Here are three things we learned from the Braves’ 8-2 loss to the Giants on Friday night, the second game of a crucial four-game set in San Francisco:
1. Statistically speaking, Tim Hudson was due for a letdown against the Giants
Prior to Friday night, Hudson (six runs allowed in 3.2 innings) hadn’t incurred a loss to San Francisco since April 8, 2006. That date precedes the time when teenage girls followed Justin Bieber’s every move with great adoration … or when most American adults even knew the name Barack Obama.
In that sense, Hudson and the Braves were probably due for a run of bad luck against the two-time World Series champions (2010, ’12) — especially with San Francisco pitcher Matt Cain (two runs, seven strikeouts in eight innings) being dialed in from the start.
In the fourth inning, San Francisco touched Hudson for two doubles (Buster Posey, Brandon Belt) and five singles (including one from Cain), leading to a six-run explosion to break a scoreless tie. Throw in a two-run homer from Angel Pagan in 6th (off reliever David Carpenter) … and the Giants only needed two big innings to clinch their 21st victory of the season.
Heading into the weekend series, Hudson (201 career victories) had lifetime tallies of 8-4, 3.17 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 70/29 K-BB against the Giants. And from 2006-12 alone, he had enjoyed marks of 6-0 and 2.48 ERA against San Francisco.
For what it’s worth, Hudson will likely draw starts against the Diamondbacks (road), Twins (home), Blue Jays (road) and Pirates (home) over the next three weeks. So, the potential for an immediate bounce-back is certainly there.
Digging deeper, Hudson will also have a chance to avenge Friday’s defeat on either June 15 or 16 … when San Francisco comes to Atlanta.
2. Looks like Brian McCann didn’t leave his power stroke in Greensboro, N.C.
On April 26, during a rehab start for the Rome Braves (against Greensboro), McCann drew equal parts effusive and sarcastic praise for launching a pair of homers in his seasonal debut — against two lowly pitchers from A-ball.
As if McCann (151 MLB homers from 2006-12) had any control of what pitchers Greensboro sent to the mound that evening, his first live action since having offseason shoulder surgery (torn labrum).
Well, McCann has seemingly made the transition from minor league ham-and-eggers … to the highest level of pitching resistance, belting homers on consecutive nights against the Giants — off Ryan Vogelsong Thursday and Matt Cain on Friday.
For good measure, McCann also has four hits and five RBI in that span.
McCann’s initial resurgence adds more spice to the Braves’ out-of-the-box decision to house three catchers (McCann, Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird) on the active roster, as a means of keeping Gattis’s bat in the lineup — as a catcher, outfielder, first baseman or designated hitter (at American League parks).
If healthy, it’s not like Atlanta will deny McCann (611 RBI, lifetime on-base percentage of .351) fewer than five starts at catcher per week, leaving spot-duty chances for Laird and/or Gattis.
Bottom line: He’s still the best option behind the plate, no matter how strong the Braves project to be at that spot for the next 8-10 seasons (thanks to Gattis and blue-chip prospect Christian Bethancourt).
3. It’s easy to spin positives from Justin Upton’s sluggish May
It’s only natural that Upton (.207 batting, zero homers, two RBI in May) would encounter a downturn of production after crushing an MLB-best 12 homers in April (with a .734 slugging rate).
That’s the calling card of prodigious, yet streaky hitters.
Let’s have some perspective on Upton’s rough start to the month: His on-base percentage (.351) remains at a robust level, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio (7/8) rates as excellent, compared to other major leaguers.
In the fantasy realm, these are two prime indicators of an imminent turnaround — a notion that’s fueled by the rapid improvement of shortstop Andrelton Simmons (.316 batting with two homers this month), the aforementioned strenghts of McCann … and the impending return of Jason Heyward (appendectomy), who’s slated to rejoin the parent club sometime next week.
At the very least, Upton is a viable candidate for 15 or more runs every month, when healthy. That’s a highly underrated streak that dates back to July 2011.