So the Braves are home from a 6-2 road trip against the Marlins, Phillies and Mets. Now we know they can do it.
They can grind out some tough wins, they can find clutch hitting to go along with their quality starting pitching. They can play smart baseball, and they can get gutty performances from Mike Gonzalez and their bullpen. And yes, absolutely, they can benefit from having both Garret Anderson and Brian McCann back in the lineup.
But can they do it at home? Dare we welcome them back to Turner Field for this 10-game homestand, folks? Where the Braves lost four in a row before heading out on that last trip, and where they’ve lost nine of their last 11 games.
Overall, the Braves are 12-8 on the road this season and 5-9 at home. (And just an aside, the Mets are the only team in the NL East with a winning record at home – they are 12-8 at Citi Field – so the Braves are not alone.)
So is this just geography? Or is it timing – that it just so happened the Braves were playing poorly at home because it was before the lineup was put back together as guys got healthy?
There might be more to it, if you listen to what Chipper Jones suggested Wednesday to DOB (clue, hint, DOB is not writing this blog since I’m now talking about him in the third person.) Chipper suggested there’s been a change in mentality on the road.
“I want to see – I’ll make this known – I want to see the same intensity we’ve had this last eight days when we get home to Atlanta,” Jones said. “Up until now it’s been kind of a different team that’s played at home. We’ve been a little more relaxed and had a kind of sit-back-and-wait mentality. Out here [on the road], it’s been us against the world. We’re all together. We need to take that intensity back home.”
So in those last 11 home games, the Braves are hitting only .236 and they have a 4.36 ERA. In their last 12 road games, the Braves are hitting .270 and have a 3.61 ERA.
They’ve got the team coming in tonight that would be a prime target to turn things around against at Turner Field these next three days.
Arizona slinks in for the weekend series, having lost five of its last six games since manager Bob Melvin was fired and farm director A.J. Hinch took over. Hinch, 34, a former major league catcher with Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit and Philadelphia, had no experience as a manager on any level. Talk about trial by fire.
Anyway, the Diamondbacks are last in the major leagues in runs scored (129) and last in batting average (.232). They’ve got only two players hitting over .300 in their lineup – Felipe Lopez (.319) and Justin Upton (.306). They are prime for the taking for Javier Vazquez tonight, Kenshin Kawakami tomorrow and Derek Lowe on Sunday.
And not that we aren’t taking it one day at a time, here filling in on the MIB/Braves blog, but coming in after Arizona is Colorado and its 13-20 record, 9 ½ games behind the Dodgers at the moment. And then we get a splash of interleague play – first of the year, feels like it’s about time for it.
And who would have thought Toronto would be the team leading the AL East over the Red Sox, Yankees and Devil Rays?
Long day for the Gwinnett Braves today. They got rained out yesterday, so they get to play a doubleheader today, then travel from Buffalo to LeHigh Valley. Course, they will play only two seven-inning games in the doubleheader, so that should help. (Are we making up the rules as we go along? Ha.)
Todd Redmond (2-2, 3.68) is pitching the first game, which starts at 5:35 p.m. and Tommy Hanson (1-3, 1.99) pitches the second.
And speaking of AAA, I had a few leftover quotes that I couldn’t fit in the Q and A with Kris Medlen that ran in this morning’s paper. So I’ll spill it here.
His answers provided some insight I thought bloggers might appreciate. He sounds to me like he’s got the mentality to back up why he’s throwing strikes and mowing down hitters for a 21-inning scoreless streak right now. He’s 5-0 with an 0.96 ERA, by the way, and pitches again on Saturday in LeHigh Valley.
Q. Have you surprised yourself? Leading the International League in ERA?
A. “I’m going to say no, I’m not surprised just because I’ve gone out super confident this year and just started the year out well. I go out there expecting to get outs. I just have so far. Everything can turn whenever it wants. I’m just happy everything is going well right now, I’m just trying to keep it up.”
Q. Do you feel caught between “Am I a starter” or “Am I a reliever?” (Medlen was a reliever in junior college and the first two years of his minor league career until the Braves moved him to the rotation halfway through AA Mississippi last year. He came out of the bullpen in big league camp, then went back to starting in Gwinnett.)
A. “Not really. I like starting. Results-wise I guess it’s definitely a lot better. It’s just learning to pitch. I think the only rut I get caught in with the whole reliever/starter thing is when I’m starting, I use all my pitches more. When I’m a reliever, I go into this mode of fastball/curveball to righties, and fastball/changeup to lefties. This year, I’m throwing a lot more changeups to righties, mixing the curveballs to lefties, mixing all my pitches and I think it’s helping me a lot.”
OK, that’s it. More from the ‘yard as we go.