The Braves finished the past week with a stagnant 3-3 record. The team won the series at home against the Marlins and then avoided the sweep at the Nationals with a series finale win on Wednesday. The Phillies have posted six win in a row, putting Atlanta at a nearly-unerasable eight games behind in the division. Going into play Thursday night, they do still hold a 2.5 G lead over Arizona (5.5 over STL) in the Wild Card race, though that margin has diminished significantly over the past two weeks.
The team made a big splash in the trade market this past weekend, picking up Michael Bourn from the Astros. While no move was made to acquire a right-hander to provide help in the 'pen, top-prospect Arodys Vizcaino was recently promoted to Gwinnett and looks to be a likely call-up by September. The team has gone 1-2 with Bourn in the line-up, though no fault to him (he's hit .308 with Atlanta). The team has been hitting the ball (.281 average), but that's been essentially the only way they were able to get on base. They walked just five times (!!!) over the six game span and, outside of Dan Uggla, saw very little power. In fact, the team went without walks from Ross, Gonzo, Prado, Bourn, Freeman, Constanza and Uggla. Martin Prado and Alex Gonzalez had rare slashes of .308/.308/.308 and .261/.261/.261, respectively. With both McCann and Chipper on the shelf, a mediocre pitching performance just isn't quite enough.
The team heads to Queens Friday for a three-game weekend set against the rival Mets. I'll be at Saturday's game, so hopefully I'll catch some decent pictures worth posting on the blog. They then head to Florida Monday for three games before Marlins' 873 fans. So without further ado, here are the 'cheers' and 'jeers' for the past week...
Dan Uggla - Uggla's post All-Star break tear continues. His bat all but kept the offense alive this past week. He collected at least one hit in each of the past week's six games, extending his hitting streak to an impressive twenty-five games. His 9-24 week included five home runs (he's now on pace for thirty-three) and eleven runs driven in. His 1.000 SLG helped lead to a 1.375 OPS for the week. I'm a bit surprised pitchers are still giving him pitches to hit, but he's also not missing any hanging breaking balls that he sees.
Tim Hudson - The 36-year-old veteran made just one start this past week, but he definitely took advantage of it. Hudson allowed just one run over seven innings, surrendering six hits in the win. He struck out five while walking none. Huddy has been a consistent force in the starting rotation while all other four starters have experienced some difficulties over the past month. In thirteen major league seasons, Hudson has yet to finish a season with a losing record. He's at 10-7 now, so he's in good shape to push that streak to fourteen.
Bullpen - The 'pen was really the unsung hero of the past week (and probably the entire season). In thirteen appearances, Atlanta relievers allowed just one sole run (on a homer off Christian Martinez) over 17.2 IP, good for a miniscule 0.51 ERA. Their eight hits and four walks surrendered led to a 0.68 WHIP, to along with 20 strikeouts. Despite the high number of games and innings, the 'pen earned no decisions. This suggests that the bullpen maintained leads, but that losses are already decided before starters were pulled.
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman (9-23, 2B, 3 RBI, SB); Jose Constanza (9-23, 2B, 2 RBI); Brandon Beachy (2 G, 2 W, 12.1 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 10 K, 4 BB); Brooks Conrad (4-11, 2B)
David Ross - Atlanta's back-up catcher was pushed into a temporary starting role when Brian McCann found himself on the DL with an oblique strain. While Ross had been extremely effective in his occasional starts when giving McCann a day off, he more than struggled over the past six games. He collected just two hits in twenty at-bats (one of which was a home run), while striking out seven times and walking none. McCann's eligible to come off the DL on August 12, so Ross may be able to switch back to the role he was successful with in about a week.
Derek Lowe - Lowe made one start this past week and it was certainly a forgettable one. He lasted just four innings, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on ten hits and two home runs in the loss. He struck out three while walking two. He's progressively gotten worse this season and has caused many Braves fans to call for his demotion to the 'pen or even Gwinnett. With both Julio Teheran and Mike Minor waiting in the wings, that sentiment is certainly understandable. Remove his moderately successful Sept/Oct 2010 and April 2011 months and you're left with a 4.78 ERA. Not exactly what you'd hope for from a guy making $15m/year, nearly 16% of the team's entire salary.
Jair Jurrjens - Well, it looks like the sabermetricians are slowly starting to win out on the Jurrjens debate. His post-mid season classic's performance continues to be uninspiring. One his one start over the week, Jurrjens went surrendered five runs over five innings in the loss. His seven hits allowed included two homers and he struck out just one batter while walking two. JJ has lasted more than six innings only once in his four starts since the All-Star break and we've seen his ERA shoot up from 1.87 to 2.63. I don't think it's realistic to have expected him to continue on with a sub-2.00 ERA type season, but the Braves need more than he's shown over the past few weeks.
Dishonorable Mention: Alex Gonzalez (6-23, 0 XBH, 5 K, 0 BB)