Can Braves’ rotation survive with Beachy as a key?

Brandon Beachy was a luxury as No. 5 starter. Now he's indespensable. (AP photo)

Brandon Beachy was a luxury as No. 5 starter. Now he's indispensable. (AP photo)

(Updated: 11:44 p.m.)

Let’s start with the really good news about the Braves’ starting rotation.

Tim Hudson has looked relatively bionic in the past two months. Brandon Beachy has been far north of a rookie who wasn’t expected to be more than a fifth starter this season. Derek Lowe: Not awful again.

And even with Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson suddenly incapacitated, the Braves would have to lose, like, 27 more pitchers to a swarm of flesh-eating gnats from Neptune before they would even consider calling up Kenshin Kawakami (presumably the owner of the only Maserati in Pearl, Miss.)

But are you feeling just a little uncomfortable? General manager Frank Wren spends weeks trying to improve the team’s once struggling and dented lineup, spins a trade for Michael Bourn, makes a few other deals. Dan Uggla rises from a $62 million pile of ashes, everybody gets healthy, the lineup starts hitting – and then somebody drops a piano on the team’s starting rotation.

There’s something wrong with Jair Jurrjens’ knee, and there’s a pretty decent chance we’ve seen the last of him this season. There’s something wrong with Tommy Hanson’s shoulder, and while it looks like he will return, power pitchers with shoulder issues can be problematic – and unsettling in a pennant race.

As Wren said Friday, “It’s not the way we planned it. Obviously, we would prefer to have the starters we started the season with. J.J. made the All-Star team. Tommy Hanson deserved to make the All-Star team. When you lose two guys like that, for whatever amount of time that is, your team takes a hit.”

The Braves have taken a hit. They’ve gone a World Series-worthy top four pitching rotation — Hudson-Jurrjens-Hanson-Lowe/Beachy — to just a pretty good one. The wow factor will have to be created somewhere else. But if Braves survive this, Beachy will play a major role.

He used to be a luxury item – a rookie fifth starter with 13 quality starts in 20 outings. Now he’s indispensable. He showed again why Friday night against Los Angeles. He held the Dodgers (who came in having won nine of their previous 10) to three runs on four hits in six innings. He faced the minimum of nine batters through three innings and struck out the side in the fifth. In the sixth, with two Dodgers on base and a run in, Beachy got Andre Either to pop up and retired Aaron Miles on a lazy fly ball.

He left after the sixth, leading 5-3. But when reliever Arodys Vizcaino got body slammed for five runs in the L.A. seventh, Beachy’s chance for his eighth win in 10 decisions evaporated. The Braves went on to lose 8-6.

Still, as the Braves are scrambling in September, Beechy is doing his part. His 14 quality starts (three runs or less allowed in at least six innings) rank third on the team, behind only Hudson (21) and Jurrjens (16). He has lost only twice in 21 starts.

Beach said he “didn’t feel as sharp as usual” against the Dodgers — he walked three and hit a batter, with his seven strikeouts — but added, “I felt good about getting out of that sixth inning. But I’ll always come back to I don’t need to get into those jams, especially when it comes from me giving free passes.”

When asked about his sudden climb in the rotation, he said, “I go out there each time the same way with the same approach. Regardless of what position you want to put me in or how you want to label it, it’s not going to change the effort I’m giving.”

He could’ve used some help. Vizcaino (5 runs, 4 hits, 2 walks in one-third of inning) was a grease fire. Wren is operating on the assumption that the bullpen generally will be better than that when a starter goes six innings.

“A lot of teams need to lengthen their starters because they don’t have the bullpen we have,” Wren said. “We can shorten games. With the way things are going with our starters, we’re going to need to do that.”

That bullpen blueprint sort of fell apart Friday. Wren didn’t see that one coming.

Then again, nobody saw the canon ball-size hole in the rotation coming either.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

45 comments Add your comment

Feeanch

September 2nd, 2011
11:14 pm

Beachy is peachy

TheAntiMe

September 2nd, 2011
11:17 pm

Smooth transition, Jeffrey.

