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Chop-N-Change: An Atlanta Braves Blog | Page 5

Game Recap 9/13/11

Written by Jeremy Reed on .

Braves 7, Marlins 1

Okay folks.  We can all take a step back from the ledge now, and hopefully the panic that has gripped Braves fans for the past week will start to abate after the first win in two years or so.  Coming into tonight’s game, the Braves playoff odds stood at 94.5% or 93.9% depending on the source.  While that certainly doesn’t look nearly as good as the 99.4% of a week ago, remember that it took as bad of a week as the Braves have seen all year to drop it all of 5%.  The world isn’t ending, and the Braves won tonight. Exhale.

I heard a certain Braves announcer say earlier this year that homeruns are rally killers.  The Braves had two rallies killed tonight.  Brian McCann and Dan Uggla were the culprits with both hitting three run home runs…the nerve of these guys.  Uggla has now hit 34 on the year and trails Pujols by one for the National League lead which is crazy when you think about his first half.  It’s good to see McCann get a couple of hits, and hopefully he’s breaking out of his funk.  Larry Wayne collected two hits, Alex Gonzalez had three hits with two doubles, and Freddie Freeman walked twice so it was a good all around effort in this one.

Fredi must be giddy about these expanded rosters as he found a way to use six pitchers in this one.  He almost always does a good job pulling the starter at the right time, but it’d be nice if he figured out that relievers other than Martinez can pitch multiple innings.  Outside of the four walks, Minor had a good outing.  The Braves have gotten excellent work from their young starters this year, with the only noticeable flaw being their inability to pitch efficiently and go deeper into games.  That should come with experience though.

It’s hard to complain about this one.  The Cardinals won, but as long as the Braves take care of their business, they need not worry.  The biggest concern now is health and getting Lowe, Venters, Heyward, and McCann playing better for the playoffs.  It’ll be the Fish tomorrow in an afternoon start and then an off day before the Mets come to town in what looks to be a good opportunity to solidify the stranglehold on the Wild Card.

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Game 148 Recap (9/12/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .

Marlins 5 (67-79), Braves 4 (84-64)

W: Clay Hensley
L: Anthony Varvaro
SV: Leo Nunez

I refrained from tweeting this during the game for fear of jinxing the Braves, but at no point from the eighth inning on did I have the slightest inkling that Florida might win this game. And I can't really tell you why; after all, the Marlins got on the board early, plating a run in both the first and third, and a pair in the sixth. They then threatened in both the seventh and the eighth, but the Braves pitchers kept finding a way out. The offense kept up their tepid pace of, if I recall correctly, 3.4 runs per game this month, scoring four by way of a run in each of the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but it always seemed like there was room for more.

Indeed, Chip Caray's insane screeds about how OBP is a bad stat because it doesn't account for poor performance with runners in scoring position may have caught hold with the fans watching tonight's game. The Braves were 3-14 with RISP, and stranded 15 runners the honest way, leaving the bases loaded on one occasion and marooning a pair on four occasions. 

The hard thing about this game is that it's hard to assign too much blame to any particular player. Jason Heyward walked three times, Michael Bourn had three hits, both Chipper Jones and Dan Uggla contributed a pair of knocks themselves, and Alex Freaking Gonzalez was the star offensive player of the game, collecting three hits and two RBIs. Brandon Beachy turned in an effective start; he lasted only five and a third innings, but struck out 10 and walked just one. He did surrender nine hits and all four of the Marlins' regulation runs while throwing 73 pitchers through three innings, but managed to compose himself and throw up Ks with aplomb. The bullpen was effective from a macro view, allowing just one run in six and two thirds innings, though Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty had to overcome some struggles to preserve their clean sheets. Craig Kimbrel may've moved beyond some of the doubt that's started to cloud his performance recently, striking out a pair and sitting above 95 mph with the heater, and Peter Moylan was as effective as he's ever been since his recent return from the DL.

