After a near-sweep in Colorado, the Braves looked to be playing good baseball as they entered Detroit for a big-time, weekend showdown. Let’s take a quick look at what went down.
Friday, April 26th – Loss (10-0)
The score says it all, right? The Braves were absolutely decimated on Friday night, and if anything, the score wasn’t indicative of how lopsided the effort was. Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez was the star of the night, striking out seventeen Braves hitters in route to 8 shutout innings. The former Marlins hurler was picture-perfect throughout the night, and he made the lineup look utterly foolish. On the run prevention side, Paul Maholm’s fantastic start to the season crumbled on this night as he surrendered 8 earned runs (on 10 hits and 3 walks) through just 3.2 innings, and a 6-run 4th inning blew the game wide open. There are a handful of blowouts on the schedule in the Major Leagues, and hopefully, that’s the only explanation for the massacre here.
Saturday, April 27th – Loss (7-4)
Former Brave Omar Infante owned the day on Saturday. Infante went 3-for-4 (out of the 9th spot in the lineup), including a 2-run homer in the 4th inning that broke a 3-3 tie, and an RBI double in the 8th that extended Detroit’s lead from 5-4 to 6-4. This was the most back-and-forth game of the series (three lead changes), but the overall story was Detroit’s ability to get to Kris Medlen. After his stellar end to the 2012 season (where he was Maddux-like), Medlen hasn’t been quite as dominant, and he allowed 5 earned runs (on 10 hits) over 5.1 innings in this game. The Braves did manage to bang around Rick Porcello for 3 runs in the 3rd inning, but he was able to settle down after that, and the Braves wouldn’t scratch again until yet another Justin Upton home run in the 8th inning. On the bright side, Atlanta struck out “only” 10 times in this game.
Sunday, April 28th – Loss (8-3)
Sigh. The series-ending game was on national TV (ESPN), and the Braves failed to grab a win. Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera each bashed 3-run home runs that were the difference in the game, and that was a microcosm of the entire series. The Atlanta bats went to sleep after a 3-run 4th inning, as they combined for just 2 hits in the final 5 frames against Doug Fister, Al Alburquerque, and Jose Valverde. Mike Minor battled admirably on the mound for Atlanta, but clearly didn’t possess his best stuff (as evidenced by another Omar Infante home run on an inside fastball), and this isn’t the lineup to face without your full repertoire. It’s important to note that BJ Upton and Juan Francisco (against a right-hander) were conspicuously absent, but it was a pure “day off” for Upton, and the Francisco exclusion was a result of Fredi’s decision to start Pastornicky at 2nd base to move Uggla to the DH spot.
Overall, this went about as badly as a sweep could go. There was no late-inning drama, no “rallies”, and for a three-game snapshot, it looked like Detroit was the much, much better baseball team. Fortunately, it is only three games in April, and with Washington on the horizon this week (on a much-needed homestand), things could change in a hurry.