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826-game-thread | August | 2008 Articles

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8/26 Game Thread: Tuesday Night Fish Fry

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Tonight, we'll face the Marlins, one of only 6 NL teams against whom we have a winning record. (The others are the Astros, Mets, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Padres.) We're 7-5 against them, but 1-1 this year in two games against tonight's starter, Scott Olsen, who has pitched us very solidly this year despite an otherwise average year. In the first, he shut us out for for 7 innings; in the second, he gave up 3 runs in 6 innings, and we won after he came out of the game. He's talented, but mercurial; after a very promising 2006, he was horrible last year and saw all of his DIPS go down. This year, his ERA has recovered and his walk rate is lower than ever, but his strikeouts have continued to slide. He's only 24, but the trend isn't great. He faces Jair Jurrjens, about whom I've written before. Jair has had a wonderful year -- though he may be tiring out, or facing the consequences of a league catching up to him, as he has a 4.35 ERA in his last 5 starts, following a 3.02 ERA in his first 20 starts -- but the Marlins really rang his bell last time out, tuning him up for 11 hits and 5 ER in 6 innings, for which he took the loss. His first time against the Marlins was much better, 4 hits and only 2 ER in 6 innings, the 6th of his 11 wins this year. The Dreaded Dan Uggla (of course, he's batting .287/.333/.554 in 195 AB against us) is 4-6 against him, in Jair's two starts against the Marlins. Hey, did you know that Casey Kotchman has a 29 OPS+ in his 20 games with the Braves? It's true. He's batting .157/.259/.214, which makes him the worst-hitting starter on the Braves since July 30 -- though there are several guys who are doing their best to keep him company in shared ineptitude. Francoeur, obviously, isn't doing much better, at .200/.266/.259. Gregor Blanco (.197/.358/.250) and Kelly Johnson (.260/.296/.312) have the same OPS over the period, .608, but Gregor's OBP is marginally acceptable while Kelly's line is uniformly atrocious. Even Brian McCann has been scuffling at .260/.289/.356, really suffering from not having a human capable of backing him up on the roster. Like Jair, I think Brian's tiring out. But it may be a little easier to understand why we're 8-17 since the Kotchman trade: 5 of our 8 regulars have an OPS under .650 since the trade. One interesting thing about Jair Jurrjens' season is that he has 20 decisions in 25 starts, a fairly high proportion, and he hasn't had a no-decision since June 21. That's partly because he's averaged more than 6 innings a start, so he's usually stayed in the game long enough for the game's result to become apparent. But it's about time we started giving him the luxury of a few more no-decisions. With more than a month to go in the season, he has already pitched more innings than ever before in his professional career, and as a 22 year old cornerstone of our future, we need to take exquisite care of his arm. I'm not saying put him on an absolute pitch count or inning count, but I am saying that his arm is more important than wins or losses at this point -- the season's over, but his career with the Braves is just beginning. If he gets into a jam in the 6th, don't ask him to reach back for a little extra, just take him out and let the inherited runners fall where they may. We've already had John Smoltz, Peter Moylan, Tim Hudson, and Tom Glavine undergo season-ending surgery. We can't afford to put another in danger. That said, I wouldn't mind it if the bats woke up and we won.
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