My favorite part of the highlights that ESPN showed of last night’s 15-inning Braves win was the shot of the maintenance guy vacuuming the area behind the bullpen mounds in the 13th inning.
He was vacuuming it because there was no one left out there in the bullpen. No one.
Kris Medlen was the eighth pitcher and seventh reliever used by the Braves, and the kid was impressive, working three scoreless innings of one-hit ball.
He kept the Pirates on lockdown until the Braves pulled out the 7-6 win on David Ross‘ one-out, bases-loaded grounder ruled a hit, as the usually stellar Pirates SS Jack Wilson made a throw just wide enough to pull his catcher’s foot off the plate and allow Jeff Francoeur to score the winning run.
Now, about Medlen: I think we’re seeing, in his last two outings, exactly what it was that earned him his call to The Show to begin with, aren’t we?
The little dude went 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA in his first two starts after getting called up in mid-May, allowing seven hits, nine runs and seven walks with six strikeouts and a hit batter, plus a couple of costly wild pitches.
But in two games since then, including one start and his first relief appearance, Medlen has pitched nine innings and allowed just five hits, one run and two walks with 12 strikeouts.
Opponents have hit .167 against him in those nine innings, and that was six innings at a hitters’ park in Arizona and three innings with the game on the line and no one else available to replace him if he faltered.
Good stuff. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t stick around as a long reliever, especially now that Buddy Carlyle is DL’d and coping with his recent diagnosos if diabetes, and Jorge Campillo is back on the DL for shoulder tendinitis.
◊ Chipper feeling it: Every time the past couple of seasons that it looks like Chipper Jones might be headed for the DL or that he’s starting to lose it, the old man goes on a tear that reminds us what a special hitter he is.
He had a two-run, opposite-field homer in the first inning last night off lefty Zach Duke, and an opposite-field single in the fifth inning immediately before Brian McCann’s two-run homer.
In his past 22 games, Chipper has hit .391 with 11 extra-base hits (five homers), 19 RBIs, a .494 OBP and a 1.204 OPS. He’s boosted his season average to .331 — is this really what he is now, a .330 hitter and not a .300 hitter? — and his OPS to 1.018, fifth in the NL behind Pujols, Ibanez, A. Gonzalez and Fielder.
He’s 12-for-25 (.480) with four homers and 13 RBIs in his past seven games, and the switch-hitter is showing no more signs of the right big-toe sprain that looked like it might land him on the DL barely a week ago.
”My power stroke is there right-handed,” said Jones, who is hitting .385 (20-for-52) with 11 extra-base hits (five homers), 16 RBIs and an .808 slugging percentage against lefties. “I’m getting pitches to hit, and hitting ‘em hard.”
He said if he could only get his left-handed power stroke going like he’s raking from the right side, he’d be all set. He’s hit .305 (32-for-105) with three homers, 14 RBIs and a .448 slugging percentage against righties.
◊ Two outs w/RISP: Say what you will about he Braves offense — it’s been anemic far too often, and the OF has been awful — but for some reason, hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs has been there thing all season.
By “their thing,” I mean they’ve done it better than anyone in the majors, all season.
The Braves currently have four of the top seven NL averages with RISP and two outs, led by Jones (.538, 7-for-13), who’s second in the league behind Todd Helton (.556). In the fifth through seventh spots are Casey Kotchman (.455, 10-for-22), Matt Diaz (.450, 9-for-20) and Yunel Escobar (.438, 14-for-32).
We’ll take a moment for some folks to say, “Yeah, but it’s a bunch of singles, so who cares?”
OK, now we’ll inform you that no team in the majors has hit more homers w/RISP and two outs than the Braves, who have hit 12. (The Rockies also have 12, while no other NL team has more than eight, and the Yankees lead the AL with 11).
The Braves lead the majors with 111 RBIs in those situations, and the Rockies are the only other team with 100 (they have 101).
The Braves have a .423 OBP w/RISP and two outs, while the Red Sox (.403) and Rockies (.400) are the only others as high as .400.
Finally, the Braves’ .512 slugging percentage w/RISP and two outs ranks second in the majors to the Rockies’ .514, and the Red Sox are third at .476.
Considering what a joke new Yankee Stadium is as a hitters’ park (there’ve been twice as many homers hit to right field in that park as there have been homers hit in total at Turner Field this season), the Braves (or anyone else but the Yanks) leading in any area when it comes to homers and slugging percentage surprises me. I’ve got no explanation, and one comment: Why can’t they hit anywhere as good in other situations?
◊ McCann’s vision (and view): If you’ve noticed, Brian McCann has been wearing his glasses under his mask while catching recently.
Were you wondering what McCann did to take care of the fogging problem he was having with his glasses when he initially tried wearing them under his mask?
I talked to him about it yesterday. He got a new pair of glasses specifically to wear under the mask, and it’s a bigger pair that sits a little farther from his face. That made the difference, increasing the air flow between glasses and face and preventing the fogging.
”They don’t look good, but they’re working great,” McCann said of those glasses, which aren’t as cool and sleek as the ones he wears while hitting.
Wearing glasses beneath his mask makes a difference, he said, when it comes to reacting a little quicker on pitches inside or outside and picking up the spin and direction of the ball. Not as crucial catching as hitting, but important.
Don’t know about you all, but I’ve noticed his defense has been a little better since he started wearing them a little over a week ago at Arizona.
As for hitting, he’s been hot since returning from the DL last month, batting .364 with 10 extra-base hits (four homers), 15 RBI, 13 walks and a .451 OBP and 1.031 OPS in 26 games since returning.
Will it be enough to land him a fourth consecutive spot on the All-Star team to begin his career? If I had to guess, I’d say yes.
By the way, don’t notice if you guys saw the unsolicited comment that McCann made last night regarding team chemistry, a subject that’s come up here recently because of something that was written elsewhere.
He was asked about the team’s recent come-from-behind wins and extra-innings games.
”The character [of the team] is unbelievable,” he said. “This has been the funnest team I’ve been on since I’ve been here. The chemistry is great; everybody’s pulling together.
”We’ve got a great mix of veterans and young guys here. There’s been a lot more interaction lately. We’ve played a lot of close games, and we’re winning games that we didn’t win last year.”
“KID” by Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)
Kid what changed your mood
You’ve gone all sad so I feel sad too
I think I know some things we never outgrow
You think it’s wrong
I can tell you do
How can I explain
When you don’t want me to
Kid my only kid
You look so small you’ve gone so quiet
I know you know what I’m about
I won’t deny it
But you forgive though you don’t understand
You’ve turned your head
You’ve dropped by hand
All my sorrow, all my blues
All my sorrowShut the light, go away
Full of grace, you cover your face
Kid gracious kid
Your eyes are blue but you won’t cry
I know angry tears are too dear
You won’t let them go