After a zombie like performance in Saturday’s loss, the Braves turn to rookie Mike Minor to right the ship in Sunday’s series finale. Minor has been up and down between Gwinnett and Atlanta this year becoming a permanent fixture in August after injuries to Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens cut into the starting rotation. In his eight starts Minor is 4-0 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.433 WHIP. He’s struck out 46, walked nine and hit a batter in his 44 2/3 innings. This year he’s become a five innings + pitcher who seems to have caught gopher ball disease in September. He’s given up five homers in his last four starts even though he hasn’t suffered a loss. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Minor in the past however.
In his second major league game last year, Minor struck out 10 Cubs in six innings at Wrigley Field and was never in real trouble. We need to see that guy, the Wrigley Field version of Mike Minor, on Sunday. The Nationals send out Ross Detwiler, 2-5 with a 3.42 ERA in his 12 second-half appearances for the Nationals.
The Braves saw Detwiler in relief at Turner field back on July 15th and did not show him traditional southern hospitality. In his two innings he gave up three runs on three hits, walked two and struck out 3. He’s been used as a starter since August and performed well enough to keep his spot in the rotation.
In September he’s made three starts going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA (most of that in his first start against the Mets) and a WHIP of 1.31. His last two starts have been very good, beating the Mets 3-2 on the 12th and shutting out the Phillies 3-0 five days ago on the 20th.
No matter how well Minor pitches Sunday, the Braves need to find their bats and give him early run support – lots of crooked numbers on the scoreboard – like they did for Tim Hudson on Friday night. Scoring early and often will not only make Minor’s job easier, it will force Washington in to it’s bullpen early and put added pressure on the Cardinal team chasing whose game starts 45 minutes after the Braves game begins. Pressure on the Cardinals is nice but, this game and the post season comes down to the Braves themselves and how much they want it. If the Braves win their games the Cardinals can book October vacations in the Bahamas. It is that simple.
The Braves are a talented – if often disjointed and frustrating to watch – offensive team. Sunday we need the team that beat Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Hiroki Kuroda not the one beaten by pitchers no one has heard of before or is likely to hear of again.
Speaking as a fan, I want to see my Braves take the field Sunday with fire in their eyes and the determination that no one is going to beat them evident in every play they make. I want anyone watching, even the most uninformed, casual fan to say, “Damn these guys are leaving everything on the field today.” I want that attitude evident in Skipper Fredi Gonzalez and the entire coaching staff as well. Anything else is unacceptable. With only four games left, we control our destiny; the Braves, not the Cubs, Cardinals, Nationals or Phillies decide who moves forward. Let’s win these games and start the post season on the run instead of trying to slip in a side door and hoping no one notices.