- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
The Atlanta Braves survived 19 innings and won Tuesday night, aided at the end by a terrible call. But in the big picture, the night was not good for the Braves, because they lost All-Star catcher Brian McCann -- an MVP candidate in the National League -- to an oblique strain.
For the Braves, then, the question of whether they should give up pitching prospect Mike Minor in a deal for Carlos Beltran might have a different context. Atlanta already needed a middle-of-the-order hitter before McCann got hurt, because of Chipper Jones' knee and muscle issues and the struggles of Alex Gonzalez, Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward.
As of this morning, sources say, the Mets are making progress in trade talks with the Rangers and Giants; they are not making progress with the Braves.
These days, teams are reluctant to give up their better prospects, and in the eyes of rival evaluators about Minor, the young left-hander is viewed as a middle-of-the-rotation starter -- either a No. 3 or a No. 4. He's not regarded as a No. 1-type talent, like Julio Teheran; Minor is regarded as a very good prospect. And if I were sitting in the Atlanta front office, I'd make the deal.
It's good thing for the Braves that I didn't have a vote during the Jake Peavy trade talks with the Padres 2.5 years ago, because I would've voted yes on that -- and as it turned out, general manager Frank Wren clearly made the right call in keeping his prospects.
And it's because of Wren and his staff that the Braves are in a position to debate the Beltran trade. They are loaded with great young pitching, behind Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe. They've got Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens and Brandon Beachy and Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters, and they've got Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino and Minor and Randall Delgado, and Kris Medlen coming back next year from Tommy John surgery.
The depth makes it easier for the Braves to say yes to trading Minor. Atlanta has a really good team, with a strong rotation and bullpen, and a developing Freddie Freeman. But the Braves need a thumper. They could follow up on conversations with the Astros about Hunter Pence, but Houston will want at least two excellent young pitchers in a deal -- too expensive. They could call the Rays about B.J. Upton and probably make a deal without giving up a top prospect, but Upton is so inconsistent and strikes out so much that the Braves couldn't really know whether he would help. The Braves could try to pry Colby Rasmus from the Cardinals, but again, Rasmus has been hitting under .200 for the last two months, and Atlanta would not have any idea whether Rasmus could give them a jolt in 2011.
Beltran is the best offensive player on the market, ranking eighth among all outfielders in OPS. He has been through the rental player thing before, with Houston in 2004, and he thrived. He has every reason to continue playing the rest of the year, to remain in the lineup, because he's a free agent.
And now the Braves know that they'll be without McCann into deep August, and while David Ross is arguably the best backup catcher in the majors, the loss of McCann from the middle of the order could be pivotal. Atlanta needs help. It needs Beltran.
He would cost the Braves Minor, but it would be worth it, to help this year's team make the playoffs and combat the Phillies and Giants in the postseason. They should call the Mets today and offer Minor and give New York 24 hours to say yes or no, and take Beltran off the board and get him to Atlanta as quickly as possible.
Andrew Baggarly wonders if the Giants will be more trade-hungry after this loss.
The game ended at 1:50 a.m.
• The Jerry Meals call that ended the Pirates-Braves game should be the latest impetus for five-man umpire crews, with one of the five assigned nightly to a replay booth to help with mistaken calls -- like that made by Meals.
I watched the last few innings of that marathon, and I don't blame the Pirates for being livid; it was a terrible way for the game to end. Remember, Meals will be umpiring third base today -- right in front of the Pittsburgh dugout.
The Pirates-Braves game was the longest of the season in terms of time, and the longest in Pirates history.
From Elias: Scott Proctor got the game-ending RBI in the 19th inning for the Braves, and he was also the winning pitcher. Over the last 15 seasons, only one other player has gotten a walk-off RBI and been the winning pitcher in the same game: Randy Keisler did it for the Reds on May 24, 2005.
Daniel McCutchen threw 92 pitches in relief, more pitches thrown than seven starters Tuesday.
It was an awful call, Jeff Schultz writes.
1. Time will tell if Colby Rasmus will be traded, but no matter what happens, the conversation that has swirled around him has diminished his value in the market.
Tony La Russa says Rasmus does not listen to his coaches.
Possible trade partners were on hand watching the Cardinals on Tuesday.
2. The Diamondbacks are looking for a reliever, and it's possible that No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer could work out of the bullpen, writes Nick Piecoro.
