(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Washington, D.C. – Or I will be as soon as I get on this plane…..What you see above is a new little tagline we’re going to try at the top of the ol’ blog when I’m at the controls to see if we can minimize confusion. I know there will be aplenty still, without my photo at the top, but I’m told even despite your dutiful suggestions, there is just too much involved to swap out me for DOB on the days I cover.
So there you go.
Onward and upward (literally, I’m about to board)…..to our nation’s capital for the July 4th weekend. I like it. That’ll be a first for me, and it’s a first for the Braves. Shoot, the Nationals’ (and the National League) have just been around DC since 2005. And back in the day, the Braves always seemed to be at home on July 4th.
The Braves landed there last night and had to be downright giddy with the way things went against the Phillies. Three game sweep, four wins in a row. Now they’re back in the hunt at only two games back and with three games ahead against the lowly Nationals. But they’ve got to make these count, and the Braves have had the hardest time with the Nats in the last two years. This weekend is not the time to mess with that.
The Braves are 3-0 against the Nationals at Turner Field this season, but 1-2 against them at Nationals Park. They’re 3-9 at Nationals Park over the last two season, including 2-7 last year.
The Nats, losers of eight of their last 10 and three in a row, have a couple of new faces since last the Braves saw them. The Nationals traded center fielder Lastings Milledge, who’d fallen out of favor, and closer-turned-mop-up man Joel Hanrahan to the Pirates for left fielder Nyjer Morgan and left-handed reliever Sean Burnett.
The Nationals also optioned Elijah Dukes to the minor leagues. He’d been slumping, hitting only .198 with two homers and six RBIs since June 2, and doing things like showing up late to the ballpark, like he did Wednesday in Florida.
That’s good news for the Braves who watched Dukes hit .364 (8-for-22) with two doubles and four RBIs in five games against them this year.
And what’s a July 4th weekend celebration without Manny Ramirez? The dreadlocked Dodger is back in uniform tonight – hey, we Americans believe in second chances – and he will play in front of a sold-out Petco Park against the Padres. And nope it won’t be Padre fans.
How do I know? The Padres have only sold out two games all year – and have had 12 of their smallest crowds of the season in the first 39 games.
Also coming this weekend: All-Star team announcements on Sunday, and you have to figure Brian McCann finds his way onto the team as a reserve, maybe Chipper Jones. Both Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez have had All-Star caliber first halves but could well be penalized by their poor records, thanks to such a derth of run support.
Rafael Soriano is deserving, but it’s tough for a non-closer to make it as a reliever. Of course Charlie Manuel has seen all three of these guys over the last three days and that might help.
Manuel has eight picks, including one extra pitcher since rosters expanded to 33. (Fans choose eight starters, players pick eight reserve position players and eight pitchers – five starters and three relievers. Then the manager gets to pick eight more players, including the starting pitcher. Then there’s of course, the wildcard one pick by fans after the teams have been announced.)
But you also have to figure Manuel is going to be busy making sure at least one player is chosen from every team.
Speaking of Manuel, watching him walk to the mound on Wednesday night reminded me of this great little anecdote from Eddie Perez, who as you recall, caught for two years in Cleveland when Manuel was manager there.
Some Indians starter – I can’t remember who Eddie said – was getting battered around and Manuel comes out to get him. As Eddie tells it (he’s standing there on the mound listening to the whole thing), when Manuel reaches for the ball, the pitcher tells him “I’m all right. I’m fine. I’m not tired.” And Manuel goes: “Yeah, but my outfielders are tired.”
Eddie said even the pitcher had to crack a smile on that one.
While we’re being silly, we’ll tell you what Kris Medlen has gone and done to his head, if you haven’t seen it yet for yourself on TV or something. He’s got, not a Mohawk, but something he’s calling a “faux-hawk,” with his head shaved close like a crew cut on the sides.
“It’s modified version of the Mohawk,” said Medlen, who’s apparently been affected by all his time down in the bullpen and hanging around clubhouse barber Jeff Bennett.
So why not the full-on Mohawk?
“I don’t want to be that guy,” Medlen said. “I’m already ‘the rookie.’ And it’s a little cooler and it’s a little attention for myself. I’ve got to outdo Tommy in something.”
Tommy Hanson, from one locker over, without missing a beat said: “Good luck.”
Just to make sure you guys are paying attention on this holiday weekend – is anyone still at their computer – I thought I’d include this next note to make some stomachs turn….I read this on our notes group from our esteemed colleague Larry Stone of the Seattle Times: Chris Woodward has been playing third base for the Mariners since Adrian Beltre announced he would have season-ending shoulder surgery.
The Mariners signed Woodward to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. They just called up from AAA Tacoma (sighs and gasps) and he made two errors in one play on his first game as a starter at third. As of last night, Woodward was hitting .333 (2-for-6) with two walks. He had two hits vs. the Yankees in his first game, went 0-for-3 in his second.
Our old friend Russ Branyan, a native of Warner Robins and graduate of Stratford Academy in Macon, is having a monster year for Seattle at first base. He’s got 19 home runs and 40 RBIS. He could play third base for the Mariners easy, by why mess with a good thing there?
And I’ll leave you with this little nugget. For those of us woken from a happy slumber by our bosses last July 4, we’ll remember that this is the anniversary of Jeff Francoeur’s being sent to AA Mississippi. Happy holiday weekend!