Posted: 6:54 pm Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Head-scratchers: Clippard vs. Braves, Pena vs. Nats 

By David O'Brien

Before facing the Braves became an ongoing nightmare for Tyler Clippard these past two seasons, the Nationals reliever actually had a great deal of success against them. The kind of success the Washington setup man continues to have against most other teams, just not the Braves. Oh, man, not the Braves.

Clippard gave up a tying home run to Justin Upton in the eighth inning Friday, the eighth time in nine appearances that he gave up at least one run against the Braves since the beginning of the 2013 season.

The veteran right-hander was 0-3 with a 9.72 ERA and .344 opponents average in those nine appearances against the Braves, with 11 hits including four homers allowed in 8 1/3 innings.

Justin Upton follows through on his game-tying homer off Tyler Clippard on Friday.

Justin Upton follows through on his game-tying homer off Tyler Clippard on Friday.

Against every other team in that span, Clippard is 7-1 with a 1.82 ERA and microscopic .114 opponents’ average in 70 appearances, allowing just 30 hits including seven homers in 69-1/3 innings.

“Dude, he’s (good),” said second baseman Dan Uggla, who has faced Clippard more than any other Brave and gone 2-for-16 with seven strikeouts against him. “They don’t keep bringing him in in the eighth inning because, like, it’s an accident.  He’s been doing it a long time.

“We, for whatever reason, have gotten to him the last couple of years. Thank God we’ve got people in this lineup other than me who can hit a change-up.”

Before Saturday, Jason Heyward was 5-for-8 with three walks against Clippard; Freddie Freeman was 5-for-13 with a homer;  Justin Upton was 5-for-8 with two homers; Ryan Doumit and Jordan Schafer were each 2-for-5, and Evan Gattis was 1-for-2 with a homer and a walk.

“The way Justin hit that ball last night … whew, I don’t know,” Uggla said, referring to the 93-mph fastball on a 1-2 count that Upton destroyed – a line-drive over the center-field with one out and none on. “We’ve got a few guys in our lineup that make him work really hard. That work deep counts and draw walks and stay back on his change-up, and little things like that.

“The next thing you know you’ve got a couple of guys on, you’ve got something going. He’s their guy, though. They’re not going to stop bringing him in in the eighth inning. He’s proved he can get the job done.”

Gattis said he didn’t know what to make of the Braves’ success against Clippard over the past two seasons. Before 2013, Clippard had a 1.40 ERA and .147 opponents’ average in 30 appearances against the Braves, and the Nats were 21-9 in those games. Before Saturday, they are 4-5 in games he’s pitched against the Braves over the past two seasons.

“I don’t know much about that, but he’s a good pitcher,” Gattis said. “A lot of our guys don’t chase too much. CJ (Chris Johnson), you don’t see him swing at stuff up here too much, and Clippard pitches at the top of the zone a lot. Maybe we just match up good against him, I don’t know.”

 • Pena vs. Nats: The antithesis of Clippard the past two seasons has beenRamiro Pena. The utility infielder wasn’t in the Braves lineup Saturday, and it’s safe to assume the Nationals were pleased.

Otherwise known for being a typically good-glove, light-hitting utility man, Pena has been something else entirely against the Nationals in parts of two seasons since joining the Braves. His three-run homer Friday night was his third in eight games against the Nationals over two seasons, and he was 8-for-22 (.364) with seven RBIs in those eight games since April 12, 20013.

Against everyone else in that period, Pena was 18-for-74 (.243) with one homer and four RBIs in 39 games.

Friday’s homer also gave him homers in consecutive games against the Nationals. He was filling in for shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who missed two games with a jammed wrist.

Pena, 28, didn’t play in last week’s series at Washington, and he homered on June 2 against the Nationals in his final game against them in 2013. The former Yankee tore up his throwing shoulder two weeks later and had season-ending surgery.

For his career, Pena has a .321 average with three homers and eight RBIs in 11 games (28 at-bats) against the Nats, and a .238 average with three homers and 39 RBIs in 223 games (391 at-bats) against everyone else.

The Braves pinch-ran Jordan Schafer for third baseman Chris Johnson after Johnson’s two-out single in the 10th inning Friday, and Schafer scored the winning run from first on Justin Upton’s bloop single to right field. If the Braves hadn’t won it that inning, Pena would’ve shifted to third base in the bottom of the inning and Simmons would’ve entered the game at shortstop.

Simmons was back in the lineup Saturday, a day after receiving his Gold Glove and Platinum Glove awards from Rawlings signifying him as the best defensive shortstop in the NL and the best overall defensive player in the league.

