Nationals 4, Braves 1

Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals – Box Score – August 21, 2012

In 14 games against the Braves this year, the Washington Nationals are 10-4 with a 77- 52 run differential. Last night, Stephen Strasburg faced Paul Maholm, and the Nationals won 4-1, which is sort of exactly what you expect would happen when Stephen Strasburg faces Paul Maholm.

The positives: Maholm went seven innings, and though he allowed four runs he had a 6:1 strikeout to walk ratio. In four starts as a Brave, Maholm has never gone fewer than seven innings, and in his 30 Braves innings he has struck out 26 while walking only 6. The guy isn’t a stud, but he’s a number four starter who’s pitching like a 2/3 starter, and that’s exactly what we need right now.

Of course, we could also use an offense. On their current four-game losing streak, the Braves have scored a total of seven runs on 26 hits. They’ve also received 19 (!) walks in that span, which they’ve largely squandered.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say that Dan Uggla and Brian McCann’s nearly season-long struggles have been hurting the team. We basically have a five-and-a-half man lineup depending on whether Chipper’s healthy and which Juan Francisco shows up, the one who swings at everything or the one who sometimes looks like he’s learning to be patient.

This team is going to be streaky, of course. It always has been. It’s still one of the best teams in the majors. We just aren’t as good as the Nationals. If you stop thinking about them as the Expos, and start thinking about them as the best team in baseball, it becomes easier to swallow.

Hey, we’re still a juggernaut in the two-team wild card race. What could go wrong?

127 thoughts on “Nationals 4, Braves 1”

  1. 4 consecutive losses at a crucial time, we will see how this team responds. Does Fredi survive blowing another huge wild card lead? Not so sure, even though he’s improved since last season. Does Wren survive? Hopefully, this team bounces back. We have a busy enough offseason.

    3 for 30, RISP last 4 games. Heyward has been the only bright spot it seems lately.

  2. Actually, the Expos were pretty damn good in 1994 until the strike/lockout. They were six games ahead and beginning to pull away. The Nats remind me of that Expos team except this team has better pitching. Strasburg is clearly better than anyone the Expos had.

    For the most part, even very good teams have at least one player having a bad year. I can’t think of any team that has 8 guys having great years. But, of course, when you have two main guys having bad years, that makes it very tough, especially when you don’t have dominant pitching. Let’s face it, no one expected Uggla to be as bad as he has been for stretches of the last two years. And, until the All-Star break last year, McCann seemed like he was on a HOF trajectory. Both of these guys are playing like replacement players and it’s hard to overcome that. I think Uggla is more important than McCann because he is the only significant right-hand hitter (I know Chipper is a switch hitter) in the line-up. When he hits, this is a pretty devastating team. But it’s beginning to look like the Marlins knew what they were doing when they dumped Uggla.

  3. Strasburg isn’t clearly better than Pedro Martinez was. The rest of the rotation, however, is far, far superior to the rest of the ’94 Expos rotation.

  4. Not to pick on Marc’s every assertion, but I’ve never felt that McCann has been on a HOF trajectory. He’s been consistently very good, and I happen to think he’ll be good again, but he’s never been a dominant player in any respect besides All-Star selections. And while six straight ASGs are impressive, good catchers tend to make a lot of ASGs, so you have to discount it just a bit in terms of a HOF resume. Lance Parrish, Del Crandall, and Walker Cooper, all decent comps for McCann, made eight ASGs, and none of them made much noise in HOF balloting.

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Uggla goes on a long productive streak starting soon. To my eyes, it looks like his swing is slightly off (producing a lot of pop-ups), he’s not seeing the ball well, and appears to be guessing wrong at pitches. When he was going well last year it seemed like he was in 2 – 0 and 3 – 1 counts in every at-bat; this year, seems he’s started in an 0 – 2 hole most times. He’s obviously a streaky hitter and I think he’ll get it together soon.

  6. FWIW, this year’s Strasburg is a little better than that year’s Pedro.

    Pedro in ’94 wasn’t yet Pedro!

    He went into the phone booth in 1997.

