No-hitter another product of Braves’ erratic offense

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Braves starter Julio Teheran reacts after giving up a three-run triple to Ben Revere on Monday. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

 

It wasn’t the strangest no-hitter of the five I’ve covered as a beat writer, but that’s only because I witnessed A.J. Burnett’s nine-walk, one-hit-batter no-hitter for the Marlins at San Diego on May 12, 2001, when A.J. threw 59 of his 129 pitches from the stretch.

Otherwise, watching Cole Hamels and three Phillies relievers toss a no-no against the Braves on Monday, after Hamels walked the first two batters in the first inning, hit the first batter in the second inning and walk the leadoff batter again in the third inning, would have to rank as the most unusual no-hitter that I’ve seen.

And a shutout, to boot (A.J. also threw a shutout that night at old Jack Murphy Stadium, believe it or not.)

Jonathan Papelbon celebrates after Phil Gosselin lined out to first base for the final out in the Phillies' four-pitcher no-hitter against the Braves on Monday.

Jonathan Papelbon celebrates after Phil Gosselin lined out to first base for the final out in the Phillies’ four-pitcher no-hitter against the Braves on Monday.

On Monday, the Braves had two in scoring position with one out in the first inning, after a double steal, and failed to score. Had two on with one out in the second inning, again after two walks, and failed to score.

They let Hamels off the hook repeatedly in the first three innings, and once he got into a groove it was over. By the time the Philly bullpen took over after six innings (and 108 pitches by Hamels), Braves hitters were going down pretty much without a fight.

It was not pretty for the home fans on a holiday afternoon at Turner Field. But, hey, at least you got to see some history if you were out there, right? Albeit, not the kind of history you’d prefer to see if you’re a Bravos fan.

It was the first combined no-hitter in Phillies franchise history and the first combined no-no the Braves franchise ever had thrown against them, and these are franchises that began plate in the late 1800s. The Braves have had 14 no-hitters thrown against them in all, including seven since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first no-hitter with at least 12 strikeouts and five walks in 40 years, since Nolan Ryan’s 15-strikeout, eight-walk no-hitter against the Twin in 1974.

Elias noted that Jason Heyward’s three stolen bases were the most in the modern era (since 1900) by a player whose team was no-hit , and the only other guy who had as many as two in that span was Frank Chance more than a century ago, in 1903.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark noted that Ben Revere became just the fifth player to ever have five or more RBIs in a no-hitter, and this after he’d only had one five-RBI month all season.

By the way, is this a new, improbable Braves nemesis? Revere has hit .343 (24-for-70) in 18 games against Atlanta over the past two seasons, with two doubles, three triples, nine RBIs and five stolen bases. He only has one walk in those games, but also only four strikeouts.

Another oddity from Monday: It marked just the 16th time in the past 20 years that a starting pitcher left a game after throwing at least six no-hit innings (including the Braves’ Aaron Harang, who did it earlier this season), and only the second time that the bullpen finished off the no-hitter.

The previous time was by ex-Brave Kevin Millwood, who was with the Mariners when he combined with five relievers for a no-hitter in a 1-0 win against the Dodgers on June 8, 2012. Millwood left with a groin strain after throwing 68 pitches in six innings.

Oh, just one more thing: Hamels is now 4-0 with a 0.97 ERA and .140 opponents’ average in his past five starts against the Braves, with 17 hits, 10 walks and 40 strikeouts  in 37 innings.

Some good news: Rehabbing Braves pitcher Kris Medlen started some light throwing today, a couple of weeks shy of the six-month mark since his second Tommy John elbow surgery. He said it felt great, though he noted it’s only playing catch from 30 feet for the initial two weeks of the throwing program.

The amiable right-hander, who won three NL Pitcher of the Month awards between the time he joined the rotation in late July 2012 and the end of the 2013 season – nobody else won even two in that span – is rehabbing alongside former Braves reliever Peter Moylan, who had his second TJ surgery soon after Medlen did in March.

Medlen, 28, is on a one-year, $5.8 million contract and will have one more year of arbitration eligibility before free agency. That is, unless the Braves don’t offer a contract this winter and decide to cut ties, in which case he’d be a free agent.

