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Kyle Farnsworth was dealing after replacing Billy Wagner to get the win, and Rick Ankiel is the night’s hero for Atlanta as he hit the game winning home run in the 11th inning. Atlanta ties the series at one and is set for a showdown in Turner Field Sunday.
Bask. Just bask, Braves fans.
Rick Ankiel's go-ahead homer finds water:
While the Braves are nearly down to their last man standing in the bullpen, fans finally have reason for optimism for the first time in two brutal days. Rick Ankiel was all over an inside fastball, dropping it into the Bay amidst the kayakers to ensure the Braves would take the field in the bottom half with a lead. Glaus and Infante would become quiet outs after a very loud run to end the inning.
Glaus has been replaced at third by Diory Hernandez for defensive reason.
Edgar Renteria smartly led off the 10th smartly, as Troy Glaus came in to man third, by laying a bunt down the third base line. Glaus had no chance with his bad knees and questionable shoulder, only having the chance to fall on top of the ball. Torres came up with the goal of bunting Renteria over, and it went straight back to Billy Wagner, who managed to throw to first base and complete the out before collapsing on the field in pain. The last thing the Braves needed was another injury difficulty, already short Saito and Jurrjens for the series. (not to mention the obvious Prado and Chipper).
That left Kyle Farnsworth as the next man to come in for the Braves, who were running out of relievers. He very quickly hit Freddy Sanchez, putting a man on first, and then went to a full count on Huff before walking him to load the bases. With the infield playing at half depth and the outfield playing way in, Buster Posey rapped into a double play turned smartly by Glaus, Infante, and Lee around the horn to sent the game into the eleventh
Well, it might not be a walk off home run this time, but Kyle Farnsworth was a huge goat in that 18 inning game against the Astros in 2005. He gave up the game tying home run that sent it to extra innings.
Brian McCann sent a 2-1 pitch deep into the San Francisco night on a 2-1 pitch to lead off the 10th for the Braves, but the Giants ballpark is not friendly to left handed hitters. Nate Schierholz tracked down what would have been easily a home run in Turner Field, over 420 feet from home plate, turning it into just a loud, futile out. The excitement was done for the 10th, as Melky and Conrad were both retired fairly quietly. Brooksy actually made very solid contact pulling a fastball down the line, but Huff was defending the line at first and made a routine grab to record the third out.
Going to the bottom of the 10th now.
After giving up three runs and allowing the Braves a shot at taking the lead in the ninth, Giants pitcher Brian Wilson was seen exhaling deeply and holding this pose in San Fran's dugout for quite a while, clearly relieved he'd only knocked over most of the house of cards and not the whole thing:
Craig Kimbrel went back out for a second inning and quickly displayed his closer repertoire, completely overpowering Uribe for a strike-out to begin the ninth. His defense lent him some aid in retiring Sandoval, as Gonzalez had to range to get his glove on the ball, and Derrek Lee had to pick a bad throw out of the dirt to record the out. Kimbrel very quickly got ahead of Cody Ross, striking him out with a nasty 2-2 slider that McCann blocked in the dirt as Ross flung his bat at it desperately, letting it sail out toward third.
Braves have their big bat due up in the 10th.
It’s been a rough couple of days for Jason Heyward. The rookie phenom, whom we’ve been hoping to see big things from this series, has yet to earn a hit, and that continued against Brian Wilson in the ninth inning. Wilson appeared to recover from his poor performance in the 8th inning, immediately striking out Omar Infante before Jason Heyward softly grounded to short, and Braves’ fans everywhere died a little inside. We all wanted to see something big from him in the 9th inning in a playoff game.
Derrek Lee came to the plate with a 2-4 line on the night, staring down the bearded man (early returns seem to indicate that yes, the beard is real) in what was a charged, high pressure AB. After nearly getting hit with a pitch to load the count, Derrek Lee just missed a double in the right field corner on a ball just barely foul that made every Giants fan in the stadium hold their collective breath. The 8th pitch of Lee’s at-bat appeared to be a hanging slider that he couldn’t connect with for the strike out.
Heading to the bottom of the ninth in San Francisco, still tied.
Derrek Lee continued his fine game with a single to left, and McCann continued what has been a great series with another single to left. That prompted the Giants to go to closer Brian Wilson. Melky Cabrera beat out an infield dribbler that Pablo Sandoval mis-handled to drive home the first run. After a Brooks Conrad sacrifice, Alex Gonzalez hit a ground rule double to left field, driving home McCann and Melky.
The Braves’ bottom half of the line-up finally made a scratch in the series, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Going to the bottom of the 8th, it’s now a fresh ballgame, and the Braves’ chances are looking way, way up. Go Braves!
