(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Washington – OK, denizens, while we wait on the upcoming All-Star announcements and the start of the game, let me bang out a quick blog before I head downstairs and put you guys out of your misery. Last I checked there were 36 pages of posts and counting, which might have been why I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep, worried that I’d left you guys hanging.
Last of the series today in DC, and frankly, I know it’s “just the Nationals,” but I see today as a big game. They win this one, beat Scott Olsen, take the series two out of three, then they can say they’re still rolling. They will have won six out of seven. OK, they got beat by the Nationals’ staff ace John Lannan Saturday, caught Mike Gonzalez a little worn down thanks to a stretch where he’s been used a lot because of all the winning, and still head to Chicago feeling good.
They lose today, and it’s here we go again, can’t beat the teams they should beat, even when coming off a series sweep over the Phillies and having all the reason in the world to feel good about themselves.
You have to figure today’s match-up favors the Braves with Derek Lowe going, but he went through an iffy stretch before righting things last time out. He is 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 14 career games against the Nationals, including eight starts. He’s 0-1 this year against them with a 4.00 ERA in two starts.
The Braves came one hit shy of double-digits hits for the fifth consecutive game yesterday. The offense was limited to three runs yesterday, but with Brian McCann back in there today, the lineup could easily get rolling again.
Speaking of Lowe, I got to thinking last night about this Braves starting rotation, and who is the ace. It seems to change week-to-week around here. In my eyes, to start the season, you had to figure Lowe was the ace. The horse with the $60 million contract, who pitched eight shutout innings against the Phillies to kick off the season. He’s leading the staff with 12 quality starts….
Then Jair Jurrjens emerged as the one even Lowe called the ace of the staff. Pitching like the most consistent guy in the rotation, Jurrjens has given up more than three earned runs in a start only twice all season. His 2.73 ERA is fifth in the National League, and if it weren’t for his lack of run support and a 6-6 record he’d be a great bet for the All-Star game.
(And this little aside. I was thinking, watching Jurrjens motion the other day, the way his takes his glove up over his head, keeps everything nice and smooth headed to toward the plate, that his motion looks a little like Greg Maddux. Take a few pounds off him, and I can almost see it. Am I crazy?)
Then came the month of June and Javier Vazquez. He put up the 1.98 ERA, struck out 39 in 36 1/3 innings and was the Braves hottest pitchers, unless you took run support into account. He went only 1-3 and was not among the contenders for pitcher of the month.
Then, of course, you had Tommy Hanson busting onto the scene, winning four of his first five major league starts, beating the Yankees, the Red Sox and then pitching maybe his best game of all yesterday against the Nationals before the bullpen blew his 3-1 lead.
So who is the ace? You tell me.
FRANCOEUR SITS AGAIN
And in the meantime, I’ll tell you the Braves just posted the lineup and Jeff Francoeur is out again. I don’t know that it’s a trend yet, just a matter of how incredibly hot Matt Diaz is right now, but that’s something to watch. OK, the lineup:
1. Nate McLouth CF
2. Martin Prado 2B
3. Chipper Jones 3B
4. Brian McCann C
5. Yunel Escobar SS
6. Garret Anderson LF
7. Matt Diaz RF
8. Casey Kotchman 1B
9. Derek Lowe P
An interesting tidbit about Adam Dunn and the 300th homer he hit yesterday off Hanson. Dunn is only the 13th player to reach the 300 club before his 30th birthday. The others? A couple of heavy hitters….and some Bravos:
Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, Albert Pujols, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Mickey Mantle, Juan Gonzalez, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and Harmon Killebrew.
FYI, matchups for the Cubs series: Jurrjens vs. Randy Wells Monday, Vazquez vs. Ryan Dempster Tuesday and Kawakami vs. Carlos Zambrano on Wednesday. OK headed for the clubhouse. More in a while.