Braves Sweep Mets

As expected the Braves completed the series sweep of the Mets Sunday giving Tommy Hanson the win he needed but he still lasted less than six innings and it took 10 innings to put the Mets away.

After an explosion of runs Saturday night, the Braves were back to their old bad habit of leaving runners in scoring position, particularly early in the game.  Michael Bourn started the game  off with a single, stole second and Martin Prado bunted him to third. He spent the rest of the inning watching as Jason Heyward lined out to Ike Davis  and Freddie Freeman  popped up weakly to first.

Unfulfilled Promise

The Braves continued to alternately raise fans hopes, disappoint them by not scoring and give the Mets 4A lineup chances to win the game.

In the third Dan Uggla continued to make solid contact doubling to left but Brian McCann, Juan Francisco and Hanson all struck out leaving him stranded. Meanwhile Hanson moved through the Mets lineup the first time but after retiring the first 10 batters he faced,  Daniel Murphy doubled to right. Hanson enticed David Wright to fly out to left but Davis singled Murphy home.

Jose Constanza opened the fifth with a double to right that would have been a a triple but the ball bounced into the stands.  The perpetual laziness of professional – and I use that word loosely – announcers who insist on calling such hits a ground rule double would be funny if it weren’t so . . .I’ll stick with lazy, this is a family blog after all.  I digress.  As those same announcers regaled us with Hanson’s bunting prowess ( he leads the team in sacrifice bunts this year…) Hanson promptly proved they were overly generous in their praise striking out as he bunted foul on his third strike. It  looked like a big inning was coming when Bourn singled scoring Georgie but he remained at first when Prado hit a soft fly to left. He did get into scoring position when Heyward walked and moved to third when Freeman walked to load the bases. Uggla ended the inning with a sharp grounder to Wright at third and Mets Chris Young was off the hook.

No Quality Start For You

If you’re offered the over/under on Hanson going six innings, take the under every time.  Once again he showed how far he’s fallen when with two men out he gave up another double to  Murphy followed by a single by the Mets only star player David Wright and made his exit from the game in favor of Jonny Venters. Hanson appeared upset at having been yanked so soon, walking around he dugout with his glove on and staring out at the mound. Chipper Jones had a few words with him and he went to sit down but was obviously not happy.

In Hanson’s defense if the offense had scored him some early runs he was pitching well enough to have stayed in the game. But with lefty Davis who had singled in his last at bat coming up and Hanson’s lack of a dependable out pitch particularly after the fifth inning Fredi Gonzalez had no choice but to make the change.

Bullpen To The Rescue. . .Again

Venters went on to pitch an inning and a third of shutout ball and Eric O’Flaherty managed to do the same in the eighth in spite of an error by Freeman. In the ninth Gonzalez decided that Davis, Lucas Duda and Kelly Shoppach were suddenly such threats that he needed Craig Kimbrel even though it wasn’t a save situation.  IF this had been the Nationals, Cardinals, Reds or any team with a serious threat I might have agreed. But Davis entered the game hitting .224.and  Duda .240; Shoppach’s .275 was the biggest threat to be faced.  Knowing that if we scored in the  10th the top of the Mets lineup was due in the bottom half the question became why? The only answer I could come up with when asked was that the Skipper has been for the last week really nervous about being unemployed next year should the team flop again. As a result he’s making moves lots of fans have been asking him to make since last year like for example using Kimbrel for a four out save the other night.  So this was his chance to do what many stat heads have been begging for and use Kimbrel in the ninth on the road in a tie game. That makes sense as I implied earlier only if the threat posed is worthy of it.  This was not a big threat even after Kimbrel gave up a hit. As someone said at the time, if you starting managing like a fan you’ll soon be sitting watching the game with the fans. On the day, against the Mets it worked but, just barely.

In the top of the 10th Prado singled, Heyward grounded out with Prado running eliminating the double play and Bobby Parnell walked Freeman and Uggla to bring up McCann with the bases loaded. BMac delivered a sac fly and the Braves were in front setting up exactly the situation  Kimbrel is designated to handle. But he was out of the game and instead the jopb of nailing the game down went to . . . Peter Moylan.