Alex Gonzalez, who has looked as lost as anybody in this series, comes through to tie the score in the eighth. This is the gritty Braves team that we saw in the regular season. Great inning so far.
Jonny Venters came in for the bottom of the seventh, and while he wasn’t at his sharpest, he did battle around two singles to hold the Giants at four runs. A big strike out of Andres Torres with 1 out and runners at the corners was the key for him. Freddy Sanchez followed the strike-out with a high pop-out that carried out to Heyward in right. Craig Kimbrel was seen warming up in the inning, and seems the likeliest candidate to pitch the bottom of the eighth.
The Braves finally forced a pitching change in the series by the opposition, as Omar Infante’s two out single drove manage Bruce Bochy to the mound. Coming in was left side-armer Javier Lopez, who continued Jason Heyward’s pain, getting him looking for the strike out after seven pitches. The Braves are running out of time in the game and season, and Heyward’s struggles are really depressing to watch. He’s much better than this, folks.
The only damage the Braves allowed in the bottom half of the sixth was a double to Pat Burrell. Peter Moyland stranded him by striking out Juan Uribe immediately following. Pat Burrell is now out of the game, replaced by Nate Schierholz-which should only matter if the Braves actually mount a comeback.
After a lackluster performance last night, the Braves have been rock solid in the field in game 2. Melky gunned down the pitcher for an F7-3 double play in the second, Conrad has made two diving stops, they’ve turned one other double play up the middle and no one has dropped any easy fly balls in the outfield. But, of course, their starter also gave up a 3-run bomb.
Brian McCann’s RBI single proved to be the only damage the Braves could muster, despite coming with no outs. Melky flied out softly to left, Conrad struck out on three pitches, and Alex Gonzalez popped up an 0-2 pitch to make the third out.
Still, for Braves fans, it’s nice to see some semblance of life from the Braves hitters. Actually, that’s a semblence of life for the second straight inning-they did threaten in the fifth, even though they didn’t score. Right now, it doesn’t look like the Giants will let Cain stay in the game very long if he begins to struggle, as the pitching coach was very quick to sprint out to the mound following McCann’s single.
Last night we had Bobby Cox going 3-for-4 with his in-game moves. Tonight Bobby is using a complex system of light signals and convex mirrors to communicate his wishes from the clubhouse because he got thrown out in the second inning. His first move was to pinch hit Nate McClouth for Tommy Hanson and McLouth ripped a single to right. So that worked. It seems a little early to be pulling Hanson, but the move did what it was intended to do thus far.
Bobby Cox Personnel Move Scoreboard: 4-for-5
Bobby started pushing buttons early in game two, pinch-hitting Nate McLouth for Tommy Hanson in the top of the fifth inning. This followed a hard out by Rick Ankiel (it’s sad that I’m getting encouraged by hard outs at this point). McLouth responded to the opportunity by singling to right field, getting a man on for the top half of the line-up.
Infante walked to put two men on for Heyward, which might be the best opportunity the Braves have had to score this entire series. With two men on and one out, Heyward’s struggles continued, as he grounded up the middle into a very simple 6-3 double play, ending the threat. The Braves still haven’t scored through 14 playoff innings.
The Braves offense still can’t do anything much except for swing and miss. McCann and Melky both quickly struck out (Melky on three pitches) before Conrad finally broke up the string of six straight outs with a single to center. Alex Gonzalez proved that he’s just not the person you want up with runners on base, as he chase three balls high and out of the zone. He made contact with the third one, but it was an easy out for Pat Burrell in left field.
Basically, easy outs has become the theme of the evening for Atlanta hitters.
The Braves just seem completely rattled at the plate, like they have no idea what’s happening. They’re not even guessing. They’re just swinging and hoping. It’s pretty brutal to watch.
Hanson seems to have found his control. Two strikeouts and a weak grounder to third sandwiched a weak single up the middle by Posey. He holds things at 4-0 for the time being.
Omar Infante displayed his warning track power, flying out to center on the first pitch. Heyward is choosing the worst possible time to struggle, being called on three strikes and still hitless this postseason for the Braves. Derrek Lee ended the top half of the third by flying out to left, putting the Braves down in order.
I’d like to think that the Braves are at least making Cain work, but he’s only throw 41 pitches through three innings. There’s really nothing encouraging to say about the Braves offense at the moment.
Hanson doesn’t seem to have his best stuff tonight, as Cody Ross stroked a double off of him. Matt Cain then connected with a 2-0 pitch and bounced it slowly up the middle to drive home the run, making it 4-0. Melky helped with a big defensively play to end the threat, catching a sinking line drive by Torres and then double Matt Cain off first.
