San Francisco – Good afternoon from the shores of San Francisco Bay, where the sun’s out after the earlyfog, and it’s going to get up to 60 degrees. I hope it’s as nice where you are, because here it sure is a crisp, gorgeous Memorial Day here by the bay.
Before we go any further, Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar aren’t in the lineup. Just got back from clubhouse, talked to Chipper, whose sprained big toe is still black and blue, and quite sore.
While he was in an initial lineup that was posted, that was more hopeful on Bobby Cox’s part, and once Chipper got here and told him it wasn’t any better, that was that. Martin Prado in there again, hitting second this time behind Kelly Johnson and ahead of Matt Diaz and Brian McCann.
”It’s probably the worst one he’s had,” Cox said, referring to Jones and comparing this to his previous toe injuries (not including that ligament injury beneath his foot a few years back, that nearly required surgery).
I just got back from clubhouse, and talked to Chipper. He said running the bases after his big pinch-hit yesterday didn’t help it, though he didn’t think it really aggravated it much. He’ll miss his fourth consecutive start today.
”It’s just not ready yet,” he said. “I can’t go out there and play defense and run the bases.”
Asked if he was frustrated, he said, “It is what it is. It’s a sprain. It takes some time for the soreness and swelling to get out of there. Just doesn’t happen overnight.”
”Running the bases yesterday was painful, and it’s not going to be any better today.”
I asked Bobby Cox if it was still not being considered a possible DL situation, and he said he didn’t think so. He added that if they still had Omar Infante, it’d be easier to carry Chipper a while without putting him on DL.
But even though they don’t have Infante, Cox said that, for now, he doesn’t think it’s a DL thing with Chipper. “I hope not,” he said.
Chipper said he’ll be in there as soon as he can play his position and run the bases. To his credit, he said, “There were some plays Martin made yesterday that I wouldn’t have been able to get to. He’s done a great job, and I think we’re better off right now with him out there and me coming off the bench.
“It [sprain] just has to run its course.”
As for Escobar: “I would say he’s more day-to-day,” Cox said.
♣ On a roll: Braves have won five out of six and 12 out of 17 games, and they finally started to remove that home-park pox by winning four of the last five on a homestand that ended yesterday with a 10-2 win against Toronto, completing a sweep of the team that came to town with the best record in the American League.
Seriously, anyone who’d written the Braves off a week or two ago, and still believes as much, is going to need to explain to us who in the division is so formidable that you really don’t believe the Braves can’t stay in this race.
They start a seven-game trip today that includes three against a San Francisco team that’s lost nine of 11 and scored two runs or fewer five times in that stretch.
After three here at beautiful AT&T Park, the Braves play four at Phoenix. We’ll go from temps in the 50s and 60s here to highs above 100 there (albeit with a domed stadium), and the Braves will have a chance to keep making hay.
The Braves are 12-6 since May 5, best record in the NL East over that span, ahead of the Mets (11-7), Phillies (12-8) and Marlins (5-13). We’ll give you the Nats’ record over any stretch when it becomes relevant again.
”I think it gives you a little bit of momentum,” Cox said of the way the Braves finished the homestand. “We had a great flight out here after the victory.”
Chipper said watching the Braves sweep the Blue Jays — without him in the lineup, and without Escobar the past two games — was encouraging.
”We’re playing some good baseball now,” he said. “Now you’re starting to see some guys get hot. Kelly, Mac, they’re starting to swing the bat well, driving the ball out of the ballpark. That’s good to see. Hopefully it’s contagious and some of the other guys will fall in line.”
♣ Heating up: Johnson continues to be the streakiest hitter in baseball, or at least it must seem that way to any Braves observer.
Dude hit .200 with one homer and five RBI in exactly 100 at-bats over a 31-game stretch from April 12 to Friday. In the past two games, Kelly’s 5-for-9 with two homers and four RBI.
One fewer RBI in the past two games than he had in the previous 31.
As for McCann, he needs to hook up with a glasses company for an endorsement right now, because he’s raking in the prescription eyeware.
He’s hit .396 (19-for-48) with three homers, 10 RBI and a .453 OBP in 14 games since coming backfrom the DL, and yesterday was his third three-hit game in that period.
Oh, and the Braves are 9-5 in those 14 games.
Meanwhile, Casey Kotchman’s avg and OBP are down in his past 16 games, but his run production is way up in that span. He hit .293 with a .363 OBP and 10 doubles in his first 27 games, but had only four RBI, no homers and a .402 slugging percentage in that span.
Kotchman has hit .268 with a .311 OBP in his past 16 games, but has 17 RBI, two homers, a .482 slugging percentage in that span. Braves are 11-5 in those games, after going 12-15 in his first 27 games.
