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Atlanta's bullpen fatigue issue

9/20/2011

I'm running short on time this morning, but here are a few quick thoughts:

1. All year, rival scouts have watched the Braves' young relievers rack up appearances, and they've wondered if and when Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O'Flaherty would eventually wear down.

As of this morning, the Braves' trio ranks in the top five, among all pitchers, in appearances. Venters has 82, Kimbrel 77 and O'Flaherty 75. To put those numbers in perspective, the most outings Mariano Rivera has had in any season is 74, in 2004; the most that Trevor Hoffman had in any season was 70.

And certainly Atlanta's bullpen workload will be a major topic of debate among scouts today, in the aftermath of the Braves' walk-off loss Monday. Making his 10th appearance in the first 19 days in September, and pitching for the third straight day, Kimbrel allowed a two-run homer to Omar Infante, as David O'Brien writes.

In Kimbrel's first 96 appearances in the majors, he allowed one home run. Now he's allowed two homers in his last two games, both devastating. In Venters' last 11.1 innings, dating back to Aug. 26, he has allowed 12 hits, nine walks and seven runs. O'Flaherty hasn't allowed any runs in 10.2 innings this month.

Fatigue may or may not be a factor for the Braves' pitchers, but they can't think about that now, with their lead in the wild-card race over the Cardinals down to 2.5 games, and their lead over the Giants at 3.5 games. With their starting pitching muddled by injury, the Braves need bullpen help more than ever.

Mark Bradley writes this about the Braves: Uh, oh. The Cardinals won with a great performance by Kyle Lohse.

2. The Red Sox hitters probably know by now that if Boston is going to avoid the greatest September collapse in history, they will have to lead. They will mud-wrestle the Red Sox into some victories by racking up a lot of hits and runs, as they did in their 18-9 Game 2 win in the doubleheader against Baltimore on Monday.

The Red Sox salvaged a split, writes Nick Cafardo.

From Elias: The Red Sox have scored 18 runs twice in the last week, with an 18-6 run on Sept. 13 against the Blue Jays and the 18-9 win on Monday versus the Orioles. The last team to score at least 18 runs twice in a week was the Reds, who won 18-7 at the Rockies on Aug. 29, 1996, and then beat the Marlins 22-8 on Aug. 31.

From Elias: John Lackey became the fourth Red Sox pitcher since 1950 to not get a win after his team scored 11 runs in the first three innings.

Brian Matusz got pounded again, and right now, with a 10.68 ERA, he's in position to set a record:

Worst ERA in a single season, since 1900 (minimum 40 IP):

Roy Halladay -- 10.64 (2000 Blue Jays)

Micah Bowie -- 10.24 (1999 Cubs/Braves)

Aaron Myette -- 10.06 (2002 Rangers)

Steve Blass -- 9.85 (1973 Pirates)

3. Ian Kennedy has 20 wins after dominating the Pirates. From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:

A) Kennedy started hitters off with the fastball and finished them off with a variety of pitches. He threw a first-pitch fastball to 19 of the 26 hitters he faced, and had 17 first-pitch strikes overall (14 with the fastball). When he got to two strikes, he mixed in his secondary pitches more than usual, throwing off-speed stuff 52.8 percent of the time. Kennedy threw 10 of his 18 changeups and seven of his nine curveballs with two strikes.

B) As a result, Pirates hitters were 0-for-17 with two strikes, including 12 strikeouts, which ties Kennedy's career high. Kennedy got four strikeouts with his fastball, five with his changeup and three with his curveball. It is just the second start in his career in which he has had three or more strikeouts on three different pitches.

C) Kennedy was especially effective when he kept the ball down. Pirates' hitters were 0-for-13 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending with pitches down in the zone or below. Kennedy threw 11 changeups in that location, and the Pirates swung at seven and missed five, and went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts against the changeup down.

D) Kennedy did not go to a 3-0 count, and threw just five pitches in a three-ball count all game. He ended with a game score of 91, which matches his career-best.

From Elias: Ian Kennedy allowed one hit in eight innings to get his 20th win. The last pitcher to get his 20th win by allowing one hit or fewer in eight innings or more was Bert Blyleven for the 1973 Twins. He pitched a complete-game one-hitter on the road against the Athletics.

Most wins in a single season, Diamondbacks history:

Randy Johnson -- 24 (2002)

Curt Schilling -- 23 (2002)

Brandon Webb -- 22 (2008)

Curt Schilling -- 22 (2001)

Randy Johnson -- 21 (2001)

Ian Kennedy -- 20 (2011)

• The Cardinals' contract talks with Lance Berkman have hit a speed bump.

Pitchers shouldn't win the MVP.

• I was lucky enough to cover Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, and I wrote about it here.

And today will be better than yesterday.