WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: Starting pitcher Tim Hudson #15 of the Atlanta Braves delivers to a Washington Nationals batter during the first inning at Nationals Park on April 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Braves Vs. Nationals, Game Three: Braves Rout Nationals 11-2 Behind Brian McCann's Four RBI

The Braves hit the road to begin the 2011 season, playing a three-game series against the Nationals.

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Braves Vs. Nationals: Brian McCann And Tim Hudson Take Care Of Nationals

Sunday, April 3
(2-1) Atlanta Braves - 11
(1-2) Washington Nationals - 2

Box Score
Play-By-Play
Video Highlights
Photos

Brian McCann's Continued Onslaught:
The catcher kept his hot streak alive through three games with a 3-5 day, driving in four runs to help lead the Braves to a 11-2 rout of the Nationals. His first RBI came in the first inning on a two-out single with Nate McLouth standing on second. He caught a changeup by Jordan Zimmermann and drove it up the middle.

After striking out in the fourth and popping out in the sixth, McCann struck in the seventh with another two-out single, driving in two runs. The bases were loaded at the time, and it put the Braves at a comfortable distance. However, he wasn't done, driving in another run as part of a six-run eighth with a single.

McCann finished the Washington series 6-13 with five RBI.

Tim Hudson's Dominance of the Nationals:
Career numbers against an opposing team may not mean much considering the team isn't always the same, but if there was ever a case where you might believe otherwise, it's Hudson versus the Nationals. Hudson allowed one run on three hits over seven innings, walking one and striking out five. He struggled some early with control, but he quickly settled in and didn't allow a baserunner after the second inning. His final GB/FB ratio was 8/3, and despite the early hits and walk, along with five strikeouts, he only threw 85 pitches through seven innings.

Hudson's career numbers against the Nationals stand at 10-2, 1.91 ERA, 28 walks and 88 strikeouts. Even if the Nationals revamped their entire lineup, Hudson would probably feel pretty confident pitching against the team.

WPA (Win Probability Added) Winners:
(ATL) Tim Hudson: .269
(ATL) Martin Prado: .184
(ATL) Brian McCann: .170

WPA Losers:
(WAS) Doug Slaten: -.115
(WAS) Ivan Rodriguez: -.098
(ATL) Nate McLouth: -.090

Game graph courtesy of FanGraphs:

Quotes courtesy of David O'Brien of the AJC:

Fredi Gonzalez:

On Hudson’s turnaround after first inning:

"The run they scored [in the first], he was still pitching well. It wasn’t like they hit the cover off the ball. His stuff was on today. He was sharp, his command was good. That was nice to see."

Fredi Gonzalez:

On hitting the ball hard with better results:

"They fell in, and Prado and Gonzo, you can go on and on, I think everybody got multi-hits today, and even if they didn’t, they hit the ball hard at somebody. We did that with people on base and we were able to score some runs."

 

Brian McCann:

On Hudson’s head-first slide at home:

"Play of the year. If there’s a play that tops that… I don’t know if there will be all season long for us. That was awesome. He’s been wanting to do that for 10 years now."

 

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Braves Vs. Nationals Final Score: Brian McCann Drives In Four, Tim Hudson Pitches Seven Strong As Braves Win Rout, 11-2

Brian McCann drove in four and Tim Hudson supported him with seven strong innings as the Braves defeated the Nationals to take the series with a 11-2 score.

McCann continued his hot streak to begin the season with a 3-5 day, driving in four runs. He singled in a run in the first, added two insurance runs in the seventh with a two-run single and singled in one in the eighth.

One of the runs scored was Martin Prado, who reached base three times, twice on doubles, and added a RBI on a sac fly. Nate McLouth scored three times and added a RBI. Freddie Freeman added a RBI and walked twice.

Jason Heyward went 2-4 with a RBI and walk. Chipper Jones added a RBI. The Braves led by four going into the eighth, but they scored six in the inning to blow it open.

Hudson continued his dominance of the Nationals by allowing one run on three hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out five. His lone run allowed came in the first inning on a RBI single by Adam LaRoche.

He only allowed one hit past the first inning, a single in the second, and he didn't allow another for the remainder of his seven innings. In fact, he was perfect from the fourth through the seventh. Hudson's GB/FB ratio was 8-3.

Jonny Venters allowed a run in the eighth when Danny Espinosa doubled to lead off the inning and came around to score on two groundouts. Scott Linebrink pitched a scoreless ninth to finish it.

Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann allowed three runs on four hits in six innings, walking three and striking out two. Todd Coffey allowed two runs behind him. Brian Broderick allowed four of the six runs in the eighth, and Chad Gaudin allowed the other two.

