Hey, it’s a rain makeup game today, and the Cubs and I are here to entertain you until the Yankees arrive tomorrow, and DOB returns after a day to catch his breath.
The Braves, like I did last Friday, wake up today to find summer is here in Atlanta, and not summer like it is in the northeast – sticky and humid, yes, but not this.
It’s dang hot. And that might not be a bad thing for hitters. The Braves offense could use loose joints, and the ball jumping out of the park. I just hope players have been hydrating because they’re going from 63 degrees yesterday at first pitch in Boston to highs around 90s here today. And with the heat index, it feels like 95 already.
Speaking of hot, the Cubbies come in hot. They’ve won four in a row, with a come-from-behind win over the White Sox and a weekend sweep against the Indians.
And as DOB pointed out yesterday, the Cubs have won seven of their last eight against the Braves, including all six against the Braves last season. And they’ve won six of their last nine games at Wrigley South, er um, Turner Field.
Of course this team isn’t the Cubs team of 2008 but they are starting to come around a bit at the plate. In the last four games they’ve hit .272 and averaged 6.5 runs per game. Derrek Lee has hit .389 with four home runs in the last four games.
For the Braves, now would be as good a time as any to break out of this thing they have going behind Javier Vazquez. Amazingly, they’ve lost each of his last five starts, even though he’s pitched well, going so far as to pitch eight innings in each of the last two starts.
Vazquez was a victim of pitcher/hitter Micah Owings his last time out in Cincinnati and lost despite pitching the Braves’ first complete game of the year. He gave up four runs, three of them on the opposite field Great American Ball Park-aided homer by Owings, and afterward, Vazquez sat in his chair, ice pack on his shoulder, staring down into his locker for ….a …long….time.
His outing before that one, Vazquez pitched a two-hitter in eight innings against the Pirates and got no-decision after Rafael Soriano blew the save in the ninth. So in all, going back through May 25, Vazquez is 0-3 in five starts despite a 3.44 ERA. He’s walked only four, struck out 39 and held opponents to a .205 batting average.
That brings him to 4-6 with a 3.41 ERA overall this year.
Vazquez is 3-4 with a 5.17 ERA in his career against the Cubs. Lee is his toughest out, going 20-for-50 (.400) against Vazquez for his career, and half of those hits are for extra bases – seven doubles and three home runs. Watch out there.
Ryan Dempster has an idea what Vazquez feels like. The Cubs have lost each of Dempster’s last three starts, despite the fact that Dempster has given up no more than three runs in any of them. He’s 0-1 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three starts. He did walk six batters in his last outing against the White Sox on June 17; somehow he gave up only three runs though.
OK…what’s next. Do I seem distracted? Well, I am. I’m trying to watch the US Open and blog at the same time. I confess. And let me just say, there are some funky fashions making their way onto the tour. Some of these britches – Barnes yesterday and Mickelson today – retro, Euro, something. But Mickelson is making his move to the top of the leaderboard. Interesting stuff.
So this ain’t exactly easy, with Johnny Miller in my ear, while I try to wax eloquent on the Braves. It might be easier if Johnny would have something to say about the Braves mixed in with his comments.
But who does?
They failed to win a series on that nine-game trip. Shoot, they haven’t won a series since they swept Toronto May 22-24. The best thing the Braves have got going right now is that the Phillies have lost six in a row.
I don’t really know. Honestly, these are strange times to be around the Braves. Just pick up the paper over the last week or so, and you’ll see how all over the place we are. One day Mark Bradley is saying it’s time to trade Jeff Francoeur, the next it’s this team isn’t connecting to Bobby Cox the way past teams did, and then even Furman Bisher is saying it’s time to trade Chipper Jones.
I expect the big pleas on the blog, where moods swing from one pitch to the next., but to see it in rapid succession in print from our distinguished columnists, it’s making my head spin just a bit. And that’s no knock against them. These are fairly desperate times.
So this is what happens to teams on the decline that – let’s face it – aren’t one or two moves from being cured. Ask Nate McLouth. That was a very serious trade, at a very key time, at the weakest position on the Braves field at the time. But how much of an impact has it really made?
Since the day of that trade, and the day the Braves ushered out Tommy Glavine for Tommy Hanson, the Braves have gone 6-10. They’ve given up only a 3.88 ERA but hit .255 and averaged 3.75 runs.
I don’t know what it’s going to take. The answer isn’t as simple as it used to be when the Braves needed a cleanup hitter, or a leadoff man, or an arm for the back end of the bullpen. But it’s not any one thing, and before it’s all said and done, maybe it’s a complete overhaul.
The ground is rumbling isn’t it? Like a train is coming. And I guess we’re all just along for the ride.