Hello again, everybody. As you may have noticed, I've been gone for a couple weeks (I got married!). How'd everything go in my absence? Pretty good? Nobody's panicking or anything like that, right?
Seriously, though, I last posted a story on TC on the morning of September 2nd... Since then, the Braves have lost 9 of 14 games and fallen 3 games back of the Phillies in the NL East. Good job holding down the fort, everybody (kidding). However, it could be worse. We are still leading the wild card (by a slim half-game over the similarly plunging Padres), so if we can right the ship here in the last 5 series, we've still got an excellent chance to make the playoffs.
This series begins the final regular-season road trip of Bobby Cox's managerial career. Hopefully the Braves can hype themselves up enough to make this a winning road trip so that Bobby doesn't have to slink off into the sunset after another postseason-less campaign.
As for the Mets, they've won 7 out of 9 to once again rise above the .500 mark. And before you say, "Well, 6 of those 7 wins were against the Pirates and Nats," remember that the Braves haven't exactly dominated those two cellar-dwellers lately. Let's hope that the Braves can put up a bit more of a fight than the Buccos did. Otherwise, this long September is going to get even longer.
The big Mets news items lately have all been related to (what else?) injuries: Jennry Mejia, Johan Santana, and Jason Bay are all likely done for the year. I'm starting to think that Mets management might not know what it is doing with the whole "Prevention and Recovery" thing.
Pitching matchups after the jump.
Friday, 7:00 ET: Tommy Hanson (5.93 IP/S, 3.54 ERA, 3.35 FIP) vs. Jon Niese (5.98 IP/S, 3.85 ERA, 4.12 FIP)
Big Red has pitched very well in his last 3 starts (4 ER in 20 IP, only 3 BB to 12 K), including a dominant 7-shutout-inning performance against the Mets in Atlanta. Niese, a 23-year-old left-hander, has been consistently solid all year for the Mets. He has hit a bit of a rough patch in his last 4 starts (18 ER in 23.1 IP), though his strikeout and walk rates have been just fine in that time (24 K, 10 BB). In one of those starts, he gave up 8 runs (3 earned) on 10 hits to the Braves. Hopefully Derrek Lee and the Braves' other right-handed batters can repeat that performance against Niese.
Saturday, 4:00 ET: Tim Hudson (6.77 IP/S, 2.62 ERA, 3.81 FIP) vs. Dillon Gee (6.50 IP/S, 0.69 ERA, 4.63 FIP)
Huddy has hit his first extended rough patch of 2010 lately, but I'm sure he'll get back on track soon. We need him to step up and be the ace of the staff. Gee, a 24-year-old rookie right-hander, has made two very good starts with the big league club since being called up this month. His peripherals, however, aren't that great (7 K and 7 BB in 13 IP), so a regression from that microscopic ERA would seem to be in order. Gee was decent for AAA Buffalo this year, putting up good K and BB rates (8.91 K/9, 2.28 BB/9) but giving up a fair number of homers (1.17 HR/9).
Sunday, 1:00 ET: Derek Lowe (5.90 IP/S, 4.22 ERA, 4.03 FIP) vs. R.A. Dickey (6.71 IP/S, 2.80 ERA, 3.63 FIP)
Since having his spot in the rotation skipped, Lowe has surprisingly been the Braves' best starter. He even set a career high with 12 strikeouts his last time out. Hopefully, he can keep up that strong work on Sunday, because Dickey and his knuckleballs-of-many-speeds are a tough matchup. I'm starting to believe that Dickey's renaissance is real; while he is 35 and has never even been average before this season, his peripherals are good enough to indicate that he is now at least a solid starter (though that 2.80 ERA is probably not sustainable).
I know you guys are probably frustrated, but I also hope you haven't given up or anything silly like that. The Braves are still in a very good position, and all it takes is one winning streak to turn our fortunes around. More importantly, what kind of message does it send to Bobby and the players if we start losing hope at the first sign of trouble? They've worked hard all year, and played well for much of it; the only thing we can do is keep watching and rooting.
Go Braves! Let's win this series for Bobby!