Posted: 4:37 pm Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
By David O'Brien
LOS ANGELES – As the non-waiver trade deadline approaches (4 p.m. Thursday), the Braves were still trying to add Boston’s Andrew Miller or another quality left-handed reliever without giving up too much in the way of quality prospects. But the Red Sox were asking for at least one top prospect in a deal for Miller, and it remained to be seen if there would be middle ground for a deal with the Braves.
They have the prospects to make it happen, but the Braves don’t want to sacrifice talent they’re counting upon for the long term in exchange for 2-3 months of a reliever who’ll be a free agent after the season.
That said, Miller would undtoubtedly make them better for the rest of this season and improve their playoff chances at least a bit. The Braves would also like to add a bat to strengthen their weak bench, but the options are limited in that area and the suitors numerous. There are also a lot of teams looking for relievers, especially lefties, which is why the Red Sox aren’t likely to cave and take much less than the multiple-player/prospect package they’ve been asking for in any deal for Miller.
There are other lefties available, but the 6-foot-7 Miller is the best on the trade block when you consider that in deals for free-agent-to-be-relievers, you’re looking for what the guy has done this year and, even more specifically, how he’s pitched in recent weeks. The Braves have had one of their top scouts following the Red Sox for several weeks, off and on, and Miller’s past 20 appearances have yielded this: 1.72 ERA, .100 opponents average (5-for-50) with four walks and 26 strikeouts.
Miller has a 2.40 ERA and .171 opponents’ average in 49 appearances this season, with 66 strikeouts and 13 walks in 41 1/3 innings. So it’s not as if he’s coming in to face one or two guys at a time. Against lefties, he has a .152 opponents’ average (9-for-59) with four walks, 33 strikeouts and a .206 OBP. He’s actually faced more righties than lefties, and against righties he has a strong .184 opponents’ average (16-for-87) with nine walks and 33 strikeouts.
With runners on base, he’s allowed a .108 average (8-for-74). With runners in scoring position, it’s .105 (4-for-38) with six walks, 17 strikeouts.
Yeah, I think the Braves could definitely use that.
In close-and-late situations, opponents are 16-for-94 (.170) with five walks and 43 strikeouts against Miller. In two-strike counts, they’re 8-for-93 (.086) with six walks, 66 strikeouts.
In six appearances since the All-Star break, hitters are 1-for-15 with one walk, one HBP and eight strikeouts against him.
If the Braves are willing to pay a little more than they’re comfortable paying, they could certainly bolster their pen in a significant way with this guy.
• Tonight’s matchup: It doesn’t get any easier while the Bravos are in L.A., and tonight it’ll be Alex Wood (7-8, 3.44 ERA) facing Zack Greinke (12-5, 2.74 ERA) in the second game of the series.
Having failed to capitalize on an erratic performance by Dodgers starter Josh Beckett in the series opener, the Braves now move into the meat of the L.A. rotation with matchups against Greinke and Clayton Kershaw (12-2, 1.76 ERA) in the last two games of the series. The finale should be a beauty, with Braves ace Julio Teheran facing baseball’s best starting pitcher in the lefty Kershaw.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
Tonight it’s Wood, who is 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA and .244 opponents’ average in six starts since returning to the rotation in late June.
The lefty has only faced the Dodgers in a pair of 2013 relief appearances, in which he allowed one hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. The only Dodger with more than two at-bats against Wood is Justin Turner (1-for-6).
Greinke was 8-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his first 11 starts, but he’s 4-5 with a 3.31 ERA and .265 OA in 10 starts since the beginning of June. The Dodgers scored one or no runs while he was in the game in four of those five losses, and two while he was in the other.
Despite the sub-.500 record over his past 10 starts, Greinke has 64 strikeouts with 14 walks in 65 1/3 innings during that period. And Greinke is 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA in eight starts at Dodger Stadium, with 68 strikeouts and 10 walks in 52 2/3 innings.
In three regular-season starts against the Braves, Greinke is 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA and .221 opponents’ average. He faced them twice in 2014, pitching seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball with seven strikeouts in a June 6 win at Dodger Stadium, and facing them again in the division series when he gave up four hits and two runs in six innings. He took the loss in that game, the Braves’ only win of that four-game postseason series.
Greinke’s .252/.293/.384 opponents’ slash line this season includes a .264 batting average by lefties and .242 by righties.
Get him early in count: On first pitches put in play, Greinke has allowed a .414 average (24-for-58) with 15 extra-base hits including six homers.
After getting ahead 0-1, he’s allowed a .203 average (after 1-0 it’s .276).
And in two-strike counts, Greinke has a .165 opponents’ average with two homers, 18 walks and 140 strikeouts in 278 at-bats.
Justin Upton and Jordan Schafer each is 5-for-11 against Greinke, including a homer for Upton. Gerald Laird is 6-for-20 against the righty, Ryan Doumit is 1-for-7 with a homer, Jason Heyward is 2-for-8, and B.J. Upton is 4-for-24 with 11 strikeouts.
• Freddie’s from here: Southern California native Freddie Freeman is 8-for-17 (.471) with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs in his past four regular-season games at Dodger Stadium, where he has a .362 career average (17-for-47) with four doubles, three homers and eight RBIs in 12 games. The only ballpark where he’s hit for a higher average in more than three games is Arizona’s Chase Field (.400, 20-for-50 in 12 games).
Freeman is from Orange, which is south of Los Angeles. He’ll have friends and family members at tonight’s game just like he did Tuesday, when his two-run homer in the third inning gave the Braves a 3-2 lead.
• Painful Puig: Even if Yasiel Puig hadn’t been the chief competition for Freeman in last year’s Final Vote balloting (Freeman won), Puig has given the Braves plenty of reason not to like him: The dude kills Atlanta pitchers.