Unlike last night, the video evidence doesn't clearly show if the call was correct or not. It certainly wasn't the four inches that Bobby was indicating with his fingers.
After a questionable out at first, of which we'll present a screencap shortly, Bobby Cox took the field to earn quite possibly his last-ever ejection.
Here is the greatest sportsman in city history in mid-"BULLSHIT!"-and-hat-slam:
After Brooks Conrad fouled out to start off the second, there was a semi-controversial call at first with Alex Gonzalez. After a hard hit grounder towards short, Juan Uribe fired to first and Huff may have left the base while stretching to make the pick. Alex Gonzalez definitely thought he was safe, and Bobby Cox, quickly went out to make his argument, resulting in the predictable ejection. Frustration over last night was probably the deciding factor in this confrontation.
Rick Ankiel followed up with an unexpected single, probably the hardest hit ball he’s had in three weeks, before Hanson predictably struck out to end the threat. The call at first base was probably correct, but it’s yet another crucial call looming over the Braves this series.
The old man has done it again. Bobby Cox just got ejected for the third time in his postseason career for arguing a close play at first base on a grounder by Alex Gonzalez. This play wasn’t as clear as last night’s blown call, but Bobby’s frustrations appear to have gotten the best of him.
The bad news is, the Braves are behind 3-0 after the first inning, and the way their offense has looked it might as well be 103-0.
The Braves didn’t do anything in the first inning to alleviate my irrational fear that they will be the first team to ever lose a three game series without scoring a run. Their best strategy so far appears to be to hit popups that cause Giants to collide with each other. Not a good long-term plan.
Omar Infante once again led the game off with a hit, this time a single. The Braves offense doesn’t really have a bright spot yet, just lightbulbs that aren’t completely dim, and he’s been one of those not-quite-dim lights so far. After a pop-up by Heyward, Derrek Lee gave a ball a ride all the way to warning track, but it was caught for the second out. With Melky on deck, Matt Cain didn’t give McCann anything near the strike zone, and Melky justified Cain’s lack of faith in him by grounding into a soft chopper for the third out. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Tommy Hanson: 3.33 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.09 K/BB, .297 BABIP, 1.00 GB/FB, 15.8 wFB, 11.5 wSL, -1.2 wCB, 0.6 wCH
Hanson had a great sophomore season and actually threw the ball better than he did last year. His strikeouts were a bit down but so were his walks, which allowed his FIP to drop 0.19 points. In 202.2 innings, Hanson struck out 173 batters and walked 56, a solid ratio for a power pitcher.
The wFB, wSL, wCB, and wCH statistics mentioned above are wins per pitch type. FB is fastball, SL is slider, CB is curveball, and CH is changeup. As you can see, his fastball and slider are by far his best pitches. He uses his curveball sporadically and it is sometimes effective. He throws his fastball on 57.0% of his pitches and his slider 28% of the time. His fastball was the thirteenth most productive in the N.L. while his slider was seventh. Obviously, he has two top notch pitches that he will use to get both right-handers and left-handers out.
Matt Cain: 3.14 ERA, .365 FIP, 2.90 K/BB, .260 BABIP, 0.78 GB/FB, 23.6 wFB, 0.0 wSL, 0.6 wCB, 5.2 wCH
Cain had a bit luckier of a season than Hanson, as you can tell with his low BABIP and the difference between his ERA and FIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is a bit lower, which points to him fortunately having balls hit to his fielders. His xFIP sits at 4.19 due to his knack for allowing fly balls, although he has been able to keep a majority of them in the ballpark. The stat xFIP normalizes home run-to-fly ball ratio, but he has obviously been able to control that facet of his game throughout his career, since his lifetime xFIP is 4.43.
Cain's top pitch is without a doubt his fastball. It was the fourth most effective in the N.L. and his only pitch anywhere near the leaders in the league. It is not as effective for him this year compared to last, mostly since his average velocity dropped a whole mile per hour from 92.6 to 91.6, but that has helped his changeup become a more effective pitch. His changeup, which sat at 86.4mph now averages 84.8mph. His wCH last season was 3.0 and this year it is 5.2, proving that he is using it better than he has the past few seasons. Cain doesn't have much of a breaking ball, as both his slider and curve rate somewhere near average to below average pitches, especially his curveball which he throws 13.5% of the time. If the Braves are able to take advantage of poor breaking balls, then they should be able to finally get some runs on the board. Keying on first pitch fastballs will also be wise, because Cain is certain to throw a ton of them in tonight's outing.
I had the Braves losing the first game but winning this game. Tommy Hanson is a better pitcher, despite his higher ERA. He strikes out more batters and walks the same amount, and he also forces many more ground balls than Cain. In 202.2 innings, Hanson had a 4.3 fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) while Cain had a 4.0 fWAR in 223.1 innings, pointing out that Hanson has been more effective this season even with more runs allowed. The Braves need Hanson to come through tonight, and I have full confidence that the big-right hander will produce in his first ever playoff outing.
