Yesterday was a microcosm of what the Braves have become lately. We got another superb performance from a young starting pitcher (starters’ May ERA: 2.95, BA against: .224). We got anemic offense, combined with a couple of egregiously timed base running blunders. Then after the bullpen held up for a few innings, Grilli inevitably grooved a fastball and that was that.
But that’s progress. The starting pitchers account for most of said progress, along with Mallex. Granted, he was the culprit in one of the base running mistakes, and he blew a bunt attempt. That stuff is eminently fixable. He’s improving. I like the guy’s game, he comes across as totally cool, and he seems actually interested in baseball, evidenced by his visit to the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame in KC.
As for tonight, William S Perez has a chance to extend the string of fine starting pitching by himself and the rest of the staff. There are many reasons to believe it won’t happen. It just doesn’t seem logical that he will throw consecutive gems. And the Pirates are pretty good offensively. They’re sixth in the NL in runs, third in batting average and second in OBP. Something that bodes especially ill for our boys: the Pittsburghers lead the league in steals, and Braves catchers have thrown out just 17 percent of runners running. The NL average is 33 percent. Flowers is especially bad, as he’s thrown out just one of 14 base stealers. AJ has only caught 5 of 22, but 23 percent is better than Flowers’ 7 percent.
For some damn reason, Fredi is again playing the aging backup Francoeur versus a lefty instead of the aforementioned future cornerstone who NEEDS EXPERIENCE. OK. Mallex is 2-for-24 against lefties, but so what?
The lineup: Markakis, Inciarte, Freddie, Francoeur (continuing the string of worst cleanup hitters in baseball history), KJ 2B, Flowers, d’Arnaud 3B, Aybar, William S Perez.