Braves win first game without homering, Ks remain concern

The Braves picked up a huge win on Monday night knocking off the Nationals 3-2 to end a 4 game losing streak.  It was the Braves fist win of the season without the benefit of a home run.  Jordan Schafer walked 3 times, had a hit, and stole 2 bases to help lead the offense. Gerald Laird and Justin Upton both came through with RBI singles.  Julio Tehran struggled early but thanks to a pickoff in each of the first two innings was able to escape with minimal damage, settle down and get through 5 1/3 innings.  Jordan Walden picked up the win by retiring all 5 batters he faced, including 3 strike outs.  The winning run scored on an Andrelton Simmon sac fly in the 7th.  An inning set up by a walk to Laird, a sac bunt by Pastornicky and a single and stolen base by Jordan Schafer.  While it is a good sign that the Braves were able to scratch out these 3 runs, they did strike out 11 times in the game.  Over the weekend sweep at Detroit the Braves struck out an eye popping 38 times.  The Braves line up is obviously full of power hitters who can change a game with one swing but in close low scoring games, which are the type you expect to play with division rivals like the Nationals and Phillies, it is a lot easier to scratch out tough runs when you make contact and advance runners.  Simmons made contact when he had to Monday and drove in the winning run.  The Braves will need clutch contact like that to continue to beat the Nationals, who they have yet to lose to on the young season.

Nationals enter series almost as hot as Braves

There is no denying that the Braves are the currently the hottest team in baseball.  They sit atop all of baseball with their 8-1 record and have swept their last two series.  However division foe and this weekends opponent Washington  Nationals are right on their heels.  The Nats struggled in Cincinnati last weekend losing 2 of 3 to a quality Reds team that expects to contend if not run away with the NL Central this year.  Washington bounced back to sweep the White Sox during the week winning 7-4 on Thursday while the Braves were off.  The Braves and Nationals figure to battle to the end of the season for NL East supremacy and this series, while obviously early in the year, could be important down the road.  The Braves will face Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strausberg, and Gio Gonzalez in the series, countering with Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, and Paul Maholm.  It is a bit unfortunate that the Braves will not get to face Dan Haren who, early in the season, appears to be the weak link in the Nats rotation.  Haren got the win on Thursday but on the season has given up 19 hits and 9 runs in 9 innings, including 4 home runs.

While Teheran struggled a little in his first outing, the Braves are hopeful he can bounce back tonight and pitch more like his did during his dominant spring training.  Bryce Harper has been a  hot hitter for the Nationals batting .417 on the young season and picking up 2 hits in each of the games against the White Sox.  Evan Gattis has been the Braves hottest hitter as he torched the Marlins for 5 hits and 2 home runs.  The Braves will look for Jason Heyward to get going as he enters the series with a paltry .071 average.  However Heyward is 5 for 14 in his career against Detwiler, good for a .357 average.  Justin Upton on the other hand is just 2 for 11 against the Nationals lefty.

Braves Vs. Marlins Game 2 Preview

Braves vs Marlins

(6-1)      Vs.    (1-6)

  • Tuesday 4/9, 7:10 PM ET at Marlins Park
  • Radio: ATL: 680 AM/93.7 FM, WNNX 100.5 MIA: WAXY 790AM/104.3FM, WAQI 710
  • TV: ATL: FSS MIA: FS-F

 

 

From MLB.com:

The Marlins and Braves are headed in different directions early into the 2013 season. But they’ll send two pitchers with an even early slate to the hill on Tuesday night in the second game of this week’s series.

After the Braves took the series opener on Monday, 2-0, they improved to 6-1. The Marlins dropped to 1-6, falling in their home opener.

But both starting pitchers in Tuesday’s game — Atlanta’s Kris Medlen and Miami’s Wade LeBlanc — enter the tilt with identical 0-1 records and 3.60 ERAs after their season debuts. Each gave up two earned runs in five innings — LeBlanc against the Nationals, and Medlen against the Phillies.

“The last two innings were really good, really efficient, really aggressive,” LeBlanc said of his previous outing. “My stuff sharpened up, and I felt I got into a rhythm. I’ll try to roll that up into the bullpen between starts, and try to carry it over into tomorrow.”

The Miami lefty has never beaten the Braves, clocking in with an 0-3 record and 6.62 ERA in six appearances (three starts). He faced Atlanta twice during Grapefruit League play this spring, both on the Braves’ turf in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“I think when you’re in the same division, you end up facing them several times anyway,” LeBlanc said. “Whether it is the Braves, the Nationals or Mets, it doesn’t matter. It just ends up that’s the way the Spring Training rotation fell. My stuff and my approach is going to be a little different. Their approach is going to be a little bit different because we’re not working on things.”

The young Marlins will surely have their hands full against Medlen, who broke onto the scene last year when he went 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA. He walked four and struck out three in his first start of the year. He struck out two hitters in a perfect, nine-pitch fifth inning, with hopes to take that momentum into Tuesday’s start.

“The last two or three innings, I felt more comfortable,” Medlen said. “I made the adjustments I needed to make. I will just build off that and go from there.”

Marlins: Lots of new faces 
• With plenty of young faces in the rebuilding Marlins’ lineup, there isn’t much history for Mike Redmond to exploit when it comes to matchups.

“We get all this information and we look at all these matchups,” Redmond said. “If you look, most of our hitters have two or three at-bats maybe against the pitcher on the other team. It’s just they are very young in the Major Leagues. There is going to be some growing pains. Just have to get some at-bats under their belts.”

• The Marlins are opening up a nine-game, 10-day homestand after a six-game road trip to begin the year. Each of Miami’s three opponents will be from the National League East.

Braves: Uptons away 
• Justin and B.J. Upton have already shown why they could be so important to the Braves after coming over this offseason. In the series opener in Miami on Monday, Justin scored both of the game’s runs while hitting his sixth homer of the year. B.J. delivered his lone homer of the young season in Atlanta’s dramatic walk-off win over Chicago on Saturday.

Justin Upton hit five homers, scored seven runs and drove in seven runs (including three game-winning RBIs) to earn a National League Player of the Week nomination last week, while establishing a franchise record with the five homers in the team’s first five games.

• With this series, Atlanta opens a stretch of 18 games from April 8-28, with 16 of them coming on the road. The Braves’ only home games in the upcoming three-week stretch will be two contests against the Royals on April 16-17.

• The Braves are 6-1 to start the season for the first time since 2007, when they opened at 7-1.

Worth noting
• Marlins infielder Placido Polanco is a .310 (96-for-310) career hitter against Atlanta, while Donovan Solano has 13 hits in 15 career games against the Braves.

• The Braves won 14 of the 18 meetings between the two teams last year, including seven of nine at Marlins Park. Miami hasn’t had a winning season against Atlanta since 2009, when the Marlins went 10-8.

 

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.