Really what this game came down to was a trio of great defensive plays from the Marlins middle men: Omar Infante (yes, I know) made a nifty stop of a topspin-heavy grounder off Dan Uggla's bat, and Donnie Murphy snared a Prado liner just an inning after prolonging the game by throwing out Michael Bourn on a slow grounder to short. Had any of those balls gotten through -- you know, like the way Mike Stanton's grounder found its way under Jack Wilson's diving stab -- the Braves' magic number would be 10 and we wouldn't have to suffer through any talk of momentum.

As it is, the thing I'm most afraid of is that Fredi is going to see this loss as a reason to think that he has to shake up the lineup even more. I know the desire is there for him to want to affect change in what he perceives as an underachieving group, but fluctuations like this happen over the course of a baseball season; what's important is that he -- and we fans -- understand that it's merely unfortunate timing for the Braves to fall into a swoon like this. If this run of play had happened in June, there'd be no hand-wringing; I just ask that Fredi and the fans all step back and remember that the Braves are still the overwhelming favorites to win the Wild Card, and that an extra innings loss to a depleted Marlins squad, while discouraging, is not a death sentence. 

And so! Let us look ahead to tomorrow with bright eyes and light hearts, as Mike Minor and Brad Hand square off in an epic showdown of southpaws with last names that are almost too noun for their own good. 7:10 EDT, y'all.

When Do We Panic?

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The Braves lost 6-3 today. They lost 4-3 on both Friday and Saturday. That once formidable wild card lead is down to 4.5 games over the Cardinals. Getting swept this weekend was pretty much a worst case scenario, and it happened. So, the question remains. The team has lost six out of its last eight games, and eight out of eleven. When do we start getting worried that we won't be a playoff team?

The answer is simple: you should be worried right now. The Braves still have a 95.9% chance of making the playoffs, so the stats are definitely in Atlanta's favor. But momentum? That left the Braves a long time ago. The team is still 21 games above .500, but let's look at their September stats real quick. In September, the Braves have a .698 OPS, good for 12th in the NL. The pitching staff is also 12th in the league with a 4.18 ERA. The pitching is the odd thing to me. The team has had seven starts by rookies in September, and those rookies (Minor, Beachy, Delgado, Teheran) have a 3.31 ERA in those seven starts. That's pretty damn good if you ask me, and the 33:15 strikeout to walk ratio isn't bad either. As for the two veterans currently on staff, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson...well, they've got a 5.48 ERA in four starts, and a 20:12 strikeout to walk ratio. It's bizarre, that the rookies in the rotation are pitching better than the veterans.

As for the bullpen, the big three is showing signs of exhaustion. Only Eric O'Flaherty remains unscored upon, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless this month with four strikeouts and no walks. Craig Kimbrel allowed a pair of runs in a blown save on Friday, a loss that really stings the team. Jonny Venters looks gassed, just like he did last September, and has allowed three runs in five innings while walking five hitters. Even Arodys Vizcaino had a pair of bad outings this month, but has held the opposition scoreless in his last two appearances. The return of Peter Moylan hasn't gone well, as the veteran has allowed five baserunners in 2 1/3 innings since coming off the DL, while only striking out one hitter.

Going back to the offense for a second, it hasn't been pretty. The oldest member of the team, Chipper Jones, has also ben the most productive. Jones has a 1.001 OPS in 33 September at bats with a pair of homers. Only Dan Uggla with three has more than one home run during the month. Uggla, Freddie Freeman, and Michael Bourn have all been solid during the month, with OPSes over .800. But the rest of the squad has struggled. Jason Heyward has been the best right fielder, with a .707 OPS. Jose Constanza has lost the spark that made him attractive, with just a .471 OPS this month. New acquisition Matt Diaz has four singles in 12 plate appearances without a walk, and has as hollow of a line as you can get. Martin Prado's nightmare season in left field continues, as his OPS in September is a pathetic .484, and he's been dropped in the lineup (though not far enough) as a result. And what about Brian McCann? The slugger who carried the Braves during the beginning of the season when Dan Uggla struggled has a .627 September OPS with 12 strikeouts in 34 at bats. The best thing about McCann's month is his team-leading eight walks.

