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the_downward_spiral | May | 2009 Articles

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The Downward Spiral

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Okay, I admit the title was just an excuse for me to link to this song. But we've got a 4-game losing streak going, and we're 2-4 over the last week since Yunel Escobar left the lineup with a strained hip flexor. He's a maybe for tonight. (Replacement Diory Hernandez hasn't exactly Wally Pipped him; in his first week in the bigs, he has a .426 OPS with 1 extra base hit and 1 walk in 24 PA.)

Chipper's more likely to play tonight, because Diamondback starter Jon Garland is a northpaw: "I'm all right left-handed," David O'Brien quoted Jones as saying. "Right-handed, that's something I'll have to talk to Bobby about."

Tonight's starter is the amazing Jair Jurrjens, who has a 2.07 ERA despite a strikeout rate that's lower than it was last year. He's never been a huge strikeout guy, and every time I watch him I get worried that he can't put away hitters with two strikes. But his success is undeniable, and at the age of 23, through 48 major league starts, he's 20-13 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 125 ERA+. That's as real as real gets. The kid's legit.

Jon Garland, on the other hand, is not looking much better than the disappointing free agent with an ERA around 5 that most teams passed on this past offseason. He has an ERA of 4.7, but with a K/BB ratio under one -- 3.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 -- that's likely to continue rising. For a sinkerballer, he's prone to gopherballs, and the ball likes to fly out in Arizona. (It's the third most homer-friendly park in the bigs so far this year. The past two years, it has been 11th and 10th, still well above average.) His strikeouts have dropped for four straight years, and there's very little indication that, at the age of 29, he's headed in the right direction. He's only pitched against us once, last June 13, and he gave up 13 hits and 5 ER in 5 1/3 innings. And Greg Norton is 4-12 against him with 2 homers.

Thanks to Andrew's encouragement, I will refrain from offering any opinion of the Braves' likelihood of beating this stiff.

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