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Braves Vs. Nationals Score: Martin Prado Breaks Out With Two Hits As Braves Lead Through Six, 3-1

A RBI double by Martin Prado has helped propel the Braves to a 3-1 lead over the Nationals through six innings.

The two teams traded runs in the first inning. Prado singled to lead off the game but was erased by a Nate McLouth grounder. McLouth reached second on a Chipper Jones groundout and scored on a Brian McCann single.

Jayson Werth walked in the home half of the first and reached second on a wild pitch. Adam LaRoche singled to bring him home.

The score remained tied until the fifth, when the Braves put two on the board. Alex Gonzalez tripled to lead off the inning and scored on a groundout by Freddie Freeman. After Tim Hudson walked, Prado doubled him home for the third run.

Hudson has allowed one run on three hits in six innings, walking one and striking out three. He is at 67 pitches through five, and his GB/FB ratio is 6/3. He has held the top three hitters in the Nationals lineup hitless so far.

Jordan Zimmermann allowed three runs on four hits in six innings, walking three and striking out two. He was pulled after six, with Todd Coffey on the mound for the seventh.

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Braves Vs. Nationals: Tim Hudson Takes The Hill Seeking A Series Win For The Braves

The Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals face off in the rubber game of the opening weekend series, beginning at 1:35 on Fox Sports South. Tim Hudson takes the hill against Jordan Zimmermann.

Braves Lineup:
1. Martin Prado, LF
2. Nate McLouth, CF
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Dan Uggla, 2B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Freddie Freeman, 1B
9. Tim Hudson, SP

Nationals Lineup:
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Michael Morse, LF
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Ivan Rodriguez, C
9. Jordan Zimmermann, SP

Tim Hudson (228.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, 2.91 BB/9, 5.47 K/9, 64.1 GB%, 6.8 SwStr%)
(63.8 FB%, 14.6 SL%, 6.1 CT%, 5.9 SF%, 5.5 CH%, 4.2 CB%; 45.3 Swing%, 83.9 Contact%)
vs.
Jordan Zimmermann (31 IP, 4.94 ERA, 5.85 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 2.9 BB/9, 7.84 K/9, 48.9 GB%, 5.2 SwStr%)
(65 FB%, 20.9 CB%, 10.8 SL%, 3.3 CH%; 43 Swing%, 87.5 Contact%)

Hudson's offseason has been filled with doubters due to his 2.83 ERA last season, some of which may not have been deserved, but so much was due to a 64.1 GB%. Many will automatically look at the difference between ERA and FIP and discredit his season, but watching all of his starts may change your opinion some. One area of concern is the 228 innings he threw was his most since 2003, and at 35 years old this year, he may not have many of those type seasons again. Still, look for more top of the rotation type stuff this year.

Zimmermann's 31 innings last season should not be looked at very closely due to it being his return from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals have high hopes as Zimmermann returns to full health and a third spot in the rotation, but only time will tell how the surgery affects his command. He has always been a solid control pitcher, but he doesn't miss many bats with his stuff, and he relies on command to keep the ball in the park. Zimmermann is a fastball/slider pitcher who goes to the curve in spots, while the changeup is show-me.

Opposing Numbers:
Due to Zimmermann's short career thus far, the Braves don't have much to go on regarding past at bats. Uggla is 1-5. Chipper is 1-3 with a triple. The only other hits were a couple singles by Prado and David Ross.

Hudson has had tremendous success against the Nationals in his career, and it's evident in some of the at bat numbers. Zimmerman is 7-34. Desmond is 4-17. The bench players have not had much luck, either. Rodriguez and Werth have been thorns in Hudson's side, however. Rodriguez is 16-36 with two homers and eight RBI. Werth is 7-20 with one homer and six RBI. Worth watching if Hudson lasts that long is Matt Stairs, who is 5-6 with two doubles.

What to Look For:
Hudson's continued success against the Nationals. The Braves might need the added support from the pitching staff today against the relative unknown Zimmermann. Look for a ton of grounders if Hudson's sinker is working.

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Braves Vs. Nationals: Tommy Hanson Chalks Up Struggles To Fastball Command

Saturday, April 2
(1-1) Atlanta Braves - 3
(1-1) Washington Nationals - 6

Box Score
Play-By-Play
Video
Photos

Tommy Hanson's Struggles:
Hanson simply didn't have it in Saturday's loss to the Nationals. He allowed four runs on five hits in 3.2 innings, walking two and striking out one. Two of the runs came on a home run by Rick Ankiel. The other two came on hits or dumb mistakes.

I would love to give you a breakdown of Hanson's pitches, but Pitch FX decided to run extremely slow on the gun in this game and all of the numbers are off. I can tell you from memory that Hanson threw a good amount of breaking pitches that were relatively flat and up for the most part. His fastball was extremely flat and had no life, sitting 90-92 in most cases.