Pics of Buster Posey being tagged out at second base, if you haven’t seen them yet. He was called safe and ended up scoring the game’s only run.
It’s a shame that the only runner that scored in the game shouldn’t have even been on base. But the reality is that the Braves could have gone 18 innings with their approach at the plate and they’d still have to introduce themselves to third base after the game.
Third Base (extending his hand): Hi, I’m third base. Nice to meet you.
Braves (starstruck): Wow. I’ve heard of you, but it’s so cool to see you in person.
They need to calm down and try to hit strikes tomorrow.
Mike Dunn was a bust on this go-round, giving up a single to the only batter he faced. But the not-as-old, right-handed version of Billy Wagner (Craig Kimbrel) took care of business and rendered the base hit a moot point.
Bobby Cox personnel moves – 3-for-4
Might as well:
Several innings later, announcers finally mention Buster Posey being tagged out at second. And they chalk the whole silly affair up to the second base official being unable to see the tag because of his viewing angle. His viewing angle! Sorry, Brooks Conrad, but next time you’re going to need to turn your opponent into a neon tetra before you apply the tag.
As a football fan, I don’t understand how you people can put up with this.
Peter Moylan faces one batter and gets him out. Push those buttons, Bobby!
Bobby Cox personnel moves – 2-for-2 (unless you count allowing Rick Ankiel to hit)
I haven’t kept tabs, but from memory at least seven of the Braves 12 K’s have been on pitches that were not strikes. Lincecum has good stuff and he deserves credit for how he’s pitching. But the Braves aren’t exactly making things difficult for him. They need to go the hospital and find some patience.
Add two more to Lincecum’s strike-out total. Rick Ankiel and Eric Hinske followed Brooks Conrad’s pop-up by failing to make contact. Lincecum has turned what at first looked like it could be a rough outing into a great postseason pitching performance: 8 innings, 12 strikeouts, 2 hits, 1 walk, zero runs. The Braves will likely see Brian Wilson in the ninth inning with the top of the order coming up, needing desperately to get men on somehow.
The following tweet, seconds old, is already outdated:
This was a dominant inning from Venters, which is a great sign for the rest of the series. Cody Ross hit an extremely weak grounder off the end of the bat down the first base line to Derrek Lee for an easy out, and then Venters struck the following two batters out easily. The Braves have six outs to score one run, they need to start making it happen.
Via Getty Images.
After Derrek Lee became the 10th strikeout victim of Lincecum, Brian McCann looped a double into the gap in left field. Alex Gonzalez failed to drive him home, but did manage to move McCann to third with two outs. Diaz, being typically impatient, swung at the first pitch, a high fastball that he was well under, popping up very high to center for an easy play by Torres.
Braves have only two hits through seven frames, only three baserunners total, and it’s getting late, as the Braves have only six outs left to mount some kind of comeback.
For everyone who likes to crack on Bobby Cox for how he manages the postseason, the move to bring in Jonny Venters worked like a charm. One pitch, two outs. In fact, let’s keep a running tab on Bobby Cox personnel decisions for everyone’s back seat driving pleasure.
Bobby Cox personnel moves: 1-for-1 (unless you count allowing Brooks Conrad to play defense)
Buster Posey came through again with an RBI double which allowed him to move to third as Rick Ankiel misplayed the ball off of the wall. Derek Lowe then struck out Pat Burrel and walked Juan Uribe. Bobby Cox removed Lowe from the game for Jonny Venters as Pablo Sandoval came up. Venters needed just one pitch to force a double play by Sandoval, keeping the score close at 1-0 heading into the seventh inning.
Granted it was a tough play, but it looked like Rick Ankiel had a clear shot at catching that fly ball from Posey. Then he couldn’t pick up the ball, which just compounded the problem. That’s four self-inflicted mistakes that have cost the Braves either an out or a base, not to mention one by the umpires. The Giants have not had that problem. And guess who’s winning (and threatening) right now.
The Braves went 1,2,3 again in the sixth inning, making it nine straight that Tim Lincecum has set down. Lincecum also has nine strike outs in the game. It’s getting late for the Braves-the good news is that they’re usually good late in games. Guys, please don’t get shut out in the first game of the series. I don’t know if I could take that.
An unjustified 1-0 lead is not particular cause for concern just yet. I know the Braves are on the road, where the Atlanta Braves bat union goes on strike against their owners. But Lowe looks good, and the Braves can score late. One run is not going to win this game.
