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Around the NL East: Braves back on top

May 13, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

ATLANTA BRAVES 

For a few weeks, it looked like the Braves were in the midst of an early season tailspin. Losers of seven straight games, their longest losing streak in two years, Atlanta saw its reign as division leader slip away as the Nationals and Marlins kept creeping up the standings. But after a solid week, the Braves were able to bounce back, snapping out of the losing streak by rattling off four wins in five games to regain their place atop the NL East.

And — no surprise — pitching led the way for Atlanta. In their four wins, the Braves rotation delivered quality starts in each game, allowing no more than two runs. Their pitching staff isn’t as deep as it was a year ago because of all the injuries suffered earlier in the year, but they still have enough talent to keep a club afloat. They might have to, after all, as the Braves are dead last in the majors in runs scored.

MIAMI MARLINS 

Raise your hand if you thought the Marlins would have a winning record in May and sitting in second place in the NL East. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

It may not always look pretty, but Miami’s gutting out close games behind the torrid start of slugger Giancarlo Stanton, as well as a pitching staff that features one of the game’s brightest young starters in Jose Fernandez. That being said, it wasn’t the best of weeks for Marlins, as they got swept in a four game series by the Padres. To make matters worse, the team got bad news Monday as reports surfaced that Fernandez’ elbow injury may lead to him having to undergo Tommy John surgery, which would end his season.

Needless to say, losing Fernandez would be a humungous blow, and not just to the team. The 21 year old prospect would join a long line of stud pitchers around the majors that have been shelved this year due to Tommy John surgery, and would continue a troubling trend in a league that wants its top pitchers on display.

NEW YORK METS

It was another tough week for the Mets, and once again, their bullpen continues to rear its ugly head. While getting swept by the Marlins early last week, the Mets allowed two of those three losses to come via a walk-off hit. And if that wasn’t enough, in the very next series against the Phillies, late-inning runs doomed New York in two more losses. Each loss seems to serve as another brutal reminder that their relievers just aren’t getting it done this year.

The Mets did end the week on a high note, however, taking the series finale against Philadelphia and then starting off the “Subway Series” with a 7-6 win over the Yankees. After they’re done with that set, they’ll head south on 95 to face the Nationals in DC.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Philly has probably had the roughtest week of all the division teams, losing five of their last seven games and dropping into last place behind the Mets.

The issue with the Phillies is simple: They are decidedly average-to-below average in many facets of the game. Right now they’re 24th in runs, scoring 3.9 per game, and are 24th in team ERA. The core players who were apart of the perennial playoff teams of recent years are getting older and, while not terrible, aren’t exactly putting up numbers that jump off the page. Guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz aren’t who they once were a few years ago, and the pitching staff doesn’t have anyone who’s pitched like an ace so far.

If the Phillies want to get back into this race, now would be an opportune time, as 14 of their next 17 games will be at home.

  1. ArVAFan - May 13, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Marlins are in 3rd place in the NL East–at least per MLB.com. But hey, I wouldn’t have expected them to have a wiinning record, and they do have that. For now. Until Fernandez’ spot comes up in the rotation.

    • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      Well, they were in 2d yesterday ;-)

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    “MIAMI MARLINS

    Raise your hand if you thought the Marlins would have a winning record in May and sitting in second place in the NL East. ”

    Check again, Nats are in 2nd place and Marlins are in 3rd place.

  3. veejh - May 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    I picked em to finish 3rd this season, so Im not too shocked. Losing Fernandez is awful.

  4. adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    Wonk’s Tuesday’s Tidbits

    – Last night:
    — D-backs: 4-11 RISP, 5 runs scored.
    — Nationals: 0-3 RISP, 6 runs scored.

    – Span and Rendon are among those tied for the league lead in triples, with 3 each. Span is also 3rd hardest to K in the NL.