G.Wally

September 2nd, 2011
11:20 pm

So that’s what you were doing.

G.Wally

September 2nd, 2011
11:22 pm

Beachy will be fine down the stretch and in the playoffs

TheAntiMe

September 2nd, 2011
11:23 pm

The good news is that if EOF’s, Venters’, and Kimbrel’s arms can remain attached to their torso’s by then the Braves will still have a fighting chance come this postseason. However, I’m not too terribly confident in any of the rest of the relievers.

G.Wally

September 2nd, 2011
11:24 pm

TCU has come back on Baylor.

Oh OK, Now I Know...

September 2nd, 2011
11:31 pm

I just watched the news and found out why North Atlanta is nicer than South Atlanta….and West Atlanta and Clayton County and South DeKalb County.

Peter

September 2nd, 2011
11:35 pm

Two words: Peter Moylan.

Fan34571/2

September 2nd, 2011
11:41 pm

I just don’t see making playoff with this manager. I lost a $50 bet with a friend in Florida. Was bet that by the end of the season I would not like the new manager, and guess what, I don’t.

JSS

September 2nd, 2011
11:43 pm

11:31 is a JA! Well the 91 Braves rode Avery for 5 weeks… Who knows? Depends on if they get timely hitting too…

Trapper John

September 3rd, 2011
12:00 am

Braves are the Braves. Fredi is Fredi. What ever changes? Bring in a rookie reliever in an important game (all games are important now!)? Don’t get it. The Phillies actually have starting pitchers who can go 9 innings in August. So much for the “tired arms” theory! Braves have the wild card I would think. Why give up on the divisional championship?? We have six more to go with the Phillies. Is Kawakami going to start that series opener so we can save the few good arms we have left????? Followed by the hugely experienced Delgado, and, what the heck — is Proctor re-callable??? Just asking……………

IlliniBrave

September 3rd, 2011
12:06 am

@Trapper: Proctor was DFA’d and signed as a FA by the Yankees. He just got called up to the major league roster.

Trapper John

September 3rd, 2011
12:09 am

By the way, I actually know The Protolagist was released! It’s irony and hopefully humor! Anything to get through this season. It’s baseball. Anything can happen when you least expect it! I’d still like to buckle down and win the division…………

Trapper John

September 3rd, 2011
12:13 am

Illini, that must be great news for the Red Sox! I’d actually like to get this thing turned around and play the Yanks in the World Series! We all want the same thing. I simply don’t understand the rookie manager sometimes — and it could cost us BIG TIME. That’s all…

Rboo

September 3rd, 2011
1:12 am

Enter your comments here

Rboo

September 3rd, 2011
1:14 am

Trapper….win the division?……really?

Rboo

September 3rd, 2011
1:15 am

Play the Yanks?…..really?

Rboo

September 3rd, 2011
1:19 am

Truth is Atlanta is a horrible pro sports town who doesn’t support their teams… Unless they are college teams

Dr. Warren

September 3rd, 2011
1:35 am

The baseball season is very long. That’s why they call it a marathon rather than a sprint. At mile 18 you may look and feel invincible, only to have your knee come undone at mile 23. The Giants won last year because they were the best team at the end, and that’s all that counted. If the Braves’ once-strong pitching staff suddenly falls apart, well, that’s how things go. Those are the breaks of the game.

Stinger2

September 3rd, 2011
5:02 am

No reason to think the Braves can catch the Phils who are 42 games above .500.
The Braves had better concentrate on winning the WC. Losses like the one last night can become habit forming unless the team plays each game left with a sense of urgency.

Coach D.

September 3rd, 2011
6:53 am

I’ve noticed Beachy’s #’s are exceptional, but I’ve found a very disturbing trend in several of his starts: The Braves give him a 2, 3, 4 run lead & then immediately, it seems like it’s the next half-inning he lets the opposition get 2, 3, 4 runs! Frustrating as hell!!!! Anybody else notice this trend? Stud, veteran startes (i.e. Hudson) when they get a decent lead, it’s lights out time. Hopefully Beachy will learn this soon, because we’re going to need him down the stretch & especially in the playoffs. Also, I LOVE the fact that we lose & still have an 8 1/2 game lead in the wild card!!!

