Some Braves having similar seasons as ’13; mostly not the right ones

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It was probably a stretch to expect repeat performances from some Braves after career-best years in 2013, including Chris Johnson.

  WASHINGTON – They got career-best seasons in 2013 from Freddie Freeman (.319 average, 109 RBIs, .897 OPS) and Chris Johnson (.321 average, 46 extra-base hits, .816 OPS), plus 50 extra-base hits including 17 homers from Andrelton Simmons, and stunning seasons from relievers David Carpenter (1.78 ERA in 56 appearances) and Luis Avilan (1.52 ERA in 75 appearances).

They got career-worst seasons in 2014 from B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, and had to do without Jason Heyward for two months because of surgeries on his appendix and broken jaw.

So, perhaps the expectations were a bit too high when many of us us figured the Braves could come back this season and post about same number of wins (96 in 2014) and defend their NL East title against a Nationals team they dominated last season. Even though they let team leaders Brian McCann and Tim Hudson go as free agents.

It was probably a stretch to expect repeat performances from some Braves after career-best years  in 2013, including Chris Johnson.

It was probably a stretch to expect repeat performances from some Braves after career-best years in 2013, including Chris Johnson.

And even after they lost two-fifths of their projected starting rotation to elbow injuries when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy three-day span of spring training, and Mike Minor missed most of spring training with a sore shoulder after not being able to work out in January following emergency urinary-tract surgery, well, the Braves signed Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang and erased many concerns while marching to a 17-7 record to begin the season.

Well, they lulled us with those first few weeks. Reality soon set in. Career-best seasons weren’t necessarily going to be repeated every year. And B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, despite all the talk about offseason changes and simplified, back-to-basics approaches like they’d used in their star-making seasons, weren’t going to recapture their past glory; they would remain real bad in 2014.

This is not a postscript, folks. Because the Braves aren’t out of it, by many means. Out of the NL East race, yes. Realistically, they have been out of that for some time now. But still in the race for one of the NL wild-card spots, since Milwaukee has been a lot worse than the Braves the past two weeks and the Pirates aren’t exactly setting the world on fire, etc.

But we are here today to point out that this recent offensive abomination by the Braves hasn’t really just been recent. That this entirely lackluster recent stretc of play by the team hasn’t actually been just recent.

It’s been almost the entire season.

And here’s what I mean:

After going 17-7 to start the season, the Braves in their past 120 games are 57-63 with a 3.59 ERA, .242 batting average, 440 runs and 86 homers.

The Nationals, in their past 120 games, are 69-51 with a 3.03 ERA, .253 batting average, 511 runs and 113 homers. Significantly better, wouldn’t you agree?

By the way, the Marlins in their past 120 games are 60-60 with a 3.91 ERA, .252 batting average, 488 runs and 97 homers.

Truth be told, the Braves have been the third-best team in the division since late April, and not much better than the division’s fourth- and fifth-best in that span.

The Mets, in their past 120 games, are 56-64 with a 3.52 ERA, .242 batting average, 464 runs and 98 homers.

And while we’re at it, the Phillies – the Phillies! — in their past 120 games are 55-65 with a 3.74 ERA, .241 batting average, 468 runs and 100 homers.

In other words, statistically speaking the Braves have actually been closer to the Mets’ and Phillies’ level of performance over the past 120 games than they are to the Marlins’ performance in that span. That’s over a period of 4 ½ months in a six-month season. And that’s with the Braves in playoff contention and the Phillies and Mets playing for little more than personal pride (and contracts).

Maybe the Braves, who are 1 ½ games behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot, manage to get in the Wild Card game and even win it. Then they’d get to play a best-of-seven division series, and we all know how the playoffs are about who gets hot at the right time and gets a few good or great starts from their pitchers.

Still, would you feel good about this team’s chances against any NL playoff team in a best-of-five series? When playoff games are usually decided by the little things, like situational hitting to manufacture runs when the home runs are so hard to come by against the top-level pitching that is featured in the postseason?

Doug Fister allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings Monday and has pitched 15 scoreless innings against the Braves this season. (AP photo)

Doug Fister allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings Monday and has pitched 15 scoreless innings against the Braves this season. (AP photo)

For a long time we could say if the Braves could just get in the postseason, then win the Wild Card game and face the Nats  if the Nats finished with the league’s best record, well, then in that case the Braves would have a good shot because they’ve thumped the Nats for the past two-plus seasons.

But lately, that’s not been the case. The Nats have gotten over their psychological issues facing the Braves. They believe they can beat them now, because lately they have. Oh, and the Nats have also beaten other teams a lot lately, and the Braves have not.

