A lack of starting pitching depth is a big reason why the Atlanta Braves’ record streak of division titles has come to an end. Chuck James, however, is proving he can be part of a foundation for future runs at the NL East crown.
James looks to win his fifth straight start and eighth straight decision Tuesday as he leads the Braves in the middle game of their series against the last-place Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium.
James (10-3, 3.33 ERA) hasn’t lost since Aug. 4, when he gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings against Cincinnati, and has a 1.73 ERA in his last eight starts. He is one of just two Atlanta starters with an ERA below 4.40.
“It’s easy to say Tom Glavine,” Atlanta manager Cox said when asked to compare the rookie to a left-hander who helped anchor one of baseball’s best rotations from 1991-2002. “(James is) probably not as smooth and deliberate as Tom, but he’s more violent. Both are deceptive. He can turn it up.”
James gave up five hits while striking out seven in seven scoreless innings of a 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Thursday. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts against the Nationals.
Atlanta’s string of 14 straight division titles, including 11 in a row since its move to the NL East, ended last week when they were eliminated from the race. The Braves (73-77) still have an outside shot at the wild card, trailing San Diego by 5 1/2 games.
Andruw Jones hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer to lift Atlanta over Washington 6-1 on Monday in the series opener.
Jones’ shot was the 336th of his career, moving him past Hall of Famer Hank Aaron for third place in club history since the team moved from Milwaukee in 1966. Dale Murphy holds the Atlanta record with 371, and Chipper Jones has 354.
“It’s always good (to set) records. When you’re passing a legend like Hank Aaron, your name just goes in the record book,” Andruw Jones said. “After that, we’re just trying to win games and go out there and have fun.”
Slumping Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was given the day off, his first since Aug. 23 and fifth this season. The rookie is batting .280 with 18 home runs and 97 RBIs, but is 12-for-55 (.218) in his last 13 games.
Washington catcher Brian Schneider sat for the second straight game with a sore groin and is listed as day to day. He’s in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak, during which he has batted .461 (12-for-26) to raise his average to a season-high .251.
Beltran Perez (0-0, 1.59 ERA) will be making his first start for the Nationals after five relief appearances. The rookie right-hander has given up five hits and walked four in 5 2-3 innings. This will be his first game against the Braves.