The lefty started the game well, putting up zeroes in the first two innings, but in the third, Niese seemed to lose control. His most common pitch, a four-seamer, was not hitting its spots, and his inability to locate led to six walks and seven earned runs in just four innings pitched.
This outing was an anomaly for Niese; in his previous six starts he has pitched well, barring one other short start again the Minnesota Twins in which he gave up four runs through five, although it’s possible the freezing temperatures could have attributed to his performance. Today however, the weather was not a factor, and Niese just did not have his usual stuff.
The loss cannot fall entirely on Niese’s shoulders however. The third inning where the Braves scored five of their nine runs was also an inning in which a few less than stellar defensive plays were made. Though none were bad enough to be deemed errors, a misplayed ball in the outfield by Lucas Duda, a shot up the third base line that David Wright couldn’t field, and a wild pitch that went through John Buck’s legs all combined for a rough inning.
Unfortunately Niese’s worst outing was coupled with another good effort by Braves veteran Tim Hudson, who has now recorded his 201st career win. Hudson’s signature sinker was sinking, and although he wasn’t perfect, he gave up three runs in 7.1 which was enough to let his team’s offense do the work and secure the win.
It is most likely that this just happened to be a bad start for Niese, plain and simple. He is a good, solid lefty who had trouble hitting his spots today, and that’s bound to happen. When you have a day like that and you’re facing a pitcher like Hudson with a whopping Braves offense, it can be hard to win.