Javier Vazquez has unquestionably been the ace of the Braves' staff this season and arguably the best non-Lincecum, non-Haren NL starting pitcher (his curious exclusion from the All-Star game notwithstanding).
Though it's died down of late, there had been considerable buzz about Braves GM Frank Wren shopping Vazquez over the past couple of weeks. Now that Matt Holliday is a Cardinal, however, it's difficult to imagine a trade in which the Braves deal Vazquez and improve their chances of making the playoffs.
A great start tonight might go a long way toward making the front office realize that Vazquez is worth holding onto. Given his Cy Young level of performance this season(126 IP, 141 K, 24 BB, 2.86 ERA), there's little reason to expect otherwise. And who knows, maybe - just maybe - Vazquez will finally receive some run support from the suddenly hot-hittiing Braves line-up.
I can't imagine using any of the adjectives that I used above to describe Vazquez when talking about Manny Parra, who has been nothing short of wildly unpredictable in his brief career.
Parra had an impressive skills breakout in the second half of 2008 (9.0 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, GB/FB ratio greater than 2 in 79 1/3 IP) but has struggled to build upon those gains in 2009. In fact, Parra was so bad during the first half (55K/41BB in 63 IP) that he was sent down for three starts at AAA Nashville.
Though his time with The Sounds gave some cause for worry (24 2/3 IP, 19 K, 13BB), Parra has been much more effective since being recalled on July 9th. In two starts since he rejoined the Brewers, Parra has thrown 13 innings, giving up only one earned run while striking out 13 and walking just one. But is it a fluke or a full-on skill recovery? Tonight, the Braves are hoping it's the former.