Sep 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves injured right fielder Jason Heyward (22) (left) shown in the dugout with first base coach Terry Pendleton (9) during the game against the San Diego Padres at Turner Field. The Padres defeated the Braves 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Can Braves Clinch With Jason Heyward Back?


It would seem a foregone conclusion that the Atlanta Braves (90-62) will clinch the NL East division as they head to Chicago to take on the Cubs at Wrigley field.  But then, it seemed the same conclusion was made facing the Washington Nationals as well.  Sluggish, the Braves lost the series to the currently hot Nationals, and while again we assume that Chicago Cubs (64-89, in last place in the NL Central and 23 games back) won’t give the Braves much problem, we know that this time of year anything and everything can happen.

The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched last night, and the fact is that the first team to clinch in the National League should have been the Atlanta Braves, if for nothing but bragging rights.  The Braves still have a slight edge for best record and home field advantage in the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be the first year that things fell apart in September for Atlanta.

We can only hope the Braves will go into Chicago and take care of business tonight, clinch the NL East division this series, and then maintain through the remainder of the 10 games left in the regular season to clinch home field advantage.  In fact, people often talk about how important it is to clinch the division, but the home field advantage for the Braves is THE important thing right now when you consider how the Braves have played on the road in 2013.  Even if sluggish, the NL East clinch still really is, well, a foregone conclusion statistically.

Paul Maholm will be back in the lineup, and starting for the Atlanta Braves in game 1 of the three game series.  Paul has struggled, but in my opinion is a better option than Freddy Garcia.  Paul really needs to get his form back, because the Braves need a solid lefty starter for the remainder of the season.  Despite Paul’s struggles, his experience is difficult to replace, even with Atlanta’s young pitchers that have performed much better this season.

Making his first start since September 8, the Braves have jumped over Paul in the rotation to give him more time to heal from his elbow discomfort.  To hear some tell it, Maholm has been absolutely awful, but the fact is that Paul has been pitching through pain in his last three starts, and doing fairly well despite the elbow issues.  In his last three starts, Maholm has delivered with a 3.18 ERA and 10 strikeouts in his last 17 innings.  Perhaps the extra rest will see Paul discomfort free, and back to form.

Scott Baker will take the mound for the Cubs, and he’ll be trying to showcase his talents for all of Major League Baseball.  Baker signed just a one year deal with the Cubs for $5.5 M, with no option for next season.   Baker has had two outings since returning from the Tommy John surgery he had in April of 2012.  Last Saturday against the Pirates, Baker went six innings allowing just 1 run.  If he performs well, he could be on the radar of several clubs willing to take a chance on a pitcher back from TJ surgery.

 

Game 1 Lineup

Atlanta Braves

1. Jason Heyward (L) CF
2. Justin Upton (R) RF
3. Freddie Freeman (L) 1B
4. Evan Gattis (R) LF
5. Brian McCann (L) C
6. Chris Johnson (R) 3B
7. Dan Uggla (R) 2B
9. Paul Maholm (L) P

Chicago Cubs

1. Starlin Castro (R) SS
2. Darwin Barney (R) 2B
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Dioner Navarro (S) C
5. Donnie Murphy (R) 3B
6. Junior Lake (R) LF
7. Darnell McDonald (R) RF
8. Ryan Sweeney (L) CF
9. Scott Baker (R) P

Cubs Probables

Starters: Scott Baker (0-0, 0.82), Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05), Edwin Jackson (8-16, 4.75)

Braves Probables

Starters: Paul Maholm (10-10, 4.35), Kris Medlen (14-12, 3.32), Julio Teheran (12-8, 3.14)

 

Jason Heyward Back In the Lineup!!

As our own Alan Carpenter reported just minutes ago here, Jason Heyward will be back in the lineup tonight playing centerfield!  Alan says he’s the one who doubted Jhey’s return, but frankly almost all of us at Tomahawk Take doubted it as well, and I expressed my own doubt here.  I guess some of us will  join Alan in eating crow on that one! :)  I still say it remains to be seen how well Jason will do after such a long layoff.  It generally takes time to get back into a groove, but the good news is that Jason has 10 games left to get his groove back before the playoffs.

After the Braves face the Cubbies, they will have a three game series with the Milwaukee Brewers (68-84) who are 6-4 in their last 10, and then close out the season with a four game series against the Philadelphia Phillies (71-81) who are also 6-4 in their last 10.  The regular season’s last game will be on September 29.

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