Moylan has always had the Mets number and that undoubtedly played in Gonzalez decision in the ninth. Still the skipper must have been nervous when Jordany Valdespin singled and Ruben Tejada sacrificed him to second. He probably felt better when  and  Scott Hairston struck out but Valdespin’s steal of third and the throw that Prado did such a good job of catching bounced short of the bag. Moylan promptly walked Mets double machine Murphy bringing up David Wright.

Gonzalez post game quotes didn’t mention it – he wasn’t asked for some reason – but what we used to call his pucker factor must  have peaked when Wright stepped in. This season Wright’s been an RBI Machine. He entered the game with a line of  .314/.402/.499 17 homers and 79 RBI. Against righties he’s been better of course and with two outs and RISP it was .346/.507/.462 in 52 at bats. The sidearm offerings of Moylan told a different story (.143/.250/.143) and on the day Wright hit a soft fly ball that Jason Heyward claimed to end the game giving Moylan his first save since 2010.

Next Up

Monday sees the Braves in Milwaukee for a three game set against a surging Brewer team who’ve won 16 of their last 21 to pull themselves back within two games of the 500 mark. The projected matchups are:

Monday: Mike Minor (8-10, 4.58 ERA) vs. RH Wily Peralta (1-0, 5.14)

Tuesday: Tim Hudson (14-5, 3.59) vs. RH Marco Estrada (2-6, 3.99)

Wednesday: Paul Maholm (12-9, 3.67) vs. RH Yovani Gallardo (14-8, 3.76)

Peralta is the Brewers top prospect and the Braves will be just his second major league start. With our propensity for making pitchers we haven’t seen look like all stars he’s potentially the biggest question mark. He gave up three to the Matlins in six inning for his first start.

Minor is 1-0 against the Brewers this year going 7 1/3 innings while allowing only two hits and an unearned run.

Estrada’s last month has been a pretty good one as the team’s overall record would indicate. He’s 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 innings. The Braves have only seen him in relief when he threw 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball giving up three hits, walking 2 and striking out 2.

Hudson’s last start against the Brewers was a complete game shut out in Milwaukee back in May of 2011

Gallardo is the team’s ace since the departure of Zack Greinke to the Angels. In the last month he’s 3-0 with a 3.69 ERA and a 1.232 WHIP in 28 innings work. This will be the Braves first look at him this year but in the past they haven’t liked what they’ve seen. He’s been tough against the Braves racking up a 3-1 record with a 1.91 ERA and a 1.039 WHIP in six starts.

The good news for the Braves is that Bourn  enjoys seeing Gallardo against whom he’s 11-27 with 2 walks for a line of .407/.448/.444. Chipper Jones is a respectable .273/.400/.545 with a homer against Gallardo, Dan Uggla’s not far behind with a .267/.313/.267 line and Paul Janish doesn’t mind seeing the righty either, he’s 5-8 with a double and a walk.  The bad news is everyone else is at .200 or below. Gallardo is tough and the Brewers have been hot behind him.

Maholm’s record also falls into the not so good news category. As a Cub he made two starts and lasted just eight total innings giving up 10 runs (all earned) on 12 hits including two homers for an ERA of 11.25 and a WHIP of 1.875.

That’s A Wrap

As usual after a blowout the next game is low scoring. Today should not have been that way but the lineup hasn’t consistently produced with RISP all year. Hanson’s outing was fine for a fifth starter which is what he’s become, not that he understands that yet. Unless a miracle or a disaster occurs he should find himself working out of the bullpen if we survive the Bud Selig Playoff Death Match.  Fredi Gonzalez looks and acts like a worried man. Kimbrel’s use today against a 4A team in a non-save situation when a save situation was extremely likely was an unnecessary risk. The Brewers are not the Mets.They have a solid lineup that’s been hot and at least one pitcher who licks his lips at the thought of facing the Braves.  These games are must win for us. It’s time to prove we deserve that playoff spot.

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