Should Braves fans really be worried? Honestly, we should. We can point to the fact that the team has 15 games left, six against the Marlins, and three each against the Phillies, Mets, and Nationals. Be thankful that the Braves are 9-3 against Florida, because the team is a combined 22-23 against the other three teams. If the Braves can take four or five outta six from the Marlins, we can all breathe a lot easier. But if those six games are split, or god forbid, the team loses the majority of the final six games, we could all be doing a lot of scoreboard watching down the stretch. 

Game Recap: 9/08/11

Written by Jake Humphrey on .


Game One

WP: Minor (5-2)

LP: Schwinden (0-1)

SV: Kimbrel (43)

After being swept for the first time this season by the Phillies, the Braves looked to regain some momentum in game one of today's double header against the Mets. Major props have to be given to Fredi Gonzalez for finally putting a more optimized lineup on the field, featuring Chipper Jones in the two-hole, Martin Prado batting sixth, and Jason Heyward actually in the lineup over the not-so-hot Jose Constanza. Even bigger props go to him for sticking with this lineup in game two, but we'll see if it carries over to the series against the Cardinals.

The Braves struck for three runs in the top of the first, with Chipper doubling to left field with one out. After a McCann walk Dan Uggla grounded into a fielder's choice, putting runners on the corners for Freddie Freeman. Freeman roped a double to centerfield to score both Chipper and Uggla and took third on the throw. Martin Prado then hit an infield single to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.

Minor set down the first two batters before surrendering a single to Lucas Duda. David Wright doubled and Angel Pagan walked to load the bases for Jason Bay. Minor then surrendered his first home run of the season, a grand slam, to give the Mets a 4-3 lead. Chipper brought the score back even with a home run of his own, his sixteenth of the year, to lead off the third. After Freeman and Prado singled, Heyward singled in Freeman to put the Braves up 5-4.

The lead was extended to 6-4 after Tim Byrdak hit Michael Bourn with a pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh. The run would prove to be an important one as the Mets would score a run on a sacrifice fly from Nick Evans off of Jonny Venters. Craig Kimbrel shut the door in the ninth for his fourty-third save of the season and to give the Braves a win in game one of the double header.



Game Two

WP: Julio Teheran (1-1)

LP: Dillon Gee (12-6)

In game two of the double header, the Braves sent top pitching prospect Julio Teheran to the mound and the Mets countered with Dillon Gee.

The Braves jumped out to an early lead again after Dan Uggla scored leadoff man Michael Bourn with a single to CF. Bourn had reached base on a throwing error by Jose Reyes, then stole his fifty-second base of the season. A Freeman groundout moved him to third, and he scored on Uggla's single. As was the case in game one, the Mets also scored in their half of the first, tying the game when Bay hit a sac fly to plate Reyes.

The Braves added a second run in the fifth when David Ross drove in Prado with a single. They increased their lead to 3-1 in the seventh inning when Chipper Jones hit a sac fly to score Jack Wilson, who had been double-switched into the game, along with Cristhian Martinez, and had lead off the seventh with a double. Ross hit a home run, his sixth, in the ninth to stretch the Braves' lead to three runs. Chipper then doubled in Bourn, who had tripled, to give the Braves a 5-1 lead. Anthony Varvaro pitching a scoreless ninth to seal the double header sweep for the Braves.

The win is the first of Teheran's young career. Jason Heyward was 0-3 with a walk, while Prado, Wilson, and Jones all doubled in the game. Martinez pitched two scoreless innings to help bridge the gap between Teheran and the rest of the bullpen.

The Braves start a three-game series with the Cardinals in St. Louis tomorrow.

CNC Contest - Win a DVD!

