-hander gain more season at the Minor League level. 

Obviously Hanson has the potential to be a valuable asset during the stretch run and because of this, the Braves haven’t allowed him to exceed the 100-pitch limit during his first three starts with Triple-A Gwinnnett.   Unfortunately because of high pitch counts during the early innings, this has prevented him from completing at least five innings during two of those outings. 

Once Hanson is promoted to the Majors (my best guess remains first week of June), the Braves should have a rotation that would rival the Marlins for the division’s finest.   The Mets haven’t found any consistency behind Johan Santana and the entire Phillies rotation is going to have neck problems before the season is complete. 

Philadelphia’s starters have accounted for 22 of the 31 homers the club has surrendered this year.  Kenshin Kawakami has accounted for three of the seven homers the Braves pitching staff has surrendered this year.

It was nice to have a few days to visit family and relax this week. But it’s time to get back to work and see if the Braves can alter the mood of this road trip, which has so far proven to be forgettable.   

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