Welcome to my re-emergence. DOB is trying to recover from his trip out west, and I’m trying to figure out if I can remember how to cover a baseball game.
It’s been that long, and I’ve been way, way out of touch. Holden Beach, NC is not a place where you get Braves games on TV, I was determined not to take my laptop on vacation, and short of driving around in the car and listening on the XM, I was going to be in a total blackout. So I was.
Then my best friend got married on Saturday in Pawley’s Island, SC. Reception in a tent at Brookgreen Gardens. Lovely, dream wedding and so fun, but no, um, real keeping up with the Braves outside of scoring updates on the blackberry.
The Trip that Was:
So, after some cramming yesterday, this is what I surmised happened on the Braves 2-5 swing through San Francisco and Arizona:
Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar were hobbled and that didn’t help matters, Matt Diaz actually played center, the outfield woes continue, except for Garret Anderson, who’s starting to show why his first month does not define the player he will be for Atlanta.
Let’s see, there were some rumblings about a possible Francoeur trade to the Red Sox. Jair Jurrjens got the all-elusive W on a night when he gave up five runs. Kris Medlen got his act together and initiated himself into the win club. And we got book-end homers by the outfield, one by Francoeur on May 1, one by Anderson May 31.
After going 10-11 in April, the Braves went 15-14 in May, and now they’re right back squarely at .500 again at 25-25.
Does that about cover it?
Oh, and Brian McCann has been tearing it up since his return from the disabled list. He’s hit .394 in 20 games since he came back wearing his cool sporty specs. In that time, he has a .481 on-base percentage (aided by his career-high four walks Sunday in Arizona) and a .576 slugging percentage.
This was after he hit .195 in his first 13 games of the season, with .333 on-base percentage and .415 slugging.
Now here we are back at Turner Field to open a long homestand and things are reversed from the last time around. The Braves came off a good road trip to actually play well at home the last time here, including a three-game sweep of Toronto. Then they stunk it up on the road.
Maybe the trend that is emerging is the Braves are competing with the good teams, or the teams they get up for – Phillies, Mets, Blue Jays, for example (although I see the Braves started the Blue Jays on a 2-8 tailspin and they’ve dropped to third in the AL East) – and lose to the underachieving like the Giants and Diamondbacks.
By that measure, this homestand won’t go that well in the series against the Cubs and the Pirates, the fourth and fifth place teams in the NL Central respectively. But if you have tickets for the weekend set, no worries, the Braves should hang against the NL Central-leading Brewers.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, shall we? The Cubbies are in town, which, if nothing else, means ticket sales should spike, and something interesting will happen. It almost always does. Ted Lilly and some plunkings come to mind.
Cubbies in Town:
We won’t see Carlos Zambrano until Thursday night because he’s serving his six-game suspension for his meltdown after umpire Mark Carlson called Pittsburgh’s Nyjer Morgan safe at home ahead of Zambrano’s tag last Wednesday. Zambrano ended up hurling a ball into left center field.
The tirade was even eye-popping to Milton Bradley, who said in a quote passed on by my “cousin” Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune in our notes group: “That was pretty impressive. It was on a Bradley level.”
My cuz also points out that Cubbies faithful are restless with how the big offseason decisions are playing out this season:
Ryan Dempster, signed to a four-year $52 million contract extension, is 4-3 with a 4.48 ERA. Bradley, signed to a free agent contract worth up to $30 million, is hitting .224 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 38 games, and Mike Fontenot, who replaced Mark DeRosa at second base, is hitting .224 with five homers and 14 runs scored in 45 games.
Phil writes that he finally got GM Jim Hendry to confirm the reason for the DeRosa trade: Lou Piniella wanted the lineup to become more left-handed after the Cubs were shut down by Dodgers right-handers in the playoffs, and DeRosa was the one right-handed hitter who could be moved.
“Mark’s a terrific guy, and he was a good player for us,’’ Hendry said. “But the thinking in the winter was that we already had five right-handed hitters penciled in that weren’t going anywhere. And we were concerned with how [Kosuke] Fukudome was going to come back [as a left-handed power hitter]. … If he hadn’t come back well and we kept Mark, we were probably looking at seven out of eight right-handed hitters every day in the lineup. Then we would have that issue again.”
DeRosa, who is being paid $5.5 million this season, hit .285 with 21 homers and 87 RBIs for the Cubs last season.
How’s it working out? The Cubs batted were second in the NL with a .274 batting average against right-handed pitchers a year ago; they’re 13th with a .250 average against them this season.
Bend it like Beckham:
Phil also wrote that Gordon Beckham, an Atlanta native, former Georgia Bulldog and last year’s first round pick by the White Sox may be poised to replace Josh Fields at third base for the White Sox.
Beckham moved from shortstop to third base at AA Birmingham then got promoted to AAA Charlotte last week. Beckham hit .299 with four homers and 22 RBIs at Birmingham. Asked why Beckham had been moved to third base, GM Ken Williams said, “Because we wanted him to.’’
Fields is hitting .238 with two homers and 53 strikeouts in 168 at-bats.
Tom Glavine goes tonight in Class A Rome in what should be his final minor league rehab outing. If all things go like he’d expect, he’ll return to the Braves rotation some time later this homestand.