Posted: 5:22 pm Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Braves look to end skid, tough task vs. ‘King’ 

By David O'Brien

  SEATTLE – The Braves have hit .230 and totaled 53 runs and seven homers over their past 16 games, including two or fewer runs in nine of those games. And now they bring a six-game losing skid and offensive ills with them to Safeco Field to face a Mariners team with a majors-best 3.05 ERA.

Oh, and tonight they face “King” Felix Hernandez, who is at least the American League’s best pitcher and the only MLB pitcher who’s on a current roll as impressive as the one that Clayton Kershaw brought into his matchup against the Braves last week in L.A.

The baseball gods aren’t making this thing easy for the Braves, are they?

Five days after facing Clayton Kershaw, the Braves face the other best starting pitcher in baseball, "King" Felix Hernandez.

Five days after facing Clayton Kershaw, the Braves face the other best starting pitcher in baseball, “King” Felix Hernandez.

“Sometimes you’ve got to create your own luck,” Gerald Laird said after the Braves’ lost consecutive extra-inning games at San Diego Saturday and Sunday. “We’re getting opportunities to score runs and we’re not getting it done. I mean, that’s  the bottom line, we’ve got to play better. This is a big stretch for us right here. It isn’t going to get any easier. We’ve got Seattle and then we go home against three tough teams.

“I mean, when we get opportunities to score we’ve got to take advantage of it, and right now we’re not doing that.”

Well said, G-Money.

The Braves aren’t taking advantage of opportunities, and tonight they’ll face a guy who isn’t as likely to give them opportunities like the ones they failed to capitalize on in San Diego while getting swept by the Padres to to give the Braves a hard-to-believe streak of seven consecutive losses at Petco Park.

Oh, and an 0-6 record on this eight-game trip, and an 0-9 record in games decided by one run during a 9-16 stretch that’s dropped the Braves from division leaders to three games out of first place in the East and two games out of the second wild-card spot if the season ended today.

I wrote in this story yesterday about the urgency that the Braves face now, and how they simply have to start doing more offensively if they hope to play into October.

They went 0-6 at L.A. and San Diego to make the Braves 1-8 this season in California, and now to win a series  on this trip the Braves must win tonight, with the Mariners starting the most consistent ace in baseball. This being a two-game series, the Braves would have to win them both to win it, of course.

And if they lose tonigh against King Felix, well, the Braves would then be in a position where they would have to win Tuesday afternoon, in a 12:40 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time start, with  Alex Wood facing Chris Young (9-6, 3.19), to avoid losing every game on an eight-game trip that would rank among the worst in franchise history.

How did it get here? Well, you all have watched, so you have a pretty good idea how badly this offense has underperformed. And believe me, this team’s overall disappointing season is at the feet of the offense, not a pitching staff that was patched together after spring-training injuries and, though it’s not been great, still has the seventh-best overall ERA (3.38) in the majors and fifth-best in the NL, and even since the break (3.51) has ranked right in the middle of the majors and the league rankings.

The starters’ 3.41 ERA still is sixth in the majors and fourth in the NL. The 3.30 bullpen ERA isn’t nearly as good as it’s been in recent years, but still ranks fifth in the league. By the way, the best bullpen ERAs in the big leagues belong to the two teams against whom the Braves are closing their dismal trip, the Mariners (2.37) and Padres (2.42).

It’s not the pitching that’s undermined the Braves, although neither it nor team defense have been up to the standards of recent seasons. No, it’s the hitting woes that have really damaged this team almost the entire season, with the exception of a week here or a couple of weeks there.

Let us count a few ways: The Braves rank 21st in the majors in OBP at .310, just ahead of the Mets (.309) and Dbacks (.308), two teams going nowhere, and 22 points behind leader Pittsburgh. Eleven teams are above .320 before Monday and only two below .300.

The Braves are tied with the Mariners for fourth-fewest runs scored in the majors with 421, while 14 teams have scored 450 or more including the Marlins (450). The Braves rank 22nd in the majors (ninth in the NL) with a .245 batting average, and 25th in the majors in on-base-plus-slugging percentage with a .680 mark. Twenty-fifth! There are teams were at .700 or higher, including the lowy Dbacks.