One start isn't worth worrying about, but it's worth watching next time out. After the spring he had, it's very surprising he came out like this.

Going After John Lannan:
The gameplan I set for the Braves offense was attacking Lannan's breaking stuff and watching for the changeup. The problem is Lannan hardly threw a breaking pitch. Only two outs were recorded on curves or sliders: strikeouts of Brian McCann and Nate McLouth. Otherwise, Lannan threw very few of them, and the Braves didn't offer. His changeup was used fairly effectively, but his fastball spotted well and was his best pitch.

Several Braves had success against Lannan in the past, and it could be seen at times. Chipper Jones attacked him early in the count and singled twice, driving in a run on one of the hits. Jason Heyward walked once and Alex Gonzalez singled twice. The Braves put two in scoring position in both the second and fourth innings but came away empty. A Freddie Freeman groundout left the inning up to Hanson in the second, and he grounded out. Singles by Gonzalez and Freeman put two on with one out in the fourth, and after Hanson bunted them over, Martin Prado flew out to end the threat.

Even after Lannan left, the Braves continued to leave runners on. A Gonzalez walk and Freeman double put the same two in scoring position again, but Brooks Conrad struck out after getting ahead 3-1, and Prado flew out again. The Braves singled twice in the seventh, but the first was erased by a double play and the second was left on. The only production late in the game was solo home runs by Dan Uggla and Gonzalez.

Nate McLouth Thief-o-Meter (Season total of at bats McLouth steals from Heyward)
2

WPA (Win Probability Added) Leaders:
(WAS) Tyler Clippard: .255
(WAS) Rick Ankiel: .180
(ATL) Alex Gonzalez: .147

WPA Losers:
(ATL) Tommy Hanson: -.288
(ATL) Martin Prado: -.204
(WAS) Doug Slaten: -.120

Game graph courtesy of FanGraphs:

Quotes courtesy of David O'Brien of the AJC:

Fredi Gonzalez:

On Tommy Hanson getting behind in counts

"Yeah, but you know what? He kept us in the ballgame. I would have been curious to see, if that rain didn’t [delay the game], how well he would have handled the rest of the game. Because you always like to see guys, when they’re not pitching or they don’t have their good stuff, how well they can get through it. And I think he was well on his way to doing that."

Tommy Hanson:

On what they were hitting:

"They hit a lot of fastballs. All the balls they hit hard were primarily fastballs. I had a couple of them where I thought I made a good pitch and they hit it and other ones I didn’t make a good pitch and they hit that too. But I think a couple times getting behind in the count, especially to (Rick) Ankiel…I think the biggest thing for me to take away from this is I wasn’t consistently throwing strikes, and consistently commanding the zone."

 

"My fastballs were catching way too much of the plate. It was one of those things where I was little bit off with my command. With all that being said, I’m obviously not worried about it, it’s my first start. I know I can pitch better than that. Just going to chalk it up to one of those days, just work hard in my next ‘pen, get my fastball command, staying down in the zone and hope to go out and do better next time."

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Braves Vs. Nationals Final Score: Tommy Hanson Allows Four Early Runs As Nationals Defeat Braves, 6-3

The Braves were unable to rebound from a poor start by Tommy Hanson, as the Nationals put four on the board early in route to a 6-3 win.

Hanson allowed four runs on five hits in 3.2 innings, walking two and striking out one. The first run came in the second inning on a sac fly RBI by Danny Espinosa following a walk and error by Hanson. The Nationals scored three in the third on a sac fly RBI by Michael Morse and two-run home run by Rick Ankiel.

With two outs in the fourth, hail started pelting the field, causing the game to be delayed. When the game resumed, Cristhian Martinez took over for Hanson, loading the bases in the fourth before getting out of it. Martinez followed with a perfect fifth.

Scott Linebrink pitched a scoreless sixth but ran into unwarranted trouble in the seventh. A line drive by Ryan Zimmerman was dropped by Nate McLouth in center, resulting in a triple. George Sherrill was brought in to face lefty Adam LaRoche, and he induced a groundout to hold Zimmerman at third. After walking a batter to face another lefty, Ankiel dropped a squeeze bunt successfully to bring home Linebrink's run.

Peter Moylan gave up a single and a walk with two outs in the eighth. A chopper down the line by Zimmerman deflected off Chipper Jones' glove, causing the leading runner to score and knocking Moylan from the game. Eric O'Flaherty got the final out in the inning with the Nationals ahead by three.

The Braves missed several opportunities against Nationals starter John Lannan. They left two in scoring position in both the second and fourth innings. They managed a run in the third on a RBI single by Jones. Their second run came in the sixth on a solo home run by Dan Uggla, his first hit as a Brave. Their final run came in the eighth on a solo home run by Alex Gonzalez.