He wants to stay with the Braves, and I’m told they’d like to have him back. So I’d guess it’ll come down to whether or not the two sides can agree to a suitable contract that both deem fair. I’m assuming the Braves will wait to see how he progresses in his rehab before they decide whether to offer a contract before the early December tender/non-tender deadline.

Braves starter Julio Teheran reacts after giving up a three-run triple to Ben Revere on Monday. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

Braves starter Julio Teheran reacts after giving up a three-run triple to Ben Revere on Monday. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

• Offensive woes: Monday was another indication of the Braves’ spectacularly streaky offense, which is capable of blowing just about any pitcher out of the water in three or fewer innings on any night, but also capable of being no-hit by an average-or-better pitcher most nights as well (and Hamels is obviously far better than an average pitcher).

The Braves rank 29th in the majors in runs scored with 514, ahead of only the Padres (445). Twelve teams have scored more than 570 runs including four NL teams: Rockies (631), Nationals (583), Brewers (582) and Pirates (574).

Atlanta and Philadelphia are tied for 16th in the majors in homers with 112, while 10 teams  have 130 or more homers including four NL teams. For the Braves, who see themselves as a power-based offense, ranking in the bottom half of the majors in homers obviously isn’t what they were expecting.

The Braves have slipped to 25th in OPS at .680, behind the Red Sox (.681) and ahead of only the Mariners (.677, Phillies (.676), Reds (.667), Mets (.660) and Padres (.633). The Braves are also 25th in slugging percentage at .370. Thirteen teams are above .390 and nine are above .395, including four NL teams (Rockies, Brewers, Pirates, Nationals).

A couple of other stats worth noting: The Braves are last in the majors with 25 sacrifice flies, and the Astros (28) are the only other team with fewer than 30. And, Atlanta is tied for 12th in the National League in sac bunts with 47, same as Cleveland of the AL.

 • Wasting good pitching: The Braves have a 2.01 ERA in their past 12 games, and only a 6-6 record to show for it. They’ve hit .227 and totaled 33 runs and seven homers  in those 12 games, including two runs or fewer in half of them. They’ve been shut out twice in three games and three times in the past nine games.

In their past 13 home games, the Braves are 7-6 with a 2.87 ERA. They hit .236 and scored 36 runs in those games, including two runs or fewer in six out of 13 games and more than four runs twice.

  • Across the board: When the Braves aren’t getting a lot of production from their biggest bats, the offense gets stagnant quickly. And right now, they are not. But it’s not just Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton who’ve suddenly stopped banging balls to the gaps and over the fences.

In the Braves’ past 15 games, Freeman has two extra-base hits (no homers), one RBI, and a .294 slugging percentage. He’s hit .255 (13-for-51) with 14 walks, 20 strikeouts and a .433 OBP in that span.

In J. Upton’s past nine games, he’s  7-for-35 (.200) with one double, one homer, five RBIs, one walk and 10 strikeouts.

In Chris Johnson past nine games, he’s 7-for-32 (.219) with no extra-base hits, no RBIs, no runs, three walks, 11 strikeouts, and three double plays grounded into.

In the past seven games, Andrelton Simmons is 4-for-25 (.160) with no extra-base hits, no RBIs, one walk, six strikeouts and two errors.

In his past five games, Evan Gattis is 4-for-19 with one homer, one RBI, one walk, eight strikeouts and two double plays grounded into.

• That ugly RISP stat again: Some of a certain statistical bent don’t like to hear anything to do with runners in scoring position. Tough. Skip this paragraph.

With runners in scoring position and two outs, the Braves have the NL’s second-lowest average (.196) and the league’s lowest slugging percentage (.279) and third-fewest homers (six in 516 at-bats).

Braves hitters with the most at-bats in those situations are Justin Upton, who is 14-for-71 (.197) with two homers and a .305 OBP, and Chris Johnson, who is 14-for-68 (.206) with four walks and 20 strikeouts.

Freddie Freeman (12-for-36) and Tommy La Stella (11-for-33) are tied with five others for sixth in the  NL with .333 averages with runners in scoring position and two outs.