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Hello loyal Chop N Change readers. I've got an exciting little CONTEST for everyone. The prize for winning? A brand spanking new copy of A+E's Baseball's Greatest Games - 1992 NLCS Game 7!! That's right, you can have the greatest win in Braves history on DVD just for entering! For more information on the DVD, you can click here

Now, how do you win the contest? Simple: I want a story from you. I want you to tell me about your greatest memory as a Braves fan. The story should be a minimum of 50 words, and can talk about any game you want. I'll be picking five winners, all of whom will receive a copy of the DVD from A+E Home Entertainment/MLB Productions. 

Submit your stories to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The deadline for entries will be Saturday, September 17th, 2011 at 11:59 PM EST. Any entries received after this time will not be accepted.

Best of luck to you alll, and I'm eagerly anticipating hearing your stories. A special thank you to A+E Home Entertainment and MLB Productions for letting me run this contest. Enjoy!

Game Recap - 9/7/11

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Phillies 3, Braves 2

WP: Madson (4-2)
LP: Moylan (1-1)

All week, the Phillies announcers talked about how if you wanted to beat the Braves, you should get ahead of them after six innings. Well tonight, the Phillies were ahead until the sixth inning, when the Braves tied it up before taking the lead in the seventh. And....they gave it right back, as Jonny Venters had a rough outing and coughed up the lead. In the ninth, because it was a tie game on the road, there was no reason to use Craig Kimbrel, right? So Peter Moylan was put in, in his second appearance off the DL in a crucial game. His inning went ground out-walk-single-single, and that's ballgame. Two of the hitters he faced were lefties, which Moylan can't get out at all. After Carlos Ruiz singled and lefty Ross Gload came up to pinch it, why wasn't someone, ANYONE else put into the game? Like say, maybe the best reliever in baseball? Fredi's bullpen use is atrocious. He'll use Kimbrel with a three run lead at home against the bottom of the order, but not in a tie game on the road in the ninth with the winning run in scoring position? Just silly.

Anyway. The highlights of the game. Brandon Beachy was excellent. He only went 5 2/3, but allowed just two hits, and one earned on a solo homer by Raul Ibanez. Beachy walked just one, and struck out seven. All in all, a solid performance as per the norm by Beachy. Eric O'Flaherty was actually used for more than an inning, getting four outs while striking out two and allowing just one runner to reach base, that coming when he plunked Chase Utley in the head.

Offensively, the Braves should have gotten more than two runs. Jason Heyward reached base four times, on a pair of singles and a pair of walks, and scored just one run. Chipper Jones and Brian McCann each reached base twice, and neither scored a run. The team did go 2/8 with runners in scoring position, but still stranded eight. Dan Uggla and Eric Hinske, hitting in the five and six holes tonight, went 0/6 with a walk. Hinske was double switched out for an ailing Freddie Freeman, who singled in Heyward to plate the team's second run. I think I forgot to mention that the Braves got no hit for the first five innings of the game. Yeah, that's not a good way to finish the series in Philly. This was also the first time all season that the team was swept. No big deal to me, but some fans are freaking out about it. Whatever, it's the best team in the NL.

We have a doubleheader tomorrow in New York, yippee! Game one will feature Mike Minor against Chris Schwinden in his major league debut, while game two features the return of Julio Teheran against Dillon Gee. First game starts at 4:35, with the second following after that game ends. Try not to get too caught up in the beginning of the NFL season, OK guys? 

Game 137 Recap (9/2/11)

Written by Paddy McMahon on .


Dodgers 8 (67-70), Braves 6 (81-55)

W: Hong Chi Kuo
L:
Arodys Vizcaino
SV: Javy Guerra

Well, this was a disaster. 

I had a whole lede ready to go about how with a Braves victory tonight (they were leading 5-0 at the time), they could lose every game the rest of the season and still be assured of a winning record. Which struck me as cool, for reasons that, in retrospect, escape me. BUT all of that (perhaps misplaced) jaunty optimism is now shattered; all that remains is frustration embodied in 12-point Arial.

Don't worry, that's all the emo you'll get in this recap. 

