Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 9:00 PM
That devastating 0-8 Western swing for the Atlanta Braves has put them in a virtual “must-win” spot Sunday Night against NL East leading Washington in a game you can watch on ESPN. Winning a blowout in the series opener put an end to the long losing streak. But, unless Washington has their own long losing streak coming up in the very near future…Atlanta must take whatever action they can to stay within striking distance.
If you weren’t paying attention because you were gearing up for football…
*Atlanta went 0-3 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers
*Atlanta went 0-3 in San Diego against the lowly Padres (dropping two in extra innings)
*Atlanta went 0-2 in Seattle against the middling Mariners
They began that road trip 10 games over .500, and very much in the thick of the NL East and Wildcard races. Obviously, eight straight losses drops you to only two games over .500. There’s no way a record like that would reach the postseason barring a miracle. Atlanta needs to climb back up to around +10 so an 86-76 final record would give them a shot at qualifying for the brackets.
Unsurprisingly, Atlanta’s meek offense was a big problem in the West Coast pitcher’s parks. Here’s there scoring line on a game by game basis: 4-2-1-1-2-3-2-3. It’s asking way too much of your pitching staff to throw gems every single day! The staff actually did throw a few gems on that trip, but the team still couldn’t win.
Given that, let’s see how the offenses compare as we transition to the numbers in our TV preview…
Washington: 4.21 runs per game, .317 on-base, .383 slugging
Atlanta: 3.77 runs per game, .309 on-base, .371 slugging
Atlanta has the worst offense in the NL East, and the third worst offense in the National League. Very tough to make a run at 90 wins with no offense at all. Washington ranks in the top 4-5 depending on the adjustments you make for ballpark effects. They have a clear advantage in run scoring, though their category edges aren’t quite as big as you’d expect. Edge to the Nats with the bats.
Gio Gonzalez: 4.01 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.2 K-Rate
Travis Wood: 3.20 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.8 K-Rate
Washington has lost four of Gio’s last five starts, as his ERA has risen half a run after what had been a string of gems. If you’re been reading our previews all season, you know that numbers like 4.01 and 1.27 aren’t very good in a “year of the pitcher” in a mediocre division. The media is spending a lot of time on how Steven Strasburg has struggled so badly on the road (he got rocked Friday Night on this field in the series opener, which is really stunning considering how cold Atlanta’s bats had been on that road trip!). Gonzalez has also been a disappointment. Atlanta’s actually lost five of the last six Wood starts even though his ERA hasn’t changed! He’s been hurt badly by a lack of run support, as was the whole pitching staff on that dismal Western swing. We’re deep into the season, so the pitching numbers are meaningful. Edge to Wood on the mound.
Looks very close to a coin flip in the numbers, with Atlanta getting a slight boost for playing at home without having to worry about travel the next day. Though, the Braves have to worry about seven straight days against the LA Dodgers and Oakland A’s! Talk about MUST-WIN! Their season really could “end” for all intents and purposes if they struggle through this particular stretch of the calendar.
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Back with you Monday for more baseball. Here’s this week’s planned NOTEBOOK schedule…
Monday: MLB Series Preview: Detroit at Pittsburgh
Tuesday: MLB Big Game Preview: either LAD/Atlanta or Oakland/Kansas City
Wednesday: MLB TV Preview: NY Yankees at Baltimore on ESPN
Thursday: AFC South Preview (Jacksonville/Chicago on ESPN)
Friday: AFC East Preview: (New England hosts Philadelphia on NFL Network)
Saturday: AFC North Preview: (Baltimore/Dallas on NFL Network)
Sunday: AFC West Preview: (Denver/SF on NFLN, Kansas City/Carolina on FOX)
Monday 8/18: NFL Big Game Preview: Johnny Manziel vs. RGIII in Cleveland/Washington!
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