The first interleague series for the Braves against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re calling themselves these days, was a pretty big stinker. After only scoring 1 run over the last 30 innings of their 1-6 road trip, the struggling Angels offense suddenly woke up at home and pounded Braves ace Tim Hudson on Friday night en route to a 9-0 blowout. Ervin Santana tossed a 4-hit shutout with 7 strikeouts as the Braves’ bats were once again silenced. After the game Santana said the Braves hitters were “pretty much swinging at everything”. Not what you want to hear in the post-Francouer era when your team is already having trouble scoring runs. Hudson only lasted 3 2/3 innings as he gave up 8 runs, walked 3 batters, and even hit 3 dudes. Ouch. That’s reminiscent of a Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn start before he got his glasses. Making matters worse, the Braves announced yesterday that Hudson will miss his next start with an ailing back. Young lefty Mike Minor will take his spot in the rotation. Yet another injury this team will have to battle through. Hope it’s nothing serious, the Braves need Hudson for the long haul.
Game 2 on Saturday night also got off to a rough start when Big Red, Tommy Hanson gave up a 2-run homer to Bobby Abreu on an 0-2 pitch in the 2nd inning. The Braves were shut down through 6, but it was the fiery call-up Joe Mather to the rescue in the 7th, picking up Hanson and the team with a huge 3-run shot to finally give Atlanta something to celebrate. Brian McCann’s RBI double later in the inning would tie the game at 4, and the Braves would go on to steal the game 5-4 in 12, as Mather came through once again with the game winning RBI double. Up-and-down closer Craig Kimbrel was up for the challenge this time around, as he held the 1 run lead (thank God) for his 12th save. Timely hitting is still a bit of a concern right now, but the Bravos ended up with a whopping 17 hits and 0 errors in yet another extra innings contest, and the Angels only had 5 hits and 2 errors. With that kind of offensive and defensive disparity, would’ve been extra frustrating to drop this one. The rubber match was pretty much a yawn. Derek Lowe was wild (5 walks in only 6 innings) and the offense was stagnant (1 run, 6 hits). Angels closed out the series with a 4-1 win.
I know interleague play is controversial, I still go back and forth on the merits of it myself, but I must say it’s pretty fun seeing the Braves mix it up with some of these American League teams. Not as fun when you don’t win the series, but still. After an off day on Monday, the Braves (26-23, 4 GB) continue their road trip in Pittsburgh. It’s been a tough one so far (1-4), but the Pirates could be just the team to turn things around against. Then again, I thought the same thing about the D-Backs and the Angels! Need to put up some early runs to back these starting pitchers so they can relax a little bit. Promising third baseman Pedro Alvarez is on the DL for the Fighting Jack Sparrows, so let’s keep CF Andrew McCutchen off the basepaths and take it to these guys for a big series win. Former Brave Charlie Morton faces off against Jair Jurrjens in the opener on Tuesday night. Morton’s been one of the lone bright spots for the Pirates (22-24) this year. The young right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA. Jair’s been even better, 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA. I’ve got both of these young guns going for my fantasy squad, so I should at least get a win from someone right?? Hopefully it’s JJ.
The Good: Joe Mather has shown some pop and some hustle, and has proven to be an adequate fill in while Heyward rests that bum shoulder…Chipper Jones didn’t have to get another knee surgery (yet) and has avoided the DL in the first couple months of the season. I know it’s gotta be effecting his swing a little bit, as his average has dipped down to the .260′s, but just his presence in the lineup is key, especially on the road.
The Bad: Nate McLouth injured his oblique on a check swing over the weekend (sigh) so that’s another starter on the DL now. Former top prospect Jordan Schafer was recalled from Triple-A and may get the start in center as soon as Tuesday… Chase Utley is back for the Phillies, so that grace period appears to be over unless he has some complications. It’s gut check time for the Bravos.
The Ugly: The Dan Uggla batting average watch: .185. He’s 2-21 on the road trip and his hitting .173 in May with 2 HRs and 6 RBI. Only 1 RBI against left handed pitching so far. As the guy brought in to be the big bat from the right side, that ain’t good. Word on the street is Fredi is giving him a day off on Tuesday (following the team off day Monday) to gather himself. Brooks Conrad (gulp) will reportedly get the start at second (double gulp). Not trying to pile on Dan, you can tell he wants to win and he wants to contribute, but with all the key injuries, he’s got to be the guy we’ve seen in the past in order for this team to ride things out and stay in contention until the other guys heal.
About the Author
Written by Marcus Young
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!