With a win over the Padres Wednesday night, the Braves salvaged what actually started out as a promising week. Atlanta kicked off the stretch with a series victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Turner Field, snagging 2 of 3 games. The Padres were next to visit. If any team has had more offensive struggles than the Braves, it's the Padres. Unfortunately, the Braves dropped the first two match-ups against San Diego, both by one run. Atlanta returned the favor in the series finale. Their 3-3 week managed to keep pace with the Phillies, who entered play on Thursday 3.5 G ahead of Atlanta.
The Braves' managed a meager 3.3 R/G over the past week, again struggling to support the team's solid pitching. While their run totals remained low, Atlanta's .273/.359/.400 slash was actually decent, especially compared to their season averages. So if the team was getting on base, why weren't they scoring? Were they not hitting with runners on? Well, their .294 average (15-51) with RISP suggests that wasn't the reasoning, either. I think the culprit was probably their extra base hits (or relative lack thereof). 16 XBH over the 6 games span (11 doubles and 5 homers) works out to less than 3 per game. Combine that was the team's overall lack of speed and there's your reasoning for the offense continuing to score so few runs.
After an off day on Thursday, the Braves begin a 3-game weekend series against the Mets at Citi Field in New York. I'll be making the 2.5 hour drive down I-87 to Queens for Saturday's contest. I haven't seen the team in person since opening weekend at DC. Following the tilt against the Mets, Atlanta heads down to Florida to kick off a 3 game series on Tuesday. In the meantime, here are the 'cheers' and 'jeers' for the past week (6 games)....
Brian McCann - Heading into last Friday's game at Turner Field against the Reds, McCann's batting average was sitting at .274, the lowest it had been all season. But as the recent series against the Padres finished up, that number now sits at an impressive .309. I guess that's what a 12-20 week will do for you! The 27-year-old catcher's hit parade included 5 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI to go along with 5 R and 3 BB. His .600/.652/1.150 slash over the past two series really shows just how hot his bat has been. With Buster Posey's season done, McCann's likely closing in on his first career All-Star game start after earning the MVP award in last year's contest.
Freddie Freeman - Some fans might have been a bit disappointed with the rookie first baseman's performance through the first 6 weeks of the season (outside of a number of impressive scoops and digs with the glove), but it looks as though the 21-year-old may have finally settled in at the plate. Freeman went 10-23 (.435/.480/.696) over the past 6 games, knocking out 3 2B, a homer and 5 RBI. He even stole a base Saturday against the Reds, for good measure. Freddie's been notorious throughout his professional career for starting out slow at each new level before really turning it on at the plate. That looks to be the case again here.
Jair Jurrjens - Jair's Cy Young-caliber season continues. He made one start this past week, picking up the win Sunday while throwing a gem against the Reds. His 8 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 2 BB (1 IBB) line is similar to what we've seen nearly every start this season (the very type that earned him the NL's Pitcher of the Month Award for May). Despite not making his first start until more than two weeks into the season, Jurrjens's 7 wins entering today places him just one behind Pittsburgh's Kevin Correria's league-leading total (Kevin Correria? Really?). Jurrjens is scheduled to make the start against the Mets on Saturday when I'll be down at Citi Field. I'm definitely looking forward to that one!
Honorable Mention: Tim Hudson (1 GS, 6 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 K, 0 BB); Scott Linebrink (3 G, 1 W, 5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 K, 2 BB)
Dan Uggla - It's really uncanny that Uggla can continue to be this bad. The $60+ million man went 2-18 this past week with exactly zero extra-base hits. Fredi Gonzalez has moved him around the order a bit recently to try to get his bat going...that hasn't worked. Fredi 'surprised' Uggla by starting Brooks Conrad in his place on Tuesday against the Padres and then inserted him back in the line-up Wednesday, hitting 7th. Uggla responded by going 0-4. Not only does his bat continue to be non-existent, but his limited range in the field is now regularly showing itself, as well. I'm pretty much tired of Mr. Uggla.
Derek Lowe - Lowe began the 2011 season where his 2010 campaign left off...in near-dominant fashion. His sinker had great action and he was getting a lot of productive use out of his slider. But as the calendar turned towards May, the veteran right-hander began to look a lot more like his 2009/early 2010 self than any Braves fan wants. Whether it's attributable to his blister issue reemerging, distraction caused by his DUI arrest, neither or both, the Atlanta offense can't support many more starts like his 3.1 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 2 K, 5 BB we saw from Lowe this past Saturday.
Eric Hinske - Hinske earned 5 starts this past week, giving way to Joe Mather on Wednesday when the Braves faced LHP Clayton Richards. He cooled off a bit when compared to his earlier hot streak, going 4-21 with 0 XBH and 5 K. Braves announcers did mention that Hinske said he was a lot more tired than usual. That's not surprising, considering how much more playing time he's gotten with Heyward and McLouth on the DL than he had before then. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mather pick-up a couple extra starts to help keep Hinske fresh until Jason and Nate return.
Dishonorable Mention: Brooks Conrad (1-8, 1 XBH, 4 K); Joe Mather (0-8, 0 XBH); Cory Gearrin (2 G, 1.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 K, 0 BB)