His pal Garret Anderson is also starting to hit, though without extra-base hits in the mix. He’s 15-for-43 with a double, 14 singles and six RBI in his past 11 games, and four of those runs were driven in via sac flies.
Hey, it’s improvement over what he did early, that’s for sure.
♣ No support for Curacao Kid: No run support, that is. You gotta wonder, will it cost Jurrjens a spot on the All-Star team?
Dude is 4-2 with a .228 opponents’ average and 2.07 ERA in 10 starts, the third-lowest ERA in the NL, fourth in the majors.
In his past eight starts, Jurrjens is 2-2 with a 1.98 ERA, which is stunning, to me. In that span, he’s received 3.06 support runs per nine innings pitched.
But as bad as J.J.’s run support has been, Kenshin Kawakami’s has been worse. In fact, his 2.56 support runs per nine innings pitched ranks as the second-lowest in the NL, behind only Barry Zito (2.09).
Meanwhile, two Braves now sit atop the NL in run support: 1. Javier Vazquez (7.71 runs) and Derek Lowe (6.75).
Vazquez (4-3, 3.39 ERA) is going against lefty Jonathan Sanchez (1-4, 4.74) today in a matchup that would appear to favor Los Bravos.
Sanchez is 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA inh is past four starts, with almost as many walks (16) as strikeouts (20) in 20-2/3 innings. Against the Braves, he’s 0-2 with a 7.04 ERA and .344 opp average in his past three games, including one start last season and two relief appearances in 2007.
Vazquez is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in four road starts this season, including wins in each of his past three.
♣ A salute on Memorial Day: After boarding the plane yesterday in Atlanta, I was alone in a row of three for about 15 minutes. Until this older black man with a Vietnam Veteran ballcap boarded the plate late. I was in the aisle, he in the window seat, empty seat between us.
He had a cane and real difficulty walking. I had on a young Bob Dylan T-shirt. And, well, I just never know what a Vietnam vet might think of that, you know? By that I mean, might be a guy who believes the war was total B.S., or might be a guy who’d like to strangle any hippy and Jane Fonda, or he might have a view that falls somewhere between. I do think about those things as I get older.
Anyway, I look closer and notice he’s got on an earring. I take off my don-t-talk-to-me headphones and say, “Thanks for your military service.”
He looks at me, like he’s making sure he’d heard what he thought he’d heard, and said, “Pardon?”
I say again, “Thanks for your service.”
He smiles and says, “You’re welcome.”
I tell him my uncle, Wayne, served in ‘Nam, had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and not until the past decade or so was he finally, properly medicated and more functional and happy. Tell him Wayne died a year or two ago, had all kinds of other health issues.
The old guy’s listening intently, nodding. Tells me he has PTSD himself. And starts telling me that it’s fairly common for vets to not be treated or get meds or whatever, initially because they believed when they came back that they were fine, and secondly, because the VA and/ or the government makes them jump through hoops to prove they were specifically traumatized by incident or incidents when they served. They have be tested and quizzed by shrinks, and to go from this doc to that one before they get a ’scrip. It’s wrong.
Anyway, this was a cool guy. He volunteers now to help other vets get help they need. Says that’s his purpose now that he’s retired. Dude has it together. He’s a native New Yorker but has lived for a long time in Coral Springs, Fla. (suburban Fort Lauderdale, for those not familar). He was coming to San Francisco to play golf for a few days with his brother, also a ‘Nam vet.
Tip of the proverbial cap to him, and to all veterans and active-duty military personnel on this Memorial Day. Whether we agree or disagree on the reasons for the various wars you’ve fought, or on the principles of war itself, all of us Americans — every single one of us — owe you a huge debt of gratitude for serving. Much respect.
And finally … This one goes out to Jay Bennett, the former Wilco band member who died over the weekend at age 45. As one of our bloggers, musician Dylan Kight, pointed out to me, it (presumably) wasn’t written about Bennett, but it seems particularly poignant and fitting in this instance.
“THE LONELY 1″ by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
After the show you walked right past.
Arms reached out for your autograph.
And as you flashed your backstage pass.
I caught your eye with a camera’s flash.
When the band came out they stood behind you.
Cymbals crashed, the lights went blue.
You stood alone in the halo’s haze.
Shinny guitar hung on gold lamay.
And you, you were the lonely one.
You were the lonely one.
When you perform it’s so intense.
When the critics pan I write in your defense.
I understand I’m just a fan, I’m just a fan.
When I get home I turn off the alarm.
I’ve checked the phone, no messages on.
I play the ones from yesterday.
I play you’re song just to hear you say that….
You, you’re the lonely one.
You are the lonely one.
You, you’re the lonely one.
You are the lonely one.