Slumping Braves hit season low
The Braves have just been swept by the Washington Nationals and have fallen to 18 games under .500. Atlanta has now lost 3 in a row and things can’t get any worse for the Braves. The month of August has seen the Braves’ bats stay very quiet while squandering almost any lead they had.
Friday’s game saw one of the most reliable Atlanta starters get roughed up. Jorge Campillo gave up 5 runs on 8 hits in just 3 and 2/3 innings. The Braves couldn’t come up with much offense against Odalis Perez and were easily defeated 7-3. The Braves were terrible in game 1 with runners on base, by leaving 18 runners stranded. That is inexcusable for any team.
Game 2 looked as though the Braves had turned things around. Jo-Jo Reyes looked solid until the 5th inning when he allowed the first 2 runners to reach base. The Atlanta bullpen blew a 4 run lead and were forced into extra innings. With the bases loaded in the 9th, tied at 8, Vladimir Nunez walked Elijah Dukes to give the Nationals a 9-8 victory. The Braves lost despite having solo home runs from Brian McCann, Martin Prado, and Chipper Jones. With Jones’ 20th home run of the season, he became only the second player in major league history with at least 20 home runs in each of his first 14 major league seasons. The only other player to do so was former Atlanta great Eddie Mathews.
On Sunday the Braves sent ace Jair Jurrjens to the mound to salvage the series. Jurrjens put in a quality start, allowing 3 runs in 6 innings of work. The Atlanta bullpen once again blew the lead by allowing 5 runs in the 8th inning. With Chipper Jones and Brian McCann on the bench with scheduled days off, the offense was even weaker than usual. The Nationals overcame a 1 run deficit to win 8-4.
With any playoff hopes long gone, Atlanta will call up some young players when the roster expands on Monday. Likely call-ups are shortstop Brent Lillibridge and pitcher James Parr. Corky Miller will also be added as Bobby Cox promised him a spot in September earlier this year. Pitcher Luis Valdez could also be added when the AA season is over. Atlanta has said they will not call up top prospects Jordan Schafer and Thomas Hanson. They are not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and will remain in the minors for further development. Schafer will battle for the centerfielder job in spring training while Hanson will try to make the starting rotation.
Schafer will have a hard time with Josh Anderson and Gregor Blanco also going for the job. Blanco and Anderson both have more experience and provide speed Atlanta has lacked since the departure of Rafael Furcal. Schafer has the potential to hit for decent power and a high average. Jordan can also play gold glove defense and has proven he has the potential to be a true super star after the steroid scandal.
The Atlanta Braves begin September by traveling to Florida to take on the division rival Marlins. Mike Hampton (2-2) will take on Josh Johnson (4-0) in game 1. Johnson was excellent in his last start against the Braves. In game 2 Charlie Morton (4-8) will try to improve on his rookie season against Anibal Sanchez (2-3). In the series finale Jorge Campillo (7-7) will face Chris Volstad (4-3). Campillo will attempt to redeem himself after his last outing.
By Ben Burrows
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