D-Squared

September 3rd, 2011
8:18 am

The comment about Kawakami being the only resident in Pearl with a Mazerati almost had me spitting out my coffee — tremendous, Jeff!

BravesfaninNashville

September 3rd, 2011
8:22 am

There have been so many games that I absolutely don’t understand Fredi G’s thinking. I know he was trying to save Venters and Kimbrel from pitching last night. Which to me is a luxury I don’t think we can afford right now to try to rest them both on the same night. If they need a rest then I think they should be staggered so we don’t lose 2/3 of the back end of our bullpen in one night. But if you are planning on resting them both then that means you need to make up 2 innings somewhere. He had Martinez warming up in the pen in the 6th already who could have pitched 2 innings but he doesn’t bring him in until Visciano completely lets the game get away. Don’t the Braves need to manage to win every game they have lead like that? We can rest everybody once we wrap up the Wild Card.

Runnin With The Dawgs

September 3rd, 2011
8:22 am

We’re probably need that 8 1/2 game wild card lead by the end of the season.

ldawg121

September 3rd, 2011
8:37 am

And now some news from the bright side…..it’s looking like it was a really good idea not to give up any of our young arms at the trade deadline

Brad Komminsk

September 3rd, 2011
8:40 am

Fredi has got to start demanding 7+ from his starters. Period. The bullpen is starting to get worn down. We have no “horses” in the rotation. You think Philly is trying to “shorten the game”?…No, they have 3 horses that are looking to go the distance instead of limping through 6 innings and handing it off to the pen.

Russ Nixon

September 3rd, 2011
8:50 am

Hey Idawg121 – I could not agree with your statement more. Thank goodness Wren held onto all of our young Arms! At the rate things are going it would not surprise me to see not only Beachy with a prominent postseason role but perhaps even Minor/Delgado/and Teheran. Hey back in ‘91 we almost won the whole thing with a kid pitching staff. Granted Glavine/Smoltz/and Avery were once in a generation young guns but who is to say that Beachy/Minor/Delgado/Teheran aren’t the 2nd coming of that 1991 group of young pitchers. We may soon find out!!!

Anthony

September 3rd, 2011
8:51 am

The lead has shrunk down to 8.5 games…looks like the schedule is going to lead the Braves to a division title!!

Hooter Girl

September 3rd, 2011
8:57 am

Anybody noticed that Beachy is having a better rookie season than Glavine, Smoltz. or Maddux?

Gobraves

September 3rd, 2011
9:27 am

I think Hanson will regain his form and Lowe is on the verge of another fall renaissance. This team has WS potential.

GT71

September 3rd, 2011
9:32 am

Don’t get pants in wad. SandyB will be fine in playoffs. Vizcaino has a lousy outing – so has every other pitcher in the biz. Forget catching the Phils. In the end, you only have to get hot 2-3 games to get past them in post season.
The Braves still have a very young team and few real glaring weaknesses now that mgt has taken care of CF and backups for infield.

jfreak13713

September 3rd, 2011
9:54 am

Braves in trouble I think? Facing the Brewers with only one maybe two good starters is not good! However, they do have better offense with Bourn and Uggla hitting better so they do maintain a fighting chance but World Series contender with only 2 good pitchers going is not likely. Need Hanson to show up and pitch.

ChillMutt

September 3rd, 2011
10:03 am

Beachy should be fine. Can the Braves with FREDI as the Manager. Last nights implosion is a direct result of multiple poor game management decisions. That lose sits squarely on Fredi Gonzales’ shoulders. Not sure how he has lasted in baseball this long. His instincts decision making are baffling. I’m sending Fredi a copy of ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’ because managing a baseball team isn’t it.

Kudos to the Marlins. They knew what they were doing last year when they let Fredi go.

