Monday, April 09, 2007

We're in First Place! End the Season Now!

After last year's pitching debacle, the last two days have been extremely rewarding for Braves fans. Holding the Mets' lineup to five runs in two games might be a function of cold, windy weather, but I'd like to also think that getting two quality starts and then having three reliable relievers had something to do with it. Mike Gonzalez looks far from dominant and Bob Wickman was VERY lucky on Saturday when Shawn Green laced a ball right at Craig Wilson with the tying run on second in the 9th, but last year's pen would have imploded in both instances. (What Wickman was doing walking Carlos Delgado in the 9th with a two-run lead, one out, and no one on base is a mystery to me, but gift horses and mouths and blah blah blah.)

Kyle Davies's start yesterday was extremely encouraging, as he held the Mets to two runs in almost seven innings while striking out eight. The only downside for him was allowing two homers. Davies was locating his pitches much better than he did last year, so this new delivery might have solved his problems. If Davies can continue to pitch at a high level, then the Braves will be in great shape in terms of starting pitching as they'll only need to find one decent starter out of Mike Hampton, Lance Cormier, and Mark Redman.

The major caveat that needs to be mentioned is that the Braves managed six hits in each of the three games and, as a result of the pounding they took on Friday night, have a dead-even run differential. In six games, the Braves have won a blowout, lost a blowout, and then won all four close games. I'd like to think that a team with three reliable relievers will win more than its share of close games, but 4-0 in close games indicates that the Braves are not as good as their record. (Insert standard caveat about the fact that we're only six games into the season and there isn't that much to be concluded at this point anyway.)

One other note from yesterday: Jeff Francoeur did nothing to detract from his image as a guy you want up at the plate in late and close situations with a game-winning, opposite field double that plated Brayan Pena. (I wasn't wild about Bobby's decision to life the team's best hitter [Brian McCann] for his marginally faster back-up, but it dodn't end up mattering.) Francoeur is, not surprisingly, walkless on the year and his .292 OBP through six games looks suspiciously like his .293 OBP last year, but he is doing a better job of hitting to all fields this season.

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