Posted: 4:20 pm Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Short takes: Braves lose but trip a success 

By Jeff Schultz

Braves pitcher Alex Wood faced 19 straight batters without allowing a hit until Ian Desmond's homer in the seventh.

Alex Wood retired 18 of 19 batters until Ian Desmond’s homer in the seventh.

I’ll post a column soon on the Braves-Nationals series finale on MyAJC.com (all blogs and columns linked here). Until then, here are my three “short takes” on the game.

1. Disaster? Not quite: The Braves lost to Washington 2-1 Sunday. But they went into this season-opening six-game road trip amid concerns about the youth and inexperience of the pitching rotation and emerged with a 4-2 record, winning series over Milwaukee and Washington. Braves pitchers — led by starters Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Aaron Harang and David Hale — have allowed only nine runs in 53 innings for a cumulative staff ERA of 1.53. The offense hasn’t been great but manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “If I had a choice, I’d rather have it this way and have great pitching and let the hitting come later.”

2. Pitching resilience: Probably the most impressive aspect of the Braves’ starters so far this season has been their ability bounce back after early hiccups. There was Teheran allowing a two-run homer in the first inning to Adam LaRoche Saturday night, then not giving up another run over his next six innings. On Sunday, Wood allowed three straight singles to open the game (although two were infield hits) and the Nationals took an early 1-0 lead. But Wood didn’t give up another hit until Ian Desmond led off the seventh with a homer, following a span of 18 outs and one batter, Sandy Leon, reaching base on Chris Johnson’s throwing error in the fifth.

3. Who goes to bullpen? Don’t ask: Manager Fredi Gonzalez is a little gun-shy about projecting his starting rotation two weeks. Can’t say I blame him. With Ervin Santana making his Braves debut Wednesday against New York, the team will go from a four- to a five-man rotation, dropping David Hale down a spot. With everybody pitching well and Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd expected back in two weeks, I mentioned to Gonzalez that he suddenly was faced with having too many starters. He laughed and looked at me like I had three heads. “Something will happen — you know how it is,” he said. “I think I’ve learned, just get ‘em back because something is going to happen.” That said, if we play the dangerous game and assume the good pitching continues and all stay healthy (I know. I know.), the Braves’ rotation likely becomes (in no particular order) Teheran-Santana-Minor-Wood-Floyd, with Harang going to the bullpen — which sounds funny for a guy who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his first start.

Some recent ramblings, on demand . . .
– MyAJC: For second-best, Braves look pretty good
– MyAJC: ‘Depleted’ Braves staff has been majors’ best so far
– Blog: Short takes on Braves’ win: Pitching, replay and Uptons
– MyAJC ($): Nationals assumed too much in 2013 — but not now
– Blog: As Freeman powers Braves, Upton still searching for…anything
– MyAJC ($): B.J. Upton is under fire — and he knows it
– Blog: Tiger Woods out and Masters will take a hit
– MyAJC ($): Teheran does his part but Braves lose anyway
– Blog: Short take on Braves’ loss to Milwaukee
– MyAJC ($): Strong opener by Teheran would ease some Braves’ concerns
– MyAJC ($): Injuries means Braves have little margin for error
– MyAJC ($): NCAA needs to take the hint, start paying players
– Blog: Mike Mills’ song pushes Dale Murphy for Hall of Fame
– MyAJC ($): Did Dimitroff lose benefit of doubt after bad season?
– Blog: Dimitroff on Falcons, failure, his draft board and Umenyiora
– Blog: Mercer (Georgia’s shining light) stuns Duke
– MyAJC ($): SEC needs to go to nine-game schedule, eliminate cupcakes
– Blog: SEC needs to expand conference schedule (column preview)
– MyAJC ($): Richt has been tough, even if some haven’t noticed
– Blog: More arrests at UGA, and Herbstreit jumps Richt
– MyAJC ($):Georgia loses but Fox goes down swinging at NCAA

 

19 comments
Relgin
Relgin

I agree about the manager. He has no idea of how to handle a pitching staff. The Braves win because of talent, and not because of Fredi Gonzalez.

NicholasHall
NicholasHall

Why not use a six man rotation with Harang in there? It could be a new trend.  Extra day of rest for all starters maybe saves a few Tommy John surgeries.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Jeff,

The first six games of this season can easily be summed up in one sentence:  

Braves pitching overcomes manager's incompetence to take first 4 of 6 games; will this continue?

JaySly
JaySly

Atl is in an easy division-- they should win that easy and make the playoffs

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Braves are 2 for 2 in series wins. Keep this up and they'll win the Division in a landslide. BJ is playing a solid center field, which in 2-1 games is important. I just hope he does come around enough to justify being in the lineup because plan B is messy and expensive. Schafer is a platoon option but he has trouble staying healthy and wears down badly. The entire offense, save for Freeman and Johnson, needs to get in gear. The longer it takes the less leeway there is for BJ and Uggla.

If the kids continue to pitch well let them pitch.