Jonathan

September 3rd, 2011
10:17 am

Listening to you people on here makes me ashamed to be a Braves fan we have 8 and half game lead second best record in league and all you can do is put our manager down. Pathetic

ChillMutt

September 3rd, 2011
10:27 am

Jonathan – Last I saw, the Braves were 8.5 back of the Phillies. And yes I am criticizing our manager but I want the Braves to win the World Series not just back into the playoff. It makes it a lot more difficult if not impossible for the Braves to win the WS with the manager making poor game management decisions.

#1bamafan

September 3rd, 2011
10:38 am

I pull for the Braves and I am not putting down the team. Some of F.G.’s decision leave you scrathcing your head. Rest two of your three closer’s when they only pitch an inning at a time and you have time to rest in a few weeks….hmmmm

Justin

September 3rd, 2011
11:13 am

This article talks about Beachy, Beach, and Beechy like it’s the same guy. Are those nicknames or typos?

rainman

September 3rd, 2011
11:30 am

If Jurjens and Hanson cannot be counted on to be in top form
for the playoffs, our biggest strength starting the season, has
turned into our biggest problem. Even if one, or both, come back — it probably won’t be at full strength.
Hudson is the only given – period!
When the roster is expanded next Thurs. the Braves need to immediately insert Tehran into the starting rotation and see if
there is any possibility that he could become the #4 ‘wildcard’.
With the wildcard pretty secure, we can definitely rest Venters
and Kimbrell — and with Moylan coming back, I honestly think we
may have the strongest bullpen in MLB.
With the playoff lock and the expanded roster, there is no need to wear down the starting rotation either. Minor, Beachy, and Tehran need to start on a regular basis for the remainder of the
season to see who is hottest when the post season begins.
I have never trusted Lowe, but he does seem to pitch better when
the temperature cools down — and he has done fair in playoff games.
There is no way we can match Philly’s starting pitchers, so we
would have to win games through a combination of other ways.

Stoned Mountain

September 3rd, 2011
11:44 am

With Beachy you must have a fully-warmed up middle reliever ready to go in the sixth inning. A modest price, but you got to pay it. Other than that, he is okay.

ijudgenot

September 3rd, 2011
1:33 pm

Stoned Mountain

September 3rd, 2011
11:44 am
“With Beachy you must have a fully-warmed up middle reliever ready to go in the sixth inning. A modest price, but you got to pay it. Other than that, he is okay.”

I agree. Beachy came out of nowhere last year and has shown that he can consistantly get you through five innings because he normaly has a high pitch count by the 6th inning if he can get through the 5th. i really have no expectations of Moylan coming back to his old form this year. Fredi let Vizcaino stay in the game to let him see if he could get out of the jam. Look, the Braves are not going to win the division, but pretty much have the wildcard locked up. The next two weeks will be audition time for Vizcaino, Valvaro, Guerin, Linebrink, Martinez and Moylan forthat eleventh pitching spot.

5150 POAD

September 3rd, 2011
2:15 pm

Braves win World Series!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

skip

September 3rd, 2011
2:59 pm

I’m betting this blown game took huge toll on the Braves’ psyche. Betcha the Dodgers sweep the series.

Skeezix

September 3rd, 2011
4:00 pm

The worst time to begin having starting pitcher problems. Because of J.J.’s and Tommy “Gun”’s injuries, I am not as optimistic about the post season. Also, Prado and McCann have become anemic at the plate. Come the end of Sept. we may be having to turn to one or two of the young guns to start and that usually doesn’t turn out well. I am just hoping that Hanson can get back to form. We can only hope.

And no, we do not need the services of K.K. from Mississippi.

Joseph F. McNulty

September 3rd, 2011
4:04 pm

The problem is that (1) the Braves’ starting pitching is stong; (2) the Braves’ short relief is shut-down great; and (3) the Braves’ long relief is terrible. Without Moylan, the long relief is dependable — you can always depend upon it being blown up. With their sometime hitting, the Braves are likely to loose if the starting pitching is anything less than stellar. Why is long relief never mantioned when the club’s problems are mentioned?

Hillbilly D

September 3rd, 2011
4:20 pm

Barring a complete collapse, the Braves are going to win the wild card. Once you get to the post season, you only need 3 starters.