Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Braves' Blair gets chance to show if recent work paid off


NEW YORK – It’s a rainy day in New York City, much like Sunday was in Atlanta. And if you’re here and plan on going into the city (aka Manhattan), give yourselves about three times as much time as usual to get in and back out to Queens for tonight’s Braves-Mets series opener.

Security is that extreme, given the weekend bombing incidents and the United Nations General Assembly this week, plus the usual rainy-day gridlock.

As for tonight’s game, what we have here might be considered by some as a “reverse lock,” given the pitching matchup of winless Braves rookie Aaron Blair (0-6, 8.23 ERA) facing the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (13-8, 2.43).

(By the way, how’s this for an oddity: Blair has faced the Mets three times in his 12 major league starts, while Syndergaard has yet to face the Braves this season and has faced them only twice in 52 major league starts.)

Blair, who came to spring training as a consensus top-60 prospect in baseball and regarded as the closest-to-MLB-ready among a bevy of young Braves pitching prospects, had a 4.05 ERA and .275 opponents’ average in his first four starts beginning in late April. Not good, but not awful.

But in eight starts since then, he’s 0-4 with a 10.64 ERA and .333 opponents’ average, beginning with the May 17 game at Pittsburgh that was Brian Snitker’s debut as interim manager.

Blair gave up nine hits and nine runs in 1 1/3 innings of that game against the Pirates and was sent down the next day, though he returned after just one Triple-A start due to injuries to other Atlanta starters.

He’s had two quality starts in 12 during his stints in the majors this season, and those two games were also the only times he’s made it through the sixth inning. One was against the Mets on June 18, when he gave up five hits, three runs and two homers in six innings and got no decision in a 4-3 Braves win at Citi Field.

Six days later in Atlanta, the Mets whacked him for seven hits, eight runs and three walks in 4 1/3 innings, and Blair was again sent back to Triple-A after that game.

He didn’t pitch again in the majors until Aug. 28 at San Francisco, where Blair gave up eight hits, five runs and three homers in just four innings, making it an alarming 10 homers he’d allowed in a span of 28 innings over six starts. At that point the Braves announced he wouldn’t pitch in games for a while and would instead work with pitching coach Roger McDowell on ironing out some flaws that he’d developed in his mechanics, some problems in his delivery.

This will be his first appearance since then, so we’re going to find out if the work has yielded improvement.

As I said, three of his 12 major league starts have come against the Mets, and Blair is 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in those games. The Braves and the big right-hander would like nothing more than to see him finish the season on a high note and go into the offseason with some confidence, and tonight’s game offers an opportunity to begin that process.

A couple of other ugly stats worth noting regarding Blair: In seven night games, he has posted a 10.01 ERA while allowing 42 hits, 33 earned runs, five homers and 18 walks with 17 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings.

Lefty batters are hitting .330 (36-for-109) against him with eight doubles, three triples, six homers, 17 walks, 13 strikeouts, a .431 OBP and .624 slugging percentage. Righties are are hitting .299/.365/.495 in 107 at-bats.

Among the Mets, James Loney is 4-for-4 with a homer against Blair, and Wilmer Flores and Yoenis Cespedes have also homered against him.

His counterpart tonight, the hard-throwing Syndergaard, has been on a bit of a roll lately, going 4-1 with a 1.36 ERA and .175 opponents’ average in his past six starts while totaling 42 strikeouts, 12 walks and two homers allowed in 39 2/3 innings.

He has no decisions with a 3.27 ERA in two starts against the Braves, both last season

Against Syndergaard, no active Brave has more than one hit, and the only one with more than four official at-bats against him is Matt Kemp (0-for-8 with three strikeouts). Freddie Freeman is 1-for-4 with a walk against him.

• Etc.

In 60 games since the All-Star break, Ender Inciarte has hit .355 (88-for-248) with 19 extra-base hits, .404 OBP and .460 slugging….

In his past 23 games (going back to Jut 26), Braves closer Jim Johnson has a 0.77 ERA and .159 opponents’ average, with 13 of 13 saves converted. He’s allowed 13 hits, two runs, five walks and 30 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings in that span, and the Braves are 20-3 in those games including 11-1 in the past 12….

Freddie Freeman had two more hits Sunday, extending his hitting streak to 22 games and his no-base streak to 38 games, both career-bests and the longest active streaks in the majors. He’s hit hit .365 (50-for-137) with 14 doubles, 12 homers and 37 RBIs over those 38 games, with a .489 OBP and .730 slugging percentage.

• Let's close with one off the late, great Lou Reed's "New York" album. I saw this tour in Fort Lauderdale many years ago, and Lou was pretty incredible that night.

"ROMEO HAD JULIETTE" by Lou Reed

Caught between the twisted stars

The plotted lines the faulty map

That brought Columbus to New York

Betwixt between the East and West

He calls on her wearing a leather vest

The earth squeals and shudders to a halt

A diamond crucifix in his ear

Is used to help ward off the fear

That he has left his soul in someone's rented car

Inside his pants he hides a mop

To clean the mess that he has dropped

Into the life of lithesome Juliette Bell

And Romeo wanted Juliette

And Juliette wanted Romeo

And Romeo wanted Juliette

And Juliette wanted Romeo

Romeo Rodriguez squares

His shoulders and curses Jesus

Runs a comb through his black pony-tail

He's thinking of his lonely room

The sink that by his bed gives off a stink

Then smells her perfume in his eyes

And her voice was like a bell

Outside the streets were steaming

The crack dealers were dreaming

Of an Uzi someone had just scored

I betcha I could hit that light

With my one good arm behind my back

Says little Joey Diaz

Brother give me another tote

Those downtown hoods are no damn good

Those Italians need a lesson to be taught

This cop who died in Harlem

You think they'd get the warnin'

I was dancing when I saw his brains run out on the street

And Romeo had Juliette

And Juliette had her Romeo

And Romeo had Juliette

And Juliette had her Romeo

I'll take Manhattan in a garbage bag

With Latin written on it that says

"It's hard to give a s*** these days"

Manhattan's sinking like a rock

Into the filthy Hudson what a shock

They wrote a book about it

They said it was like ancient Rome

The perfume burned his eyes

Holding tightly to her thighs

And something flickered for a minute

And then it vanished and was gone

 


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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.