Last night’s win was a great morale boost for the Braves. In addition to pushing the Cardinals to three games back with five to play it reminded us (and them?) of the damage they can do by simply stringing a few hits together and taking advantage of extra outs. Today’s gave presents another challenge; we have to do it two days in a row and make it a habit for say the next month or so. Make that five weeks please.
The Nationals start Chien-Ming Wang (3-3, 4.31) at us today. Wang is having a good if not spectacular comeback year following his initial foot injury oddly enough against the Braves in an interleague game. He throws a heavy sinker and like all sinker-ball pitchers, the key to beating him is to make him get it up. If he is on and the pitch starts at or below mid-thigh it will likely be a ball by the time it gets to the plate. he has a first inning ERA of 9.90 so he like our starter today Brandon Beachy has trouble getting through the first inning. Once through it though his ERA drops sharply.
Beachy started against the Nationals only once this year and got roughed up a bit giving up four runs on seven hits – including a homerun to Jason Werth – in his five innings but still won the game. In spite of the confidence most Braves fans feel when he takes the hill, Beachy’s last four starts have not been good.
His Braves rookie record strikeout number continues to grow but after winning in Chicago at the end of August he’s had four no decisions -all Braves losses- an ERA of 5.06, given up 20 hits, 10 walks and hit a batter in his 21 1/3 innings for a WHIP of 1.455. Beachy has shown however that he has a big game mentality and that he is not cowed by the moment. We would do well to remember that Beachy – like Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor and Arodys Vizcaino – is a rookie who at a career high 135 2/3 innings pitched is in uncharted territory.
Since today’s number is three here are the Braves five keys to success involving a three.
Three runs. When Beachy gets three runs or more in support he is 7-1.
Three Innings. The Braves need to get to Wang in the first three innings because the longer he goes the harder it gets to hit him. Beachy needs to hold the Nationals in his first three innings. His first and fourth innings have been rough this year. Holding them close to the minimum in the first three innings should make the next three less stressful. The longer it takes them to get to the third time through their lineup the better it will be for Beachy.
First three. Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and Chipper Jones will set the tone for the game, If they stay hot and Bourn in particular stays on base the Nationals defense has shown it will make mistakes.
The three position (first base) Freddie Freeman, needs to stay hot at Nationals Park. Freddie is .308/.357/.385 there this year and drove in a big run for us last night.
The Three Musketeers. Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel need to stay tough. We know they have short memories and a ton of talent. They don’t have to be perfect – that would be nice – just keep the Nationals from getting back in the game. It would be nice too is we had more than a three run advantage going into the seventh inning, eighth inning and ninth so all three could get a day off.
It’s about game time so I need to get my Braves Jersey on, grab a snack and get ready for the Braves victory that pushes the Giants completely out of the post season picture and the Cardinals farther into the fire.