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 ($): Nationals assumed too much in 2013 — but not now
— MyAJC ($): B.J. Upton is under fire — and he knows it
— MyAJC ($): Teheran does his part but Braves lose anyway
— MyAJC ($): Injuries means Braves have little margin for error
— MyAJC ($): NCAA needs to take the hint, start paying players
— MyAJC ($): Richt has been tough, even if some haven’t noticed
— MyAJC ($):Georgia loses but Fox goes down swinging at NCAA