Baltimore – Greetings from the inner harbor! It’s a beautiful day and it’s hopping here around the hotel, people cruising up and down the street, abuzz with the start of a weekend….and dare we say, interleague play?
I know it might be tired to some, but there were quite a few Braves fans on my flight up today – either that or Jeff Francoeur has shrunk, dyed his hair blond, and taken to wearing his Braves jersey on flights.
MLB says in a release that the 100 millionth fan will take in interleague play this weekend. That in the 13 years since interleague play started (1997-2008), attendance at interleague games is 11.8 percent higher than for intraleague games – that’s a 33,252 average at interleague games, 29,739 at intraleague games.
The American League has a five-year winning streak in interleague play, by the way, and leads this year 22-20 after the first round in May.
So we get back to it for the Braves with as tough an interleague schedule as it gets, including six games against the Red Sox, three against the Yankees, and yes, these three against the Orioles in the next 15 games.
But taking it on the road now means we got to play these dang American League rules. (Not good for deadline, for starters.) The obvious choice for DH for the Braves would seem to be Barbaro Canizares, let the boy rake (them let eat cake?). I don’t know yet how Martin Prado is feeling, but if his groin is still sore, they’ll have to come up with some other plan, but Canizares might have been born to be a DH.
MLB also sent out a 52-page attachment on the completion of the baseball draft, listing all 1,521 picks taken over three days.
In case you were wondering, Albay Barkley, a first baseman from George Washington High School in New York just sneaked under the wire at No. 1,521, taken by the Los Angeles Angels. That brings to mind what my friend Ashley used to say at the blackjack table, holding one chip in her hand – “With this, I will build my fortune.”
Hey, got to start somewhere!
My e-mail inbox also tells me the Falcons have finally, officially, contractually, cut ties with Michael Vick. Oh wait, wrong blog? Shocker that there were no trade takers, ahem. Anyway, just acknowledging that the chapter is officially over now.
CLEANUP WOES: So seeing Canizares in the cleanup spot yesterday got me to wondering how many different Braves have hit there this year. More than one time you’ll walk by the posted lineup, see the No. 4 hole, and go, “Really?”
Thanks to some tallying on my plane ride, I have it at eight different guys: Brian McCann (28), Garret Anderson (12), Casey Kotchman (10), Martin Prado (3), Jeff Francoeur (2), Chipper Jones (2), Matt Diaz (1) and Canizares (1). Of course, I just checked myself against the Braves notes. Why didn’t I just wait to log on and see the notes when I got here? Curiosity, I guess. Though Mr. Richmond might say it was my Type A side.
The Braves are hitting .290 in the cleanup spot, which is fourth in the National League (thanks in large part to McCann, I’d guess), but their seven home runs at the cleanup hole is tied for 12th in the league and their 33 RBIs from the cleanup hole is tied for 14th in the league.
And wow. The Dodgers have a grand total of two home runs in the fourth spot. Manny hits third, so you can’t blame it all on his absence.
Anyway, here’s how it broke down for the Braves cleanup hitters:
Brian McCann 28 starts .275 5 HR 18 RBIs
Garret Anderson 12 starts, .318 0 HR, 8 RBIs
Casey Kotchman 10 starts, .359, 1 HR, 2 RBIs
Martin Prado 3 starts, .231, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Jeff Francoeur 2 starts, .375, 1 HR, 4 RBIs
Chipper Jones 2 starts, .000, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Matt Diaz, 1 start, .333, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Barbaro Canizares, 1 start, .250, 0 HR, 0 RBI
So yes, in an ideal world, the Braves find themselves a slugger at the trading deadline. Not sure where that guy is going to come from; the prototypical cleanup hitter doesn’t come along every day. But then again, this sort of need is not new to the Braves. The trading deadline was when they got Fred McGriff (1993) and Mark Teixeira (2007). And those were probably the two biggest trades in franchise history, no? (Not that my wealth of knowledge goes much earlier than 1991 – aha – so somebody argue with me.)
HANSON: Lest we not forget – and we would never – we have the young Tommy Hanson taking the mound for his second major league start tonight in Camden Yards. He’s looking for better results this time, than the three home runs he surrendered on Sunday when his fastball location suddenly went south.
I read something in a Buster Olney column today that made me realize I should have asked Hanson more about feeling tired after the game Sunday. I’d asked him if he’d gotten much sleep the night before, thinking he might have been nervous and had a hard time sleeping. He said he slept like a baby, that he was exhausted and still was, and that he’d sleep well again Sunday night.
At the time, Hanson blamed his fatigue on having so much family in town, and travel and this and that, but it sounds like just the sheer adrenaline he had working – yes, it was in there, despite the cool demeanor we all see on the outside – caught up with him too. And that might be what happened to his pitches later in the game.
Here’s what Buster wrote:
“When Tommy Hanson walked off the mound after making his first major league start this past Sunday, he went into the Braves’ weight room and simply laid on the floor, exhausted. It wasn’t until after he finished pitching when he realized how much the adrenaline that surged through his body that day had affected him.
‘I was so amped up,’ Hanson said. ‘I’ve never gotten tired once in my life from pitching. I never get tired. But after that, everything felt tired — my legs, my body.’…
(And later, Buster wrote) But during the middle of the game, fatigue began to set in as the tidal wave of adrenaline drained out of Hanson’s body. “I didn’t feel fresh anymore,” Hanson said. His fastball started drifting on him, and the Brewers mashed three homers, two of them by All-Star Ryan Braun. …
So maybe tonight Hanson will be able to take a deep breath and pace himself a little better. I’m sure it’s helped just to have four days with the team, sitting in the dugout, doing his normal preparation and getting used to his surroundings. It’ll be hard to be anymore dominant than he was in those first three perfect innings against the Brewers Sunday, but I’m sure he’d take a little more consistency.
It’ll also be interesting to see how he used his breaking pitches. They are so dang nasty, that you wonder if he might be smart to use them more when his fastball is being a little testy. I know it makes the most sense to work off his fastball, but I just wonder – the way hitters’ knees were buckling at his curve, if they could hit it even if they knew it was coming.
It’ll be interesting to see. I’ve babbled on long enough….More when I get to the ballpark. Excited to see the ol’ Camden Yards. I haven’t been here since 2000! I just had to look it up to refresh the memory. Andy Ashby pitched his first game as a Brave here and it was a complete game victory 4-1. That should tell you a little about how long it’s been.