The Braves had every opportunity to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Pirates on Sunday. They had the lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but Jim Johnson was unable to lock it down and the game went to extras. The Braves once again had a lead going into the 10th thanks to the team playing A-B-C baseball to manufacture a run, but the Pirates jumped on Jose Ramirez in the bottom of the 10th, and a leadoff double led to a walk-off homer from Starling Marte. Thus, another good performance from Julio Teheran and a four-hit, two-homer day from Freddie Freeman were both wasted.
We’re only one week in and the Braves are off to a bit of a slow start, but you can’t blame the rotation. Aside from a rough season debut from Mike Foltynewicz, Cory McCartney of Fox Sports South has noted that the rotation has definitely been solid and the obvious hope is that they’ll continue to keep this form up as the season rolls along. Now, if only the bullpen can get going, then things will really get rolling, eh?
Colon delivered a QS in his debut with six innings of one-run ball Wednesday vs. the Mets. Meanwhile, Garcia gave up four innings in his six innings Thursday in New York and Dickey was an out shy of a quality start of his own in Saturday's loss in Pittsburgh (he gave up three earned in 5 2/3).
On the down side, the mental side of the game continues to plague Mike Foltnyewicz, who lasted just 3 2/3 Friday vs. the Pirates and might be skipped in his next start and come out of the bullpen.
Meanwhile, things are probably going to get interesting when it comes to the rotation. Last week, it seemed like Mike Foltynewicz was in line to make the start for Opening Day at SunTrust Park, but thanks to two off-days this week and the flip-flop between Folty and Dickey due to the weather in Pittsburgh, we could now see the Braves employ a four-man rotation this week and force Folty into long-relief duty. Mark Bowman has more details.
"There are two or three different ways we can go just to try to keep the bulk [of the rotation] on a somewhat regular schedule, instead of going seven or eight days in between starts," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I don't know if there is any right or wrong answer, but we want to keep as many of them as close to normal as you can."
It sounds like the Braves are leaning to essentially use a four-man rotation next and possibly give Mike Foltynewicz a multi-inning relief appearance Tuesday or Wednesday in Miami. Foltynewicz started Friday's opener of the current three-game set in Pittsburgh, and might not make another start until the Nationals come to Atlanta for a three-game series April 18-20.
After being released from the Rockies earlier this week, Jason Motte is back with a baseball organization as he’s signed a minor league deal with the Braves. He was released one year after signing a two-year deal with Colorado, so it’s safe to say that he’s probably not the salve for the Braves (way too early) bullpen issues. Still, he could serve as nice organizational depth.
The big roster news last week for the Braves was the signing of Ryan Howard to a minor-league deal. At first glance, you figure that it’s a typical low-risk signing of a veteran that makes a bit of sense for the Braves when you consider the quality (or lack thereof) of their bench. However, David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweetspot blog made the argument that the signing didn’t make sense for the Braves.
So maybe the Braves view him as a viable pinch-hitting option or a designated hitter in AL parks. Of course, we also have a five-year track record indicating that his second-half surge won't be replicated. We also know that he can't hit lefties at all, which means even his usefulness as a pinch-hitter may be limited. If he's called upon in a tight spot, there's a chance the opposing manager will simply counter with a lefty out of the bullpen, forcing the Braves to burn a bench player or let Howard flail away (he's hit .180 against lefties since 2012 and .128 the past two seasons).
The Seattle Mariners are currently 1-6, and their most recent loss is probably their most painful loss yet. They went into the bottom of the ninth inning up by six runs, but Albert Pujols led off the inning with a solo homer and the avalanche kept on going from there. The Angels were able to make it 9-7 with two outs, and a two-RBI single from Pujols (again) tied it, and Cliff Pennington completed the comeback with a single to win it for the Angels.
The Nationals went up to Philadelphia for a weekend series and things got rough for them. The Phillies ended up winning the series thanks to a walk-off victory on Sunday, but the biggest damage came on Saturday. That’s when the Phillies exploded for 12 runs in the first inning alone, and scored 17 for the entire game. It’s early yet, but that will probably be the offensive highlight of the season for Philly and the overall lowlight for the Nats.