  • Nats seized recent edge: The Braves are 2-4 with a 3.23 ERA, .203 batting average and 13 runs scored in their past six games against the Nationals, including one or no runs scored in four games. In their first eight games against them through June 20, the Braves were 7-1 with a 2.01 ERA, .279 batting average and 41 runs scored, including six or more runs scored in five of eight games.

The Braves have lost their past three games at Nationals Park while totaled 13 hits and two runs. They lost those games by scores of 3-0, 4-1 and 2-1.

Since going 7-1 with a 1.93 ERA, .271 batting average and 46 runs (12 homers) in an eight-game stretch through Aug. 22, the Braves are 6-9 with a 3.39 ERA, .211 batting average and 35 runs (eight homers) in their past 15 games, including seven games with one or no runs (five shutout losses).

Meanwhile, the Nationals are 18-8 with a 2.96 ERA, .262 batting average and 121 runs (39 homers) in their past 26 games, averaging more than 4.6 runs per game in that period and scoring six or more runs nine times.

• Tonight’s matchup: It’s a good one featuring a couple of guys on good rolls in Ervin Santana, who is 7-1 with a 2.94 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break, and the Nats’ Jordan Zimmermann, who is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA and .218 opponents’ average in his past eight starts.

Santana has 63 strikeouts and 23 walks in 64 1/3 innings. He’s been one of the only Braves pitchers to get good run support, including 5.46 runs per nine innings he pitched in his past 10 starts and six or seven runs while he was in four of those games.

Santana allowed more than three earned runs twice in his past 10 starts, including Wednesday’s 7-4 win against Philly when he gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings.

He’s 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in six career starts against the Nationals, including 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two this season. Santana gave up three runs and six hits in six innings of a June 22 loss at Nationals Park, and allowed four runs and four hits in six innings of an a 7-6 Braves win on Aug. 8 in Atlanta.

Against Santana, Denard Span is  12-for-30 with a homer, Bryce Harper is 2-for-6 with a homer, Adam LaRoche is 3-for-9, Ryan Zimmermann is 3-for-10 with a homer, Asdrubal Cabrera is 9-for-36 with a homer and 10 RBIs, Jayson Werth is 3-for-13 with a homer and six strikeouts, and Ian Desmond is 2-for-13 with a homer. Wilson Ramos is 0-for-8 against him.

Zimmermann is 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves, and he’s been the pitcher that most Braves viewed as the true ace of the Washington staff the past few seasons.

He has only one win in his past seven starts against Atlanta despite a 3.05 ERA, as the Nats averaged just 3.05 support runs per nine innings he pitched – yes, same as his ERA — in those seven games, including two or fewer runs while he was in five of them.

In two starts against the Braves this season, Zimmermann is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA. The Nationals scored no runs while he was in those games — a 2-1 Braves win on April 4 in Washington and a 3-0 Braves win on June 19 in Washington on the night when Braves pitcher Gavin Floyd pitched six dominant innings before fracturing his elbow throwing a curveball to start the seventh.

Against Zimmermann, Heyward is 5-for-14 with a homer, Justin Upton is 5-for-14, Simmons is  3-for-10, Emilio Bonifacio is 5-for-17, Freeman is 4-for-16 and Johnson is 3-for-12. B.J. Upton is 2-for-14 with six strikeouts against him.

I’ll close this with a great one from Iggy Pop, which you can hear by clicking here

“THE PASSENGER” by Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop

I am the passenger and I ride and I ride
I ride through the city’s backsides
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, the bright and hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight

I am the passenger, I stay under glass
I look through my window so bright
I see the stars come out tonight
I see the bright and hollow sky
Over the city’s ripped backsides
And everything looks good tonight

Singing, la la la

Get into the car
We’ll be the passenger
We’ll ride through the city tonight
We’ll see the city’s ripped backsides

We’ll see the bright and hollow sky
We’ll see the stars that shine so bright
Stars made for us tonight

Oh, the passenger
How, how he rides
Oh, the passenger
He rides and he rides

He looks through his window
What does he see?
He sees the sign and hollow sky
He sees the stars come out tonight
He sees the city’s ripped backsides
He sees the winding ocean drive

And everything was made for you and me
All of it was made for you and me
‘Cause it just belongs to you and me
So let’s take a ride and see what’s mine

Singing, la la la

Oh, the passenger
He rides and he rides
He sees things from under glass
He looks through his window side

He sees the things that he knows are his
He sees the bright and hollow sky
He sees the city sleep at night
He sees the stars are out tonight

And all of it is yours and mine
And all of it is yours and mine
So let’s ride and ride and ride and ride

Singing, la la la

 


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