(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)
It feels a little like déjà vu for me today, with Tim Hudson on the mound, coming off a Braves loss, and me digging for the stat I used less than a week ago in Philadelphia. Too bad I doodled it on a piece of paper that didn’t make it home in the bag and will have to re-figure it.
Hudson has pitched 11 times after a Braves loss this season, and in those games he’s gone 7-2. (The team has gone 9-2). His ERA jumped from 3.84 ERA to 4.37 in starts after losses his last time out, when a five-run fifth inning ruined his outing against the Phillies. But the Braves still rallied to win 12-6.
Hudson said that night he’d felt great for the first four innings and then all of a sudden the wheels came off.
“I went about four innings where I hardly missed a spot to a 25-pitch stretch where I don’t know that I really hit one,” he said.
Hudson had a pretty good idea that night what the problem was – “I need to clean up a few things in my delivery in the stretch. I think that’s the root of the problem,” he said – so I’d imagine he spent much of his bullpen session between starts focusing on that.
When Hudson has gotten beat this year, it’s usually been one inning that haunted him, which would seem to reinforce his theory that once he starts pitching from the stretch he has a hard time getting consistency from his pitches.
He’s given up six or more runs in four starts this season, and in all four of those starts, four or more runs have come in one inning. There was a five-run first inning on May 4 at Colorado, a four-run first inning on May 25 against Washington, a four-run first inning on July 1 against Washington, and the five-run fifth last Wednesday in Philadelphia.
We’ll see if Hudson can get back on track tonight against the Padres and left-hander Clayton Richard, who has been awfully tough lately. Richard has won back-to-back starts in August while allowing one earned run in 16 innings. He’s coming off a complete game shutout against the Cubs.
He’s struggled with the Braves in his career, though, going 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in four starts. He gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings on June 1, 2011 the last time he faced them. He’s made it six innings only once in the four starts. Brian McCann is 5-for-7 with four RBIs against Richard. Chipper Jones is 6-for-11 off him.
Eye on the Nats
The Nats opened up their biggest lead in the division all year at 5 ½ games last night after a 14-2 win over the Giants. The “biggest lead” part is true for them, but the Braves have been as far behind them as six games on July 4 and 5, back when Paul Maholm was pitching for the Cubs and shutting the Braves down, and the Mets were in second place, 4 ½ games behind the Nats.
But the Braves have got to win tonight, or the Nationals have to find a way to lose, to avoid seeing that gap widening to its largest of the season on the Braves.
The Nationals got Ryan Vogelsong for eight runs in 2 2/3 innings in a 14-2 win last night, the guy who had been leading the National League in ERA. He went from first in ERA (2.26) to tied for third (2.72) overnight.
Tonight going for the Nationals is the guy who overtook Vogelsong for the NL lead in ERA, and it’s not Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez, it’s Jordan Zimmermann, who has a 2.35 ERA
Braves pitching has actually been better than the Nats pitching this month (2.55 ERA for the Braves > 2.84 ERA for the Nats) but they’re not able to keep up with the Nats’ offense.
The Nats have scored 170 runs since the All-Star break to lead the majors. They have score 78 runs in August while going 11-3 for an average of 5.57 runs per game. The Braves have gone going 7-5 in August while averaging 4.75 runs per game (57 runs total). Washington’s .277 team batting average in August is third in the National League, while the Braves are 12th at .235.
They could start with a little more patience tonight. As manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed out, the Braves got away from their usual game plan of “battling” pitchers.
Eric Stults threw 101 pitches last night and faced 29 batters. That means each batter saw an average of 3.48 pitches per plate appearance. Freddie Freeman was the poster boy for aggression last night. He loves the ambush, but he might have taken it a bit far, going 0-for-4 on four pitches.
Freeman swung at the first pitch in each of his four at-bats, and while he nearly got a hit with a shot in his first at-bat when Cameron Maybin robbed him in center field, he didn’t come close again on a ground out and two more fly outs.
Just thinking back to Hudson’s last start, and Mike Minor’s before that – because of the off day on Thursday, those two are going on an extra day’s rest. It’s something they’ve done multiple times this year. So if the concern about the change to a six-man rotation is that it gets pitchers out of their rhythm, I’m thinking the schedule does that too, with the occasional off day, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal.
Entering tonight, Hudson is 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA in four starts on five days’ rest this season, compared to 5-3 with a 4.48 ERA in 11 starts on normal four days’ rest.
To me, the dangerous part in this decision is what you do about the extra player. When Tommy Hanson is activated from the DL on Friday, if you send down a reliever like Cory Gearrin or a Luis Avilan, aren’t you holding your breath for no rain delays, no short outings by a starter, no extra innings games?
Whoever the Braves send down has to stay down for 10 days – or until the end of the minor league season, whichever comes first (Gwinnett goes until Sept. 3) – unless there’s an injury and he’s replacing someone on the DL. So even when rosters expand Sept. 1 you wouldn’t be able to bring the guy back right away.
Seems to me the Braves would almost rather go short a position player, but then what to do you there? If Tyler Pastornicky is sent down, that would leave Martin Prado as your only backup shortstop, and we saw how quickly that can come into play the night Jack Wilson went down with a finger injury.
Wilson, by the way, had a setback with his finger, so I don’t know how soon he’d be available again. Andrelton Simmons is still looking at early September at best. He was examined by the Braves hand specialist last night and hoped to begin light throwing soon.
Some other late night news in case you missed it, about Matt Diaz being out for the rest of the season in all likelihood, now that he’s facing surgery on his thumb. And wasn’t that Derek Lowe I saw in pinstripes last night, pitching four shutout innings of relief in his debut with the Yankees? The guy keeps on coming.
OK lineup and more from ballpark shortly.