(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Good news for the Braves today. And yes, they could use some. I didn’t type a dateline just now, so that can only mean one thing. Yep, they’re home. Turner Field, the Ted, they could use a hug and a warm fuzzy from the home crowd and something other than what was happening on the road.
The Braves’ pitching in Florida, Washington and Cincinnati was solid. Their defense had some costly momentary lapses. Their offense, no doubt, needs a bolt of something. The Braves hit only .234 over those nine games on the 3-6 trip, while their ERA was 3.78, plenty good enough.
The most starting statistic was one DOB included in his game story from yesterday, that the Braves hit only .179 (15-for-84) with runners in scoring position during the nine-game trip.
Chipper Jones said it while the team was in Washington “just get us back to Atlanta” and he had a point. The Braves are 34-13 at Turner Field this season, good for the best home record in baseball, where they win at a .723 clip. The Braves bat 21 points higher at home as a team (.271), compared to only .250 on the road. And they’re scoring 5.0 runs per game at home, compared to 4.2 on the road.
The Mets are 5-12 since the All-Star break and are coming to town off a 14-1 loss to the Diamondbacks on Sunday, featuring a pair of three-run homers by former Brave Adam LaRoche. The Mets did take two of three from the Cardinals in that stretch, to their credit.
The Phillies are off today, so a win tonight would mean a chance to go back up by three games, or a loss and drop to an even two. It’s all up to the Braves tonight.
Braves vs. the NL EastThe Braves are 19-19 against NL East opponents this season. I figured they had to be the only division leader in baseball with that kind of record within its own division. Wrong. It starts out as you’d expect: the Padres are 21-16 vs. the NL West, the Cardinals are 25-18 vs. the NL Central, and the Rangers are 20-11 vs. the AL West.
But then you see the Chicago White Sox, who are 17-20 against the AL Central. Whoa. And then you move along their W-L breakdowns and see that 15-3 in interleague play record and go aha. To finish it off, the Yankees are 23-14 against the AL East.
Today Braves fans can get acquainted/re-acquainted with Rick Ankiel and reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who just joined the Braves Sunday in Cincinnati after the trade Saturday afternoon from Kansas City. I’m sure Farnsworth will have a few extra fans and family in the seats tonight; he grew up in Roswell.
The same might be true for Ankiel, who is a native of Ft. Pierce, Fla. and said he grew up a Braves fan.
But I’d doubt Ankiel is in the starting lineup against left-hander Johan Santana. Ankiel, who bats left, is hitting only .172 (5-for-29) against lefties this year (small sampling, though), and he’s hitting .288 (19-for-66) vs. the righties.
For his career, Ankiel has hit .239 vs. lefties (with .279 on-base, .402 slugging) and .256 vs. righties (with .322 on-base and .471 slugging).
So you put Matt Diaz in left field probably, slide Melky Cabrera back into center.
Speaking of center field, just an update…In four games since Nate McLouth was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett, he has gone 5-for-17 (.294) with homers in each of his first two games and four RBIs. He has struck out three times and scored three runs.
Reliever Scott Proctor, by the way, who is still trying to work his way back from “Tommy John” surgery gave up four runs, three earned in 1/3 inning on Sunday afternoon. He is now 0-1 with a 9.49 ERA in 10 outings for Gwinnett.
There will be a lot going on this home stand, with the Mets coming in for three games, the Giants for four. Tom Glavine’s Hall-of-Fame luncheon and jersey retirement on Friday (hey kind of ironic, it’s just after the Mets leave town). Sara Evans is in the house on Saturday. Santana pitches tonight for the Mets. The Braves face Tim Lincecum with the Giants on Thursday.
(The Freak has apparently been tinkering with his freaky windup to improve his command. Can’t imagine he’d want to change his mechanics a ton but apparently, at least, he’s taking his hands over his head now.)
Jeff Francoeur survived the trade deadline with the Mets, for better or worse. I’m not sure which way he wanted to go there. But he’s played sparingly since the return of Carlos Beltran in center, with Angel Pagan getting much of the playing time in right field.
Since Beltran’s return on July 15, Francoeur has started only nine of 17 games (gotten into 14 of them), and hit .108 (4-for-37) with one homer and three RBIs. His season average is down to .236 with nine homers and 45 RBIs.
Santana vs. Hudson
Really nice pitching matchup tonight with Santana vs. Tim Hudson. It’s probably not the greatest of news for Braves hitters, who were shut out by Santana on Sunday July 11, the day before the All-Star break. They went scoreless in seven innings against Santana that day in New York, managing only five hits off him in a 3-0 loss.
But wait, it’s not all bad news. Santana got beat around by the Cardinals his last time out. He gave up a season-high 13 hits and 7 runs, his second-highest total this season, in 5 2/3 innings. And he seems to have some bad luck against the Braves for his career. He’s got a 2.01 ERA in 10 career starts against Atlanta but only two wins. Both of those wins have come in his past four starts against the Braves over the last two seasons.
Hudson meanwhile is coming off a gem against the Nationals (one run in 7 2/3 innings.) He’s allowed one or no runs in four of his past six starts. His 2.40 ERA is ranked fifth in the National League among qualifiers. He’s tied for fifth in wins (11).
Ok. We’ll have plenty more for the ballpark this afternoon. We’ll let you know if the Braves have decided to go on and disable Martin Prado with his fractured right pinky.