Gonzalez led the Braves on offense with three hits, including the home run and RBI. Uggla added a RBI on a home run and Jones picked up the other RBI. Freddie Freeman added two hits, including a double.

Ankiel went 1-3 with a home run and three RBI. Zimmerman went 2-3 with a triple and RBI. Jayson Werth went 3-4 with two doubles. Wilson Ramos added three singles in his 2011 debut.

Lannan's final line was five innings, allowing five hits and one run with one walk and three strikeouts. Chad Gaudin allowed the home run to Uggla. Tyler Clippard pitched 1.2 scoreless innings. Drew Storen allowed the home run to Gonzalez. Sean Burnett finished the game with 1.1 scoreless innings.

The Braves finish the series in Washington on Sunday at 1:30. Tim Hudson faces Jordan Zimmermann.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Nationals fans check out Federal Baseball.

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Braves Vs. Nationals Score: Tommy Hanson Struggles Through Three Innings, Braves Down 4-1 In Rain Delay

Tommy Hanson is dealing with command issues in his first start of 2011, allowing four runs in three innings. The Braves are now in a rain delay, which appeared more like a hail delay, down 4-1 to the Nationals in the fourth.

Hanson's first hit allowed came in the first inning on a double by Jayson Werth, but he was left on second. The Nationals scored one in the second on miscues by Hanson, walking Michael Morse to lead off the inning, allowing him to reach second a pickoff error and reaching home on a groundout and sac fly. That was followed by a single from Wilson Ramos and walk by John Lannan, but Hanson escaped further trouble.

Hanson's struggles continued in the third, allowing three runs. Werth doubled to lead off the inning and Ryan Zimmerman was hit by a pitch to get things going. Back-to-back fly balls scored Werth. Rick Ankiel followed with a two-run home run to put the Nationals ahead by three.

Hanson has allowed five hits and two walks in 3.2 innings, striking out just one. Perhaps it is in the Braves' best interests to have the game delayed and get Hanson out of it. He was constantly falling behind batters, and his stuff was flat and up.

The Braves scored in the third when Nate McLouth was hit by a pitch, reached second on a wild pitch and scored on a RBI single by Chipper Jones.

The Braves have reached base in every inning. Jones singled in the first and was left. A walk and single put two in scoring position in the second, but Hanson left them on with a groundout. In the fourth, the Braves again put two in scoring position with two outs, but Martin Prado flew out to end the threat.

Chipper is 2-2 with a RBI. Alex Gonzalez is 2-2 with two singles and has been left in scoring position twice. Freddie Freeman has a single, as well.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Nationals fans check out Federal Baseball.

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Braves Vs. Nationals, Game Two: Braves Look To Continue Success Against John Lannan

The Atlanta Braves return to action in game No. 2 of the season, facing the Washington Nationals at 1:05. The game is broadcasted on SportSouth.

The Braves opened the season in exciting fashion Thursday, beating the Nationals 2-0. Jason Heyward went deep for his second straight Opening Day to back 5.2 shutout innings by Derek Lowe. The bullpen held the shutout for the remainder of the game.

Braves Lineup:
1. Martin Prado, LF
2. Nate McLouth, CF
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Dan Uggla, 2B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Freddie Freeman, 1B
9. Tommy Hanson, SP

Nationals Lineup:
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Michael Morse, LF
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Wilson Ramos, C
9. John Lannan, SP

Tommy Hanson (202.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, 2.49 BB/9, 7.68 K/9, 41.8 GB%, 8.4 SwStr%)
(57 FB%, 28 SL%, 12.3 CB%, 2.7 CH%; 45.4 Swing%, 80.9 Contact%)
vs.
John Lannan (143.1 IP, 4.65 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 4.36 xFIP, 3.08 BB/9, 4.46 K/9, 51.5 GB%, 5.5 SwStr%)
(65.1 FB%, 17.1 CH%, 9.3 SL%, 8.5 CB%; 44.4 Swing%, 87.5 Contact%)

Hanson is the proverbial ace-in-waiting, but he still has to clear a hurdle in 2011: durability. His velocity and sharpness declined as the season progressed last year, and as he reaches his peak stage, it's about time to start seeing him blow through 200 innings with a little more ease. Hanson's breaking stuff was very sharp in spring camp and look for it to continue as the season begins.

Lannan was knocked around a good bit last season, seeing an increase in line drives to 21%. His rates remained pretty similar, but he just threw more hittable pitches. While his contact percentage actually went down, his outside contact increased, due in large part to his slider getting crushed. If he just continues on the path he set last year, throwing fewer breaking pitches and more fastball/changeup combinations, he should fare better this season. Look for the Braves to try to jump on the breaking stuff.

