The Atlanta Braves changed the National League East pennant race today by trading for Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, boosting a rotation that badly needed it with a veteran, right-handed starter who has enjoyed ample success against the first-place Nationals.
Dempster, 37, leads the league with a 2.11 ERA over 98 innings. The Braves had been crushed by injury and ineffectiveness in their rotation, and Dempster – along with the signing and surprise resurgence of Ben Sheets – could cover the Braves’ biggest weakness.
The Nationals just finished a four-game series against the Braves in which the Nats ripped both Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, two disappointing starters. The Braves needed another starter.
On opening day at Wrigley Field, Dempster allowed the Nationals one run over 7 2/3 innings on two hits and three walks. Over the previous two seasons, Dempster allowed the Nationals three earned runs in 22 innings over three starts.
Dempster does not give the Braves a better rotation than the Nationals, but it does help mask their weakest point. Their starters this season had a 4.04 ERA and ranked in the middle of the pack in innings pitched.
Dempster seems unlikely to continue his torrid pace – his FIP is 3.28, more than a full run higher than his ERA. But he is a reliable pitcher having a great season, and he is just what the Braves need to help close the 3 ½-game gap between them and the Nationals.
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