Series Preview - Braves @ Nationals (July 3-5)
July 3rd - Kenshin Kawakami (4-6, 4.25) vs Ross Detweiler (0-4, 5.24)
So far, I'm done with this. Kenshin's last start was 9 days ago on the 24th against the Yankees. He threw 3 perfect innings before getting knocked out of the game after a Joba Chamberlain liner to the neck. It was a really scary moment, and its great to see Kenshin back in the grind after a skipped start and a few extra days of rest. KK is still on a roll, and hasn't allowed more than 3 runs in a start over the past 2 months. After a very shaky start to begin the year, he's settled into his own. His ERA has settled down to the point where its very close to his FIP, and he just needs some wins to start getting recognized by the mainstream media as being a really good, under the radar free agent signing.
Ross Detweiler came into 2009 as the Nats #2 prospect (behind current Nats SP Jordan Zimmermann), and actually started off this year in my hometown of Harrisburg, but I never got down to see him (because the team was the absolute worst in the minors before a good June. Seriously, their best player is Joel Guzman. Yes, THAT Joel Guzman. I have a few of his rookie cards from I think 1999 sitting in my closet). Detweiler was very effective in AA, despite a 3.29 BB rate and a 69.1% strand rate, posting an ERA of 2.96. That sucess hasn't translated to the majors, as in his 8 starts, his strikeout rate has plummeted to 5.84 while his walk rate remained the same. Detweiler's ground ball tendency is causing a lack of home runs to go out of the park, which results in a pretty good FIP of 3.82. But the Nats defense is absolutely horrible, and he's paying the price as a result.
July 4th - Tommy Hanson (4-0, 2.48) vs John Lannan (5-5, 3.45)
Tommy Hanson is the man. You all know this. He threw his best game of the year on Sunday against Boston, allowing 2 hits and walking 2 in 6 shutout innings. The sharp decline in walks makes me smile, but I'd like to see more strikeouts, which will come once Hanson starts gaining confidence in his ability to get major league hitters out. Tommy hasn't allowed a run in his last 3 starts. If you exclude his first, horrible start against Milwaukee, Hanson has a FIP of around 3.60, which is more than respectable (since that first start, Hanson has not allowed 1 home run. Homers heavily skew a pitcher's FIP). Hanson is especially killing righties, as they're only hitting .207 against him. Why does this matter? The Nats are the antithesis of the Braves, as their lineup is righty-heavy. Good times!
John Lannan is the Nats defacto ace, though he will likely soon be usurped by Jordan Zimmermann. During June, he went a perfect 5 for 5 in quality starts, but its kind of bizarre...he really doesn't have phenomenal stuff. His fastball resides in the high 80s on a good day, and his slider & change hover in the low 80s. I honestly have no idea why his ERA is so low. He doesn't strike anyone out, walks about as many as he strikes out, and allows his share of homers. His ERA over the last 2 seasons has been in the mid to high 3's, despite a FIP in the high 4's. The only real reasoning I can find is that his BABIP has been super low over his career (.272...wtf? With this defense?)
July 5th - Derek Lowe (7-6, 4.44) vs Scott Olsen (1-4, 6.56)
Derek Lowe was solid against the Phillies on Tuesday, recording a quality start while allowing 2 runs on 7 hits. He was granted a no decision when Mike Gonzalez decided it would be fun to blow a save in the 8th inning by allowing back to back gopherballs. Remember how good Hanson's line against righties was? Lowe's is the opposite, as he's allowing them a .305 average and .813 OPS. Lowe has allowed 5 homers this season, and 3 have come over his last 4 starts. Thats not really something I like to see. Hopefully D-Lowe breaks the trend of good start, bad start and records his second straight good one on Sunday.
Scott Olsen was forcibly given to the Nats by the Marlins in the Josh Willingham trade last winter, and he's been pretty bad for Washington, as you can tell by glancing at the line I posted above. On the bright side for Olsen, he did stifle his former team for 2 runs over 7 innings in his last start, which was actually his first start in 6 weeks due to some shoulder issues. The 7 strikeouts and no walks were a shining beacon in the night for the Nats. Olsen is a pitcher who gets hit around a lot...he's allowing a .328 average this season, which is inflated by a .369 BABIP (again, Nats defense). For a guy who has a tendency to get hit around like this, he really needs to keep the walks under control, otherwise its going to be a short, painful night.
Martin Prado is the main story in the Braves offense, as over the first 2 games of the Phillies series, he went 6 for 9 with 4 runs scored and 6 RBI. With Yunel Escobar's return to the Braves lineup this evening, the Braves busted out the crazy lineup again, with Prado in the 2 hole and Escobar hitting 5th. Nate McLouth is still out of the lineup with a hamstring injury, but Gregor Blanco has provided a decent spark at the top of the lineup. Chipper Jones has awakened from his slumber, going 3/8 with 3 RBI and a pair of runs scored Tuesday & Wednesday. The Braves lineup still has some issues, but if they can continue to hit like they have the first 2 games against Philly, things should end up OK for the team this series against Washington.
Before I start this off, I'd just like to thank all of my readers. Because of you, I was honored as the Fanball blog of the month for June. If you don't believe me, you can peep that cute little star right above my post links in the right sidebar. Thank you all so much for your support, and I hope I can continue to grow and attract new readers over the coming months.a
Now, with that out of the way, lets get to the next series. After 2 weeks against some real top notch competition, the Braves travel to our nation's capital for a weekend series (on our nation's birthday, no less) against...the worst team in baseball! Yahoo! The Nats are a team in crisis, trading players, sending players down...its an absolute mess there. This is a perfect series for the Braves to make up even more ground on the Phillies (currently 3 back and holding a 2-0 lead in game 3 of the series tonight). So who do we get to do it against? Lets take a look see...