Opposing Numbers:
Several Braves have had success against Lannan. Uggla is 5-13 with a homer, two RBI and two walks. Chipper Jones is 7-23 with a double and three RBI. Martin Prado is 7-21 with four doubles and two RBI. Alex Gonzalez is 4-8 with a double and RBI. Perhaps the most surprising is Nate McLouth at 4-13 with two doubles and one RBI.

Hanson has fared well against Nationals hitters, shutting down Zimmerman, Werth and LaRoche in the past. The one with success is Desmond at 4-11 with one home run and three RBI.

What to Look For:
The Braves have hit Lannan well in the past, especially the top five in the order. Attacking his breaking stuff while watching for the changeup should be the gameplan.

For more on the series, Braves fans check out Talking Chop and Nationals fans check out Federal Baseball.

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Atlanta Braves Opening Day 2011: Jason Heyward Makes History; Derek Lowe Continues Slider Pattern

Thursday, March 31
(1-0) Atlanta Braves - 2
(0-1) Washington Nationals - 0

Box Score
Play-By-Play
Video Highlights
Photos

Jason Heyward Does It Again:
Opening Day is a day of full-blown analysis due to everyone and their grandmother being so pumped about the start of the season. Therefore, little tid bits are not hard to come by. Heyward made one pretty easy to find in Thursday's Braves win over the Nationals.

Heyward's solo home run in the second inning that put the Braves ahead by two was his second consecutive home run on Opening Day, even second consecutive home run in his first at bat of the season. He joined Kaz Matsui as the only player to do so in his first two Opening Days of his career. One of hopefully many records Heyward will reach in his career.

Andruw Jones holds the Braves record for most Opening Day home runs with four. Brian McCann, Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy have or had two or more. Heyward joined Chipper Jones, Joe Torre, Edgar Renteria, Ryan Klesko and David Justice at two each.

Derek Lowe's Slider Count:
Heyward wasn't the only Brave making waves in the Opening Day win. Lowe picked up where he left off in the opener, allowing three hits and two walks over 5.2 shutout innings, striking out six. His GB/FB ratio was 7/2. Pitches/strikes was 105/59.

More sliders were key to Lowe's September turnaround last season, and he continued the pattern in his first game of 2011. Lowe threw sliders 33% of the time in this game compared to 16% over the entire 2010 season. While that number will fluctuate game to game due to various factors, the difference between the two numbers is noteworthy.

He threw first-pitch sliders to eight of the 21 batters he faced, and the slider was an out pitch on seven of the 21. This may seem insignificant, but for a sinkerballer that relies so heavily on one pitch most of the time, this is pretty big, and I think it has a lot to do with his success when he's on.

Braves vs. Livan Hernandez:
Success against Hernandez was small and difficult to find, but what little success there was came back to the usual guys. Against Hernandez, Chipper Jones went 1-3 with a double and scored, Brian McCann went 2-3 with a RBI, and Jason Heyward went 1-2 with a home run and RBI. This trio had the best numbers against Hernandez coming in, and they showed up when the Braves needed it.

WPA (Win Probability Added) Leaders:
(ATL) Derek Lowe: .317
(ATL) Jason Heyward: .112
(ATL) Craig Kimbrel: .085

Game graph courtesy of FanGraphs:

Quotes via David O'Brien of the AJC:

Fredi Gonzalez:

On using Kimbrel clean inning, not Venters to face LaRoche first AB in 9th:

"We talked about that, and I said, we could be Johnny Manager here and left Venters face LaRoche. Roger goes, you know what, let’s just bring him in for a clean inning. If he’s got a mess, let’s let him get in own mess. In a perfect world, Venters gets him out. But if not, a base hit, now we’ve got to bring Kimbrel in with a runner on."

Fredi Gonzalez:

On Jason Heyward homering for the second consecutive Opening Day:

"Maybe we need to trick him on Saturday, tell him it’s Opening Day again. He hit that ball a ton. The very next inning, I thought Ankiel got his, and he made it the the warning track. It tells you how strong this guy Heyward is

Jason Heyward:

On the homer pitch:

"Cutter. He got it up. The last homer I got off Livan, I think he did the same thing. He just got a pitch up. I was fortunate to get a mistake."

"You go up there with a plan. You want to see something good to hit and try and jump on the first good pitch you get from Livan, because he’s able to make so many close pitches."

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Atlanta Braves Opening Day 2011 Score: Jason Heyward Homers As Atlanta Shuts Out Nationals, 2-0

The Braves took advantage of early hits by scoring two quick runs, which proved to be all they needed. The pitching staff combined to shut out the Nationals, winning 2-0 on Opening Day.

Braves starter Derek Lowe pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out six. The three hits were singles in the first two innings, and he didn't allow a hit after the second. Following a few command issues and a walk of Ryan Zimmerman with two outs in the sixth, Fredi Gonzalez made the correct move of pulling him in favor of Eric O'Flaherty against a left-hander.

