After 20 games in 20 days, including an 11-game west-coast road trip, the Braves have finally reached a well-earned off day. In that 20-game stretch, they went 14-6 and picked up 7 games on the Phillies. They finished the grueling road trip with a 6-5 record. They haven't lost a series since a 3-game set in Philadelphia from May 7th-9th, a span of 11 series (8 wins, 3 ties). Suffice to say, the Braves have been playing very well for a long time.
As well as the Braves were playing, I had my doubts that they could win this Twins series. The team looked less than sharp in splitting the D'backs series. Plus, lots of guys have been nursing nagging injuries and some guys in the bullpen had been overworked. Not to mention that we were playing a first-place team in their home park (in which they had a 20-10 record before this series). But, with the help of some excellent pitching and a ballsy suicide squeeze, the Braves found a way to take the last two games and win the series.
All in all, it was an entertaining, well-played series between two evenly matched foes. While the Braves didn't sweep the Twins by the 40-2 combined score that I had dreamed of, I'm perfectly satisfied with taking 2/3 by a combined score of 11-7. Here are the Talking Chop recaps and FanGraphs pages for each game, in case you missed them:
I hand out my Series Awards after the jump.
Braves' Pitching MVPs
The starters. Each pitched into the 8th inning, allowing the bullpen to get some rest, and each pitched well. Here is the combined line of Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Kris Medlen: 23.1 IP, 17 H, 7 R (2.70 ERA), 5 BB, 11 K, and a total 0.403 WPA.
Special Managing Award
Bobby Cox, for his expert use of NL-style baseball in the 9th inning of Saturday's game. With the game on the line, Bobby called for a hit-and-run, followed by a suicide squeeze--and both worked to perfection, allowing the Braves to score the winning run. Great job, Bobby.
Twins' Pitching MVP
Francisco Liriano-- 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 11 K, and a 0.417 WPA
Braves' Pitching LVP
Nobody. The only pitcher with a negative WPA in the series was Peter Moylan, and he only faced 1 batter, so nobody really deserves it.
Twins' Pitching LVP
Kevin Slowey-- 4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R (5 ER), 1 BB, 6 K, and a -0.305 WPA
Twins' Hitting LVPs
Justin Morneau-- 1/11, R, IBB, K, and a -0.090 WPA (great job by the Braves' pitchers in shutting down Morneau!)
Trevor Plouffe-- 0/10, 2 Sac bunts, 3 K, Error, and a -0.211 WPA
Nick Punto-- 1/9, 2B, BB, 3 K, and a -0.189 WPA
Jim Thome-- 0/3, BB, 2 K, and a -0.215 WPA
Denard Span-- 2/9, R, and a -0.178 WPA
I hope the team enjoys its off day today and comes back strong. In particular, I hope Jason Heyward enjoys being able to have a whole day off (assuming Bobby doesn't find a way to start him in a AAA game, you know, "just to keep him sharp"). Jason--and everyone else on the team--will need to be rested, because the Rays series is going to be tough. If we can somehow win that one, too, maybe the pundits will start taking us seriously as playoff contenders (oh wait, we don't play in the Northeast, so of course they won't).