ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Beachy joined some elite company after his start on Thursday, when he lowered his ERA to a Major League-best 1.33 to become just the third pitcher in Atlanta Braves history to post an ERA under 1.50 through the first eight starts of the season.
Greg Maddux was the last Braves pitcher to do so when he had a 1.13 ERA in 1994, the year he won the third of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards. According to baseball-reference.com, the right-hander affectionately known as "Mad Dog" lowered his ERA to 0.94 two starts later and he kept it below 2.00 the entire season until finishing with a Major League-best 1.56.
Maddux finished that season with a 16-6 record and led the National League with 10 complete games, three shutouts, 25 starts and 202 innings.
Before Maddux, righty Buzz Capra accomplished the feat when he had a remarkable 1.06 ERA after eight starts in 1974. Capra, who was originally selected in the 27th round of the 1969 Draft by the Mets, actually began the season with 10 relief appearances before making his first start of the 1974 campaign on May 19 -- when he tossed six innings against the Padres.
Capra, who was 26 at the time, then tossed five complete games before having a clunker -- three runs in 1 2/3 innings on June 11 against the Mets. The Chicago native went on to finish the season with a 16-8 record, 11 complete games, five shutouts, 217 innings pitched and an overall 2.28 ERA over 39 games (27 starts) to lead the National League. He was selected to the only All-Star Game of his seven-year career and finished ninth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
While Capra's season was an anomaly, Maddux gives a better picture of what may lie ahead for Beachy.
Maddux, who spent 11 seasons of his 23-year career with the Braves, finished the 1994 campaign with a 0.896 WHIP and allowed just 6.7 hits per outing. Opponents batted just .207 against him and had a .259 slugging percentage and a .502 OPS versus him.
Beachy, who finished last season with a 1.207 WHIP, has compiled a 0.889 WHIP this year and has allowed just 5.7 hits per game. Better yet, opponents are batting just .177 against him and have a .224 slugging percentage and a .456 OPS versus him.
"He knew last year getting into the fifth, sixth inning wasn't good enough," catcher Brian McCann said. "I think that was his No. 1 goal going into the offseason was to get deep into ballgames, and I think [Thursday's outing] showed when he puts a plan together, and puts it in action, how good he really is."
Chipper's friends to attend Saturday's game
ST. PETERSBURG -- Chipper Jones said he would have 100 "mostly friends" in attendance at Tropicana Field on Saturday in what will be his last scheduled series in St. Petersburg.
"It's nice to be able to get back fairly close to my hometown, so some of the people can come down and watch me play," said Jones, who was born in Deland, Fla., about a three-hour drive away from St. Pete, and raised in nearby Pierson. "It's mostly friends, people I grew up with, people I'm still affiliated with -- my bank and stuff down in Deland. So, a lot of people are coming."
Jones is on the board of directors of the athletic department at Stetson University, which is in Deland.
While the future Hall of Famer hasn't played too many games against the Rays, he has been quite successful against them in 20 games -- with a .375 batting average (30-for-80), nine home runs and 15 RBIs coming into play on Friday. In 12 games at Tropicana Field, Jones has five home runs and 11 RBIs in 51 at-bats.
"Of course, I didn't have to face this pitching staff the first few times that I came through," said Jones, who hit .442 with eight homers and 14 RBIs in his first 13 games against the Rays before batting .250 with one home run and one RBI in the past seven contests against Tampa Bay. "I do like the indoor facilities, though, because you don't have the wind, rain, the elements. It's baseball in its truest form, for me. [Tropicana Field] is a good place to hit. The ball carries very well."
Jones entered Friday's contest with a .367 average, two homers and 12 RBIs in 12 games. He started at third and singled in his first at-bat against Rays starter James Shields.
Jones said he would like to play third in all three games, but his manager suggested otherwise because of the playing surface at Tropicana Field. The new type of AstroTurf was installed before the 2011 season and resembles natural grass.
"I think being the [designated hitter] will help him," Fredi Gonzalez said. "I hope his legs will let him play in the field, but I think being the DH will let him save his legs on this surface."
Gonzalez said he anticipates playing Juan Francisco at third on Saturday, but it could always change depending on how Jones feels following Friday's contest. Eric Hinske was the DH in Friday's game. Alex Cobb will be making his first start of the season for the Rays on Saturday after being called up from Triple-A Durham following an injury to Jeff Niemann earlier in the week.
Gonzalez joked that Tampa Bay's starter on Sunday, left-hander David Price, could determine things as well, because of how hard he pitches.
"Price seems to have people always coming up with fatigue issues or sudden injuries here and there before the game starts," Gonzalez said.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.