The Braves rank 17th in the majors with a .246 batting average with runners in scoring position, and are dead last in the majors with 21 sacrifice flies, two fewer than 29th-ranked Philadelphia and 26 sac flies fewer than MLB leader Detroit. Thirteen teams have 30 or more sac flies.

As we’ve noted many times before, this is just a bad situational-hitting baseball team. Too many guys who don’t change their approach with two strikes, and too many guys who go up to the plate and swing the same – hard — regardless of how many outs there are or whether or not there are runners on base or the Braves are behind, ahead or tied in the early, middle or late innings.

And they strike out like a team that might be acceptable for a team that led the majors in homers, but is actually slightly below average in that category with 89. That’s tied with Cincinatti for 17th in the majors and four below the National League average.

With runners in scoring position and two outs, the Braves are hitting .200, tied with the Nationals for 23rd in baseball, just behind the Dbacks and just ahead of the Cubs. And the Nationals at least have an OPS that’s 33 points higher in those situations. Oh, and a pitching staff that’s not been diminished by injuries and has not been showing showing signs of stress and fatigue as the Braves have.

As we said, the task facing the Braves is not going to be easy. They’ve got to get better, and quickly.

• The immediate task: The Braves have two games against the Mariners, whose pitching staff leads the Majors with a 3.05 ERA and is on pace to shatter its club record by nearly a half-run (3.54 set in 2001). The last American League team to finish with a sub 3.10 ERA was the 1989 Athletics, who won the World Series.

The Mariners have allowed two or fewer runs in 48 games, the most in the majors.

And talk about wasting good pitching: The Mariners are 8-14 with a 2.62 ERA in their past 22 games. They’ve scored just 56 runs in that span, totaling two or fewer in 13 of those 22 games including one or no runs in nine. Yes, one or no runs in nine of 22 games.

• Simmons, Kimbrel tops in survey: Andrelton Simmons was rated the National League’s best defensive shortstop and Craig Kimbrel its best reliever in Baseball America’s annual Best Tools survey of major league managers.

Simmons was also rated as having the NL’s best infield arm, and Kimbrel was judged to have the league’s best slider and second-best fastball, behind Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.

To the surprise of no one who watches baseball, Andrelton Simmons was rated the NL's best defensive shortstop in Baseball America's  survey.

To the surprise of no one who watches baseball, Andrelton Simmons was rated the NL’s best defensive shortstop in Baseball America’s survey.

Braves pitcher Julio Teheran’s curveball was rated third in the NL behind the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, and Teheran was judged to have the NL’s second-best pickoff move behind Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Freddie Freeman was rated the third-best defensive first baseman, behind Washington’s Adam LaRoche and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, and the Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez was rated as the league’s third-best manager, after the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and Cardinals’ Mike Matheny.

Somewhat surprsingly, Jason Heyward didn’t make the NL list of best defensive outfielders or outfield arms, as judged by the managers. Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez and Gerado Parra were rated the NL’s top three defensive outfielders, and Yasiel Puig, Parra and Carlos Gonzalez were judged to have the best outfield arms.

Tonight’s matchup: Wood against the King, Felix Hernandez, who is looking to extend his own major league recor of 14 consecutive starts with at least seven innings pitched and two or fewer runs allowed. He broke the record of 13 set by some guy named Tom Seaver in 1971.

Hernandez is 7-2 with a 1.44 ERA and .169 opponents’ average in those 14 starts, with 118 strikeouts and 19 strikeouts in 106 innings. The team is 10-4.

He’s also aiming for the record of 15 consecutive starts of seven or more innings and two or fewer earned runs, set by my fellow North Carolina native Gaylord Perry with Cleveland in 1974.

By the way, Hernandez is 16-7 with an all-time majors-leading 2.59 ERA in interleague play (min. 200 innings), including 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA over his past seven interleague starts going back to June 17, 2012.

As far as this season, Hernandez  leads the AL in ERA (2.01), quality starts (21) and WHIP (0.889)and  ranks second in strikeouts (178) and innings (165 1/3).

This season, he’s again been about as consistent as any great pitcher in recent years. For instance: against left-handed hitters, he’s allowed a .198 average, .243 OBP and .265 slugging percentage, while against righties it’s .192/.229/.296.

