A much anticipated pitching match up ended prematurely must to the chagrin of a sell out crowd in Washington. Rookie Phenom Stephen Strasburg was scratched from his scheduled start tonight when he was unable to get loose while warming up before the game. In his absence, journeyman Miguel Batista took the hill and promptly led a four pitcher attack that shut out the Braves.
Braves starter Tommy Hanson once again struggled early with his command and location but this time was ultimately done in by his defense behind him. Two Braves throwing errors led to two unearned runs against Hanson who went six innings allowing six hits and totaling eight strikeouts. With the loss Hanson’s win loss record for the season sinks to 8-7 as he has been the model of inconsistency lately.
Offensively the Braves came up empty tonight against Nationals pitching totaling only five hits. They were a combined 0-5 with runners in scoring position. Of their five hits on the night four of them came from Eric Hinske and Melky Cabrera. Chipper Jones collected the only other Braves hit. Batista pitched five innings of shut out baseball in his first start since the 2008 season when he was pitching for the Seattle Mariners. Sean Burnett, Drew Storen, and Matt Capps combined for four more shut out innings with Capps recording his 25th save of the season.
More after the jump……………………………………..
Overall it was a stinker of a night which seemingly started with the let down of the Strasburg injury. Perhaps the Braves relaxed after they learned that Strasburg wouldn’t be taking the hill. At any rate, the lead in the National League East is down to 4 games and the Philadelphia Phillies are red hot having won five in a row. This Braves team has been resilient all season long while usually bouncing back from disappointing performances with a victory the next day. Now would be a great time for one of those turnarounds.
In roster related news it appears that Melky Cabrera is now the every day Center Fielder at least in the short term. We will see if the Braves bring back Gregor Blanco from Gwinnett as soon as he is eligible to return as he could steal some at bats and playing time from Cabrera. At any rate it has to be an improvement on what the Braves were getting from Nate McLouth which was just about nothing. Give credit to McLouth for handling his demotion the right way as he recognizes his struggles and the position that the Braves are in:
“Of course nobody wants to get sent down,” McLouth said. “But I’m going to use it what it’s meant to be for and that’s to go down and work and get my swing back to where it needs to be and not feel sorry for myself or be disappointed or mad or anything like that.”
We will also be watching to see if this mini swoon offensively causes General Manager Frank Wren to make a move before Saturday’s trade dead line. We have discussed the pros and cons of a trade at length this week without a real clear cut option to get behind. While it is important that the Braves get themselves headed back in the right direction, this still doesn’t appear to be the time to panic into a move that might hurt the team down the road.
Pitcher Jonny Venters had his appeal heard today by MLB Executive Vice President John McHale today and the Braves expect a decision to be delivered in the next day or two.
The Braves are back at it tomorrow night and there really isn’t anyone they need on the mound more than tomorrow night’s pitcher Tim Hudson. Huddy has been the stopper all season and perhaps he can rally up a few timely hits from his teammates in the process. The Nationals will counter with Livan Hernandez who is also having an outstanding season statistically. Should be a great match up with the first pitch scheduled at 7:05 pm ET.