    – Cubs hit for the cycle in the first inning, scoring at total of 17 runs last night. (OTOH, Cubs’ starter Samardzija has a 1.45 ERA, but is 0-3 because the Cubs have totaled 15 runs in his eight starts.) In last night’s game, Randy Choate allowed 6 runs in the ninth, and finally got pulled and utility infielder Daniel Descalso pitched the last out (his first pitching appearance in his MLB (and MiLB) career.)

    – Ubaldo Jimemez: April 0-4, 6.59 ERA; May 2-0, 0.71 ERA

    – Royals Alcides Escobar has more grand slams than the entire American League West.

    – Astros got 11 hits! Alas, however, they were 1-11 in RISP, and zero runs scored — the fifth time they’ve been shut out already.

    – Mets-Yanks exciting ending: trailing 7-4 going into the 8th, Mets score 2, and then 3 more in the 9th. In the bottom of the 9th, with one on and one out, gimpy Teixeira got a PH single off the wall (the implication being that a faster runner would have made it to 2d, but I haven’t seen the play). McCann came up to bat and the Mets put the shift on him. McCann smashed it to the right side, and lumbering Duda made a diving stop, and started a 3-5-3 (Wright covering 2d) bang-bang DP to end the game. (Check it out at Mets.com).

    – Mets are the only team in the modern era to have three starting pitchers make their MLB debut with a scoreless 5+ IP start (meaning, when they left the game in the 6th or later inning, it was still a shutout) — Matt Harvey, Collin McHugh and Zack Wheeler. (All within the last 10 years).

    – Alfonso Soriano became the 7th player in history to get 1,000 hits in both leagues. (I could ask the trivia question: who are the other six, but I don’t know the full answer. We could see, as a fun project, if as a group we can name the other six, however.)

    • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 2:06 PM

      Interesting tidbit I just discovered and should have included:

      – Ian Desmond is tied for the NL lead with 8 GIDP
      — The Nats have the third lowest GIDP in the league with just 19

      • knoxvillenat - May 13, 2014 at 3:37 PM

        Ian Desmond is tied for the NL lead with 8 GIDP
        – The Nats have the third lowest GIDP in the league with just 19

        Ryan Zimmerman has been on the DL for quite sometime now. I would venture that both of these stats would change after he returns to the lineup.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 13, 2014 at 5:04 PM

        As to Ian’s GIDP stat? Don’t forget that Harper broke up at least 2 more sure double plays with hard slides into 2B, including the one when he got the Met’s 2nd baseman’s knee in the head. That doesn’t show up on your stats sheets.

      • Hiram Hover - May 13, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        I think with GIDP as with other things, it’s more useful to look at the rate rather than just the counting state–that is, he had 8 GIDP, but how often was he faced with a situation where that was possible? Bbref.com has the #s.

        In Ian’s case, his GIDP rate is 17%. League average is 10%, so he’s high.

        But the other players with 8 GIDP all have higher rates–Alex Rios and Alberto Callaspo (24%) and Aramis Ramirez (32%).

        On the Nats, Scott Hairston is at 20%. Bryce Harper and Sandy Leon are at 13%.

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 8:49 PM

        Nice!

        My point, fwiw, was not to criticize Ian. It was more to point out that even though the NL leader is on the Nats, the Nats still have among the lowest total in the NL.

        A more interesting question, HH, now that you’ve brought it up: how do that Nats compare, overall, in terms of GIDP rate?

    • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      Frank Robinson would be one of the other six, right?

      • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 5:11 PM

        oops. very late to the party.

  5. Eugene in Oregon - May 13, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Off topic, but a serious question (i.e., no hidden agenda, just trying to understand): What is the reasoning/rationale/logic behind the Nats carrying three catchers right now?

    • zmunchkin - May 13, 2014 at 3:01 PM

      Pure guess on my part. But MW is a fan of lefty/righty and vice-versa matchups. I wonder if both Lobaton and Leon being switch hitters is the rationale. He can use one as a PH. If they are still carrying 3 when RZ comes back and Espi goes to the bench, sending Leon down then to free up a spot for RZ might explain it.

