The Braves have a well-earned reputation for living by homers, and often dying when there are not any. Lately however, they have been proving they are not just the one dimensional team everyone seems to think they are. They put an exclamation point on how multidimensional they can be tonight as they put a major league hurting on the Miami Marlins by a score of 11-3, and that without one single instance of going yard! Granted, some of the Braves’ runs tonight came on shoddy defense by the fish, but the Braves won this game with good pitching, timely hitting, and excellent base running, and would have won even without the Marlins’ errors.
Kris Medlen took the mound in the game, primed to continue his solid outings of late. During the month of June, Medlen had shown excellent command, walking only two batters during the entire month, and coming out during the month of June with a new and better cut fastball. Medlen started out the game having a little trouble keeping his pitches down, but as the game progressed got slowly better and better with his cutters and especially his sliders. In the end, even though Kris gave up 3 earned runs on 9 hits, and only struck out one batter, he also only walked two and was able to limit the damage. The bullpen for the Braves was as stellar as usual, with Anthony Varvaro coming in for an inning and holding the Marlins scoreless, and Alex Wood coming in for two to hold them scoreless for the 11-3 win.
The Marlins have been clicking lately, getting many of their injured players back in play, and going on a tear recently winning 7 of their last 10, and going 16-10 over their last 26 games. The Braves put a damper on that streak though, reminding the fish that however hot they may be right now, they’re still dealing with the NL East division leaders, and a team that has beaten them 18 out of the last 21 games. That’s not to suggest that this series will be a walk in the park for the Braves, but Atlanta is clearly evolving, I believe, into a different sort of team than we saw in April. Perhaps the frustrating streakiness is going the way of the Dodo for our beloved team. With this series and another against the Marlins, one against the Phillies, and one against the Reds, we’ll see the Braves extend their division lead even further. Baseball’s a funny game though, so we’ll just have to wait, hope, and see.
Offensive Highlights For the Braves
As I mentioned earlier, the Braves didn’t need to go yard at all to win this game, and that kind of small ball is refreshing, and what I’ve personally been hoping to see more of with Atlanta. The Braves have hit a whopping 22 doubles over just 7 games, and tonight was icing on that cake as Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Kris Medlen all hit a double, and Chris Johnson hit two! Add to that triples by both Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons, patient and timely hitting by the Braves, and with a few missteps by the Marlins the Braves put together a productive night of offensive thrills. Justin Upton struggled during June, but showed clear signs of coming out of that mire, going 3 for 3 with his triple. Jason Heyward went hitless in this game, but he hit .312 during June, and battled with every at bat. Dan Uggla went hitless as well, but we’ve seen recent signs that he too may be about to break out.
Other Items of Particular Note
In the top of the 3rd inning, Reed Johnson came in for B.J. Upton when B.J. showed obvious discomfort with his left arm. The report early on was that he was suffering from muscle spasms in the arm, and was listed as day-to-day. Our own Jeff Schafer posted an injury report on B.J. which you can read HERE. In the bottom of the 3rd, Chris Johnson hit a gap double, and then when Kris Medlen bunted to move him over, he collided with Marlins’ first baseman, Logan Morrison. The collision was scary, and while Kris saw no apparent harm from the collision, Morrison seemed to be sore and uncomfortable the rest of the game. The Marlins will certainly hope that the gritty Morrison, who has struggled with back issues often, will not be again adversely affected by the collision. In the bottom of the 6th, Jordan Schafer came into the game to pinch hit. Jordan had been sitting out with a sore ankle suffered in a recent game, and collecting a single against the Marlins and running to first, it was obvious he still has considerable discomfort in the ankle, which is not good news for Atlanta.
We recently partnered with Ehsan Kassim, Editor at Marlin Maniac to bring you a Q&A preview of the series. I posted our questions to them, and their answers in that recent preview, which you can see HERE. Now, I want to go ahead and post their questions to us, and our answers below.
