Another week, another winning record for the Braves. After dropping two of three to the lowly Cubs, Atlanta stormed back to pick-up three of four against the defending World Series champion Giants (all by one run). While the Phillies division-lead is still likely untouchable (eight games, pending the PHI-ARI result Thursday night), the series victory over San Fran extended Atlanta's Wild Card lead to an encouraging six games.
Pitching was the story of the past week. Tommy Hanson was placed on the DL earlier in the week, needing more time to rest from his right shoulder tendonitis. He was slated to return next Tuesday, but it was announced that he would miss that start was well. Fortunately, Frank Wren made sure the Braves retained the 'Big 4,' so it was easy enough to call-up Randall Delgado for a spot start. All Delgado did was take a no-hitter into the 7th. Mike Minor, who put up a 6IP/0R/9K line on Thursday, will likely remain with Atlanta to make Hanson's start on Tuesday. Despite the rough patches the starting rotation has hit after the break, there are plenty of young arms to fill-in when necessary.
Following the Giants series, Atlanta begins another match-up with Wild Card implications as they face the Diamondbacks for three games beginning Friday. The team then heads out to Chicago for a four game re-match with the Zambrano-less Cubs. I will be making the trip out to the Windy City for the last two games of that series, so while I won't be posting a Braves Status Report next week, I should have a number of game pictures for your viewing pleasure. Now for this week's 'Cheers' and 'Jeers'....
Dan Uggla - In a week that saw Uggla's career-high and current MLB season-best thirty-three game hitting streak come to an end, he still managed to collect eight hits in twenty-four at bats. An impressive five of those hits went for extra bases (2 2B, 3 HR). His 27 HR puts him on pace for 35 HR on the season and puts him just three behind Albert Pujols from the NL lead. He's looking comfortable in the clean-up spot and will be an important part of Atlanta's stretch run over the last five weeks of the regular season.
Chipper Jones - I guess the old man can still rake. Chipper's average was hovering near .250 at the break, but it looks like his regular rest might be paying off. In just eighteen at bats, he picked up seven hits (3 2B, 2 HR) and six runs driven in against just two strikeouts. Fredi has moved him down to sixth in the line-up, creating a much more threatening back end of the order than Braves fans are used to seeing. We're likely to see continued days off for the rest of the season, but it will be worth it if Chipper can continue to produce at the level he has been for the past few weeks.
Kimbrel/Venters/Vizcaino - Kimbrel and Venters shouldn't be a surprise to see here, but recent call-up Arodys Vizcaino certainly deserves equal billing this past week. The trio combined for nine appearances, throwing ten and two thirds scoreless innings. They allowed just six hits and put up a mind boggling fifteen strikeouts to only one walk. Vizz earned his first major league win and Kimbrel notched his thirty-seventh save this season, just four off the rookie record. Add in O'Flaherty and you have what might be one of the better bullpens in modern history.
Honorable Mention: Jose Constanza (7-20, HR, 2 RBI, 2 SB, 6 R); Randall Delgado (1 GS, 6 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 4 K, 1 BB); Mike Minor (2 GS, 2 W, 11.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 15 K, 2 BB)
Jair Jurrjens - Jurrjens returned from the DL to make the start against the Giants on Wednesday. Whether it was some rust, advanced stats catching up to him or a combination a both, he was completely roughed up. He managed to battle through six innings in the loss (and looked a little more comfortable the longer he went), but still surrendered five runs off eight hits and two walks, while striking out just one. Most fans didn't expect him to maintain his first half performance, but his post All-Star break outings have looked more fringe major leaguer than potential top of the rotation.
Alex Gonzalez - Another rough week has made it clear he's about as 'all glove, no bat' as possible. The veteran shortstop collected just four hits (1 XBH) in twenty-four at bats while striking out thrice. For every beautiful double play he turns, he's almost sure to kill a rally with a strikeout or pop out. Despite that, don't be surprised to see him back with Atlanta to begin the 2012 season.
Martin Prado - I feel a bit guilty listing Prado here, especially given his walk-off hit Tuesday night against San Francisco, but he made a lot of outs this past week. He did collect six hits (1 XBH), but did that in a full thirty-three at bats. If you're someone who rarely walks, like Prado, you're going to need plenty of hits to be successful..especially when you're hitting second in the order.
Dishonorable Mention: Brian McCann (4-19, 2 XBH, 5 K); Scott Linebrink (2 G, 1 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 0 K, 1 BB); Derek Lowe (1 GS, 1 L, 6 IP, 5 ER, 10 H, 6 K, 0 BB)