 • K as in Kimbrel:  Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth inning Friday, mowing down the heart of the order – Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman – to give him 61 strikeouts with eight walks and a 1.39 ERA in 33 career appearances against the Nationals. And the remarkable thing is, those aren’t especially good numbers for the Braves closer.

Consider this: In his past 125 appearances through Friday, Kimbrel had a 0.95 ERA and .139 opponents’ average, with a staggering 206 strikeouts and 27 walks in 123 1/3 innings. The Braves were 114-11 in those games and Kimbrel was 7-4 with 87 saves in 93 chances.

OK, close to game time. Let’s close with one from the greatest hard rock band there ever was or ever will be. Click here to hear this one from the mighty Led Zep.

“WE’RE GONNA GROOVE” by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

Hear my baby comin’ down the track 
Betcha my baby’s comin’ back 
Someday she’ll get back to me 
We’re gonna raise a family 

We’re gonna groove, Yeah groove 
Yeah we’re gonna groove 

We’re gonna love… until the break of day 

Sweet as sweet as sweet can be 
You don’t know whatcha do to me 
Let me say you’re my one desire 
You just set my soul on fire 

Oh we’re gonna groove,Yeah groove 
Yeah we’re gonna groove 
We gonna love… until the break of day 

Sweet as sweet as sweet can be 
Lemme tell ya you don’t know whatcha do to me 
You just set my soul on fire 
Woman you know you’re my one desire… 

We gonna groove… 
1910 comments
Lew06
Lew06

What do I expect the Nats' GM to say?  Absolutely nothing. He should just STFU.

jim024
jim024

If yesterday's game were close, Angel Hernandez behind the plate would have been a huge factor in deciding the outcome.  He was bad for both teams, but in particular he called two pitches off the plate on LaRoche and got him swinging at pitches well off the plate.  Bad calls on Braves hitters too, but didn't see them change their approach as much as a couple of Nats

noleee
noleee

and therein lies the trouble with talking politics and/or religion. it might start out reasonable but as it continues some true believer(the bane of humanity throughout history) on one side or the other is gonna take it to the next level and continue doing so until it spirals out of control.

happens damn near every time and not just here.

ncscoots
ncscoots

The Braves' early season handling of the Nats does not necessarily mean the division is won.  It is still mid April.

You guys missed the memo, didn't you? The one allowing 24 hours for unrestrained optimism after a weekend sweep of the Natalies? :-)

Now, just hush with all this "objective" poop.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

Here's your Power Ranking - Jersy Gil is in Philly and he's getting ready to watch the Braves have a little fun with the Fightins for the next four days! You Go Gil! :-)

jim024
jim024

The power ratings are about as meaningful as the early college football and basketball rankings.  Did UConn ever crack the top 20 rankings this season?

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

Still too early to say that anything that has happened so far should drastically change preseason predictions or projections.  It's the national media's job to objectively assess and to make predictions based on that, if they are asked to or if they think it will be entertaining.  (I know some guys hate doing predictions.)  I can understand why folks would pick the Nationals and why that wouldn't change based on a few games.    If you want Braves cheer-leading, you probably shouldn't look for it from people trying to do objective analysis.  

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

We are to the Gnats, what the Big Red Machine was to everyone in 70s. A seemingly insurmountable force that can rarely be overcome, especially with porous defense and Mr. Magoo base-running.

EMWTK
EMWTK

Hey Wayne! I haven't seen you weigh in on the Cliven Bundy Ranch situation.  Did I miss it?

MFin04
MFin04

I say keep talking I think he's contributing to the Braves dominance

ZAZ
ZAZ

@Lew06 The fact that some of you are bothered by what another team's GM says/doesn't say concerns me. I have much work yet to do.

DS1
DS1

@jim024 Why is Angel Hernandez still a major league umpire?  Strong union?

DS1
DS1

@noleee Hey nolie, I thought that Rabbit and I (and a few others) were having a very civil discussion.  We were stating our positions and beliefs, and comparing.  raleighbrave called a BS on one of my posts, and I answered back civily.  Then scoots decided to make it a personal attack.  To me, this simply shows how thin skinned some folks can be.  And I zinged him back.

So I take exception to the premise that I was spiraling out of control. 

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@noleee  

"I will not stand here and listen to the United States of America being run down, gentlemen!" 