  7. @10
    We need someone to go into a phone booth.
    Do they still exist?

    Along that line, NickH above suggests that Uggla might be the one and wouldn’t that be great?
    Maybe we don’t need a hero, that grinding will be enough.
    After this nasty series with the Giants, the schedule looks easier, with what now seems like an intriguing last series with the Pirates.

    Yes, AAR, what could go wrong, indeed?

  8. Seems like the Braves are really, really good at beating up bad teams, and also pretty good at getting beat up by the elite.

    That’s the sort of equation that keeps you in playoff contention, without ever making you a threat to do anything once there. Not sure I’d like our chances against any decent team in a playoff series, or even in a one-off.

  9. also pretty good at getting beat up by the elite.

    Except for Washington who has taken 12 of the last 16 against us. We cant hit their pitching. Its probably highly likely that we would face Washington if we did win that one game playoff.

  10. It’s weird, because it is a complete change from Braves teams of recent past, when seemed they would compete with any team, but fail to really beat up on the dregs of the league. I think it might have something to do with the team changing from poor hitting/good pitching to poor pitching/good hitting.

    Of course they still got beat up by the Phillies in those years, now it’s just the Nats.

  11. Washington Nationals, best team in the National League. If you would have said that pre seaseon, someone would have snatched your crack pipe away.

    Considering that McCann and Uggla haven’t been consistent at all we’re doing pretty good. 2012 Braves are a collection of good but not great players. I think we had better get used to that condition.

  12. Alex,

    I had forgotten that Pedro was on that team. But Pedro in 1994 wasn’t as good as Strasburg is now. As far as saying, though, that Pedro was better than Strasburg will ever be, I don’t know how you can say that at this point. The chances are it’s true, given how good Pedro was, but it’s not a slam dunk.

    Sansho,

    I agree with you about McCann. I exaggerated a bit in my comment to make the point that his career path has really changed.

  13. I would say both Bourn and Heyward are great right now, not merely good. Prado could join them with another hot streak.

  14. Washington is becoming the new Tampa Bay Rays. The criticism on the Tampa Bay Rays’ success is that they were the beneficiaries of drafting players at the top of the draft because they were bad for such a long time. Well, that’s the point of getting those picks, and the Rays have drafted well with those picks. The Royals, Pirates (until recently), the Twins, etc. have not drafted well. The Nationals also have, and that’s why they are where they are. They deserve their success, and they will continue to be successful as they have a young nucleus of awesome players. The Braves better start drafting well or the Nationals are going to go on a run of consecutive division titles, ya know, like when the Braves drafted well in the 90’s.

    I really don’t see what the Nationals are doing changing anytime soon. They have great players who are playing great. They also have great YOUNG players whereas the Phillies HAD great OLD players. The Braves… kinda have neither.

  15. And yet Bourn is still fifth in batter fWAR and is perhaps the best defender in baseball at his position.

  16. Yeah Bourn and Prado have been pretty pedestrian lately. I wouldn’t be upset if neither wore a Braves uniform next year. They are replaceable parts, not franchise players. I know I’m in the minority with that opinion.

  17. @24 – Good players are tough to find. They certainly not easily replaceable.

    Hopefully those 2 can creep back up to good becuase those second half slash lines pretty much suck.

  18. I have a personal bias for high SLG players. I know Bourn and Prado are good … they just aren’t my types of players.

    Put Prado at 2B and he can stay ;-)

  19. Prado, Bourn, Heyward, and Uggla are 4 of the top 20 in games played. Time for Reed Johnson to get another round of starts, I think.

  20. It is interesting that the Braves record against the Marlins, Phillies, and Mets is 25-11; against everyone else it’s 45-42.

    Nevertheless, it’s easy to overreact to these last four games, especially after last year. They weren’t facing slouches on the mound against the Dodgers and Nationals and they actually did pretty well against Zimmermann, who arguably has been the Nationals’ best pitcher. It’s not as if teams don’t have four game losing streaks during the season; the Braves’ problem has been the Nats have been exceptionally hot and they play well against the Braves.