    • tcostant - May 13, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      I’m not saying I agree with it, but I think they like the idea of having Lobaton or Ramos (whoever is not starting) as a late PH off the bench, with no risk that you won’t have a real catcher on the bench if an injury hits the starter (after the other PH) occurs. Moore is now up for ALR, but they basicly were saying that they liked Lobaton or Ramos off the bench more than Moore in those late game situation.

    • Section 222 - May 13, 2014 at 5:13 PM

      I’m saying I agree with it, until Zim comes back at least. Ramos ought to be the first choice for PH duty in a high leverage situation in any game he doesn’t start. He’s a better hitter than any of our othe bench guys.

    • Eugene in Oregon - May 13, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. natsguy - May 13, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Bad decision by management is all I can come up with.

  7. 3on2out - May 13, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    First on the list: Frank Robinson?

    • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 3:03 PM

      Yes. So now we have two: Frank Robbie, and Alfonso Soriano.

      Five to go!

      • chiefwj - May 13, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        Vlad Guerrero
        Dave Winfield
        Fred McGriff

        I think Beltran is close but not there yet.

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 3:12 PM

        Very good. Yes, Beltran is close (1300+ in the NL, and 929 in the AL).

        So, so we have five. Two more to go. (Hint: both retired after 2010)

        (Another hint: one (besides Vlad) played for the Expos)

      • zmunchkin - May 13, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        Carlos Lee and Orlando Cabrera

      • adcwonk - May 13, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Carlos Lee and Orlando Cabrera

        Ding ding ding. We have our seven!

        Frank Robinson
        Dave Winfield
        Fred McGriff
        Valdimir Guerrero
        Carlos Lee
        Orlando Cabrera
        Alfonso Soriano.

        And extra credit to us (via chiefwj) for noting that Beltran might be the 8th by the end of this season.

      • tcostant - May 13, 2014 at 3:46 PM

        How about Ichiro, 2,000 hits in each league (MLB and Japan)!

      • tcostant - May 13, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        I stand corrected, while he has over 4,000 total hits, only 1,278 were in Japan.

        http://japaneseballplayers.com/en/player.php?id=ichiro

  8. TimDz - May 13, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    From mlbtraderumors (I finally got a question answered)

    [ Comment From TimDzTimDz]
    Who comes out of the NL East in October?

    Tuesday May 13, 20142:28

    2:29 Steve Adams: I still think the Nats are the best team in that division. Crushed by injuries so far, but they’re staying afloat in spite of that.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 13, 2014 at 4:20 PM

      Exactly. Smart money is on the Nats.

    • zmunchkin - May 13, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      The Braves and Nats were expected to compete most of the year.

      The Braves have been down one starter. They lost two starters to TJ, but they signed an equivalent pitcher in Santana. I believe they’ve had most/all of their position starters all year.

      The Nats, until just recently, were also down one starter (Fister) AND have only had their 8 position starters for 1 game the entire year. And they have been down 2 or 3 position players for most of the year.

      Given that, and assuming that the Nats get healthy, the Braves should be very worried that they are only up 1.5 games on the depleted Nats.

  9. David Proctor - May 13, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Matt Gelb
    ‏@magelb
    Ruben Amaro Jr. was asked if he regretted his decision to discard Kevin Frandsen. “Not at all,” he said. “No.”

    • Joe Seamhead - May 13, 2014 at 6:05 PM

      Ruben Amaro is probably the very worst executive in MLB and the worst GM of any American sports teams. The Phillies are toast for several years to come with the idiotic trades and signings that guy has made.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 78 58 -- 19
ATLANTA 72 66 7.0
MIAMI 67 69 11.0
NEW YORK 64 74 15.0
PHILADELPHIA 63 74 15.5
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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