Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 8/8/12
Theyve been maligned, and deservedly so at times, but Braves relievers have done little wrong of late. The Braves have been playing mix and match with the guys in the bullpen throughout this season, but theyve finally put together a Steady Seven. Im not ready to call them the Spectacular Seven yet, and especially not the overused Magnificent Seven. No, steady does it. But nicknames aside, the guys in the pen have been dominant in the second half, even with one-third of the vaunted OVentbrel trio battling elbow issues. Atlantas bullpen ranks third in the National League with a 3.13 ERA, but Braves relievers have given up only 18 earned runs in the past 94.1 innings good for a 1.72 ERA over that span Theyve been even sharper in the past 15 games, giving up just one earned run. Not coincidentally, the Braves are 11-4 in that span. Heres a look at the seven relievers who have helped assemble this strong streak. Craig Kimbrel Control has been Kimbrels biggest improvement since last year. Hes still striking out batters at a remarkable rate 15.6 batters per nine innings, which is better than last years 14.84 but hes nearly cut walks out of his game completely. He walked one batter on Aug. 2, his first since May 15, a span of 26 innings. Kimbrel is second in the NL with 31 saves to go with a 1.29 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 42 innings, making him a potential Cy Young Award candidate. Eric OFlaherty OFlaherty knew that he wouldnt be able to match last years remarkable success, when he became the first reliever in MLB history to finish with an ERA below 1.00 (0.98) with at least 70 appearances. He showed he was human early with a 4.91 ERA in April and a 3.18 in May, but hes given up only one run in his past 17 innings and has lowered his ERA to 2.50. OFlaherty is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA with seven strikeouts and no walks in his past 8.1 innings, covering 10 appearances. Johnny Venters Venters effectiveness in the first half was hampered by an injured elbow that required a trip to the 15-day DL in July. He had a 4.45 ERA and had given up six home runs in 32.2 innings when he went on the DL on July 5, but hes improved since hes been back, although elbow soreness limited his use last week. Venters, who was so effective at shutting down teams in the eighth inning last year, hasnt given up a run in 4.2 innings since coming off the DL on July 22. Chad Durbin Everybody second-guessed the signing of Durbin two days before the start of the regular season. And everybody third-guessed the move when he was regularly shelled through April and early May. Since then he has been continually counted on in high-pressure situations and has become a valuable member of the pen. Durbin has given up one earned run since June 30 a span of 12.1 innings and the 9.00 ERA he had at the end of April has shrunk to 3.14. Durbin gave up five home runs through May 7, but only three since then. Cristhian Martinez With Kris Medlen now in the rotation, Martinez has adapted well to the role of long reliever. Hes rebounded from a terrible stretch at the end of June and has been able to bridge the critical middle inning stretch from the starters to the back end of the bullpen. Martinez has given up four runs in his past 18.1 innings, dating to the end of June, but he has been especially effective lately, allowing just one earned run in his past nine innings. Cory Gearrin Gearrin is back with the Braves for the second time this year and has responded by giving up four hits and no runs in five innings since his promotion. Hes allowed one run in 7.2 innings in two stints with the Braves this season. Luis Avilan Avilan, a lefty, has pitched well since his quick rise to the majors when Venters went on the DL. He was promoted from Mississippi to Gwinnett and then to the Braves without pitching for the Triple-A franchise. After giving up runs in three successive appearances in July, Avilan hasnt allowed any in his past 4.2 innings for a 2.92 ERA and has 14 strikeouts in his first 12.1 innings in the majors.
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