I'll be honest: I just didn't think the Dodgers could hit the way they did tonight. I didn't think that Arodys Vizcaino would (possibly ever) get touched up the way he did tonight (1/3 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). And I certainly didn't think that second base umpires could mistake second base for a fearsome dragon lying dormant in the infield, ready to be awakened at the merest hint of a correct call, because who even believes in dragons and isn't also a preteen? And what umpire is a preteen? 

ANYWAY, the nice thing to take away from tonight's game is that it's a rare occasion that the Braves will rack up 14 hits and six runs and still lose. Yeah, it stings, but half of why it's so obnoxious is because we know the Braves can do better. They're not going to get rung up on double plays to end four of the last six innings in the game, and they have the kind of bullpen where a meltdown like we saw with Vizcaino -- who doesn't turn 21 until November, might I remind you -- is a shock. 

At least, it is now that Scott Proctor isn't on the team.

 As long as we're on a positive trip, I'd like to touch on Brandon Beachy. He threw six solid innings (4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB and 7 K) but one thing really stood out: a 96-mph fastball to Matt Kemp in the first inning that drew a foul tip strikeout despite being belt high and down the middle. I was really surprised when I saw Beachy hitting high-90s on the gun early in the season, and I'd assumed that he'd regress as the season went on, and certainly after going on the DL for that oblique strain. But while he's still working in the low 90s, it's great to see that when push comes to shove, he can reach back on that fastball and blow it past even a Matt Kemp-quality hitter.

Vizcaino, for as ugly as his line was, still looked solid mechnically and was lighting up the radar gun in his own right, so I'm not too terribly concerned about his fortunes going forward. I would encourage Atlanta fans to not BOO THE 20 YEAR OLD KID WHO DOESN'T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH, though. 

Props to Dan Uggla for knocking his 31st homer of the year in the 9th inning, and to Michael Bourn for recording a couple hits and beating out what would've been yet another crushing double play. Martin Prado put forth a pair of base hits, Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez both doubled, and Bourn -- evidently inspired by the Dodgers, who stole four bases tonight and yes of course Juan Rivera tallied one why even ask -- swiped a pair of bags.

Finally, it wouldn't be a C-n-C recap if I didn't criticize Fredi, so here we go. Hey, Braves fan: why did we acquire Matt Diaz? I know that Joe's against the whole deal, but the idea is that he'll be a mildly positive contributor against lefty pitchers and people kinda like him. Now, selfsame Braves fan: why did we acquire Jack Wilson? Wilson cannot hit a lick, but has long been known for his defense, meaning that we now have a late-innings defensive replacement for Alex Gonzalez, meaning in turn that we can pinch hit for Alex Gonzalez.

So: WHY DID JACK WILSON PINCH HIT FOR THE PITCHER AGAINST HONG-CHI KUO AND ALSO WHY DID ALEX GONZALEZ BAT AND OH MY GOD DID IT HAVE TO DO WITH THAT DRAGON? Guys, this is our home ballpark: if the manager and the umpires are too scared to do the right thing because they're afraid a primordial beast is going to rise up and char and/or devour every living (and probably inanimate, because let's face it, it's a dragon) then we should probably alert the grounds crew!

Not the least reason for which is that Nathan "Nelly" Eovaldi (get it? E-I-E-I-O, E-I-Ovaldi ... whatever) and Mike Minor, champion of alliteration, will square off tomorrow night at 7:10 EDT and they're both young, exciting pitchers, and I think we can all agree that it would be a terrible tragedy if they got eaten by a dragon.

Game Recap: 9/01/11

Written by Jake Humphrey on .


WP: Hudson

LP: Wang

SV: Kimbrel

Wow, the Braves were finally able to take a series from the Nationals. And not only that, but Heyward got to start! So before we even get into what happened in the game we ought to be happy.

Brian McCann got the game started off right for the Braves with a solo homer, his 23rd, in the bottom of the first off Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang (it's players with names like that, that make me miss Skip more than ever but more on that later). Chipper added a homer of his own, his fifteenth of the year, in the seccond inning. Hinske drove in a run in the fourth to give the Braves a 3-0 lead.

