Okay, I admit that I have been offline for quite a while now but I have been following the Braves religiously. I was busy labor day weekend, then I started back to work and just didn’t make time to do my articles. So what exactly has happened?
1) We lost Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. I think we could have withstood losing one but not both. The rookies have done okay filling in but they have been unable to pitch beyond the fifth inning with any effectiveness. That has led to more pressure on an already taxed bullpen and as a group they have begun to crack.
2) The offense has stumbled. This has been going on all year but during the first half our pitching was able to compensate for the offensive shortcomings. It seems like we can never have all of our hitters hot at the same time. Not only that but at least one or two hitters seem to be ice cold all the time. During this slump, the Braves have been completely unable to get a runner home from third with less than two outs. We went an entire month between sacrifice flies. That can’t happen–you can’t continue to strike out with a man at third and less than 2 outs. At a certain point with 2 strikes you just have to choke up, shorten your swing and make contact by any means possible. Also with our struggles, it would have been nice to see Gonzalez throw in a suicide squeeze to try to get a run home from third. Anything but a strikeout, pop up, or double play!
3) Derek Lowe has stunk. I hate to call out a single player when the whole team has been awful, but Lowe has killed us. He has lost 16 games–16 games! He is supposed to be providing veteran leadership and showing the rookies how to handle pressure and win in September. Instead, in these important games his ERA is pushing 8.00.
So what do we do? We’re going to have to scratch and claw and win these last two games come hell or high water. We can’t count on Houston beating the red hot Cardinals again. Neither can we afford to finished tied with the Cards because then we’ll have to go to St. Louis to play the tiebreaker and I can’t see that ending well. So how do we win these last two?
1) Unfortunately it comes back to Derek Lowe. He has got to remember how to pitch and put together a good game tonight. Gonzalez has got to stay on top of the game and not hesitate to get someone up in the bullpen, no matter how early. The time for resting pitchers is over–every pitcher in our bullpen should be mentally prepared to pitch tonight.
2) The offense has got to snap out of it. One or two guys can’t do it. Every player has to decide that every at bat is important. Get deep in the count, make a productive out. Have a plan when you go to the plate but make an adjustment if you are in a 2 strike hole. Bourn needs to get on base(drop a bunt in) and be ready to steal second right away. To our struggling hitters (McCann, Prado, Heyward, and Freeman): Go the other way–stop trying to pull every single pitch!
3) Stop watching the scoreboard and hoping St.Louis loses. Realize that it is up to us to take care of our own business. Win tonight. Then win tomorrow with Tim Hudson. That’s it. Anything can happen once we get in the playoffs, but we’ve got to get there first.