Mike Minor will look to keep the good times rolling vs Doc Halladay on Saturday
There are three things that can be counted on in the final month of the Braves season. First, Chipper Jones is going to receive rousing ovations everywhere he goes. Second, this team will be streaky. And, Kris Medlen will dominate.
These certainties do not mean that others won’t step up. As we saw in the Miami series, contributions are coming from the usual suspects as well as the most unlikely players.
Monday night, do-it-all Martin Prado went 4-for-4 and got his NL-leading 55th multi-hit game of the season. Martin Prado may do it quietly, but his presence in the lineup and in the field is MVP-worthy for the Braves. Having played each of the bases, shortstop and left field this season, Prado has reminded check-writing GM Frank Wren that his versatility is incredibly valuable.
Tim Hudson won his 15th game of the season in Miami, a pretty incredible feat for a guy who missed the first month of the season recovering from back surgery. Monday night the Braves spotted their starter 4 runs to begin the game. For Tim Hudson, that’s a magic number. Hudson now has a 168-28 record when his team has scored 4 or more runs in his starts.He is 153-6 when the team gives him 4 or more runs of support while he is still in the game. His latest start continued this trend. In addition to these unreal stats regarding Huddy’s wins with run support, Atlanta has now won 19 of his 25 turns in the rotation this season.
If the hard luck pitcher for the Braves this season has been Mike Minor, the hard luck position for the Braves has easily been that of shortstop. Paul Janish, who came to the Braves in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, did an admirable job filling in for Andrelton Simmons while he was out with a fractured pinky. Now Janish, who was filling in again for an ailing Simmons, is out with a dislocated shoulder. In Monday’s game, Janish landed hard on his left shoulder in a diving play and was not able to continue. X-rays confirmed that his shoulder is dislocated. The Braves are hoping to get Simmons back at some point during the weekend series. Simmons, like Janish, injured his own shoulder on a diving play at shortstop. In the meantime, Martin Prado got a start at short and Tyler Pastornicky gives Fredi Gonzalez some options.
Paul Maholm has been two different players since being traded at the deadline from the Cubs. In his first 4 starts for Atlanta, he was 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA, .198 batting average against him, with 26 strikeouts and only 6 walks allowed. In those 4 starts he thrice pitched 7 innings and had a complete game. In his past 5 starts he has gone 2-3 with a 6.12 ERA, .305 batting average against him, with 19 strikeouts and 10 walks allowed. With the bottleneck of starts for the Braves going into the playoffs, Maholm will have to step it up in his final appearances.
Though Michael Bourn has been slumping since the all-star break, Atlanta is 48-15 this season when Michael Bourn has at least one hit and scores at least one run. With a hot Michael Bourn, contributions from McCann and Uggla, the continued plate presence of Heyward and Jones, and the consistency of Martin Prado, this offense could be a force in the final days of the season.
A note on the bullpen: While Jonny Venters seems to be going backwards since his phenomenal season last year, Eric O’Flaherty stumbled early in the season, but is returning to the dominate form the Braves were accustomed to last season. O’Flaherty has made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances since July 15th, a period of 20 1/3 innings pitched. Since September call-ups, Cory Gearrin has not been as sharp as he was in the early days of August as evidenced by him giving up the game winner in the second game of the series (albeit some of the blame falls on Jason Heyward for an ill-conceived dive). However, even with the struggles of Gearrin, there is little doubt when the game is handed over to Atlanta’s bullpen. Kimbrel as the stopper leaves no doubt.
In Chipper Jones news, the veteran tied Lou Gehrig in all-time hits at 2,721. Also while in Miami, the Marlins honored Chipper Jones and presented the third baseman with a fishing rod and fly fishing gear. Chipper was also announced as one of the six finalists for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year.
The story line of the second half continues to be Kris Medlen. Since July 1st, Medlen holds an 8-0 record in 88 innings pitched with 85 strikeouts, opponents are somehow managing a .186 batting average against him, he has a silly 0.795 WHIP, and an equally silly 0.72 ERA. Atlanta now holds a record of 24-4 in Kris Medlen’s 28 career starts dating back to 2010, 21 of those wins are consecutive. Atlanta is a perfect 10-0 in his 2012 starts. In his most recent outing, Kris Medlen’s line: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K.
Line scores from each of the 3 games:
Game 1:1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E Braves 4 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 7 11 0 Marlins 0 0 0 4 0 0 1 0 0 5 14 0
W: Hudson (15-6) L: LeBlanc (2-5) SV: Kimbrel (37)
Game 2:1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 R H E Braves 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 3 7 0 Marlins 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 4 8 0
W: Bell (3-5) L: Gearrin (0-1)
Game 3:1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E Braves 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 7 1 Marlins 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
W: Medlen (9-1) L: Johnson (8-13) SV: Kimbrel (38)
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FINAL TRIP TO PHILADELPHIA…
Friday: Hanson (12-8, 4.33) vs. Kendrick (9-11, 3.95)
Saturday: Minor (9-10, 4.31) vs. Halladay (10-7, 4.03)
Sunday: Hudson (15-6, 3.77) vs. Lee (6-7, 3.27)
The Braves will thankfully miss Cole Hamels while they’re in Philadelphia.
Despite trading away Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton at the trade deadline, the Phillies have been on the rise. Though the Phils are 15 1/2 games back in the National League East, they are 4 games back in the NL Wild Card race. Their hopes withering with the Cardinals, Brewers and Dodgers ahead of them, the Braves could be the final nail in the coffin of the Phillies’ season. There isn’t much the Braves would like more than to end their rival’s hopes for the postseason.
The Phillies are fresh off a sweep of the Mets, a team that has all but given up on their season. Kyle Kendrick has been successful for the Phils of late and will face of Tommy Hanson. Though Hanson has not been the Tommy of old since returning from the disabled list weeks ago with a low back strain, the Braves hope the playoff atmosphere might right the ship for Hanson. Hanson is likely pitching for a playoff spot at this point in the season with Ben Sheets sitting in the bullpen awaiting word of his fate. Tommy has a career 2.05 ERA at Citizens Bank Park.
Brian McCann has owned the Phillies this year. The catcher has 6 home runs and 17 RBIs in 11 games against the Phils in 2012. Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla both have solid numbers against the Phillies.
The Braves enter the 3-game set with an 86-64 record and the Phillies sit at 76-74.
The Braves and Phillies get underway at Citizens Bank Park at 7:05 (EST). Game 2 of the series will be broadcast nationally on MLB on FOX at 4:05 (EST) Saturday.
Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.
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