Derek Lowe breezed through the fifth inning against Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez, and Aubrey Huff. Torres got a hold of a pitch and drove it to deep right centerfield but Rick Ankiel made a nice play to make the catch.
After the Giants struck first in the bottom of the fourth, the Braves couldn’t mount any kind of answer in the top half of the fifth. Matt Diaz, Brooks Conrad, and Rick Ankiel went down in order, and Conrad struck out on a foul tip to raise Lincecum’s total to seven. The Braves have 12 outs remaining to mount some kind of offense against the Giants in game one.
Buster Posey lead the inning off with a single to left field and attempted to steal second on a 3-2 count with Pat Burrell at the plate. Posey was out at second by a reasonable margin, it really wasn’t even a tremendously close play as Jason pointed out. Posey ended up scoring after Bobby Cox elected to walk Pablo Sandoval to face Cody Ross, a notorious Braves killer. Ross’ single to left field scored Posey from second base. The score stands at 1-0 heading to the top half of the fifth.
Buster Posey was called safe on a stolen base attempt, despite not being safe:
Posey ended up scoring shortly after, which may be a very, very big deal in a game like this. The announcers have yet to point out Posey's outedness, despite reviewing the replay multiple times AND POSEY FREAKING SCORING.
Jason Heyward led off with a walk on four pitches against Lincecum, who is definitely not at his sharpest tonight, before a Derrek Lee pop-out. Brian McCann excited a lot of the Atlanta viewers with a powerful swing on a ball left out over the plate that ended up being caught by Cody Ross a step shy of the track. Heyward was the second Braves baserunner stranded tonight following a pop-up by Alex Gonzalez. Almost every out by Lincecum has been either a strike out or an infield fly ball so far. This could prove to be a very low scoring series.
Brooks Conrad made his fifth error in as many games, putting runners at first and third with one out. Derek Lowe came through big, forcing Freddy Sanchez to hit a grounder to the pitcher and catching Cody Ross a bit off of third base. He then came through with a huge strikeout of Aubrey Huff with runners on second and third, ending the inning.
The 1-5-2-5-3 putout for the second out combined with Brooks Conrad playing a routine grounder off his foot was strangely reminiscent of 10th graders who aren’t quite sure what they’re doing. Poor Conrad. They can’t hide him anywhere. Can we just tell Derek Lee to take care of everything hit to the right side of second base?
The third inning was the easiest yet for Lincecum, throwing just seven pitches to get Ankiel, Lowe, and Infante. This is not a pitcher that the Braves can afford the opportunity to get comfortable, obviously.
Lincecum has six so far, and I’m going to post this really quick before he throws another.
Infante hasn’t exactly inspired confidence with two of his throws (a lollipop to second to end the first, the bouncer to first in the second) but kudos to Derek Lee for picking it at first. Lee hasn’t been outstanding with his power numbers at the plate since joining the Braves, but he has been a major upgrade in the field over Hinske and Glaus. That could be a big factor in this postseason.
Derek Lowe forced two grounders and struck out Juan Uribe to retire the side in order. Lowe’s looking very good in the first few innings and is showing how a ground ball pitcher can be effective against the Giants. Although some of their balls have been hit hard, keeping them low and on the ground will limit potential damage.
Three straight Braves hitters swung at strike three in the top of the second. Lincecum looked a little better, but the impatient trio of Alex Gonzalez, Matt Diaz, and Brooks Conrad-none of whom sees a lot of pitches-helped him out. Lincecum’s change-up is getting plenty of swings, even when it’s in the dirt. Still, he was forced to throw 14 pitches, getting him up to 34 for the game. If the Braves ever string some hits together, they could force Lincecum out of this one early.
Five straight Braves have struck out swinging at pitches that have landed on the ground on or near home plate. It might be time to look for the slider down with two strikes, fellas.
Overall, even when you include Posey’s positional advantage, Heyward is still the clearcut choice in terms of rate statistics and counting stats. Posey has a bit of an argument with his power, but you can’t deny Heyward’s on base abilities.
If Jason had not suffered that wrist injury that caused his horrible June and put him on the disabled list in early July, we may be talking about Heyward as an Most Valuable Player candidate instead of just a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Giants fans took issue with Ben’s statsiness.
This series could help sway the undecided voter. More sports should give out their postseason awards after the actual postseason has happened cough Vince Young Heisman cough. Both players are 0-1 so far.
Braves-Giants NLDS Game One: Lowe Gets Through First
Derek Lowe allowed a leadoff single but quickly forced Freddy Sanchez to ground into a double play. After a walk to Aubrey Huff he then forced Buster Posey to ground to third base for a force out at second. Lowe looked to be on in the first inning, aside from the walk. Even the single was a grounder through the hole between first and second. Let’s hope he can keep it up.