In home games, he has a 2.09 ERA and .190/.229/.273 opponents’ slash line, with 84 strikeouts and 14 walks in 81 2/3 innings. On the road it’s a 1.94 ERA and .200.245/.282, with 94 strikeouts and 17 walks in 83 2/3 innings

With no runners on base, opponents are hitting .193/.242/.265 against him. With runners on: .199/.228/.301. With runners in scoring position: .188/.228/.259.

Oh, and if you’re batting with two strikes against him, good luck: Hitters are 32-for-315 (.102) with two homers, 17 walks and 178 strikeouts, for a .150 OBP and .156 slugging percentage.

Among Braves who’ve faced Hernandez, Freddie Freeman is 3-for-4, Gerald Laird is 6-for-20, B.J. Upton is 3-for-31 with one walk and 11 strikeouts, Emilio Bonifacio is 1-for-8 with three RBIs and four strikeouts, and Ryan Doumit is 1-for-12 with nine strikeouts. Justin Upton and Jason Heyward each is 1-for-3 with a walk against him.

He’ll face Alex Wood, who is 2-2 with a 3.12 ERA and .242 opponents’ average in seven starts since moving back into the rotation from the bullpen. In his past three starts, the lefty has a 3.00 ERA and 20 strikeouts with only three walks in 18 innings.

The only Mariners with more than one official at-bat against Wood are former Padre Chris Denorfia (3-for-3) and former Marlin Logan Morrison (0-for-2, one walk).

Etc.

At Safeco Field, B.J. Upton is 23-for-121 (.190) with one homer, 16 walks, 36 strikeouts in 32 games, with a .285 OBP and .264 slugging percentage. Gerald Laird is 24-for-94 (.255) with one homer and a .346 OBP in 30 games at the Seattle ballpark….

The only Braves pitchers who’ve started a game at Safeco are Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, neither of whom pitches in this brief series. Braves ace Julio Teheran (10-7, 2.69 ERA) faces righty Chris Young (9-6, 3.19) in Wednesday’s series finale…

Since the All-Star break, Andrelton Simmons is 8-for-54 (.148) with three doubles, six walks, seven strikeouts, .233 OBP in 16 games.

In 52 road games, B.J. Upton has hit .188 (41-for-218) with four homers, 18 walks, 77 strikeouts and a .249 OBP and .294 slugging percentage….

For what it’s worth, Braves pitchers have a 3.26 ERA in 582 1/3 innings with Evan Gattis catching, a 3.38 ERA in 117 1/3 innings with Christian Bethancourt catching, and a 3.60 ERA in 294 2/3 innings with Gerald Laird catching.

We’re in beautiful Seattle. I’ll close with some timeless, sublime rock from locals Alice in Chains, which you can hear by clicking this. R.I.P., Layne Staley.

“WOULD?” by Alice in Chains

Know me broken by my master
Teach thee on child of love hereafter

Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains

Into the flood again
Same old trip it was back then
So I made a big mistake
Try to see it once my way

Drifting body it’s sole desertion
Flying not yet quite the notion

Into the flood again
Same old trip it was back then
So I made a big mistake
Try to see it once my way

Into the flood again
Same old trip it was back then
So I made a big mistake
Try to see it once my way

Am I wrong?
Have I run too far to get home?
Have I gone?

Am I wrong?
Have I run too far to get home?
Have I gone?

And left you here alone?
If I would, could you?

4783 comments
CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

This comes from the NASA John Glen Research Center: Right now it would cost about One-Hundred-Billion dollars to create one milligram of antimatter.

Even Uggs would sign for that, and willingly play in the minors..

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

According to my research at the CERN Haldron Collider/Partlcle-Accelerator in Switzerland, I have determined that we'll pop 3-dingers and 3-doubles in tonight's game.

Did it by slamming two rubbed-up baseballs together at an acceleration of .874% the speed of light. A poster came flying out of nowhere with tonight's Braves stats..