B.J. Upton is 6-for-46 (.130) with 10 walks, 19 strikeouts and a .196 slugging percentage in those situations, Ryan Doumit is 2-for-18, Gerald Laird is 2-for-20, and Dan Uggla was 1-for-15 before being released.

• Philly in spoiler mode: And that’s not good, since the Braves have two more games against them in this series and then another series in Philly on the last weekend of the season.

The Phillies are 8-3 with a 2.70 ERA in their past 11 games, and they’ve hit .273 with 12 homers and 56 runs in that span including five or more runs in seven of 11 games. They’ve hit .301 with 19 runs and 31 hits in their past three games at New York and Atlanta.

Imagine where the Braves would be with that kind of offense lately.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’s resurgent Mike Minor (6-8, 4.70) vs. Kyle Kendrick (7-11, 4.97).

Minor is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA, .173 opponents’ average and two homers allowed in his past four starts, after going 2-3 with a 7.33 ERA, .357 opponents’ average and 12 homers allowed in his last 10 starts before having his rotation turn skipped and not pitch for 10 days in early August.

The lefty is 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA and .104 opponents’ average in his past two starts, allowing five hits (no homers), two runs and four walks with 10 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. He took a no-hitter to the eighth inning Aug. 22 at Cincinnati, and was perfect through the four innings Thursday at New York.

Minor is  2-4 with a 3.59 ERA in eight career starts against the Phillies and hasn’t faced them this season. The Braves scored one or no runs while he was  in the game in all four of his losses to Philadelphia.

Against Minor, Ryan Howard is 6-for-15 with three homers and eight RBIs and six strikeouts, Cody Asche is 2-for-6 with a homer, Marlon Byrd is 5-for-16, Jimmy Rollins is 4-for-17, and Chase Utley is 4-for-20 with a homer, and Carlos Ruiz is 0-for-8.

Kendrick is 4-3 with a 6.59 ERA and .299 opponents’ average in his past 10 starts, with 30 strikeouts, 15 walks and 69 hits (10 homers) allowed in 57 1/3 innings. He won each of his past two starts while allowing four runs getting five support runs while he was in each game.

His last road win was July 8 at Milwaukee, when he allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings; the Phillies scored nine runs while he was in the game.

Kendrick is 2-6 with a 5.56 ERA in 13 road starts (5-5 with a 4.43 ERA in 14 home starts). Here’s an odd one: He has only 38 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings on the road, compared to 61 strikeouts in 87 1/3 innings at home.

Although he had plenty of success against Atlanta early in his career, Kendrick is just 2-3 with a 6.17 ERA in his past seven starts against them, including 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts this season. He gave up six runs in five innings of his most recent start against the Braves, a July 20 loss in Atlanta.

Against Kendrick, Justin Upton is 8-for-22 with two homers, Chris Johnson is 8-for-23 with a homer, Freddie Freeman is 8-for-24 with a homer, Andrelton Simmons is 5-for-18 with a homer, B.J. Upton is 5-for-17, Emilio Bonifacio is 3-for-13, and Jason Heyward is 5-for-30.

Van the Man: It’s hard to say which of Van Morrison’s masterpiece albums is my favorite, but if pressed, most days I’d probably go with No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. This is from that amazing album.

“A TOWN CALLED PARADISE” by Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Copycats ripped off my words
Copycats ripped off my songs
Copycats ripped off my melody
It doesn’t matter what they say
It doesn’t matter what they do
All that matters is my relationship to you

Gonna take you out
Get you in my car
We’re going for a long long drive
We’re going down to A Town Called Paradise
Down where we can be free
We’re gonna drink that wine
We’re gonna jump for joy
In a town called Paradise

We’re going up the mountainside
Child you can look for miles
And see the vision on the west
We’re gonna swing round
And look from north to south
Swing round from east to west
And go round in a circle too
And we’re gonna start dancing
Like we’ve never done before
I’m gonna take you in my arms
I’m gonna squeeze you tight
Everything will be alright
We’re gonna get that squealin’ feelin’
Gonna take you down to a town called Paradise,
Down where we can be free
It doesn’t matter what they say
It doesn’t matter what they do
All that matters is my relationship to you
By the river we will linger
As we drive down to be free
We’re gonna ride all night long
All along the ancient highway
Gonna be there for the mornin’ comes


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