Joe Saunders has proven that you can't judge a pitcher by his spring numbers.
The Arizona starter tries to extend his stellar start to the season when the Diamondbacks continue a four-game series against the red-hot Atlanta Braves.
Saunders posted a 7.98 earned run average during spring training, but has allowed just one run through his first two starts of the regular season, spanning 14 innings. The lefty got a no-decision in San Diego on April 11 despite seven scoreless innings, then beat the Pirates on Monday with seven frames of one-run ball. He scattered six hits in the 5-1 win.
"He is a veteran, he needed some extra time, and we gave him an extra time to get work done," Arizona Kirk Gibson told his club's website of his fifth starter. "He's a guy that is notoriously slow, or he has been for us, and that's one of the reason we moved him back to give him more time."
The 30-year-old Saunders has been up to the task when facing the Braves, going 1-0 in two starts while giving up only one run in 13 1/3 innings for a 0.68 ERA.
The Braves counter with Tommy Hanson, who is 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA through three starts.
The right-hander lasted a season-high seven innings on Monday versus the Mets, but suffered a 6-1 loss when he was touched for five runs -- four earned -- on five hits and two walks. His outing was undone by a three-run homer allowed in the sixth inning.
The 25-year-old Hanson has faced Arizona three times and is 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA.
Hanson could be excused if he is expecting a ton of run support in this game. Atlanta has outscored Arizona 19-3 over the first two contests of this series and is coming off last night's 9-1 victory.
Freddie Freeman continued his recent surge with three hits, two runs scored and a pair of runs batted in, while Brian McCann added a two-run homer. Freeman is 10-for-17 with three homers and 12 RBI over his past four games.
Brandon Beachy earned the win with 7 1/3 scoreless frames, scattering four hits and a walk while lowering his season ERA to 0.47. Despite his excellent outing, he gave all of the credit to the offense after Atlanta won its fourth straight game.
"[The offense is] unbelievable, it's a luxury that, I mean, if they continue to hit near this well, we're going to do great things this year," Beachy said.
That offense has helped Atlanta win nine of 10 since an 0-4 start. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, have lost seven of 10 after beginning the season with four straight wins.
Arizona has lost four straight at home for the first time since Sept. 4-7, 2010 and has been playing without two of its top offensive threats in outfielders Chris Young (shoulder) and Justin Upton (thumb). Young was hitting .410 with five homers and 13 RBI in 11 games before landing on the disabled list Wednesday.
Arizona's Trevor Cahill was tagged for seven runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings.
"I was feeling pretty comfortable out there. It's just one of those things, like you make a bad pitch here or there, and they have a really good lineup and they're swinging the bats hot, so they'll make you pay every time," Cahill said.
The Braves have won five straight over the Diamondbacks, with Thursday's series-opening win their first in Arizona since June 10, 2010.