ElStinko
ElStinko

I think there is a good chance that if the Braves had Evan G in the lineup yesterday they could have won that game.  I think EG would have at least gotten a fly ball in the middle inning when the bases were loaded and 1 out and all they needed was a fly ball.

Dawggie
Dawggie

It is beyond me why BJ doesn't try to hit to right field when he is late to pick up a pitch.  Nearly all hitters do that, well except McCann.  Also why BJ doesn't try to use his speed and bunt, at times.  Almost every one of his Ks so far have been him NOT catching up to fast balls, but still staying back and attempting to pull a pitch that he is obviously late on.


The Braves should pay Marteen Prado to come back for a weekend, and teach the Uptons and JHey how to slap hit after hit to the opposite field.

Birdhair
Birdhair

VinceVanGo,

Best post I've read on the AJC in years. 100% spot on.

VinceVanGo
VinceVanGo

Is it too early for me to play Recliner G.M. I say give B.J. Upton the home stand to come around & if he doesn't try a platoon of him & Schafer & see what happens for a couple of weeks. If that doesn't work, bench B.J.,  move Heyward to center, Justin Upton to right & platoon a combination of Gattis, Schafer, Doumit & Pastornicky in left & let Laird & Doumit handle the catching, B.J. becomes the most expensive pinch runner in baseball history, & Frank Wren gets canned. His free agent acquisitions have failed miserably, Lowe, Kawakami, Uggla & B.J. Upton. Close to what, $200 million tied up in these 4? The best Braves players in all positions over the last several years have come through their farm system. Stick with what works, big splashes usually just soak everything. One last thought. The Braves would be better off to call the Yankees & offer Upton for 3 minor league rs, 1 pitcher, 1 infielder, & 1 outfielder & offer to pay 1/2 of Upton's salary for the next 4 years. I know that's $30 million, but that's also $30 million they have to spend on other players. The Yanks probably wouldn't want him, but they've made plenty of bonehead moves over the years, so maybe the Braves get lucky.

Birdhair
Birdhair

Funny how Braves Live said before the game yesterday that BJ was breaking out of his slump. He's been in a slump for 1 season plus 6 games. 0-4 yesterday. What will Braves live say before the game tomorrow? His 0-4 yesterday was a great sign because he made contact 4 times which included a foul out and a double play ball?

GT71
GT71

To early to tell, but Fredi's right - and the 'problem' is one any manager would love to have.  Don't ride Uggla too early - it is early and he seems to be on pitches much better than the flail-away idiot we saw the last few years.  BJ on the other hand remains a basket case.  A twitchy, spasming swing and no brain behind the eyes.

Let's see what the home stand looks like - especially Harang.

wardenerd
wardenerd

Uggla plays second like me...terrible.  Second day in a row his fielding cost us a run. 

Baghead
Baghead

@DawgDadII  I wouldn't say plan B is messy at all.  We may not have an every day player, so the solution would be to platoon a few players in the outfield.  VanGo's recs below are a viable solution.  Either way, there's absolutely no way we lose anything.  The only mess I see is this pitiful Frank Wren acquisition stepping into the batters box from the #2 hole four times a game.  

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Dawggie BJ doesn't try to hit to right field because he can't hit to any field. Bunt? He can't do that either. He couldn't even sacrifice a runner when they really needed it.

gfw
gfw

@Dawggie You are not alone in wondering why BJ isn't trying to bunt for a hit.  I've heard it in several quarters.  I did notice once that the 3rd baseman creeped in a bit, as if it was on his mind, too.  BJ often still has way too much motion in his swing, kind of a wind-up action, and it seems that's what make him late so much. Also, like Uggla, those sliders that are low and away are catnip to him.  He needs to be more disciplined and actually take more balls.

oldcrackerfan
oldcrackerfan

@Birdhair

BJ's bat is in the strike zone for such a short time that it's a wonder he gets foul balls and hits into DPs.  Usually, he doesn't even do that: he strikes out nearly half the time.  And I wonder if his attitude, which is boneheaded, isn't getting under his brother's skin, not to mention the rest of the clubhouse. He's a liability who apparently is content to be a liability.  So we don't have a major-league-level CF.  If he weren't making so much money, he'd have sat--or been sent down--long ago.  Why not try Schafer, as VVG suggests?  He plays better CF, gets on base, bunts, steals, and might be the late bloomer that nobody ever expects.  That guy has overcome a lot; he's the kind of fighter you want.  Yes, he's had miserable luck with injuries, but he has to be an upgrade.  Constanza would be an upgrade.

kevkat
kevkat

If Uggla play cost us a run, it's this offense that cost us the game. Laird and Heywood had chances to drive in runs and didn't. Fielding and pitching is not costing us games folks.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@gfw @Dawggie Justin isn't able to get through to his brother. He's unresponsive to hitting coach's instruction. His ego is too big for bunting. Forget it. It's time to ride the pine until he has splinters on his a**