Sunday, August 29, 2010

BMac Attack!

Boy did Brian McCann (and Matt Diaz) save that series! McCann’s walk-off home run on Sunday capped a tremendous 7-6 comeback win against the Marlins while proving to be the first ever walk-off home run that was decided by instant replay (it was originally ruled a double). I spent Friday and Saturday enjoying a weekend in Upstate, NY’s beautiful Adirondacks at the Dippikill Wilderness Retreat (check it out if you ever get the chance), so Sunday’s ulcer-inducing win was the only one of the series I was able to watch.

Derek Lowe started Sunday for the Braves and lasted all of 3 innings. His 5 ER runs (to go along with 6 H, 4 K, 3 BB and 1 HR) ended his afternoon early and continued his nearly two season long struggle with the Braves. Since Kris Medlen (and now Mike Minor) replaced Kenshin Kawakami in the rotation following Jair Jurrjens return from the DL, Lowe has been the weakest part of this rotation. At $15m/year, Derek Lowe is actually the highest paid player on the team. Over 61 starts with the Braves, Lowe has a 4.60 ERA to go along with a 1.47 WHIP and a 0.4 WAR. In case those numbers aren’t clear, he, ummm, hasn't been very good for the Braves. It’s well publicized that the team tried mightily to trade Lowe over the past off-season, but his age, performance and contract made that essentially impossible. Well, add another year with an ERA north of 4.00 (currently 4.53) and another year to his age (now 37) and it may not be much easier. Lowe will have 2yr/$30m left on his contract instead of 3yr/$45m, but any serious hope that last year was simply an aberration now seems lost. The Braves would likely have to eat a significant portion of his salary and not receive much in return, but I think Lowe needs to be unloaded some way somehow. After Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens, Mike Minor looks like he’ll stick in the rotation. For the 5th spot, the team will still have Kawakami signed through the 2011 season and a few prospects at Gwinnett (Redmond, Beachy and Diamond) could make the competition interesting. Derek Lowe is simply not working, especially at $15m per year.

The other topic that made itself clear this weekend was the offense’s inconsistency. The team pushed across all of 1 run on Friday and then exploded for 12 runs on Saturday. Through the first 7 innings on Sunday, the Braves managed just 1 run and 4 hits. The final 2 innings saw 6 runs on 4 hits (which included 2 HR). Can you imagine how many wins the Braves would have if they could put together 9 complete innings of offense on a regular basis?! This offense is really a classic Jekyll and Hyde. For most of August (and in fact the majority of the season), we’ve seen near-dominating pitching from the Braves with just enough offense to win ball games. But over the past two series - at the Rockies and home against the Marlins - both the starters and the bullpen have had serious problems. If the offense didn’t put up a significant number of runs then the game was all but lost. Instead of 1 and 2 run games or 12 and 13 run games, this team needs to start putting up 5, 6 or 7 run games with a bit more regularity. Hopefully Sunday’s 7 run contest was a sample of things to come.

Atlanta will stay at Turner Field to begin a big four game series against the rival Mets on Monday. The Braves’ NL East lead sits at just 2 games following the Phillies’ impressive three game sweep of the NL-best San Diego Padres out in California, so winning at least three of the four games against the .500 Mets in Atlanta will be important. Jurrjens, Minor, Hanson and Hudson will match-up against Misch, Niese, Pelfrey and Santana, respectively. That series finale between Hudson and Santana should be a great one!

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