3. The Rays continue to flounder, and fade, against the worst teams in the AL: Tampa Bay is now 8.5 games behind the Yankees in the wild-card race.
4. Jason Giambi and Ubaldo Jimenez continue to draw trade interest. It feels more and more like Jimenez could get traded; Jayson Stark will have more on that later today. The Yankees are unwilling to give up prospects, as we learned last week.
7. Ruben Amaro must deliver for the Phillies, writes Jim Salisbury.
Dings and dents
Moves, deals and decisions
2. The Rangers are giving a clinic for one of their prospects.
1. CC Sabathia extended the misery of the Mariners, dominating them as he picked up his 15th victory. From ESPN Stats and Info: Sabathia pitched 6 1/3 perfect innings before allowing a Brendan Ryan base hit. According to Elias, Sabathia's bid was the longest by a Yankee since Andy Pettitte went 6 2/3 innings Aug. 31, 2009, against the Orioles.
From Elias: Sabathia struck out seven batters in a row. That's the longest streak by a Yankee since Ron Davis struck out eight in a row May 4, 1981, against the Angels. Davis' eight consecutive strikeouts are tied for the AL record. Yankees pitchers had 18 strikeouts and one hit allowed. Only one other team in the Live Ball Era has struck out at least 18 batters and allowed one hit or fewer: the Cubs' Kerry Wood tossed a 20-strikeout, one-hit shutout against the Astros on May 6, 1998.
How Sabathia dominated the Mariners:
A) Once again, Sabathia had his slider working. He had nine strikeouts with the pitch, matching a season high (July 5 against the Indians). Before that, he hadn't struck out at least nine hitters with his slider since July 13, 2008. Sabathia's slider has been dominant over his past seven starts and has coincided with an increase in fastball velocity.
B) He had even more success with his slider when he kept it down. Twenty-two of Sabathia's 27 sliders were down in the zone or below it, and he got eight of his nine slider strikeouts on those low pitches. Mariners hitters missed on 10 of 15 swings against Sabathia's slider when it was low.
C) Sabathia threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of 25 hitters (80 percent), his second-highest percentage in the past three seasons. Before coming back out for the eighth inning after the second rain delay of the game, he had thrown a first-pitch strike to 19 of 22 hitters. He threw just 13 pitches in hitters' counts, his lowest number of the season.
5. The Mariners were overwhelmed -- that's 17 straight losses and counting, as Geoff Baker writes. Today, the Mariners will have Felix Hernandez pitching against Phil Hughes. A change in routine didn't help.
8. How Weaver beat the Indians: Facing a lineup that featured eight lefties, Weaver relied more on his changeup and curveball and less on his fastball and slider than usual. He threw 23 changeups and 21 curveballs, just the second time this season he's thrown at least 20 of each. Weaver had a season-high four strikeouts on his changeup and curveball combined.
The Indians laid off Weaver's slider, which has been his most effective offspeed pitch this season (.477 opp OPS). Hitters swung at only one of his 10 sliders, fouling the pitch off. It's the first time this season an opponent hasn't ended an at-bat on a Weaver slider. Instead, Weaver induced a season-high nine outs on his changeup. Weaver has thrown 13 straight quality starts, tied for the second-longest streak in a season in Angels history.
Most consecutive quality starts in a season, Angels history:
1977 -- Frank Tanana (14)
2011 -- Jered Weaver (13)*
1989 -- Bert Blyleven (13)
1975 -- Frank Tanana (11)
1974 -- Nolan Ryan (11)
* = active
10. The Mets took advantage of mistakes by the Reds.
11. The Rockies wasted a strong pitching effort, writes Troy Renck.
12. The Royals gave up a lot of hits and runs.
14. The Rangers lost a grind-it-out game.
16. The Brewers got some badly needed relief.
17. The Reds made too many mistakes and were distracted.
The Patience Index
• The president got a strong review from a San Francisco reliever.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia had a great night defensively on Monday.
• A Washington official compared the scrutiny of Bryce Harper to that of Jackie Robinson. Unfortunate words.
The official released a statement.
And today will be better than yesterday.
Buster Olney writes that the injury Tuesday night to Brian McCann has paved the way for Carlos Beltran to be traded to the Braves for one of their top pitching prospects.