The Nationals got on the board in the top of the sixth with Jayson Werth absolutely DESTROYED an 0-2 pitch from Hudson. The Braves responded in the bottom half when Alex Gonzalez singled in Dan Uggla, who had doubled to lead off the side, and to steak the Braves back to a three-run lead.

To this point of the game, everything seemed to be going fairly well according to plan. Hudson pitched six strong innings, and while he was somewhat miffed at being pulled out after only six innings, O'Flaherty did his job in the seventh and the ball was predictably handed to Jonny Venters for the eighth inning. Venters just didn't have his best stuff tonight, eventually loading the bases and giving up a run on a E5. Thankfully he was able to compose himself and get out of the inning without any further harm, but that's not the kind of outing you like to see from your set-up man.

The Braves added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth after Jason Heyward(!) tripled and Gonzalez drove him in with a sac fly. Heyward was 2-4 tonight and I don't think I need to tell anyone how important it is to get him going before the playoffs. Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 42nd save of the year.

Every Braves starter in the game recorded a hit except for the now-cold Jose Constanza who was for some reason hitting second. Uggla went 1-2 with a double and two walks. Hudson pitched a good six innings, striking out five to two walks, and surrendering only one run on five hits.

But as I alluded to earlier, facing a pitcher named "Wang" really makes me miss Skip Caray. He and Pete Van Wieren were the voices of my childhood, as I'm sure they were for most of you readers as well. Those two, as well as the recently-deceased Ernie Johnson, Sr., were the voice of our Atlanta Braves for well over thirty years. We can honor the memory of Skip and Ernie, as well as the career of Pete, by voting for them for the Ford C. Frick Award, which is given out anually to a active or retired broadcaster by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fans can vote on the Frick Award at http://www.facebook.com/baseballhall.

Examining the Postseason Roster

Written by Joe Lucia on .

Barring a massive collapse, the Braves are going to the playoffs. They've got an eight and a half game lead on the Carindals, and a nine game lead over the Giants in the NL wild card race, and neither of those teams is playing great ball right now. The team has a 97.7% of going to the playoffs, the fourth highest percentage in baseball. So yeah, it's looking pretty likely that this team will be playing ball in October.

When postseason ball comes along, the need to set a postseason roster takes place. I'm going to break this down into a few chunks: the starters, the bench, the starting pitchers, and the bullpen. As we've hit September 1st, there will be no more acquisitions taking place to beef up the roster. The Braves are going to go to war with what they have in the majors and minors right now.

First, the starters. These eight guys are set in stone to be the starters come October, barring injury: Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, Alex Gonzalez, Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jason Heyward. We are not busting down any doors on this one.

Going to the bench, there are a couple more guys who are locks: Eric Hinske, Brooks Conrad, and David Ross. That leaves two (or three, depending on how the bullepn shakes out) roster spots left for the bench.

The nominees for these bench spots are Julio Lugo, Jack Wilson, Matt Diaz, Jose Constanza, and a bunch of guys in AAA on the 40-man, like Brandon Hicks, Matt Young, Wilkin Ramirez, and JC Boscan. We can immediately eliminate the minor leaguers, since the Braves solidified their bench yesterday with the acquisitions of Diaz and Wilson. Both of those guys appear to be locks on the roster too, since they were acquired for that sole purpose. If the Braves are going to stick with a five man bench, then everything is set with those five. But what if the team decides to drop a starting pitcher in the first round, and go with a six man bench? If that happens, Constanza is the immediate choice due to his speed. I don't think Lugo has a prayer at making the postseason roster after the trade for Wilson, unless he struggles mightily after being brought in.