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Soon as I figger-out how many dingers we'll stroke tonight, I'll be back.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

Virgil Caine is my name
And I drove on the Danville train
'Til so much cavalry came
And tore up the tracks again
In the winter of sixty-five
We were hungry, just barely alive
I took the train to Richmond that fell
It's a time I remember
Oh, so well

The night they drove Old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringin'
The night they drove Old Dixie down
And all the people were singin'
They went
Laaaaaa, la-la-la-laaaaaa
La-la, la-la
La-la-la-laaaaaa

Back with my wife in Tenessee
And one day she said to me
Virgil, quick come see
There goes the Robert E Lee
Now, I don't mind I'm choppin' wood
And I don't care if my money's no good
Just take what you need and leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best

The night they drove Old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringin'
The night they drove Old Dixie down
And all the people were singin'
They went
Laaaaaa, la-la-la-laaaaaa
La-la, la-la
La-la-la-laaaaaa

Like my father before me
I'm a working man
And like my brother before me
I took a rebel stand
Well, he was just 18, proud and brave
But a yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the blood below my feet
You can't raise the Caine back up
When it's in defeat

The night they drove Old Dixie down
And all the bells were ringin'
The night they drove Old Dixie down
And all the people were singin'
They went
Laaaaaa, la-la-la-laaaaaa
La-la, la-la
La-la-la-laaaaaa

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 70 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55

Originally signed out of Venezuela in 2010 when he was 16 years old, Peraza has quickly risen through the ranks of Braves prospects, and he stands out for his above-average speed.

Thanks to his quickness, Peraza has excellent range. Along with his soft hands and good infield actions, he has all the tools to be an above-average defender. Peraza knows how to use his speed to his advantage on offense, as well. His speed allows him to beat out infield hits and makes him a basestealing threat. Peraza's swing is contact oriented, producing only minimal power.

After making significant improvements in 2013, Peraza has begun moving through the Minor Leagues faster, reaching Double-A Mississippi as a 20-year old. He profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter.

ETA : 2015

Rick_C
Rick_C

I didn't catch the segment, but according to folks on twitter Rosenthal reported that the Braves almost traded BJ and either Santana or Minor to an unknown team.  Not sure if he said anything about players that might have been targeted or if Braves were eating $ (I would assume so though).

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Forgive the lengthy post. From Merry Clayton, who sang background vocals on "sweet home"

MC: I got a call from Clydie King, a great friend of mine. She was a big session singer, and we worked together all the time. She called me and said that this producer talked to her about doing this session with this guy, she thought his name was Leonard Skynyrd, but we came to find out that the group was called Lynyrd Skynyrd. Either way, she said the song was “Sweet Home Alabama.” There was a silence on the phone for quite a while. I said, “Clydie, are you serious? I’m not singing nothing about nobody’s sweet home Alabama. Period.” So I’m just going on and on and my husband passes by in the other room and he says, “What’s wrong?” And I said, “We’re going to do this session with this white boy called ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’” He said, “‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ Merry, are you serious?” He says, “Give me the phone,” and he talks to Clydie and says, “She’ll be there.”

I get off the phone and said, “Curtis, why are you telling Clydie that I’m going to be at a session that I do not want to do? You know I’m not going to sing anything about sweet home nobody’s Alabama.” He says, “Oh, but sweetheart you must sing ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’” He said, “You’re young, Merry. You don’t understand.” He said, “What you don’t know is that you can’t picket and you can’t stand on the front lines because with your mouth, you’d be dead. But you have the biggest platform there is to partake in and what you should do is let the music be your protest.” And I got it; at that moment, it clicked in my head and I got it. So I said, “Okay, I’m going to go to this session, but you better believe I’m going to be singing through my teeth ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’”

So the girls and I had a big prayer and we asked that God would just use us in this and that His will be done through this song and that this song would be a big hit and to let this be our protest and let people know that the whole world was screwed up, but that this was our protest as background singers and as music people, period. So we went to the session, the guys were great, we sang “Sweet Home Alabama,” and the rest is history.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Caine=Confederacy. Always been an interesting lyric.

noleee
noleee

@Rabbit_Maranville1914

50 is not a great arm, especially at ss

those are not overwhelming numbers, guy is gonna hafta hit to his max and take some walks

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@Rabbit_Maranville1914

I'd much rather see him now, than from an urn...

