Almost a nice win for the Braves last night, but Cox, Mazzone, and Kolb combined to blow it. I only assign some blame to Cox and Mazzone for leaving Kolb in for a second inning, especially when it was clear that he did not have anything left for the 10th inning. It worries me that they don't have confidence in the rest of the pen. Reitsma was out after having pitched two straight games, but what about Colon or Gryboski, who hadn't thrown in days, or Sosa, who hadn't thrown since Friday night? Kolb was extremely annoying. Walking David Bell and Mike Lieberthal, two mediocre hitters who are unlikely to get anything more than a single if Estrada told them what pitch was coming a la Crash Davis, is inexcusable. I worried about Kolb giving up hits because he can't get strikeouts, but the lack of control is something new and worrying, including his throws to third base. Kolb is not responding well to the pressure of playing in meaningful games. The natural inclination is to make Reitsma the closer, but Cox is patient and that's one of his virtues, so we'll see how this plays out.
Lost in Kolb's shaky pitching is the fact that this team is not scoring runs. They managed two runs in the final two games of the series against the Phils. To me, the primary problem is that the Braves' hitters are far too anxious and swing at too many pitches out of the strikezone. As a result, guys like Brett Myers and John Lieber can coast through games without running up significant pitch counts. The Braves are next-to-last in the NL in OBP right now and 14th in walks. (Bizarrely, the Cardinals are last in both categories.) Here are the worst offenders:
Raul Mondesi - one BB in 40 ABs
Pete Orr - one BB in 33 ABs
Rafael Furcal - two BBs in 53 ABs (YOU'RE A 5'7 LEADOFF HITTER IN A CONTRACT YEAR!)
Brian Jordan - two BBs in 42 ABs
Adam LaRoche - three walks in 36 ABs
Eddie Perez - no walks in 18 ABs
Julio Franco - no walks in 14 ABs
Either this team is going to start showing some plate discipline or opposing pitchers are going to continue to get them out with balls out of the zone. Not coincidentally, Chipper is leading the team in walks and is the only guy who has managed to produce any offense.