From Animal House

Rick_C
Rick_C

@ShaunATL  There you go with straw man arguments as usual.  Who said we just want Braves cheer leading?  I post opinions from professional analysts all the time because I enjoy getting different perspectives.  And I'm entitled to agree or disagree with them.

jim024
jim024

@ShaunATL I agree.  Objective analysis early in the season is largely based on previous performance.  Players rise and fade during each season, so the national media is going to wait to see if Gattis can fill the catcher's role, if Uggla and BJ regain some semblance of the earlier form and if Wood is as good as TOBF thinks he is.

LumanHarris
LumanHarris

@ShaunATL  That would all make sense, Shaun .... except for the fact that ESPN jumped Milwaukee 15 spots to No. 2. Do they really believe the Brewers will be the second best team at the end of the year? I doubt it ... I'd say that "drastic change" is a direct result of two weeks of baseball.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

Also, what do people expect the GM of the Nationals to say?  What if the situation were reversed and the Nationals had swept the Braves?  Do you want Frank Wren to say, "we are worse than them" two weeks into the season?  

Tumbledown
Tumbledown

In my own unintelligent manner, I agree.  The Braves' early season handling of the Nats does not necessarily mean the division is won.  It is still mid April.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@EMWTK  

Has Vlad invaded Eastern Ukraine yet? I heard that some Russian sympathizers had taken over a govt bldg and proclaimed it, the bldg., to be a separate country from the rest of Ukraine.

Those cut-ups. :-)

ncscoots
ncscoots

@EMWTK  I doubt Wayne even knows Bundy's "reasoning" for not paying the grazing fees.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@Rick_C It's not the agreeing or disagreeing that annoys me.  It's the whining that everyone is against the Braves.

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@LumanHarris  There is no criteria for power rankings so we shouldn't take them seriously.  The Brewers are number two because of their run differential and record.  Yet it seems other teams are ranked based on talent and what they are likely to do going forward.  I don't think it's worth whining about something so goofy as power rankings.  

ShaunATL
ShaunATL

@YourWorstNightmare I don't think they care, one way or another, who wins in the NL East.  If they weren't being objective and showing it, in regards to the NL East, they would all be Mets cheer-leaders, since the Mets are in the biggest market.

_DAP_
_DAP_

@ShaunATL what do we expect them to say? thats easy. he should have said everything except for "we think were better than this team", especially after the long string of dominance that team has experienced. "we arent scared of them/ they are a good team and we are a good team. we plan on winning this division." all that is fine. "we are better than them" is arrogant, and given the results, stupid.

LumanHarris
LumanHarris

@ShaunATL  I have no problem at all with what Rizzo said. That's his business, and his team's business. (Although it does make it even easier to root against them ....)

Rick_C
Rick_C

@ShaunATL  You act like there are only two options.  He could simply say the Braves are a good team and formidable opponent that they will need to beat if they want to win the division.  Leave it at that.

Tumbledown
Tumbledown

Isn't there some middle ground statement Rizzo could have said in public?  Obviously, in private, it is understandable he believes his team to be the better one.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@RabbitMaranville1914 @EMWTK  I'm having a real hard time giving a damn about a civil war in eastern Europe. 

Putin wants the Ukraine to be the buffer state it has been for hundreds of years, but he doesn't want the responsibility of supporting a bankrupt republic.

Much ado about nothing, unless you're a resident there.

EMWTK
EMWTK

@ncscoots @EMWTK  My understanding is his "reasoning" is that he doesn't recognize the sovereignty of the the Feds regarding this particular piece of land.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@ShaunATL Can't say I've seen any of that today.  And I don't blame people for thinking that, as year in and year out the Braves tend to get undervalued in projections and end up outperforming them.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@EMWTK @ncscoots  

Hey EM, when I was over in the Philippines the girls all chewed coconuts. They had such strong teeth that we used to use them sorta like human bottle openers for our delicious San Miguel beer.

Can any of those Russian or Ukrainian women do that?

ncscoots
ncscoots

@EMWTK @ncscoots  But the Russian mail order brides I see advertised on the internet look pretty hot.

Photoshopped. :-)

EMWTK
EMWTK

@ncscoots But the Russian mail order brides I see advertised on the internet look pretty hot.

Tumbledown
Tumbledown

I would think partisan politics could and SHOULD be set aside for this sort of immigration policy!

ncscoots
ncscoots

@Tumbledown  I agree, although I'm well-known for advocating a relaxation of ANY immigration policies in regards to Scandinavian women.

Tumbledown
Tumbledown

This is why any invasion of Sweden would be unacceptable!

ncscoots
ncscoots

@RabbitMaranville1914 @EMWTK  It's hard to care about Ukraine once you've seen pictures of Ukrainian women.

Not that I condone that kind of callous and boorish behavior, of course. Just saying.