Cincinnati – OK, first thing to know is this game won’t be starting at 12:35 p.m. We’ll be doing well for it to start an hour late. It’s raining now and a big cell is coming through that’s supposed to keep the rain coming until 1:30. And after that? As Reds PR man Rob Butcher knows from experience here, that’s assuming another one isn’t coming behind it.
So hey, I’m here to entertain and dazzle – aha – while we wait for some baseball. And hope that the 8 p.m. flight I have tonight isn’t in major jeopardy.
The weather was especially perplexing to Braves guys in the lineup today who rarely are – Matt Diaz was talking smack that he was in the cleanup hole, ready to rake. He’d heard there was hail coming, but said: “We can wear helmets in the field, let’s go.”
With the left-hander Matt Maloney going today, Cox stacked the lineup with right-handers, like Martin Prado, who gets the start at second base today. David Ross gets his first start of the road trip at catcher, and against his former team. He was out in the dugout, looking up at the sky too.
So Kelly Johnson gets the day off, and he could probably use one to clear his head. Johnson is hitting .148 (8-for-54) in 14 games in June with two doubles and two RBIs. He has one multi-hit game in that time. He’s reached base only twice in the last three games on an infield hit and an error. And he’s been a flyball out waiting to happen, except for when he needed one last night with a runner at third and one out.
HANSON ON THE MOUND: Tommy Hanson takes the mound for the third time today. And hey, I’ve seen all three of them.
One thing I noticed from his second start in Baltimore was he wasn’t trying to blow the ball past every hitter anymore. He touched 97 mph in his debut in Turner Field. Friday in Baltimore, he was more in the 93-94 mph range, which is more of his comfort zone, and plenty hard.
As a result, by the way, Hanson wasn’t lying on the floor of the clubhouse exhausted after the game like he was in Atlanta after his debut. He had enough energy to celebrate his first major league win with his teammates.
“Yeah (first time out) I was 100 percent, with everything, just as hard as I could,” Hanson said. “I think that’s why I was so tired after that one too, compared to (Friday) when I felt normal.”
Hanson looked more comfortable out on the mound Friday night, taking his time between pitches and pitching like he was in command of his thoughts and what he wanted to do.
“I would say a couple times I got in hairy situations, I just kind of backed off, thought about what I had to do,” Hanson said. “The first time I was kind of robotic. Just get the sign go, get the sign go, every time. Instead of last time, thought stuff through a little bit more, just being more comfortable.”
Brian McCann caught Hanson Friday night in Baltimore for the first time ever – spring training, bullpen, what have you. McCann gets the day off today to rest so Hanson will be back with Ross, who caught him all spring training.
RED SOX-YANKEES-RED SOX-PHILLIES:
Like it or not, it’s coming, this ridiculous stretch of 12 games – 13 with a makeup game against the Cubs mixed in – where the Braves face the Red Sox for three games, Yankees for three games, Red Sox at home for three more and then the Phillies come in.
For a team limping through this road trip at 1-4, it can’t be that welcome a thing – this stretch. Chipper Jones wouldn’t go that far, saying it was a shot for the Braves to test themselves against some of the best pitching in the game. But he would still say this:
“If we were 40-20 right now, we’d be licking our chops,” Jones said. “Everything in this game is about momentum, and we haven’t built up too much of it to this point this year because of inconsistent play. We’re going to get our lunch handed to us if we play inconsistently, but one thing this team has done is has stepped up its level of play against quality opponents. We’ve played well against Toronto, we’ve played well against Philly. We’ve played well against the Mets. So we’ve played well when we’ve needed to and we’re going to need to over the next two weeks.”
The Braves are 9-5 against the Mets, Phillies and Blue Jays.
WACKY STAT: By now you know the Braves did not strike out at the plate in the 4-3 loss to the Reds Wednesday night. It’s amazing they can make contact all game long, and lose, and leave eight runners on base at that.
But it’s not as bizarre as you might think. Thanks to the work of Braves PR man Brad Hainje, we now know that over the last 20 years, going back through 1990, the Braves have had zero strikeouts in nine games, and lost six of them. They are 3-6 in those games, which looks backwards. Maybe Greg Maddux and Crash Davis really are right about the powers of the groundball.
COMING UP IN BOSTON:
A guy to watch for this weekend? Former Braves and Duluth High graduate Nick Green, who signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox in January. He’s apparently playing some great shortstop now for the Red Sox, hitting .293 with three homers and 23 RBIs.
Writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe and our baseball notes group,
“Shortstop Nick Green is quickly becoming one of the top stories with the Red Sox. Green has been hovering around .300 with good production. After making nine errors, his defense has improved and he has a gun for an arm.”
I’m not sure I remember Green having a gun for an arm, but he apparently showed it on a play against Florida Wednesday night when he robbed Hanley Ramirez of a hit with a diving back-handed play and throw.
And this other tidbit from Carfardo….Wednesday the Red Sox sold out their 500th consecutive game at Fenway. (Wow.) That puts them in fourth on the all-time list for consecutive sellouts.
Portland Trailblazers 744 1977-95
Boston Celtics 567 1980-1995
Chicago Bulls 515 1987-2000
Boston Red Sox 500 2003-2009 *
· through Wednesday
1. McLouth CF
2. Escobar SS
3. C. Jones 3B
4. Diaz LF
5. Martin Prado 2B
6. Francoeur RF
7. Kotchman 1B
8. David Ross C
9. Tommy Hanson P
OK, hopefully we get this thing going before long. DOB will be back with ya tomorrow.