The starting rotation and bullpen are a whole different story. With Tommy Hanson out for the foreseeable future, the Braves have five starters for three spots in the rotation during the divisional playoffs. The immediate guess is that the rotation for the first round will be Brandon Beachy, Tim Hudson, and Mike Minor. Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens have been absolutely horrible during the month of August, but Lowe's start last night gives the squad a glimmer of hope that he could pull off a September like he did last year in helping carry the team into the playoffs. But if Lowe has a solid month, who gets the boot? My immediate guess would be Minor. He's been much better in four August starts, despite what that slightly disappointing 4.03 ERA looks like. In August, Minor allowed just one home run, walked four, and struck out 26. He's been fine, and is pitching much better than Jurrjens (6.17 ERA, four HR, 11 BB, six K in August) and Lowe (4.50 ERA, four HR, 13 BB, 31 K in August, though he's got a 1.50 ERA in his last three starts). Beachy and Hudson appear to be locks with as well as they've pitched this season, especially lately.

And now, the interesting part of things....the bullpen. The holy trinity (Kimbrel, Venters, O'Flaherty) are lead pipe locks. Arodys Vizcaino will join them as well. What about Scott Linebrink? He had a pair of rough outings in his return from the DL two weeks ago, but has thrown 2 1/3 scoreless in his last three appearances (despite allowing five baserunners). Plus, he's a veteran. Fredi loves veterans. If George Sherrill is able to pitch (he was placed on the DL yesterday to make room for Diaz), then he would be another lock for his shutdown ability towards lefties. That leaves us with one open spot. Cristhian Martinez is currently taking up that spot in the pen, but with a starter or two in the bullpen, there's no need for a long reliever. I don't think he'll end up making the cut. Martinez got a lot of use in August and struggled, allowing seven earned in 14 innings, but he did walk only one hitter while striking out a batter per inning.

But there's another interesting option currently in Gwinnett: fan favorite Peter Moylan. Moylan will finish up his rehab and join the Braves late next week, and has had a reputation over his career as a ground ball machine. I don't see any way that Moylan doesn't make the roster if he's healthy, despite him not pitching in the majors since the beginning of April. I'd like to see what he can do in the majors before handing him a spot, though. He's been fine during rehab in AAA, but there is a world of difference between Gwinnett and Atlanta. If his tendency to walk lefties pops up again this month, it might be not the best idea to roll with Moylan on the postseason roster. Someone like Anthony Varvaro could be a better bet due to his insane strikeout ability. He's also got a problem with walks though. I don't see either Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado making the postseason roster, just because it seems like overkill to thrust a rookie into the shark tank that is a playoff bullpen when neither has any experience relieving during their careers.

The only real questions in my mind come down to the pitching staff, notably what the Braves want to do with their rotation and that final bullpen slot. Here's hoping that the team doesn't go with reputation over results. There's no reason for Jair Jurrjens to be starting a playoff game if he continues to pitch this poorly. I could see making a case for Derek Lowe, though. And handing a playoff roster spot to Moylan based on the fact that he's Peter Moylan...yeah, that could be a little sketchy if he's still struggling against left-handed hitters upon getting called up. I guess we'll find out what's going to happen in a little less than a month. 

Braves Improve Bench by Acquiring Jack Wilson

Written by Joe Lucia on .

On the heels of this afternoon's Matt Diaz trade, the Braves were still looking for a middle infielder to replace the terrible Julio Lugo on the bench. Well, they've found that guy with Jack Wilson of the Mariners. Wilson is currently on the DL with a bruised heel, but should be ready to come off in the next couple of days.

Now, what's the benefit for bringing in a guy like Wilson instead of sticking with Lugo? Wilson is a bad hitter, but nowhere near as terrible as the anemic Lugo. The real benefit for bringing in Wilson is his defense: he is EXCELLENT with the glove at both short and second. If the team feels the need to get Alex Gonzalez out of the game, they can go with Wilson and not lose anything on defense, while remaining consistent (well, consistent on a low level) with the bat. When the team needed to give Gonzalez rest or whatever, they'd go with Lugo, who can't hit or field at this point in his career. Wilson at least brings something to the table, while Lugo takes everything off the table.

The bench is looking pretty solid right now, with Hinske, Ross, Conrad, Wilson, and either Diaz or Constanza, assuming the team only goes five deep in the playoffs. That's a bench that can compete with some of the best in the league, and it'll give the Braves a distinct advantage in October.