If the Braves had to play in a one-game elimination I suspect they’d really want to play the Cardinals the team who took they gave the postseason and eventually the World Series to last September. If they had to pick Cardinals pitcher to face I ‘d guess Kyle Lohse is close to the top of their list. Why manager Mike Matheny didn’t set up his rotation so lefty Jaime Garcia would face a Braves lineup notoriously unable to handle left-handers is a mystery. Although neither Garcia or Lohse pitched particularly well against the Braves this year just the fact that lineup is so heavily left handed should have made him favorite but he didn’t so thanks in advance for going with your hot hand instead of the right man.
Lohse is on the periphery of the Cy Young talk this year. He won’t win it but he is 16-3 with a 2.89 ERA (fifth in the league), a 1.090 whip (fourth in the league) and 3.9 rWAR (tenth in the league) do indicate he’s having his career year. In September his ERA jumped to 3.89,and his WHIP also rose slightly to 1.135 but he offset much of that by increasing his strikeouts to about one an inning. He also gave up five home runs last month the most in any month this year and the first time he’s done that in September since 2006. Those changes might indicate that his sinkers isn’t as sharp as it was in August when he had a 1.42 ERA. For those who think such things matter he’s alternated good and bad ERA months all year long.
Braves manager Freddy Gonzalez’ decision to start David Ross instead of Brian McCann tomorrow because he wants to limit the Cardinals running game is pretty thin. McCann homered off of Lohse in the May 30th game and generally hits right handed pitchers much better than Ross so it might well mean that McCann’s right shoulder is hurting worse anyone wants to admit. Chipper Jones, Freddy Freeman and Dan Uggla have also homered off Lohse.
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The only man in the lineup who’s had real trouble with Lohse in Michael Bourn. Bourn of course has had a horrid second half. Both he and the Braves need him to be the Bourn we saw in April and May instead of the guy who’s led off since the All Star break.
When Bourn gets on base instead of striking out hitting easy fly balls to the outfield the Braves are much more likely to have the big innings they’ll need this post season. Bourn’s free agent stick has dropped as fast as his batting average so in order to get that big contract he wants he needs a long and productive post season giving pitchers headaches on the base paths.
That’s A Wrap
I didn’t mention Kris Medlen because what is there to say about the best pitcher in the major leagues since being given a starting shot. Besides it might sound like gloating and I bored everyone to death last winter with the Medlen Should Start drumbeat in my posts. We all know what Meds will do. He’s go out there with a plan and pitch to that plan. Like Lohse he’ll pitch to contact and let his defense do their job. All the rest of the guys have to do is score him some runs and I think they’ll do that in spades.
No matter what anyone says the fact that the Cardinal went to the World Series last year sticks in the players craw. Beating them will finally exorcise that ghost and give them some quiet satisfaction. With all due respect to Kyle Lohse his age 34 career year comes after 13 years of mediocrity and is likely its Apex. The Braves can and should beat Lohse. The Nationals did in St. Louis last week, scoring four runs on eight hits including a home run in his six innings of work. He hasn’t gone seven innings against a good team since he faced the Tigers in June and at 100 pitches he’s usually out of the game. But, it won’t be easy. The Cardinals will not go quietly, they are the champs and know what the post season is all about. They have a formidable lineup and will likely cause a fair amount of angst before the game is over. Our hitters have to get to Lohse early and put a crooked number or two on the board before he can settle in. In our house with Meds on the mound and Eric O’Flaherty, Chad Durbin, Jonny Venters, Luis Avilan and Craig Kimbrel waiting to do their job, we should and I believe will win this game.