With Atlanta's victory over Colorado on Thursday, the team cliched a winning week, going 4-3 over the past seven games. The three losses allowed the Phillies to add to their division lead as the Braves now sit four games back. But the team's still on pace for nearly 95 wins and do own a 5.5 game lead in the Wild Card race.
While the week featured games against the Nationals and Rockies, you just could not escape all the trades rumors swirling around television analysts, bloggers, twitters, etc. First it was that the Braves were moments away from announcing a 3-1 deal for Hunter Pence, then it was likely that Atlanta would be acquiring Jonny Gomes from Cincinnati. Most recently, talk heated up that the Braves were close to bringing Carlos Beltran on board for a package that included Mike Minor. With only a week and a half left before the standard trade deadline on July 31, the 'sellers' are understandably holding out for the best deal. Although Atlanta does have the chips to make a blockbuster change, I still think a move for a 4th OF/bench-type right-handed bat and/or a right-handed late inning reliever is most likely. The team does have the fourth best record in baseball while still battling injuries (Chipper has yet to begin his post-knee surgery rehab assignment).
The Braves continue their twenty games in twenty days stretch as they make a trip to the launching pad that is the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Atlanta will play three games against the Reds before heading back home for a four game tilt with the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates at Turner Field. Here are this past week's 'cheers' and 'jeers' (7 games)....
Freddie Freeman - Boy does Freeman enjoy playing against the Rockies. After lighting up Colorado at Turner Field earlier this month, he again teed off on the team's pitching this past week. That performance helped lead to a 10-30, 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI week. It's quite sobering when you remember this guy is a twenty-one year old rookie hitting clean-up for one of the best teams in baseball.
Dan Uggla - Ok, is it now safe to suggest that Atlanta's new second baseman might have finally busted out of that three month-plus long slump? Uggla went 7-23 with a pair of doubles, a pair of homers and four runs driven in. He's currently riding a twelve-game hitting streak, raising his average 20 points and putting him within striking distance of .200. He did tweak his left calf in Wednesday's game, keeping him out of Thursday line-up. With any luck, it shouldn't be a serious issue with him missing no more than a few games.
Tim Hudson - Huddy was a rare bright spot among Braves pitchers over the past couple series. In two starts, the Auburn product went fourteen innings, allowing just three earned runs on twelve hits. Perhaps more impressively, he struck of twelve while walking only two. His week was good enough for a win and a no-decision.
Honorable Mention: Craig Kimbrel (3 G, 1 W, 2 SV, 3 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 7 K, 2 BB); Brian McCann (7-22, HR, 3 RBI)
Beachy/Hanson/Jurrjens/Lowe - Outside of Tim Hudson, it was a rough week for the Atlanta starting rotation. The quarter did manage to go 2-2 over five starts, but the offense helped mask what was a forgettable combined performance. Over 27.1 IP, the four surrendered 27 ER and 40 H. Their 26/12 K/BB was decent enough, though 15 of those strikeouts were by way of Hanson's two starts. Now while those numbers can at least be partly attributable to the Coors Field effect, it is a sobering reminder of just how important pitching has been to the overall success of this team.
Alex Gonzalez - Well, it seems that Gonzo has taken over Uggla's regular spot on the weekly 'jeers' list. And deservedly so. The veteran shortstop's 4-28 week included just two extra-base hits and seven strikeouts. Despite the .143 average for the week, Gonzalez did manage to contribute 5 RBI. I guess it helps to have guys getting on base in front of you.
Proctor/Gearrin - Another tough week for the bottom of the Braves bullpen. Proctor and Gearrin each made two appearances over the past seven days, throwing a combined four and a third innings. Six hits and seven walks lead to six earned runs. If there's a silver lining, it's that Fredi has figured out that their role is to eat up innings in blow outs, preferably ones where the Braves are already behind. While Gearrin still has his future in front of him, Proctor is clearly no longer an effective and useful major league reliever.
Dishonorable Mention: Nate McLouth (5-22, 1 XBH, 4 K)