As we wind down the season and the Braves slowly inch closer to clinching, Atlanta finds themselves in a bit of a late season offensive funk. The bats have gone quiet at a bad time for the Braves as they have reduced their magic number to 4 but still have some work to do to clinch the division and eliminate the surging Nationals. Unfortunately, the Braves didn’t help themselves over the weekend as they dropped 2 of 3 from the San Diego Padres. However, Atlanta did shrink its magic number from 6 to 4 after Saturday night’s victory and Washington’s loss to the Phillies.
Game 1 was looking very good for the Braves early on. In his first major league start, David Hale was terrific in throwing 5 shutout innings and striking out 9. The Braves even got him some early offense and a lead when Justin Upton and Brian McCann launched homers to give the Braves a 3-0 lead in the fourth. However, on this night it was Atlanta’s bullpen that cam unglued. Luis Ayala left the bases loaded with nobody out in the 6th inning, a jam that Luis Avilan and David Carpenter cleaned up after allowing two of Ayala’s runners to score. Following that was Jordan Walden who allowed two runs in the 8th and allowed the Padres to take a 4-3 lead that they would not squander. It was a disappointing loss for Atlanta who could’ve trimmed that magic number even more and could’ve gotten the deserving David Hale his first career win.
The stars of game 2 was the pitching staffs. In a duel between Kris Medlen and Robbie Erlin, Medlen got the best and pitched 7.1 shutout innings to lead the Braves to a 2-1 victory on Saturday night. After this win, Kris has now won his last 4 starts and has been the Braves ace the past month or so. He is currently looking like the Kris Medlen of 2012, which we all hope he sustains throughout the post -season. Even though the offense was scarce in this game, the offensive star was undoubtedly Freddie Freeman, who launched his 21st home run and collected his 99th RBI on a 3 for 3 night at the dish. Entering the ninth with a 2-0 lead Braves fans had to feel very comfortable and although he did allow a home run to Chase Headley, Craig Kimbrel came in to convert his 47th save in 50 tries for Atlanta and stitch up the 2-1 victory for Atlanta.
Simply put, this game belonged to Burch Smith. The Padres rookie starter collected 10 strikeouts over 7 innings and blanked the Braves in the series finale. Atlanta’s offense was only able to muster 4 hits off of Burch and although Julio Teheran provided a decent outing, the Braves bats once again went silent. Other than the lack of offense from Atlanta there isn’t much to talk to talk about from Sunday’s action.
Freddie Freeman- Overall Freddie was 6 for 10 in the San Diego series which was a good sign for Atlanta. To make a deep postseason run, the Braves will need Freddie to produce offensively and his production has slowed a bit in recent weeks. However, Freddie got it going in this series and inched closer to the 100 RBI total which he desperately wants. He is my series MVP for this series and if the season were to end today he would get my vote for National League MVP. Although he is definitely the best player on the best team in the NL, it’s safe to say I may be a little bias.
The bullpen- Although they were not awful, it was tough to watch the bullpen blow the lead for David Hale and the Braves on Friday night. Hale was a very deserving winner and the Braves could’ve inched closer had that gone their way. Overall in the series however, the bullpen was pretty good and they hope to continue that success in Washington this week.
I’m willing to call the upcoming series for Atlanta the most important of the season to date. The Braves with a series win can lock up the division in Washington and really make a statement that they are the best team in the east. The Nationals players and manager have continuously come out telling the media that they are better than the Braves. However, it’s Atlanta in the drivers seat with just a couple weeks to go. The Braves can close out the Nationals and finish the job they started in April which is total domination of the dreaded team from Washington.