The Braves split their 4-game series with the Cardinals, dropping the first and last match-ups. Jair Jurrjens and Tim Hudson both were roughed up in their starts as the Braves starting rotation has regressed a bit from their early season dominance. For some reason the Braves hitters continue to make awful pitchers look great. After not being able to touch two Pirates pitchers last week with ERAs near 7.00, Atlanta again made a 7.00+ ERA pitcher in Kyle Lohse look great on Sunday. At least Alex Gonzalez’s walk-off blast on Saturday made the series palatable. With Sunday’s loss, the Braves fell out of their NL East first place tie with the Phillies and now sit one game behind the lead. They’re ahead in the wild card race, but the Giants and Padres (tied for the NL West lead) are just one game back while the Rockies’ current 10-game winning streak has them just two and a half games behind.
One big positive about the Cardinals series (other than the explosive Craig Kimbrel) has been the apparent re-emergence of Nate McLouth. The former All-Star went 6-11 with 2 HR and 4 RBI hitting out of the 6 spot in the line-up against the Cardinals. We know Nate always brings a solid glove, so this could be a huge boost for the Braves headed into the last few weeks of the season..especially when the team’s other CF options are Rick Ankiel and Melky Cabrera. The last 18 games will be very telling for Nate in his battle to maintain a Braves roster spot next season. He’s set to make $6.5m in 2011, so it’s nice to see him start producing.
While McLouth has been improving, Melky Cabrera has quickly been regressing. Melky went 1-15 with 1 RBI in the series. For some reason, Bobby keeps sending him out there. I understand your other options aren’t too great (basically Matt Diaz and Eric Hinske), but between his slow (or lazy..you pick) defense and lack of hitting, he continues to show why he shouldn’t be starting. Perhaps another LF option would be Omar Infante, with Brooks Conrad at 3B, but that’s probably a better conversation for next year (assuming Chipper’s able to comeback at 3B).
The Braves will stay at Turner Field this week for a three game series against the NL East basement Washington Nationals. Essentially every series at this point in the season is a near must-win, but playing a team with .420 winning percentage at home where you’re 51-21 really needs to bring two, if not three, wins. Lowe, Jurrjens and Minor will face Maya (7.20 ERA..oh boy), Hernandez and Lannan.