Miami – So last time the Braves played the Marlins, it was a three-game set at Turner Field, and I blogged about what a big series it was.
Both teams were coming in hot, each at 5-1, and tied for first place in the division, and the series seemed like something that could set the tone in the division race.
The Braves got swept, as you know. And since the first game of that series, they have gone 6-14. The Braves have to beat the Marlins tonight to avoid matching the five-game losing streak they sunk into starting with that last Marlins series.
Not that the Marlins have done much better. Since opening the season 11-1, the Marlins are 4-11. A loss to the Reds last night dropped them into second place in the NL East behind the Phillies, who’ve won three in a row.
In those first 12 games, the Marlins hit .273, hit 15 home runs and scored 77 runs. They had a staff ERA of 3.24. In the 15 games since then, the Marlins have hit .211, hit 11 home runs, and scored only 49 runs. Their ERA was 5.60 in this last stretch.
Now the Marlins are leading the majors with 231 strikeouts. (It only seems like the Braves are – ha ha. Jordan Schafer notwithstanding lately, this is an area they’re actually doing well in – the Braves’ 156 strikeouts is tied for 24th out of 30 teams. Not too shabby.
Andrew Miller, who faced the Braves April 15 (four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings), is out with an oblique strain. Pitching in his spot tonight is left-hander Graham Taylor.
Derek Lowe, who faced Miller that day, will try to improve upon that effort, a five inning, four-run outing in a 10-4 loss to the Marlins. That was his worst outing of the year and one in which he walked an uncharacteristic five batters.
And hey, for a guy who admits to sweating in 45-degree temperatures in Philadelphia in the playoffs, I hope Derek is sucking down some fluids now, because it’s a whole new humidity here.
Waking up at 6:30 a.m. to run this morning did not help that much (a tidbit for Rodney Derrick) and neither did using a walkjogrun.com map. Dude who created the map must have been on a bike – or in a motorcyle, or heck, a car – because he had me going over a causeway on a skinny little shoulder with cars flying by at who knows how fast. No thanks.
And that wasn’t even the sad part of the run. That was when I tried to get myself some scenery and run in a little condo-kind of development that backed up to the intracoastal waterway. The security guard shooed me back out. I guess I looked pretty threatening, armed with my water belt and sunglasses.
Anyway. Back to the point.
So now, here we are three weeks later and neither the Marlins or Braves have much to feel great about. But neither team is that far off in this bunched up division either.
Once again, you could say the Braves find themselves in a key stretch: they are two games – both losses to the Mets – into a 10-game stretch against the three NL East opponents ahead of them in the standings. They have a real great chance to make up some ground, now that they’ve fallen to fourth place after back-to-back losses to the Mets, and four games out.
But then, really, any talk of the Braves needing to win series, or win four in a row to get into first place yadda yadda just falls flat to me right now.
Win a game. Win another game. Then we’ll talk about winning a series. Do you realize the Braves have won only one of their past seven series? They took two out of three in Cincinnati, and there you have it. Otherwise they haven’t won a series since the home-opening weekend against the Washington Nationals.
It’s got to get better than that, or this season is starting to feel like last season, only with better pitching.
The Braves are ranked 26th out of 30 major league teams in runs scored with 105. The only teams behind them are Cincinnati (102), Oakland (101), Arizona (99) and San Francisco (90). The Braves are averaging 4.04 runs per game.
By the way, that’s less than last year’s average of 4.64 runs per game. Based on what the Braves didn’t do this winter, it was apparent they thought that last year’s offense wasn’t far off – if you get Jeff Francoeur back hitting like himself and add a veteran bat in left field.
That might be so. Might not. But the Braves would like to see Brian McCann get back in there Friday and see what kind of an impact he can have on this struggling lineup. While battling blurred vision, the Braves went 6-6 with McCann in the lineup. We’ll have to see how much he can lift the team when he’s actually seeing the ball.
Tommy Hanson had another great game last night – held AAA Syracuse to a run on two hits in six innings. The only run was a solo home run by former Bravo Ryan Langerhans. Hanson struck out 10 and walked three. He shaved his ERA down to 1.65, while sticking at 1-3.
Hanson threw 94 pitches, including 61 for strikes.
Manny Acosta, Francisley Bueno and Luis Valdez combined to give up seven runs on eight hits in the last three innings of an 8-1 loss. It was 1-1 when Hanson left the game after six.
Those of you who live or work up in the Buford area, you might want to swing by the Gwinnett ballpark and watch McCann take batting practice this afternoon. He’ll be doing that in Gwinnett today and then getting a start behind the plate tomorrow night in Gwinnett, to make sure he’s comfortable catching in his new prescription Oakley glasses.
Hey, give us a report while you’re at it. And enjoy a relatively affordable way to watch a three-time All-Star do his thing.
I was up at the Gwinnett ballpark the other day reporting a story I’m working on about Brian Barton – super interesting guy – and I saw a promotion that stopped me in my tracks. They call it the Allgood Pest Solutions “Catch a Termite in your Pants” contest. Am I the last to see something like this? Hey, name alone caught my attention.
I watched this 10 or 11 year-old girl catch these stuffed termites launched up in the air by a slingshot in these huge, outstretched baggy pants she had to wear. She caught three out of four “termites,” Including one Willie Mays style, over the shoulder. I kid you not. Let’s get that gal on the payroll.
And speaking of getting on the payroll, it’s too bad Hanson isn’t a power-hitting position player. Somebody like that would have to be on the fast track right now, eh?
That’s it for now, more from the aqua-and-orange Dolphins Stadium a bit later….