My luck, he'll be called-up THE MOMENT I'm wheeled into the oven with them weed brownies..

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@Rabbit_Maranville1914

 I believe a small black-hole was the poster's origin...

Actually, there were folks who predicted a black-hole generated by the Haldron Collider would swallow the world. Never happened and never will..

Black-Holes just might be beyond our scientific boundaries..

Or, maybe not..

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@Rick_C

Thank goodness we held on to BJ just in time for the power surge to kick in.

:-)

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Wait, so the braves "almost traded?" That suggests we got cold feet. Hmmm.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@noleee

Thx for 'splaining them. He is our Numero Uno prospect and they show his ETA to the Big league is next year.

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Maybe I'll have an oversized urn with a TV. Or have my ashes spread at 2ND base, where most of my agony has been propagated over the past three years..

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

It's just your body, Cobb.

Even some cutting edge scientists are now saying that the mind may be outside of the body and are questioning as to whether time and space may just be an illusion my friend. 

:-)

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

The laws of Physics completely break down once you cross the Event Horizon of a black hole.

This also happens sometimes when BJ is at the plate.  :-)

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

It is speculated that we might be able to use the Higgs Boson to travel through time one day.  :-)

we could go back and tell Lonnie Smith to keep running when Pendleton gets that double from high off the wall in the 7th inning of Game 7 in the '91 WS!  :-)

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

the speed of light =670 616 629 miles per hour or 186,000 miles per second.

They shoot protons at each other which actually get close to light speed. It's Amazing!   :-)

noleee
noleee

@Rabbit_Maranville1914 @noleee

the fact that a guy who scouts out at a 55 overall is our best prospect says more about our system than most here realize

i'm lookin' fer some disappointed folks in a few years who are buying into a lot of homer hype right now

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@Rabbit_Maranville1914

Yep, but watching ball from "down there," might not be so much fun, though I've heard it's a dry heat...

Just kidding. If there is an up, or down, I hope I'm headed North, and believe I will be.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

I knew some confederates growing up...said the damnedest things.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

Leonard Susskind from Stanford University began doing his holographic universe research after listening to a Stephen Hawking lecture on Black Holes in 1980.

He did not accept the idea that all information is simply destroyed in a black hole. After manys of research he came up with the holographic universe theory and convinced Stephen Hawking who actually made a public statement that he had been wrong and that Susskind was correct.

Roger Penrose was the first to have this theory in the '70's. Today this is accepted broadly in the scientific community, by most cosmologists in fact, I understand.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

I like to watch the science channel. Last night they were talking about how the creation story in Genesis and in the ancient Hindu text called the Vedas sems to fit in perfectly with our understanding of the Big Bang. There would have been nothing and then a Huge light originating from a tiny, tiny, single point. The Vedas, which are more than 3000 years old are even more similar to what scientists now accept to be the truth.

Interesting.

WoodyWoodward
WoodyWoodward

Some people was still waving the bloody shirt, Rabbit.

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

Well, I'm sure that there might be a Yankee or two down there also, (although I don't believe in such a place). What's a good ole Southern spirit to do?  :-)

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@Rabbit_Maranville1914

Just thinking... If this alien dude is humongous enough to carry universes in his watch-pouch, what if he begins suffering from incontinence with our @sses in his pocket.

Would explain "The Great Flood," and Noah's pee-ark..

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

@Rabbit_Maranville1914

Man, if we're a marble in some dudes pocket, I'd hate to have to kick his @ss.
How many taters could he eat? All the Wild Turkey in the world wouldn't fill his shot-glass. Hate to have a drank-off with him..

Actually, VERY interesting. Right up my alley. Parallel Universes, Holographic Universes; man, I love that stuff..

CobbBraveNightmare
CobbBraveNightmare

Will not delete this one on purpose. I've told y'all bout posterity and leaving-up posts for young'uns who might be deterred from a life of idjiocy.

Please kids, just DON'T DO IT!

Rabbit_Maranville1914
Rabbit_Maranville1914

@CobbBraveNightmare

Cobb, I know we can't really get into it too much here but I promise you that you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I mean this with all my heart!