(Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
It’s that time again – high socks Monday – which has worked for the past two Mondays, when the Braves
went 2-0 with wins over the Marlins and the Phillies after an 0-12 start on that day of the month.
The Braves open a four-game series against the Padres, a team they haven’t faced all season. Weird, isn’t it? But they’ll play seven games against the Padres in the next 17 days, including three at Petco Park on Aug. 27-29. (For complete pitching match-ups and more stats, click here.)
The Padres actually come to town hot. They’d won six in a row until the Pirates snapped it on Sunday with a Clint Barmes grand slam and a 11-5 win. Before that they’d won two of three from the Pirates, swept the Cubs and taken two of three from the Mets.
The Padres are without their closer Huston Street, who was just placed on the DL Saturday with a strained quadriceps. He was 21-for-21 in save opportunities this season and had a 21 1/3 inning scoreless streak when he strained his quad covering first base Friday night on the game’s final out. He is 2-1 with an 0.75 ERA in 36 games overall. They’ll likely use set-up men Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson to hold down the fort while Street is out.
Tonight Mike Minor will be facing left-hander Eric Stultz, who was just moved back into the rotation when the Padres designated Kip Wells for assignment. He pitched 5 1/3 shutout innings in his first start back in the rotation in a 2-0 win over the Cubs. As a starter he is 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA in six starts this season. This is his first start against the Braves, since Aug. 9, 2009 when as a Dodger, he gave up three earned runs in five innings of a loss.
(Chipper Jones decided to play Monday’s game despite the late-night return from New York. He’ll likely get a rest day later in the series.)
Minor hasn’t felt great in his past two starts but – a rain-shortened outing against the Marlins and a 3-0 loss to the Phillies – but he showed he could persevere even still. He rebounded after a rough first inning in Philadelphia to pitch six shutout innings.
And this little tidbit: former Brave Jason Marquis, whom the Braves will face on Thursday, took a no-hit bit into the seventh inning on Saturday against the Pirates and A.J. Burnett, and wound up with a two-hit shutout. This is the same Marquis was released by the Twins earlier this year.
Failure to gain ground
The Braves are coming off a 4-2 road trip with series victories against the Phillies and Mets but really last night’s loss cost them a rare opportunity to gain ground on the Nationals, who had lost earlier in the day to Arizona to snap an eight-game winning streak.
It seemed like the Braves had failed to take advantage of those here recently, so I checked back to verify and it’s really not been that bad. Since the Braves and Nats split their head-to-head series July 20-22, the Nationals have lost five games. The Braves have lost two of those, but won three.
Nats losses Braves results
Aug. 12 Loss to Arizona 7-4 Braves lost to Mets 6-5
Aug. 3 Lost to Miami 5-2 in DH Game 2 Braves beat Astros 4-1
Aug. 1 lost to Philadelphia 3-2 Braves lost to Miami, 4-2
July 31 lost to Philadelphia 8-0 Braves beat Miami 7-1
July 27 lost to Milwaukee 6-0 Braves beat Phillies 6-1
Overall, the schedule from here on out is pretty favorable for the Braves. As the standings dictate today, the Braves play teams with sub. 500 records in two out of every three games the rest of the way.
Of the 48 remaining, 32 games are against sub. 500 teams (seven against the Padres, six against the Phillies, six against the Mets, six against the Marlins, four against the Rockies and three against the Brewers.)
Of their final 48 games, 16 are against teams with winning records (three against the Dodgers, six against the Nationals, four against the Giants and three against the Pirates.)
So what about the Nationals, you ask? Well, let me tell ya. The Nationals, who haven’t played the Cardinals yet this year, have it a little tougher. They play 19 of their remaining 47 games against winning teams (three against the Giants, six against the Braves, seven against the Cardinals and three against the Dodgers).
They have 28 games against sub .500 team (six against the Mets, nine against the Phillies, five against the Marlins, four against the Cubs and four against the Brewers.)
That schedule discrepancy accounts for a swing of about 3 ½ games. The Braves enter tonight’s game trailing the Nats in the standings by 4 ½ games.
Of course a lot can happen – and a lot will. It’s going to be an interesting finish, and I personally think it’s not a bad thing that the Braves will spend this September chasing, and not holding furiously to a wild-card lead. And yes, they want the division now more than ever, rather than a one-game playoff as one of the two wild-card teams.
Just wanted to include what Tommy Hanson said last night in Gwinnett after his five shutout innings in a rehab game. He’s wouldn’t be available to start until Friday at the earliest, so the Braves will probably take a few days before announcing their pitching plans and whether they’ll go to a six-man rotation for a while after Hanson returns from the DL.
But here’s what Hanson said after his start last night: “My back felt better, that was the main thing. I didn’t have much time to prepare for this start, but I still went out and made pitches. My off-speed stuff was really good. I felt really good with my curveball and slider. I feel good about the way I threw today. I’m looking forward to my next start.”
He threw 48 of his 78 pitches for strikes, gave up three hits, two walks and struck out five.
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado LF
3. Jason Heyward RF
4. Chipper Jones 3B
5. Freddie Freeman 1B
6. Dan Uggla 2B
7. Brian McCann C
8. Paul Janish SS
9. Mike Minor P