Hello again everyone! It’s a beautiful day here in Michigan. The snow has stopped falling and the sun has started shining. We might get Spring started yet!
Speaking of getting started, Derek Lowe had hardly gotten started last night before the Dodgers put two runs on the board, which would turn out to be one more than they would need to secure the victory. But, was this a case of “Lowe Blows!!!”, or a case of Lowe being undone by “low blows” (ground balls; get it ).
In actuality, I think there was a bit of both circumstances in play last night. Lowe was searching for sink on his fastball and reverted to his prior form (think 2009) of trying to force the sink. Both location and nastiness suffered. He also mixed in a couple of sliders that did their best Frisbee imitation. Further, he seemed to go to a three ball count on almost every hitter, resulting in him throwing an absurd 78 pitches in just three innings of work. Even with this, it was a seeing eye two out grounder between Chipper and Gonzalez by Juan Uribe that allowed the first two runs to score in the first inning, and a walk to the pitcher that first led to a third run being plated on an RBI single by Andre Ethier and then had Uribe once again coming to the plate, this time with the bases loaded. Uribe responded with a very soft, looping, blooping, bleeping, effing hit to left that scored two more, effectively sticking a fork in the Braves after only two innings. Both of the hits were off “non-breaking” breaking balls, the kind that often break the balls of the team whose pitcher throws them :-(.
So, Lowe obviously was ineffective, allowing nine hits and a walk in three innings. There was a large element of bad luck in play, too. Lowe’s stuff was good enough for him to fan five in only three innings. And he only gave up one extra base hit, a rule-book double to Ethier. Most of the singles were ground balls that found a hole. Ground ball pitchers will have this kind of outing occasionally. We’ve seen it happen to Maddux, we’ve seen it happen to Hudson, and we’ve certainly seen it happen to Lowe. The part that concerns me is that Lowe’s response to trouble seemed, at least to me, that he reverted to old, bad habits to try to staunch the bleeding. Anyone who has ever tried to hit a golf ball knows what I’m talking about, as it is the most natural thing in the world to do. Let’s hope this doesn’t indicate a trend.
What is still a trend is the hitting woes of the Braves. Excepting the ninth inning two nights ago (mostly off a reliever who was still playing as a catcher in 2009), their hitting has been woeful. Feast or famine, mostly famine, as they have hit a lot of mostly solo home runs but not much of anything else. Early last night it looked as things might be getting better. Chipper’s first two at bats he hit fly balls to the warning track in center field. The first one was really squared up, but fell victim to the dead air grim reaper that is night time in center at Dodger Stadium. McLouth continued his renaissance with another double. After that, though, the Braves bats went back to sleep, making Garland look like Cy Young as he allowed only four hits, two of them to McLouth, in a 108 pitch complete game. The Braves’ only run came on a McLouth double followed by a Lowe sacrifice and a Prado sac fly in the third.
So, what do we make of all this? I think that’s a big question that might be deserving of its own post. I think the Braves have a very good chance of earning a split with the Dodgers today with Jurrjens on the mound. That would get the road trip off to an acceptable start. The team will only be two games under .500 while suffering through a hitting drought of epic proportions. Meanwhile, the Braves have pitched up to expectations, but to my mind haven’t really exceeded expectations. This would seem to me to position the team for a big run when the shipment of bats arrives to replace all the defective ones that were obviously shipped to the team to start the season :). The team needs to survive the absence of Moylan in the pen, otherwise no new infusion of pitching should be needed. But that’s my take; what’s yours?