  21. Mark Bowman ‏@mlbbowman
    Uggla: .158 BA (6-for-38) w/ 5 XBH and 13 K since 3-hit game on 8/8…McCann .136 (6-for-44) w/ 0 XBH this month

  22. I know I said this last night, but I hope Wren finds a way to dump Uggla in the offseason. I’d be happier with Janish at 2B. At least then we would have the joy of watching a great infield defense, something we haven’t experienced since the old days of Belliard and the Lemmer. Pitching and Defense and the ghost of Bobby Cox.

  23. If I’m Wren: Delgado, Cunningham and Uggla for Dexter Fowler. Let Bourn walk, obviously (in two years everyone will be happy that we did). Lock up Prado, Heyward and Freeman. Use the leftover cash to extend Ross and sign/trade for a left-handed platoon partner for Johnson and a starter at 2B or 3B.

  24. Juan Francisco, David Ross, Eric Hinske, and Keith Lockhart are also better options at 2B than what we currently have.

  25. Why would the Rockies want Dan Uggla and his contract for Fowler? I assume you are saying make them take the contract for the other players but I seriously doubt they would do that. I don’t know anyone that would do that.

  26. Uggla will come around. The one thing you don’t want to do is sell low and eat a bunch of his contract. It would be different if there was a serious problem, but it looks like he just isn’t seeing the ball very well right now, and things will probably come together when he gets locked in again. I think Uggla will be pretty good over the next couple of years.

  27. I’m not sure I would lock up Freeman. I’m also not sure if that’s a controversial position to take, but I don’t expect him to be the kind of player to lock up and build around. He’ll be great to have while young and cheap.

  28. Uggla has hit over .300 during 1 of his 12 months as a Brave. He’s only had 2 months with an OBP over .370. Im not sure what kind of turnaround we should be expecting. He’s 32K’s away from a career high. Then there is his defense…

    Ill say this, if Swisher is able to get $100 mil this offseason then I will hold out hope that Uggla is still tradeable.

  29. Ok then. Tonights actual lineup

    Prado 7
    Johnson 8
    Heyward 9
    Jones 5
    Freeman 3
    Ross 2
    Pastornicky 4
    Janish 6
    Medlen 1

  30. Pastornicky and Janish next to each other in the same lineup?

    We need to be concerned about the moon colliding into the earth with the black hole those two put in the lineup.

  31. OK. I read the comments above and I see we should get rid of Uggla, McCann, Prado, and Bourn. Chipper is retiring. Freeman will not be extended. Hey I’m really looking forward to the 2013 version of this team.

  32. We could sign Andruw to play center and bring Crime Dog out of retirement. He needs to get to 500 homers anyway.

  33. Relax, Mike. We are only getting rid of those guys to clear space for Trout, Pujols, Longoria, and McCutchen. Miguel Cabrera will be our catcher.

  34. @32 – Once again I agree with what Marc says.

    However, I wouldn’t call any despondency over the last 4 games an overreaction. If the Braves were going to have a real shot at winning the division, then they were going to need to go 6-0 or 5-1 in the last two series of the season against Washington. Losing Monday and Tuesday killed that possibility (I know, I know “But the Braves, Red Sox and Mets have blown such leads!”) So my reaction right now is exactly what it should be – pissed that the Braves will spend the next 5 weeks playing for a spot in this new one-game, winner take all spot in the playoffs. That reality deserves a pretty strong reaction, in my opinion, since it really hurts their playoff success odds.

  35. I would be thrilled to get to the one-game playoff. It doesn’t affect our playoff success odds much because those odds are already terrible. With or without a play-in game we’re definitely huge underdogs against the Nationals in the first round.

  36. As much as I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Fredi’s managing this year, I’m going to have to disagree with this lineup. Winning the division is important, and games against the division leader are simply more important than other games. Rest your guys a different day, Fredi. It should be all hands on deck for the Gnats series.

  37. Eh. Bourn, Uggla, and McCann have really been struggling. I don’t mind giving them the day off. Guessing Prado would’ve been the one given the day off, with Bourn in the lineup, if we’d been facing a righty tonight.