Lowe's slider was used effectively, throwing it early in the count and recording two strikeouts on it. The sinker was sharp and diving hard. Even the changeup was used effectively in spots, including one strikeout of Adam LaRoche on a 3-2 count. Lowe's stuff was on.

The Braves scored two quick runs in the first and second. Chipper Jones doubled with two outs in the first, followed by a Brian McCann single that scored him. Jason Heyward homered in the second inning on a high curve that put them ahead by two, where it remained.

The Braves had just two hits following the first two innings, both on singles by Jones and McCann. The only other baserunner was a walk by Heyward.

Jones went 2-4 with a double, McCann went 2-4 with a RBI and Heyward went 1-2 with a home run, RBI and walk. The rest of the team went hitless, including the combination of Martin Prado and Nate McLouth at 0-8 at the top of the order.

Nationals starter Livan Hernandez allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings, walking none and striking out three. Todd Coffey and Sean Burnett combined for two scoreless innings behind him.

Behind Lowe, Eric O'Flaherty gave up two hits but received three outs between the sixth and seventh. Peter Moylan received the final out in the seventh on a strikeout with a runner on third. Jonny Venters pitched a scoreless eighth on seven pitches. Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth on two strikeouts of Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel.

After an off day, the Braves return to action Saturday against the Nationals at 1:05. Tommy Hanson faces John Lannan.

For more on the series, Braves fans should visit Talking Chop, and Nationals fans should visit Federal Baseball.

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Atlanta Braves Opening Day 2011 Score: Derek Lowe Pulled After 5.2 Strong Innings, Braves Remain Ahead 2-0 After Six

Derek Lowe was pulled with two outs in the sixth after throwing 105 pitches. Lowe's final line was 5.2 innings, three hits, no runs, two walks and six strikeouts.

Lowe didn't allow a hit after the second inning and allowed just two baseunners on walks. The pitch count ran up due to the six strikeouts, as well as several full counts. He struck out the side in the third against Desmond, Werth and Zimmerman. Lowe used the slider often and well in his first start of 2011, picking up two of the strikeouts on the pitch.

The move to pull Lowe was the correct one for new manager Fredi Gonzalez. Lowe was working past 100 pitches, was struggling with command in the sixth and was in the third time through the order.

The Braves continue to sit at 2-0 after six and a half innings. Nationals starter Livan Hernandez was pulled in the seventh at 77 pitches, allowing two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings, no walks and three strikeouts. Hernandez did not allow a baserunner from the third through the sixth, but a leadoff single by Brian McCann helped lead to the pitching change.

With a runner on first and one out in the seventh, lefty Doug Slaten was called on to face Jason Heyward, but he walked to put two on. Tyler Clippard replaced him to face Alex Gonzalez, who struck out. Freddie Freeman followed with a flyout to end the threat.

For more on the series, Braves fans should visit Talking Chop, and Nationals fans should visit Federal Baseball.

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Atlanta Braves Opening Day 2011 Score: Jason Heyward Goes Deep For Second Straight Opening Day, Braves Lead 2-0 After Three Innings

The Braves jumped to an early lead on Opening Day, holding a 2-0 advantage over the Nationals after three innings.

The big shot so far came in the second inning on a solo home run by Jason Heyward, his second consecutive Opening Day homer. Nationals starter Livan Hernandez left a curveball letter high on the fourth pitch of the at bat, and Heyward was able to get on top of it and drive it in the first row in right field.

The first Braves run came in the first inning when Chipper Jones doubled down the right field line, hustling to beat a throw from right fielder Jayson Werth. That was followed by a single from Brian McCann that scooted past second baseman Danny Espinosa to bring home Jones. All of this was with two outs to get the Braves rolling early.

Hernandez is at 43 pitches through three innings, allowing the three hits and two runs, no walks and one strikeout. He is receiving the usual Livan calls on the outer half, evident by a Nate McLouth strikeout in the third inning.

Derek Lowe has given up three hits and one scary flyout. The Nationals reached scoring position in the first two innings. The first was back-to-back singles by Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, but Lowe bared down and got two solid outs. Espinosa singled in the second and reached second on a groundout, but he was left there.

Lowe settled in and struck out the side in the third, consisting of Desmond, Werth and Zimmerman. His stuff looks really good, and he seems to be settling in.

For more on the series, Braves fans should visit Talking Chop, and Nationals fans should visit Federal Baseball.

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Atlanta Braves Opening Day 2011: Derek Lowe Looks To Build On September Stretch In Season Opener

The Atlanta Braves are on the road to begin the season, playing a three-game series against the Washington Nationals. Opening Day features two veteran starters in Derek Lowe and Livan Hernandez.

