After finishing off a series against the San Francisco Giants on a good note, the Atlanta Braves have been fading ever since, losing three out four games against the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, with the latest loss occurring on August 31 by the score of 8-5. Josh Lindblom picked up his third win of the year in relief for the Phillies, while Christhian Martinez had his fourth loss.
Coming off of some solid performances against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, Mike Minor had an off-day on August 31, going only five innings while giving up four runs on seven hits to go along with three strikeouts as well. Minor threw 9 first pitch strikes to 22 total batters in the game, and falling behind hitters that much can only lead to trouble no matter who is out on the mound. The Braves desperately need a solid pitching performance to help get them out of the funk that they are currently in right now, and with Minor unable to do so it looks to me as though Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm will be the pitchers to watch moving forward. If they falter it could be all but over as far as the Braves' playoff chances are concerned this year.
The Braves were finally able to get some runs on the board against the Phillies, but unfortunately the bullpen was not able to hold the lead and ended up costing the team in extra innings. That shouldn't overlook some great offensive performances on the day, though, especially when it comes to Freddie Freeman. Freeman went 2 for 3 in the game with a home run and two RBIs to go along with two walks as well. He has been struggling throughout the month of August, and hopefully this performance will help to get him back into a comfort zone heading into the crucial month of September.
The Atlanta Braves will look to rebound on September 1 as Tim Hudson takes the mound against Cliff Lee. Hudson is coming off of a great start against the San Francisco Giants, and I think this will probably be one of his more important starts of the year. The Braves are now more than six games behind the Washington Nationals in the division and are barely hanging on in the wild card standings, so they really need Hudson to go deep in this game and give them a solid performance. Lee has been pitching better of late as well, so that should make Hudson's start even that much more important as the season starts to come to a close.
Ryan Kekoufski is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan.