Saturday, April 19, 2014

Santana seeks to make quick work of Mets

When the Braves learned that they would lose right-handed starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for the season, they moved quickly by signing another righty, Ervin Santana, to a one-year deal worth $14 million on March 12.

During his first two starts in an Atlanta uniform, Santana has shown off his own penchant for working quickly.

In fact, his 20.8-second Pitcher Pace -- the average amount of time taken between pitches -- this season is his slowest yet, according to FanGraphs. It's still quicker than the average pace of 21.5 seconds, and Santana ranks 43rd in the Majors among starters who have pitched 10 innings or more this season.

"I just like playing behind him," right fielder Jason Heyward said. "He likes to get the ball quickly. He likes to get his sign and go. He likes for hitters to put the ball in play. That's definitely fun to play behind defensively."

Santana, who took as little as 19.2 seconds between pitches in 2008, is quickly developing a reputation as a "blink and you'll miss it" kind of pitcher in Atlanta, but his most recent start got lost in the madness of an offensive explosion in the final innings.

Santana gave up one run and matched a career-high 11 strikeouts in six innings against the Phillies on Monday before he exited the game with a one-run lead. Five homers and 12 runs in the eighth and ninth innings reduced a second straight quality start to an afterthought.

"That almost seemed like two different games," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of that contest. "Santana pitches [a great] game and ties his career high in strikeouts, and the next thing you know, in the next two innings, 12 runs are scored."

No runs were scored when the Braves last faced Bartolo Colon, who will toe the rubber for the Mets on Saturday. Colon scattered six hits and struck out five in seven scoreless innings during Atlanta's home opener at Turner Field on April 8, but he stumbled in his most recent outing, giving up nine runs on 11 hits with two walks and three strikeouts in five innings in a loss to the Angels on Sunday.

The first three runs Colon surrendered came on back-to-back-to-back homers by Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Raul Ibanez. One day later the Braves accomplished the same feat, with Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons stringing them together in Philadelphia.

"At that moment you're not thinking, 'Why is this happening?'" Colon said through an interpreter on April 13. "It's just part of the game."

Braves: Avilan returns to form despite losing combined no-hitter
After giving up five earned runs in that fateful game against the Phillies, left-handed reliever Luis Avilan could do no worse. And despite giving up a chance at a combined no-hitter with starter Aaron Harang, Avilan struck out two in a scoreless eighth.

Avilan has allowed a baserunner in five straight outings, but he has only let teams score against him twice in seven appearances. He posted a 1.52 ERA in 75 appearances out of the bullpen in 2013.
  • Since beginning the season in a 1-for-17 slump, with 10 strikeouts, center fielder B.J. Upton is batting .267 with eight strikeouts. He has also scored five runs and stolen three bases during the stretch.
  • Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning on Friday night, giving him five homers and 20 RBIs in his career at Citi Field. He has more home runs and RBIs on the road at the Mets' home than at any other road ballpark.

Mets: Davis traded to Pirates
New York freed up its logjam at first base by trading Ike Davis to the Pirates on Friday for right-hander Zack Thornton and a player to be named.

Davis, who batted .227 with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2012, has hit just .205 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs since. His on-base percentage dipped from .351 in his rookie season to just .308 in 2013.

The Mets selected Davis in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
  • Chris Young went 0-for-4 on Friday night in his first game back after recovering from an injured right quadriceps. The hitless outing lengthened his current slump, which dates back to last season. He is batting just .125 with one walk and 10 strikeouts since Sept. 16, 2013.

Worth noting
  • The Braves seek their first series win of the season over the Mets on Saturday. They claimed just one set from New York in 2013, taking two of three at Turner Field from Sept. 2-4.
  • Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson has by far the most experience against Santana among his teammates, batting .256 with five home runs, two doubles, nine RBIs, five walks and nine strikeouts.
  • B.J. Upton is batting .308 with a double, a triple, a home run, five RBIs, three walks and seven strikeouts against Colon.

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