Omar Infante led off with a double, which means two things: the Braves will not be the victim of the third no-hitter in postseason history (at least tonight) and the Braves stranded a leadoff man at second base for the 384th time this season.
Omar Infante led off the game with a double to the gap, but Tim Lincecum recovered a bit afterwards, getting Heyward to pop-up, then striking out both Derrek Lee and Brian McCann to get out of the top of the first. Lincecum wasn’t extremely sharp, going to three ball counts on three of the four hitters he saw, requiring 20 pitches to end the first half inning.
Derek Lowe heads out to take the mound for the bottom half of the first.
11 as in it takes that many wins to take the World Series, and 6 as in YOU SHOULD REALLY KNOW WHAT 6 IS FOR.
Hanson, scheduled to start Game 2 on Friday, was hustled into the Braves’ clubhouse for further examination by the Atlanta medical team. For now, he’s still on tap to pitch tomorrow, but skipper Bobby Cox could always flip him with Game 3 starter Tim Hudson if there is too much swelling in the youngster’s eye socket.
At least we got to see Robin Williams make an ass of San Fran before the game. Jeff Foxworthy would never do that.
Bobby Cox has surprised some of us and started Matt Diaz against Tim Lincecum and the Giants tonight. Diaz, a noted lefty masher, has had little to no success against right-handed pitching throughout his career. He has a career .710 OPS against righties and this season his OPS sits at .633. This is a questionable decision to say the least, but Diaz is an odd player so he may be able to perform in the playoffs. Four of the top five hitters for the Braves are batting at least .364 against Lincecum for their careers, although most have done so in a limited amount of plate appearances.
Right-handed set-up man Takashi Saito has been left off the N.L.D.S. roster due to problems in his shoulder. Saito has been injured for a while now so this comes as no surprise.
The rest of the roster is what most of us expected as well. Rookie Freddie Freeman did not make the roster, but may see time later in the playoffs if the Braves advance, specifically in the World Series where the Braves could potentially use another bat with the designated hitter.
Brandon Beachy has bullpen experience and Christhian Martinez managed to sneak his way onto the roster as well. If either pitches, it is likely not good news for the Braves. This was a pretty simple breakdown and easy roster decisions for Frank Wren and Bobby Cox, who were forced to leave Jair Jurrjens and Saito off due to their injures.
Here is your NLDS Braves roster:
PITCHERS (11): Brandon Beachy (RH), Mike Dunn (LH), Kyle Farnsworth (RH), Tommy Hanson (RH), Tim Hudson (RH), Craig Kimbrel (RH), Derek Lowe (RH), Cristhian Martinez (RH), Peter Moylan (RH), Jonny Venters (LH) and Billy Wagner (LH)
Yes, Melky was always going to be on it. I can’t believe Cristhian Martinez is on the roster, but he’s a healthy hard-throwing arm.
Analysis coming shortly, and TC is already discussing away.
SB Nation's McCovey Chronicles talks NLDS with our very own Talking Chop:
1. Other than being an absolute monster who is a historical anomaly by virtue of being so young and so good, what's the big deal with Jason Heyward?
Jay-Hey wears really cool shades, that has a lot to do with it. Lately in American sports, Football gets the best and biggest athletes. Heyward was kept from football by his parents and kept from all the dings and dents that sport bestows upon its players. Heyward is like Jeff Francoeur, but with actual baseball talent and one-tenth the ego. Heyward is an amazingly patient hitter, which led to him being fourth in the National League in on-base percentage this year (amazing for a rookie). Sometimes he's too patient, but when he does swing he usually makes contact, hard contact. He's probably our best hitter, though he still has a lot to learn and room to grow.
7. What does the Bobby Cox retirement mean for this team? As a know-it-all blogger, what do you think of his in-game strategy?
During the regular season Bobby lets his players play. During the postseason Bobby micromanages every pitch of the ballgame. It seems at times he has out-thought himself and has over-managed certain situations, but that could just be because every move in the postseason is over-analyzed by us know-it-all bloggers.
Click here for Talking Chop's equally engaging interview of McCovey Chronicles.
Both the Giants and Braves boast stellar starting staffs. The Braves have seen a few starters go down due to injury in Kris Medlen and Jair Jurrjens, but the staff is still superb. Derek Lowe has been amazing in September, Tommy Hanson had a successful sophomore season, and Tim Hudson is the National League Comeback Player of the Year.
For the Giants, Tim Lincecum is the two-time reigning N.L. Cy Young winner. Even though his numbers were down from last season, he is an incredible pitcher with dominant strikeout potential. Matt Cain is similar in talent and skill to Hanson, so he is obviously a well-respected starter. Jonathan Sanchez battled inconsistency this season, but when he has command of his pitches he can be extremely tough to hit. Rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner has the potential to be a solid second starter in the majors, and he proved that this season.
Game 1: Thursday, 9:37pm EST:
This is a game with two pitchers throwing the ball better than they have all season. Lowe was the N.L. Pitcher of the Month in September. In his last five starts of the season, he was 5-0 with a 1.17 ERA and a 29-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lincecum, as previously mentioned, has already won the Cy Young award twice in his young career. His fastball and changeup combination is one of, if not the, best in baseball. He has great career numbers against Atlanta. The Braves need Lowe to keep throwing his slider effectively and force the impatient Giant lineup to swing at sinkers below the zone. This will cause plenty of grounders, which is Lowe's specialty.
Game 2: Friday, 9:37pm EST:
Both of these young pitchers had very productive seasons. They can both strike batters out and force weak contact. Cain's 4.0 fWAR is a bit lower than Hanson's 4.3 fWAR in a bit more than 20 innings pitched. This points out that Hanson was more effective, something that many do not realize heading into this game. Hanson's fastball and slider are his best pitches, with his curve also being a solid option. Cain uses his curveball and changeup at a similar rate, which is something the Braves should try and key on. The difference between his fastball (91.6mph) and changeup (84.8mph) is not vastly different, but both were by far his most effective pitches this season.
Game 3: Sunday, 4:37pm EST:
Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 5.32 Sept. ERA) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (13-9, 3.07 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 1.01 Sept. ERA)
Obviously, Hudson struggled down the stretch. At one point this season, he was a legitimate Cy Young contender, but his struggles in September pushed him out of the race. Hudson had begun to regress toward the mean (he has a very low BABIP and abnormally high GB%) up until his last two starts. Despite giving up four runs on the season's final day, he allowed just two hits. In his previous outing, he pushed through six solid innings and lead the Braves to a 3-2 victory over the Marlins. Sanchez has been dominant as of late. His 1.01 September ERA is even better than Lowe's. He still walked 19 in 35.2 innings, seven of which came in one outing, but he was able to hone in his strikeout pitch and keep runners on base. The Braves are a very patient team as they had the highest OBP in the N.L., so the game plan against Sanchez is obvious, don't let him beat you with bad pitches. Hudson will look to keep the ball down and out of the zone, just as Lowe will, and the overly-aggressive Giant lineup should hit plenty of grounders against both sinker-ballers.
Included in "Sept. ERA" is any regular season start made in October. If a game four or five is imminent, I will preview the pitching matchups a few days before each game.
Talking Chop has a word with Giants blog McCovey Chronicles:
Much more here.
Bobby Cox announced that he will "likely use a 3-man rotation." Mark Bowman of MLB.com and Braves.com was also informed that Tommy Hanson will pitch the second game with Tim Hudson pitching the third.
Going with a three man rotation is the right decision, in my opinion. Lowe has been the best pitcher on the staff for a month and has proven that he could pitch on short rest for the time being. I also really like Tommy Hanson as the second starter and potential starter of the fifth game, he has the best chance of shutting their offense down.
SB Nation Bay Area writes:
Game 4, if necessary, is scheduled for 8:37 p.m. on Monday at the Ted, and Game 5 will be back in San Fran at 9:37 p.m. on Wednesday
The Braves took the season series against the Giants 4-3. What does that mean? Likely little -- actually very little when you consider how different both rosters are since the start of the season-- but regardless, it is interesting to look at, especially from a pitching perspective.
On the Mound:
The Braves hit Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez well this year, with Cain starting just once and Sanchez starting twice. Cain allowed three runs in five innings, with six hits, two walks, and four strikeouts in his lone outing. Sanchez pitched 8.1 innings while allowing seven earned runs. The Braves hit two home runs off of him and walked five times, although they were struck out on ten different occasions. If the Braves are able to be patient against Sanchez, then they should certainly be successful if he starts in this series.
Tim Lincecum has historically pitched well against the Braves, which continued this year. He had a 17-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 13.1 innings pitched. His ERA against the Braves was 3.38, although he did allow a few long balls. He gave up three homers to the Braves, which is certainly a good sign as he will pitch in game one.
Barry Zito saw the most success of any of the four expected starters for the Giants. He made just one start, but lasted seven innings and struck out ten batters. He allowed two solo home runs and walked two, but it was an undoubtedly great performance. This is semi-expected, since the Braves are notorious for struggling against left-handed pitchers who are not quite overpowering.
The Giant bullpen was very impressive as well, with eight different relievers throwing at least two innings and never allowing a run to cross. Both teams boast stellar bullpens, so scoring on the starters will be the game plan for both Atlanta and San Francisco.
