2011 Atlanta Braves Regular Season: Braves-Nationals Series Observations

Josh MaleyContributor IIIApril 3, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: Martin Prado #14 of the Atlanta Braves (R) is congratulated by teammate Dan Uggla #26 after scoring against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning at Nationals Park on April 3, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

What an interesting opening series this has been!

The first game of the series was well played by both sides. The pitching was phenomenal and the defense was solid. 

However, some fans, including myself, were slightly uncomfortable with the offensive performance by the Braves. The lineup had only five hits and two runs, both of which are below expectations. Thankfully, Derek Lowe and the bullpen were there to bail the offense out and shut out the Nats. 

Speaking of the bullpen, it looks pretty scary. Imagine being an opposing team having to face O'Flaherty, Moylan, Venters, and Kimbrel down by even a small margin? Those pitchers showed that if the Braves have a lead going into the later parts of games, then don't expect a comeback. 

Chipper Jones is looking like, well, Chipper Jones. He had two hits in the first game, and ran like he did in his mid 20s. He continued his performance into Saturday and Sunday with three more hits. If he can keep this up, then don't be surprised if he becomes a contender for the batting title.

Heyward once again impressed me with his homerun during that game. It looked like it would be a low liner that would hit the bottom of the right field fence and turn into a double. Instead it became Heyward's first HR of the season. Man is he good.

I am still not completely sold on Uggla, but he has hit the ball hard multiple times and played good defense. He just needs to hit more consistently and not strikeout so much for me to start trusting and liking him.

What has been really surprising in these first three games is how the veterans have been contributing. Chipper, Alex Gonzalez, Derek Lowe, and Tim Hudson have really stepped up and been driving forces for the Bravos. 

The younger players have done pretty well, especially Venters, Kimbrel, and Heyward. Freeman still has not been able to do much, and Hanson really struggled.

Hanson's performance is really disconcerting. Everyone is expecting him to have a breakout year and possibly be a Cy Young award candidate. That player did not show up on Saturday.

He was all over the place with many of his pitches and he made way too many mistakes. Hopefully he will learn from his errors and come back strong this week against the Brewers. He is an important piece of this Braves' pitching staff.

Thankfully though he is really the only one on the pitching staff who really struggled. Everyone else looked great, especially Kimbrel, Lowe, and Tim Hudson. I continue to believe that the staff will be one if not the best pitching staff in the NL this year.

The only issue I have with this past series is the offense. They did score 11 runs Sunday, but the other two games looked shaky. Chipper and McCann have looked like studs, but the rest have been inconsistent. Prado had is first hit in the third game, something unusual from him. McClouth has not exactly played like he did in spring training, and Freeman has only one hit. 

This issue, fortunately, is one that is not very important given how well the pitching has been and will seemingly continue to be. If the offense scores around four runs each game, then the Braves should be able to win many games. 

With this offense though that is quite a generous number. They have the potential to be one of the best in the NL. 

This series was good for the Braves, but could have been better. The offense was patchy at times, but the pitching was great as usual. I expect more of the same over the course of this month until the offense starts to really click. Now on to Milwaukee!