  38. I think I’d rather have Bourn in the lineup than TPas, but yeah it’s hard to complain about how much these guys are all sucking and then complain again when they sit. Uggla and McCann have been so bad that right now *any* option is arguably better.

  39. Given the way these guys are hitting right now, do we stand a better chance with a)Ross, Johnson, and Pastornicky or b)McCann, Bourn, and Uggla? My money would reluctantly go to a. I can’t blame Fredi too much for tonight’s admittedly bad lineup. My preference would be to put Prado at 2nd, Johnson in left, Ross at catcher, and leave Bourn in center.

  40. 58- That’s a close call, but I’d have to go with group A). McCann needs to be backing up Ross rather than vice versa given his breakdown, and Bourn (and Prado, for that matter) need days off every so often. That trade with the Cubs looks better all the time, since Hinske and Constanza are guys you don’t ever want to start.

  41. When I mentioned potential replacements for Uggla, there was a good reason why I didn’t include Pastornicky.

  42. @37 – There are not many teams that would take Uggla even if we ate half his contract. But given how woeful their 2B situation is, the Rockies are one team that might have interest. And they need young MLB ready starting pitching more than they need anything else. They would love to have an arm like Delgado. Another factor is that Fowler is arbitration eligible. And there have been some stories floated in the Denver press about trading him.

  43. Trying to think of another Warner Brothers movie in which NBA players lose their talents and I can’t.

    The critics can say what they will about you, Thunderstruck, but you’ll always have your pioneering spirit.

  44. Heyward is almost a 7-win player, and probably one of the top 20 players in baseball, while not being able to hit lefties:

    vs. lefties: .626 OPS, .275 wOBA, 70 wRC+
    vs. righties: .995 OPS, .420 wOBA, 168 wRC+

    Imagine what he’ll become when he figures out how to hit southpaws at even a league average rate.

  45. Do pitchers really get that tired running the bases, or is that just an old announcer saw to fill dead air (and sound like overanxious mothers)?

  46. @80 – Well, 1st to home is a 90 yard dash (minus lead.) If you think of it that way, you get over it, but yeah, you could use a minute.

  47. The Scout feature on GameDay is usually merely annoying, but the .417 average that it says Medlen allows after 75 pitches is disturbing.

  48. And Medlen comes through again! I think he’s earned a Golden Ticket to stay in the rotation, even into the playoffs.

  49. Maybe I’m late to the party, but is misspelling Kris Medlen’s name on here as “Chris” or “Medlin” a meme on Braves Journal?

  50. That was a really clutch DP by Desmond. Ugly inning from O’Flaherty, but at least Kimbrel will get the ball in the 9th with the lead.

  51. 16 wins in a row on Medlen starts. That really is pretty impressive considering he hasn’t started *that* many games overall.

  52. Hey guys, I’m considering a trial run with mlb.tv for the rest of the season, having recently gone cable-less. I live in Atlanta though, so I’d have to watch replays of the home games (unless anyone has experience with proxy workarounds they’d like to share…) – how soon after the game does the replay become available?

  53. Huge win. We’re probably out of the division race, but tonight’s win salvaged a minuscule chance. If we can sweep them at home, that in effect gives us a little over a month to make up a three-game deficit, which is possible. If nothing else though, it’s just a huge win for our psyche. We were not swept by the Nationals, and we do not go to the West Coast having lost five in a row. We’re still in a very good position for the wild card, so it’s steady as she goes.

  54. Kimbrel just showed why in bottom of the 13th inning on Monday night, with a man on first and third and one out, Fredi was insane not to bring in Kimbrel. The chance of Martinez somehow slithering out of it versus the chance that Kimbrel will strike two guys out. We win that game and we’re only four back, with the wind in our sails. And he just sat on his effing hands.

  55. What’s wrong with Kimbrel? He has never had a four strike-out inning in his career.

    Have we been keeping Greg Maddux in the bullpen?

  56. 119/PeteOrr: I believe it’s a 90 minute delay. But it’s not just the home games–it’s all the games, if you’re in the team’s blackout zone. It strikes me as not worth it for someone in the blackout zone, but YMMV.

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