For the Braves staff, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Tommy Hanson all performed well. Hudson threw 15 innings over two starts, striking out eight and walking just one. He allowed just six hits and two runs to cross -- another terrific sign for the Braves.
Lowe pitched 11.1 innings over his two outings, striking out six but walking eight. He was able to maneuver himself out of tight situations, but he has got to be more accurate with his pitches in game one. The Giants are an impatient team and Lowe has been throwing the ball extremely well -- hence his N.L. Pitcher of the Month Award for September -- so I expect his strikeout-to-walk ratio to improve.
Hanson threw seven innings in his only start against the Giants. He struck out just three and walked two, but allowed only three hits and one run to score. The Giants definitely have a great rotation, but the Braves top three starters should not be overlooked, especially with how well each of them closed out the season.
The bullpen struggled at times, with Billy Wagner blowing a save early in the season. Takashi Saito pitched well, but his status for the divisional series is questionable at best. Jonny Venters was also effectivel, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4-1, but he has struggled as of late, likely due to a partially tired arm. The Braves starters pitched well against the Giants for the most part, so their relievers do not have many innings against them this year.
At the Dish:
The Giants hit just three home runs off of Braves pitching this year, two of which came from Edgar Renteria -- Renteria has not played in a game since September 18 -- and Travis Ishikawa -- who GoldenGateGiants.com projects will not make the post-season roster.
The other home run came from Pablo Sandoval. Both he and center fielder Andres Torres hit the Braves well. Outside of those two, Pat Burrell was the only hitter to have an OPS over .750 against the Braves. Star hitter and potential Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey, was just 1-11 with a walk against the Braves this season. I doubt he will be as ineffective, but the Braves may look back at those at bats to get a solid plan of attack.
The players who hit the Giants the best were Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, and Alex Gonzalez. Both Prado and Jones are out, with Omar Infante and Brooks Conrad filling in their places. Gonzalez had two homers in just 14 plate appearances, one of which was off of a Lincecum curveball. Heyward homered twice in San Fransisco earlier this season, both to the opposite field.
The series matchup favors the Braves in the rotation and at the plate, with the Giants getting better work out of their bullpen. As previously stated, this all likely means very little considering the sample size, but the fact that Hanson, Lowe, and Hudson were all able to perform well is certainly a good sign.
You can purchase tickets to games three and four at braves.com (technically that’s at mlb.mlb.com, a subdomain that has sent more than one SEO dork off on a five-minute huff).
Orrrrr you could check Fansnap, which aggregates ticket vendors like Stubhub and the one million sites that are pretty much Stubhub. Game three tickets are available for as low as $18 as of right now, and game foursies are as low as $17 at the moment.
Via David O’Brien.
It’s basically as expected. The Braves haven’t decided on their game 2 and three starters yet, and that’s because they have some options. Tim Hudson can go on Friday on normal rest, but that would result in Tommy Hanson going on Sunday on super long rest. They might decide it would be best to give additional rest to both Hudson and Hanson going into their starts. The long lay-off between the end of the season and the first playoff game leaves everything wide open.
There’s no way to take this for granted.
Think about how many great stories there are on this team. Matt Cain, who just turned 26, is the longest tenured Giant, and he has suffered horrific loss after horrific loss. Aubrey Huff was unwanted last winter; he’s in the playoffs for the first time, largely because of his own play. A rookie catcher — a rookie! — came up and managed the staff to a legendary September while also being one of the team’s best hitters. Pat Burrell, as he’s fond of saying, could have been watching all this from home. Tim Lincecum’s career was obviously finished in August, at least if you listened to all the wrong people.
The eighth and ninth innings were locked down by homegrown products with questionable draft pedigrees. The seventh and eighth innings were locked down by mercenaries and deadline acquisitions. Jonathan Sanchez went at least three seasons without knowing if he was going to survive the trade deadline and offseason. The little pieces acquired by Sabean helped a bunch — there wasn’t a blockbuster, but sometimes quantity over quality works just fine. Andres Torres just might be the most surprising four-win player in history. Sounds like a question for the offseason. What an amazing find.
Freddy Sanchez, who has watched a lot of bad baseball in his career, finally gets to see the postseason. Without his two-out, run-scoring hit, the Giants are probably still killing us with a 0-0 game. Every Eckstein at-bat could have turned into a bloop double, which would have been followed by a grounder to second, which would have been followed up with a sacrifice fly or a wild pitch. That was the fear, at least.
Man, this team, this disparate collection of personalities, has been absolutely amazing to watch.
See the rest here.
The Braves begin their National League Division Series best-of-five against the Giants late Thursday. San Fran has home field, but all games will be on TBS, thus giving the Braves home network advantage.
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