ATLANTA -- Starting pitchers take the mound on a nightly basis aiming to complete at least seven innings. When Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy did so on Saturday and Sunday, the Braves experienced what has been a rarity over the past year.
Before Minor or Beachy turned the trick, the Braves had not had starting pitchers last at least seven innings in consecutive games since Beachy and Tim Hudson on July 29 and 30. Tommy Hanson extended this streak with a seven-inning effort in Monday night's loss to the Mets.
This marks the first time the Braves have had starting pitchers go at least seven innings in three consecutive games since May 14-17 last season.
That stretch in May marked the only time last year that the Braves had starting pitchers complete at least seven innings in at least three consecutive games. This contributed heavily to the fact that the Braves ranked second among National League teams with 522 1/3 relief innings. The Pirates led the Senior Circuit with 526 innings.
"Bullpens are not made for you to use your middle guys or your long guys every night," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Nobody can sustain four or five days in a row like that. You end up pitching guys you don't want to pitch when you're down and vice versa."
Setup man Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel were unavailable on Sunday because they had worked four of the five previous days. Because Eric O'Flaherty and Kris Medlen had not been used on Saturday, they were going to handle the setup and closing duties in no particular order if Sunday's game had been tight during the final innings.
Each of these top four relievers remained idle during Sunday's and Monday's game. This could prove beneficial for the Braves as they are four days into a stretch of 13 games in 13 days.