Ehsan Kassim: Does Brian McCann figure to be in the Braves future beyond this future?
CH: Brian won’t be going anywhere this year, but while I don’t like it, I believe that Brian will not be in a Braves’ uniform in 2014. While he needs some seasoning behind the plate, Evan Gattis has more than proven himself offensively, and I think he is primed to replace the older veteran. I believe the Braves will make McCann a qualifying offer in order to earn an extra draft pick in 2014. With the amount the Braves paid for B.J. Upton, and the low return on that investment, Atlanta will be trying to free some of that money up for other more pressing needs.
EK: Both the Marlins and Braves are different teams from when the Braves swept the Marlins back in April. Are the Braves a better team now than they were in April? Why?
CH: No, the Braves are not a better team than they were in April, but in many ways they are slowly becoming a different team. The setbacks of losing Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty hurt the bullpen, but they have adjusted. The obvious slumps of B.J. Upton, and to a lesser degree Dan Uggla, that were perhaps not so clearly evident in April, have become crystal clear, but both players are making progress in coming out of that mire and the team has adjusted to that with other players’ stepping up. With the problems that Tim Hudson has had, it’s been great to see the way Mike Minor and Julio Teheran have stepped up their game from the mound. We are not a better team, per se, but we are a different, and evolving team.
EK: Looking back, do you feel the Braves regret the Dan Uggla trade and extension from three years ago?
No, I don’t really think so. I know that there are many fans calling for Dan’s head to be on the block, but Uggla is the kind of player that is always a threat with the bat, and has adequate defensive capabilities. Dan’s leadership off the field are one of those intangibles that a team values, and despite his low BA, he has a remarkably high OBP in spite of his struggles, and walks a lot. He contributes even when he doesn’t seem to be, and the recent addition of a new set of contacts for Dan seems to be working. His BA is slowly increasing.
EK: What has been the most surprising thing for the Braves in 2013?
CH: Well, I hate to sound like another billboard for the mighty El Oso Blanco, but I’d be remiss if I said anything other than Evan Gattis. He wasn’t even expected to make it past spring training when he got the invite, but the numbers he’s put up, and the way he has blended so well into this team have been a pleasant surprise. He just seems like he’s always been an Atlanta Brave.
EK: Can you give us a quick scouting report of the pitchers the Marlins will be facing this series?
CH: Game 1 Probable: Kris Medlen (5-7, 3.02 ERA, 1.26 WHIP). Kris has had problems with run support, so his win-loss record is a bit deceiving. He hasn’t put up the amazing numbers we saw in the latter half of last year, but he’s been solid. Although having some issues with fastball command, even that has been coming around nicely of late.
Game 2 Probable: Mike Minor (8-3, 2.98 ERA, 1.05 WHIP). Mike has been the Brave’s most solid starter this year. Even with a few hiccups in his last couple of starts, Minor has been amazing at his ability to get hitters to chase his breaking balls thrown down and away. He will look to regain that same kind of command that was absent just recently.
Game 3 Probable: Julio Teheran (6-4, 3.12 ERA, 1.19 WHIP). Julio had some rough outings early this season, but his progress has been exciting to watch, and he’s been literally getting better with each outing. He has already thrown a near no-hitter this year, and in his last outing, went 6 solid innings (taken out only on a strategic offensive move), striking out 10 batters with only 1 walk.
EK: Any predictions for the upcoming series?
CH: Well, I’d love to say we’ll sweep the Marlins just like we did Arizona in our last series, but history proves that it’s never easy against the Marlins. Top that off with the fact that the Marlins have won 7 of their last 10, and while I still predict a Braves’ win of the series, I’ll predict a 2-1 series win for Atlanta.
Editorial Note: I want to personally thank Ehsan Kassim from Marlin Maniac for working with us on the join Q&A. I encourage you to visit their site, and take a look at the great content they have. If you’re a Marlins’ fan, you won’t regret it.