Braves Lineup:
1. Martin Prado, LF
2. Nate McLouth, CF
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Dan Uggla, 2B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Freddie Freeman, 1B
9. Derek Lowe, SP

Nationals Lineup:
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Michael Morse, LF
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Ivan Rodriguez, C
9. Livan Hernandez, SP

Derek Lowe (193.2 IP, 4.00 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, 2.83 BB/9, 6.32 K/9, 58.8 GB%, 8.2 SwStr%)
(63.9 FB%, 16.1 SL%, 15.5 CH%, 4.5 CT%; 43.6 Swing%, 80.3 Contact%)
vs.
Livan Hernandez (211.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 4.57 xFIP, 2.72 BB/9, 4.85 K/9, 39.3 GB%, 4.6 SwStr%)
(61.4 FB%, 20.3 SL%, 10.9 CB%, 7.4 CH%; 40.6 Swing%, 88.2 Contact%)

The Opening Day matchup features two veterans who know how to pitch to their advantage. Lowe progressed as the season wore on last year, and four runs allowed in the entire month of September capped a solid second half. One of the big reasons for this success was more sliders, as he backed off the sinker a bit and pitched backward more often. It's worth watching to see how much he takes from this in his first start and whether it is a sign of things to come in 2011.

Hernandez is a well-traveled pitcher who does nothing spectacular, but he manages to post sub-four ERA's with consistency. He pitches to contact, has a miniscule strikeout rate, does not induce fly balls and yet he keeps the ball in the park for the most part while giving the Nationals a ton of innings, which is crucial for this staff. Hitting his offspeed and breaking stuff is always key.

Opposing Numbers:
Desmond has the best numbers against Lowe, hitting .357 with a double, triple, two homers and five RBI. Zimmerman is right behind with a .295 average, one double, two homers and seven RBI. Werth has one home run, as well, but Lowe seems to have a pretty good history against Nationals hitters.

Chipper has long been Hernandez's nemesis, hitting .333 with 11 doubles, one triple, one home run and 17 RBI, including 12 walks. McCann is at .348 with a homer. Prado is at .478 with three doubles. Heyward is 3-10 with a double, homer and six walks. For the most part, the Braves have had success against Hernandez, but putting it together and stringing hits can be a problem at times.

What to Look For:
Lowe needs to build on his September stretch from a year ago when he threw more breaking pitches and relied less on the sinker. Getting off to a good start on Opening Day will only help his chances of continued success.

For more on the series, Braves fans should visit Talking Chop, and Nationals fans should visit Federal Baseball.

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Atlanta Braves Opening Day 2011: Braves Travel To Nationals To Begin Season

Baseball is officially back. The Atlanta Braves open the 2011 season on the road with a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals finished the 2010 season with a 69-93 record. Adam Dunn led the offense with 38 home runs and 103 RBI, including a .536 SLG. Ryan Zimmerman was right behind with a .899 OPS and 25 home runs. However, the pitching staff was atrocious, as only two starters posted over 20 starts, and the next highest innings total behind Livan Hernandez's 211.2 was John Lannan at 143.1. Only one starter with at least 15 starts had an ERA under four, and only one other starter had an ERA under five.

The Nationals are throwing a similar rotation at opponents this season, featuring the usuals Hernandez and Lannan. Jordan Zimmermann is looking to return from injury and have a solid season, and the Nationals are banking on it with him penciled in third in the rotation. Cheap pickups Jason Marquis and Tom Gorzelanny round out the rotation for Washington. Of course, the big hole is due to Stephen Strasburg's elbow surgery.

The offense figures to be somewhat of a strength for the Nationals, due in large part to the addition of Jayson Werth. However, they are replacing Dunn's production with a frail Adam LaRoche, and they are counting on Rick Ankiel in center field. The top of the order is promising for the Nationals, but it fades rather quickly.

Quick primer on pitching stats to be used this season (Visit this for full glossary):
(Innings pitched, ERA, Fielding Independent Pitching, Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, Walks Per 9, Strikeouts Per 9, Groundball Percentage, Swinging Strike Percentage)
(Percentage of pitch use: FB=fastball, SL=slider, CH=changeup, CT=cutter, CB=curve, SF=splitter; Swing Percentage By Opposing Batters, Contact Percentage By Opposing Batters)

Thursday, March 31 - 1:05 (SportSouth)
Derek Lowe (193.2 IP, 4.00 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, 2.83 BB/9, 6.32 K/9, 58.8 GB%, 8.2 SwStr%)
(63.9 FB%, 16.1 SL%, 15.5 CH%, 4.5 CT%; 43.6 Swing%, 80.3 Contact%)
vs.
Livan Hernandez (211.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 4.57 xFIP, 2.72 BB/9, 4.85 K/9, 39.3 GB%, 4.6 SwStr%)
(61.4 FB%, 20.3 SL%, 10.9 CB%, 7.4 CH%; 40.6 Swing%, 88.2 Contact%)

The Opening Day matchup features two veterans who know how to pitch to their advantage. Lowe progressed as the season wore on last year, and four runs allowed in the entire month of September capped a solid second half. One of the big reasons for this success was more sliders, as he backed off the sinker a bit and pitched backward more often. It's worth watching to see how much he takes from this in his first start and whether it is a sign of things to come in 2011.

