As the stretch run continues in major league baseball, Braves contributor ssiscribe gives us all the details on every Atlanta Braves baseball game. Before I show you guys his blog, I have a few notes to share. One, the Padres just beat the Rockies 11-9 in a game in which San Diego's "offense" put up 9 runs in the bottom of the fifth. This makes San Diego 1.5 games up on the Braves in the Wild Card race. Two, I am not one of those annoying editors who changes what people write when I post it up here, but I did think I would share my recognition of an error in scribe's blog. Chuck James had retired 16 straight batters, not 15 in his last start, not that big of a difference, just thought I would let you know. And, cardsox left a comment on scribe's page that Braves fans considered James a Cy Young candidate at the beginning of the season. That is not true. At best, we considered him a solid number three starter, but nothing more. Also, I will bold this so that my fanmail can fill up with stuff other than spam: We need contributors for playoff teams. I would like to have writers updating the daily games of teams that are in the hunt for the playoffs. Myself and ssiscribe will do the Braves. I am hoping that Cardsox* could give me a daily update on either the Red Sox or/and the Cardinals. Fanmail me with that info, cardsox. Others can fanmail requesting to become a contributor, and I will gladly give them that role. However, I will NOT be able to add blogs from this coming Saturday to the following Saturday, due to the fact that I will be on vacation at Virginia Beach and will not have access to a computer. With that said, this is ssiscribe's blog.
ATLANTA -- Want to see the difference between an ace and a middle-of-the-rotation guy?
Consider this: Tim Hudson has allowed five home runs all season. Chuck James gave up four in about 90 minutes Thursday night.
The Braves settled for a series win against the Giants but not a sweep, as James was taken deep again and again in a frustrating outing from the Mableton right-hander. James gave up six runs and five hits -- four of the hits going for home runs -- as the Giants salvaged the finale of the three-game set at Turner Field, downing the Braves 9-3.
The loss was costly in that it allowed Philadelphia to leap-frog over Atlanta and back into second place in the NL East. But it could've been worse. The Mets yakked up leads of 5-0 and 7-2, losing 10-7 in Pittsburgh as the Braves remained 3 1/2 games out in the East. Atlanta fell to one game behind San Diego for the lead in the NL wild-card chase, pending the Padres' late game against Colorado.
Thanks to James' inability to keep the ball in the park, the Braves never had a chance to lead. Down 3-0 after a three-run poke by Bengie Molina in the top of the first, Atlanta pulled within 3-2 after one inning. But James could not keep the Braves in the game, allowing solo homers in each of the next three innings as the Giants built a 6-2 advantage.
Think Bobby Cox was frustrated? He yanked James with two outs and nobody on, and the pitcher's spot due up, in the top of the fourth after James gave up his fourth homer of the game, a solo shot by Kevin Frandsen that crashed off the left-field foul pole.
James continues to be somewhat of an enigma. In his last start, he was handed a 4-0 lead on the road at Philadelphia, proceeded to give the four runs back, then retired 15 consecutive hitters. Even with Thursday's loss, James is 9-9 on the season with a 4.22 ERA, hardly the numbers of some working stiff on the fringe of a trip back to Triple-A.
Still, James' inability to pitch deep into games -- in 25 starts, he's failed to pitch six innings 16 times -- is frustrating for the Braves. James occupies the No. 3 spot in the rotation, and considering his 11-4 showing last season once he was added to the rotation in June, and the fact the Braves have struggled to find a consistent starter beyond John Smoltz and Hudson this season (until journeymen Buddy Carlyle established himself), James' lack of endurance and focus is maddening.
It could prove to be a big hinderance to the Braves' postseason aspirations. Smoltz and Hudson give the Braves the 1-2 punch they need to win playoff series, and with the recent upgrade of Mark Teixeira to the offense, Atlanta definitely has the tools it needs to win in October. But first, the Braves must get there, and to do that in the ultra-tight NL playoff chase, the Braves have to rely on more than Smoltz, Hudson and three days of rain.
Carlyle, at 29, is one of the better stories in baseball this season. But James is the No. 3 starter, and should be stepping up to take control. He needs to do that if he, and his team, hope to play beyond Sept. 30.