Please Fredi, stop using your worst relievers in close games

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Let’s rank the Braves’ relievers in order from best to cannon fodder, shall we:

Craig Kimbrel
Jonny Venters
Eric O’Flaherty
Kris Medlen
Cristhian Martinez
Livan Hernandez
Chad Durbin

There’s nothing controversial there, right. One could argue about the order of the last two, but really, no one can possibly be that bored.

Now let’s look at the innings those seven guys have thrown during the Braves’ 0-4 skid to start the season:

Craig Kimbrel – 0
Jonny Venters – 1
Eric O’Flaherty – 1
Kris Medlen – 3
Cristhian Martinez – 2
Livan Hernandez – 3 2/3
Chad Durbin – 2

Isn’t there something wrong with that picture? Every game the Braves have played has been close at some point. They lost the first 1-0, the second 4-2 with Hernandez giving up a run in the seventh, the third 7-5 after a gallant comeback attempt in the seventh and eighth innings.

It was Monday night’s game that manager Fredi Gonzalez employed a particularly atrocious strategy. The top three relievers are all rested and ready to go, yet down 4-3 to the Astros after five, Gonzalez picked Hernandez, who gave up two runs in two innings. Durbin then came in during the eighth and gave up two more runs to finish any hopes of a late comeback.

And that’s just ridiculous. No, the Braves never did score again tonight, so looked at that way, Gonzalez didn’t cost them anything by going with his worst arms. Still, it’d be nice if he started playing to win one of these days.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.