Tonight the Braves start a critical series wit the Cardinals in St Louis. The Cards are 7.5 games behind the Braves in the Wildcard race so a sweep or two out of three here could be decisive. A cardinal sweep could bring forth other adjectives. The rotation sets up like this.
Friday Randall Delgado 0-1 4.80 – Edwin Jackson 11-9 3.78 overall, 2-0 1.80 in his last three starts. Delgado, like Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino , has been thrust into the fight because of injuries to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. He’s responded well so far holding the Giants through 6 innings on August 16th and throwing 5 good innings on Sunday against the Dodgers. To say Jackson is an enigma would be an understatement. He has electric stuff and famously through a no hitter against the Rays even though he walked 8 and through 133 pitches. He keeps getting traded at the deadline however and has been with 4 clubs in the last 5 years. As noted above he’s been hot in his last three starts and although his ERA is 3.48 since arriving in St Louis he’s that drops to 2.38 if the Brewers blowout against his is taken out of the mix.
The Braves rest Alex Gonzalez tonight in a scheduled day off but Jack Wilson is a slick fielder and a solid hitter so we lose no defense with him in the lineup. Aside from Wilson the lineup is the one that swept yesterday’s double header with Chipper Jones hitting second and a reawakened Martin Prado sixth.
Saturday sees Derek Lowe 9-13 4.65 face off against Jaime Garcia 11-7 3.65. Before everyone starts yelling that Lowe shouldn’t be starting let me remind you that the last four starts featured rookies – Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado – and with Hanson and Jurrjens on the DL, who do you want them to start? Lowe has not been sharp and prior to the injuries I just mentioned I said he should be moved to the pen. He is however a veteran who will keep us in the game and if the lineup will score him some runs, give us a chance to win. That’s really all you can ask of your fifth (5th) starter. Every time he takes the mound he knows that the lineup is likely to score 2 runs or less while he is in the game. That means his mental approach is to try not to make a mistake. Ass a result he walks hitters and then they score on a bloop or an error and he’s behind and frustrated with himself. If we score four runs or more might just win the game. I feel your frustration but unless you have a realistic alternative try to understand the situation before you scream for him to be released, fired or shot.
Jaime Garcia combines two things that have given us fits; he’s left handed and we haven’t seen a lot of him. Add to that the way he’s responded when given extra rest – 2 earned in 13 innings – and the game will be anything but a cakewalk. He isn’t the lights out pitcher he was last year and has given up runs in bunches on occasion this year and so he is beatable.
Sunday we have Tim Hudson 14-9 3.14 against Jake Westbrook 11-8 4.65. Huddy has been very good lately but the lineup has not supported him with runs. He hasn’t looked tired or anything less than the ace of the staff. Westbrook was supposed to be the Cardinals 5th starter but the injury to Adam Wainwright pushed him up the list. He can be dominant but is generally hittable so we should score against him and finally give Huddy the run support he needs.
As always beating St Louis means not letting Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday beat you. The recent addition of Rafael Furcal to their lineup gave them a genuine leadoff man for the first time in years. Pujols is having a ‘down’ year by his standards but has been hot lately. In the last two weeks he’s .378/.465/.703 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. After cooling a bit Holliday had a good week .300/.333/.450 with a homer and two RBI. Furcal heated up after arriving in St Louis and in the last two weeks has hit 4 homers and driven in 6. He cooled down in the last seven days however hitting only .158 and getting on at a .238 rate. He’s not the base stealer he was with the Braves but he is a threat Tony LaRusa will try to use against us if he can.
Whether the Braves reengineered lineup is making a permanent change or movement for the moment I don’t know but it has brought Prado to life and put someone behind Freddie Freeman that pitchers may not want to face. Chipper in the two slot may or may not mean Michael Bourn scores more often but e is getting a lot of fastballs with Brian McCann and Dan Uggla behind him. McCann’s recent slump may change that however. He need’s to get back on track to solidify the core of the lineup. With Jack Wilson in the lineup the only question is whether Jason Heyward will find his way out of his funk and become a threat again. Since Jose Constanza inevitably cooled down Heyward is going to get the playing time I predicted in platoon with Matt Diaz.. The addition of Jack Wilson has solidified the rally killing spot Alex Gonzalez held. Wilson may not be perfect there but Gonzalez had become awful. Fredi Gonzalez says Alex needed a rest because he has played so much so he will sit tonight and tomorrow. What happens if Wilson goes on a hitting spree in unknown but a problem the skipper would love to have to deal with.
Finally congratulations to Chipper Jones on hit number 2600 and Julio Teheran for his first major league win. may the rest of the year provide more of both.