Series Preview - Marlins @ Braves (August 21-23)
August 21st - Anibal Sanchez (1-4, 5.55) vs Javier Vazquez (10-8, 2.99)
Oh Anibal Sanchez. This is actually his first start in 2 and a half months, since the beginning of June. He's actually faced the Braves twice this year, pitching very well on April 16th (2 runs in 6 innings, his only win on the season), and not so well on May 7th (4 runs in 4 2/3 innings, his second to last start before hitting the DL for good). It would be unfair to analyze Sanchez based on his career thusfar, with all the injuries he's suffered over the year. But it is safe to say that he's got some real good potential, considering he threw a no hitter a couple years back.
Javier Vazquez was turned into Ryan Howard's plaything in his last start on Sunday, allowing a pair of homers to him in a nationally televised game that got started right around my bedtime (thank you rain!). Vazquez was fine aside from the 2 homers, with a pair of walks, 7 strikeouts, and a 10:9 GB:FB ratio. Those two mistakes however, killed the game for the Braves.
August 22nd - Chris Volstad (9-9, 4.61) vs Tommy Hanson (8-2, 3.05)
Chris Volstad hasn't made it past the 5th inning in his last 3 starts, and was obliterated the first 2 starts of the month before bouncing back on Sunday to get his 9th win of the year, despite 4 walks in 5 innings. He only faced the Braves once all year, and that was in his second start of the year...and of course, he looked like Cy freaking Young, allowing one measly run and 3 hits over 7 innings. Volstad doesn't strike out a ton of guys, and allows an average number of walks...and the ball has completely been flying out of the park on him this year. Thats really not a recipe for a fantastic season.
And then there is uber wunderkind Tommy Hanson. Hanson's improvements continued on Monday versus the Diamondbacks...I really liked this game for Tommy. He struck out 7, didn't walk a soul, and got through 6 strong. For the month of August (3 starts), he's got a 2.41 ERA, a 21:3 K:BB, and the homer rate...yeah, a smidge under 1 per 9, which I wholeheartedly approve of. He's also won all 3 of those starts. Dude is breathing down JA Happ's overrated fourth starter neck right about now, and no one outside of Atlanta seems to notice or care!
August 23rd - Ricky Nolasco (9-8, 5.22) vs Derek Lowe (12-8, 4.45)
Ricky Nolasco had an absolutely HIDEOUS start last Wednesday, somehow allowing TEN RUNS in 3 and a third against Houston. He responded in his next start (also against Houston) by pitching a complete game, allowing 2 runs while striking out 10 and not walking anyone. Thats one way to make a statement. Before that crappy start, he had thrown 4 straight of the quality variety. Nolasco is so awesome, and I'm so bitter that he's not a Brave. His FIP is almost 2 full runs lower than his ERA, which is one of the most extreme cases of Javier Vazquez syndrome I've seen in quite some time. Man, I can't wait until the Marlins trade him to a big market for 5 prospects after next season.
I don't wanna talk about Derek Lowe's last start. It was really, really bad. But there is an excuse...he had a callous, and took one off his hand (which soon turned purple, and he still stayed in the game and took it like a man). Sometimes, you just need to throw the towel in and hit the showers so you don't screw the team over even more. I'm willing to overlook that effort and assume Lowe will hop right back on the right track and get his groove back.
Adam LaRoche and Matt Diaz should be playing every day, and there is no way anyone should ever argue this. LaRoche is absolutely terrorizing the National League since his return from a week in the AL, with a 1.233 OPS as a Brave this goaround. His OPS has jumped 70 points overall during that timespan. Wow. And then there's the man known as MATTYD, who's played in every game since July 29th...and you know what, he's shedding that horrible label of "hits like a little schoolgirl against righties" (a .710 OPS isn't great...but hell, its not DREADFUL). Like LaRoche, Diaz is OPSing over 1.000 for the month of August (1.051 to be exact) and has got his groove thing going on with the injury to Nate McLouth letting him play every day. Awesome. Also, with Martin Prado out for the foreseeable future due to "exertion headaches", I'd like to see Kelly Johnson get a start or two this weekend. He's gotten 6 at bats over the last week. SIX. Omar Infante meanwhile, has played in every game since he's come off the DL. Awesome...his OPS is slowly dropping too. BABIP regressions are a pain, aren't they?
Don't you love when you take 2 out of 3 in a series, and lose ground in the division? Always a good time. However, the Marlins are about to lose tonight, which will put the Braves in a tie for 2nd in the division, and 3rd in the wild card (4 back of the Rockies there). This next homestand features a ridiculously crucial series with the arch rival (at least it seems that way) Marlins, and hopefully, another 2 for 3 series will happen this weekend.