He’s 20-for-38 (.526) against the Braves with three doubles, a triple, two homers, seven RBIs and nine runs scored in nine career games against the Braves, including the division series. He has hit safely in all nine games and has multiple hits in seven games, including three or more hits in three.
Albeit a rather small sample size, it’s been hugely impressive.
“I don’t think I’ve seen him make an out,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after Puig had two singles, a double and a triple in his first four plate appearances Tuesday in a 4-for-5 performance. “Maybe when he comes up to the plate I’ll just go hide back here in the locker room or something so maybe he’ll make an out.
“He’s, uh, he’s energized right now. He’s swinging the bat well.”
• B.J.’s rising K’s: B.J. Upton has performed better since moving to the leadoff spot, but the K’s keep mounting for the major league strikeout leader, who had three strikeouts Tuesday.
Upton has 19 multi-strikeout games in his past 47 games and 66 strikeouts in 198 at-bats in that span. Tuesday’s game was his sixth three-strikeout game in that period, during which he’s hit .217 with 13 extra-base hits (three homers), a .272 OBP, a .333 slugging percentage, 13 RBIs, 32 runs and nine stolen bases in 14 attempts in that period.
His 130 strikeouts are five ahead of the next-most in the majors, the 125 apiece by Philly’s Marlon Byrd and Washington’s Ian Desmond. The AL leader is Baltimore’s Chris Davis, with 123.
On a positive note, in the leadoff spot Upton has hit .250 (30-for-120) with a .308 OBP, nine extra-base hits (one homer), .358 slugging percentage, nine walks and 38 strikeouts. That’s significantly better than in other spots in the lineup.
However, Upton’s .217 overall average and .283 OBP in 100 games this season includes .165 (14-for-85) with 30 strikeouts against lefties, a league-worst .198 (39-for-197) in 47 road games, and .180 (11-for-61) with nine walks and 21 strikeouts in close-and-late situations.
In two-strike counts, he’s batting .127 (26-for-204) with 130 strikeouts.
By the way, his average vs. lefties is third-lowest in the NL, and teammate Jason Heyward’s .152 (15-for-99) is the lowest.
• Rookie raking: Second baseman Tommy La Stella is 7-for-11 (.636) with four walks, no strikeouts and a .733 OBP in his past four games, and Tuesday’s three-hit game was second in that stretch.
La Stella’s .296 average is 19 points higher than the next-best among qualifying NL rookies (Arizona’s Chris Owings, .277), and his .347 average with runners in scoring position is 25 points ahead of the Braves’ next-highest (Freeman’s .322). Heyward (.302) and Chris Johnson (.290) are the only other Braves hitting above .274 with RISP.
• Chris Johnson’s past 50 games (since June 1): .300 (60-for-200) with 11 doubles, six homers, 32 RBIs, .327 OBP, .445 slugging percentage, seven walks, 51 strikeouts. He continues to thrive against the Dodgers. In his past 22 games against them, Johnson has hit .360 (27-for-97) with 13 extra-base hits (two homers), 12 RBIs, a .415 OBP and .600 slugging percentage….
• Although Matt Kemp’s two homers Tuesday were his first in more than 100 plate appearances since June 25, the Dodgers outfielder has hit .329 (28-for-85) with a .412 OBP and 15 RBIs in his past 24 games, with six extra-base hits and a .459 OBP. Kemp is 14-for-31 (.452) with four extra-base hits and nine RBIs in his past eight games.
• Let’s close with this one from the master songwriter Tom Waits, who spent a lot of time in L.A. and lived in the Echo Park neighborhood for a while. He mentioned the old St. Moritz hotel in downtown L.A. in this classic tune from his Small Change album.
“THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY” by Tom Waits
Well this gigolo’s jumping salty, ain’t no trade out on the streets,
Half past the unlucky, and the hawk’s a front-row seat
Dressed in full orchestration, stage-door Johnny’s got to pay,
And sent him home talking ’bout the one that got away
Could have been on Easy Street, could have been a wheel,
With irons in the fire and all them business deals
But the last of the big-time losers shouted before he drove away,
“I’ll be right back, as soon as I crack the one that got away”
Well, the ambulance drivers, they don’t give a shit,
They just want to get off work, and
The short stop and the victim are already gone berserk
And the shroud-tailor measures him for a deep-six holiday,
The stiff is froze, the case is closed on the one that got away
Now Jim Crow’s directing traffic with them cemetery blues,
With them peculiar-looking trousers, them old Italian shoes
And a wooden kimono that was all ready to drop in San Francisco Bay
But he’s mumbling something all about the one that got away
And Costello was the champion at the St. Moritz Hotel,
And the best this side of Fairfax, reliable sources tell
But his reputation is at large, and he’s at Ben Frank’s every day,
Waiting for the one that got away
He got a snakeskin sportshirt, and he looks like Vincent Price,
With a little piece of chicken, and he’s carving off a slice
Someone tipped her off, and she’ll be doing a Houdini now any day
She shook his hustle, and a Greyhound bus’ll take the one that got away
Well, Andre’s at the piano behind the Ivar in the sewers,
With a buck a shot for pop tunes, and a fin for guided tours
He could-a been in “Casa Blanca”, he stood in line out there all day
Now he’s spilling whiskey and learning songs about a one that got away
Well I’ve lost my equilibrium and my car keys and my pride,
The tattoo parlor’s warm, and so I hustle there inside
And the grinding off the buzz-saw, “What you want that thing to say?”
I says, “Just don’t misspell her name, buddy, she’s the one that got away”
About the Author
David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002, and previously covered the Marlins for the (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel for seven years. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism.