Well, the Braves' first sweep of the Marlins in Florida since 1995 really made the series loss to the Mets a bit easier to swallow. The trifecta of one-run wins against the Marlins allowed Atlanta to finish the past week 4-2, shifting up into 2nd place behind the Phillies in the NL East. Philadelphia's 2.5 G ahead of the Braves, pending the result of Thursday night's game. But despite the relatively successful week, the team's same issue remains. Their 3.76 R/G this season is 4th worst in the league, but their MLB-leading 2.98 ERA (3.27 RA/G) has usually been effective enough to cover for the offense's deficiencies. An improved offense will be key in moving this team from above-average to a serious playoff contender.
While the Braves wait for Brandon Beachy, Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward to return from the DL over the next few weeks, Martin Prado's now day-to-day after a plunk to the knee on a stolen base attempt and Tim Hudson's recent struggles suggest he may still be battling back issues (though he says he's fine). Now even more pressure will be placed on the pitching staff's collective shoulders.
The team heads to Houston to begin a rare Friday-Monday 4-game series with the Astros tomorrow before returning home to face the Mets for 3 games on Tuesday. Houston and New York boast a combined .469 winning percentage, so it would be nice to see the Braves snag 4 or 5 wins. But now for the "cheers' and "jeers" from the past week (6 games). A lot more of the latter, unfortunately, despite the 4-2 record.
Derek Lowe - Derek's week included two starts (both no decisions) with a combined 12.2 IP, 3 ER, 9 H, 6 K, 3 BB line. Most notably, the veteran took a no-hitter into the 7th inning for the second time this season Wednesday night against the Marlins in Florida. When Lowe's sinker is working and he's keeping his other pitches down, he's extremely unhittable. I don't think he'll have top of the line stuff through the rest of the season (like he did the first 6 weeks of the year), but I'm confident he'll continue with more productive starts than not through October.
Tommy Hanson - Hanson had one start this week and certainly made the most of it. The 24-year-old right-hander went 6 innings, permitting no runs and just 2 hits while striking out 6 in the win. He did allow an uncharacteristic 5 walks, but managed to prevent them from causing any damage. Hanson's outing was critical as the Atlanta offense managed just 1 run in support (shocking, I know). His only real downside this season has been hitting high pitch counts early.
Jonny Venters - Everyday Jonny's dominant 2011 season continues. In 4 appearances this past week, Venters threw 4 innings, allowing no runs and surrendering just 2 hits. His save Thursday was the second of the season for him. He struck out 4 against no walks, but did hit a batter. I actually don't mind the 'wildness' (walks and HBP), as I think it makes his 95+ mph sinker just that much more difficult to hit..as if he really needs any help with it.
Honorable Mention: Diory Hernandez (2-3, HR, 3 RBI)
Offense - I appreciate that offense is down all across the league this year, but a .200 average (40-200) over the past week is just ridiculous. They aren't getting on base, they're striking out too often and (outside of 5 HR) aren't displaying enough extra-base hit power. 17 runs over 6 games (2.8 per game) just won't cut it. Fans were all over Terry Pendleton last year, myself included, but it looks like Larry Parrish has managed to do an even worse job with the team's hitters this season.
Dan Uggla - 2-18, 1 XBH, 5 K. I really have nothing original left to say here. If you're interested in reading more about the waste of a bat Uggla has been this season, check out the "jeers" section of the majority of my previous "status reports" over the past 10 weeks and/or my post on him over at Chop-N-Change.
Joe Mather - With Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth still on the DL, Mather earned a handful more starts this past week, especially when facing a LHP starter. Unfortunately, the offensive spark he provided earlier this month has evaporated. Going 2-15 with no extra-base hits and 4 strikeouts won't get it done. It's looked like he's developed a bit of a kink in his swing recently, popping up way too often.
Dishonorable Mention: Jordan Schafer (2-19, 1 XBH, 5 K); Eric Hinske (2-15, 5 K); Chipper Jones (4-20, 2 XBH, 4 K); Tim Hudson (1 GS, L, 4 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 1 BB)