(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Just when it seemed like the Mets were here for about a week – hey, four-game series, what can you say – we get the Giants for another “week.” Four days to contend with, at least statistically, the best pitching staff in baseball.
The Giants’ starting rotation’s ERA of 3.55 is the best in the majors. Their bullpen ERA of 3.27 had been best in majors until the Dodgers moved ahead of them at 3.25, but it’s darn good. (The Braves, by the way, are second in the majors among rotations with a 3.69 ERA. So not too shabby either.)
The Braves get the National League’s reigning Cy Young winner and All-Star starter on Wednesday in Tim Lincecum (the Freak), a guy tonight in Jonathan Sanchez, who’s coming off a no-hitter in his last start.
They’re also expected to face rookie Ryan Sadowski tomorrow – though the Giants have been saying TBA. He’s made three starts as the Giants’ fifth starter and wasn’t needed heading into the All-Star break, so he made a tune-up start in Class A on Monday. All he’s done so far in the majors is pitch 13 shutout innings in his first two starts – both wins – then allow two runs in five innings against the Marlins.
The Braves are doing well to miss Matt Cain who is 11-2 with a 2.32 ERA.
Between the Braves and Giants, though, momentum has to favor the Braves, coming off a series win against the Mets, while the Giants lost two of three to the Pirates and have lost three of their last four overall.
I’m no rocket scientist, but it would seem the key is not to let Pablo Sandoval beat you. He’s leading the Giants in batting average (.331), on-base percentage (.381), OPS (.950), home runs (15), RBIs (56) and comes to Atlanta on an eight-game hitting streak.
The Braves averaged 7.7 runs in the three wins against the Mets and have reason to feel good about the way they’ve been swinging. But they could use a little help from the Cubs, who are in Philadelphia for the next three days.
The Phillies can’t seem to lose right now. That’s eight wins in a row and 12 out of 13 since the Braves swept them. Those on the ol’ blog who are saying the Braves woke the Phillies up might be on to something.
Since that sweep by the Braves, which ended on July 2, the Phillies are 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA. They’ve averaged 6.23 runs per game, hit .293 with 19 home runs and looked like the defending World Series champions that they are.
I’ll try to make this brief because we hashed it out a good deal last night and it’s just throwing grease on a fire, but I’ll give Yunel Escobar his point, that we the media, don’t come talk to him after three hits but we want to talk to him after he makes a mistake.
That’s true, he’s right, can’t argue that, and I’ll tell you why – like I told him during a relatively cordial chat at the batting cage yesterday with Martin Prado translating. Sad as it is to say, maybe, we don’t make the effort we should when he does well because of the language barrier and the time and effort it takes to get a teammate or coach to translate, when we’ve got limited time after a game to scramble on deadline.
Odds are there are other players who also did well in the game offensively who speak English. Like I said, sad to say, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, and I wish I had taken Spanish instead of Latin, but that’s just how it’s been.
As for talking to Escobar when things go poorly, I also tried to explain this yesterday. We are trying to get his perspective because there are always two sides to everything, and he might say something that clears something up that we couldn’t see. It’s an attempt to be fair to him and accurate about what happened in the game, and to give him a chance to explain his side of things. More often than not, things aren’t black-and-white, they’re gray, and it’s good to have multiple points of view.
It seems like we’ve come to him a lot lately with things like that, and it’s piled up and I can understand why he’s frustrated. And yes, we’ve totally overblown one hit-and-run play. People mess up. He didn’t miss the sign, he just didn’t pull the trigger on a pitch, and it cost the Braves a key runner, but there were other chances in the game.
But having said that, I also think he could have gone a long way in diffusing the situation last night just by talking. One way we are pretty darn lucky as a media crew around here, is that the Braves understand we have a job to do and owe a debt to Braves fans/readers. So they like to have players who deal with the media in a professional manner, and frankly, just keep things sailing smooth around here.
That’s not how they are with Escobar right now. Maybe, hopefully, that’ll change.
ESCOBAR’S HOT BAT: And now, onto brighter topics with Escobar. Bobby Cox noted last night how Escobar has been driving in runs like crazy since he was dropped lower in the order.
Since Prado took over the second base job and the No. 2 hole in the lineup on June 30, Escobar is hitting .375 (15-for-40) with five doubles, a triple, two homer and 13 RBIs in 15 games.
He’s hitting .427 with runners in scoring position – something he’s done well all season – and lower in the order seems to have brought him a ton of opportunities with men on base lately.
“Prado is doing such a great job in the second hole, and Esce’s got gap power, home run power,” Cox said. “He doesn’t strike out a lot in big situations. He puts the ball in play. He’s been important that way.”
I just wanted to re-visit this topic one last time, how special I thought Friday was and what a nice job the Braves did of honoring one of the best to play the game.
I think it was pretty plain to see how moved Greg Maddux was. I’m not sure anyone actually caught him in tears, but he was close – both during the ovation he got at the luncheon when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and when No. 31 was unveiled Friday night. You could see Maddux flush, and his wife wipe away tears, and his father wipe away tears. Terry McGuirk told me Maddux said to him, up on the stage, “This is unbelievable.”
I wasn’t there for the Cubs ceremony, obviously, but it’d be hard to be as moving as what the Braves did for Maddux Friday night, with the team on the field behind him and all. I think the fans should be proud, as well, for the kind of welcome you guys gave him on Friday night, showing up on time and being there. Very cool.
OK, more from the ballpark later.