Hernandez is a well-traveled pitcher who does nothing spectacular, but he manages to post sub-four ERA's with consistency. He pitches to contact, has a miniscule strikeout rate, does not induce fly balls and yet he keeps the ball in the park for the most part while giving the Nationals a ton of innings, which is crucial for this staff. Hitting his offspeed and breaking stuff is always key.

Saturday, April 2 - 1:05 (SportSouth)
Tommy Hanson (202.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 3.31 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, 2.49 BB/9, 7.68 K/9, 41.8 GB%, 8.4 SwStr%)
(57 FB%, 28 SL%, 12.3 CB%, 2.7 CH%; 45.4 Swing%, 80.9 Contact%)
vs.
John Lannan (143.1 IP, 4.65 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 4.36 xFIP, 3.08 BB/9, 4.46 K/9, 51.5 GB%, 5.5 SwStr%)
(65.1 FB%, 17.1 CH%, 9.3 SL%, 8.5 CB%; 44.4 Swing%, 87.5 Contact%)

Hanson is the proverbial ace-in-waiting, but he still has to clear a hurdle in 2011: durability. His velocity and sharpness declined as the season progressed last year, and as he reaches his peak stage, it's about time to start seeing him blow through 200 innings with a little more ease. Hanson's breaking stuff was very sharp in spring camp and look for it to continue as the season begins.

Lannan was knocked around a good bit last season, seeing an increase in line drives to 21%. His rates remained pretty similar, but he just threw more hittable pitches. While his contact percentage actually went down, his outside contact increased, due in large part to his slider getting crushed. If he just continues on the path he set last year, throwing fewer breaking pitches and more fastball/changeup combinations, he should fare better this season. Look for the Braves to try to jump on the breaking stuff.

Sunday, April 3 - 1:35 (Fox Sports South)
Tim Hudson (228.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, 2.91 BB/9, 5.47 K/9, 64.1 GB%, 6.8 SwStr%)
(63.8 FB%, 14.6 SL%, 6.1 CT%, 5.9 SF%, 5.5 CH%, 4.2 CB%; 45.3 Swing%, 83.9 Contact%)
vs.
Jordan Zimmermann (31 IP, 4.94 ERA, 5.85 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 2.9 BB/9, 7.84 K/9, 48.9 GB%, 5.2 SwStr%)
(65 FB%, 20.9 CB%, 10.8 SL%, 3.3 CH%; 43 Swing%, 87.5 Contact%)

Hudson's offseason has been filled with doubters due to his 2.83 ERA last season, some of which may not have been deserved, but so much was due to a 64.1 GB%. Many will automatically look at the difference between ERA and FIP and discredit his season, but watching all of his starts may change your opinion some. One area of concern is the 228 innings he threw was his most since 2003, and at 35 years old this year, he may not have many of those type seasons again. Still, look for more top of the rotation type stuff this year.

Zimmermann's 31 innings last season should not be looked at very closely due to it being his return from Tommy John surgery. The Nationals have high hopes as Zimmermann returns to full health and a third spot in the rotation, but only time will tell how the surgery affects his command. He has always been a solid control pitcher, but he doesn't miss many bats with his stuff, and he relies on command to keep the ball in the park. Zimmermann is a fastball/slider pitcher who goes to the curve in spots, while the changeup is show-me.

The Nationals bullpen remains a strength, though it does get overused at times due to the weak rotation. Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard are valuable back-end relievers. Sean Burnett is a great option as LOOGY.

Projected Nationals Lineup:
1. Ian Desmond, SS
2. Jayson Werth, RF
3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4. Adam LaRoche, 1B
5. Michael Morse, LF
6. Rick Ankiel, CF
7. Danny Espinosa, 2B
8. Ivan Rodriguez, C

Getting around the top three of Ian Desmond, Werth and Zimmerman should be the gameplan for the Braves. LaRoche and Michael Morse are decent power threats with little on-base ability. Ankiel is a pretty big hole. Espinosa is a switch-hitting rookie that has flashed power potential from the second base spot, but he will likely go through the usual rookie struggles.

For more on the series, Braves fans should visit Talking Chop, and Nationals fans should visit Federal Baseball.

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