(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today while he hobnobs with Hall-of-Famers.)
Milwaukee – Good afternoon from a breezy and beautiful day in brats land, where the roof is open at Miller Park and the guys are taking a little bp while the city still buzzes from German Fest.
Omar Infante actually got a little applause from his teammates this morning as he headed out to take his first batting practice since he broke his finger. They can give you a chuckle from time to time, the ballplayers.
OK, business at hand. Chipper Jones is out of the lineup today, but that’s just to give him a two-day breather, with the off day coming tomorrow before the Braves open a three-game series against the Marlins.
“It’ll recharge me real good for the Florida series,” Jones said. “I’m relatively healthy, I’m just kinda beat up a little bit. Two days will do me a world of good.”
Of course Bobby Cox will have him as a pinch hit weapon off the bench and will surely use him.
Without Jones in there, Martin Prado moves to third, and Kelly Johnson gets his first start at second base since he lost his starting job to Prado and spent time in Class AAA Gwinnett resting his sore wrists.
Today is a good chance for Johnson to test out the work he did in Gwinnett with hitting coach Jamie Dismuke. Kelly said they concentrated on keeping his hands quiet at the top of his swing, that he’d had a bit of a hitch going, and that’s helped him regain some confidence at the plate.
Another absentee in the lineup is Ryan Church, who hyper-extended his right elbow swinging at a 3-2 changeup in his first at-bat Saturday night. He said he first injured the elbow three weeks ago with the Mets in a series in Philadelphia. Ryan Howard stepped on his foot as he crossed first base, Church said, and he fell.
He thinks with the off day Monday, he should be fine to go against the Marlins on Tuesday.
“It’s just one of those things I was trying to play through,” said Church, who went 0-for-2 with a walk last night. “Should be fine on Tuesday, ready to go.”
As it turns out, reliever Mike Gonzalez wasn’t quite ready yesterday after his bullpen session. He couldn’t get a good enough grip on his curveball to be consistent with it. But I saw him today and he thinks now he’s ready to go. Bobby wasn’t sure when I asked him about it, but he hadn’t talked to Gonzalez yet. So I’ll guess we’ll just see how it plays out.
1. Nate McLouth CF
2. Martin Prado 3B
3. Yunel Escobar SS
4. Brian McCann C
5. Garret Anderson LF
6. Matt Diaz RF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Kelly Johnson 2B
9. Derek Lowe P
PITCHING MATCH-UPS FOR MARLINS SERIES:
Tuesday: RH Jair Jurrjens (9-7, 2.67 ERA) vs. RH Ricky Nolasco (7-7, 5.42)
Wednesday: RH Kenshin Kawakami (5-7, 4.04) vs. RH Josh Johnson (8-2, 2.74)
Thursday: RH Javier Vazquez (8-7, 2.98) vs. RH Rick VandenHurk (1-0, 3.00)
THAT TIME OF YEAR FOR D LOWE:
Derek Lowe gets back on the mound today with that much more distance between him and his well-documented rough patch. (In case you missed it, Lowe went 0-4 in a five-start stretch with an 8.61 ERA and a .391 opponents batting average.)
Entering his start today against the Brew Crew, Lowe has put up three consecutive quality starts.
Want to know what adjustments he made? I did. But don’t get too excited because Lowe is not super big on analyzing.
“The first thing people do with struggles is sometimes you overanalyze everything as far as mechanical stuff,” Lowe said. “Sometimes you don’t necessarily pitch. You go out there and try to analyze every pitch. You’re hoping to get outs, instead of pitching and allowing the game to happen. When you do that, you normally throw a lot of pitches. There are a lot of hits because you’re not really being aggressive. You’re hoping to get guys out.”
So what’s going on now then? Lowe thinks it’s getting to that time of year when it’s crunch time, and that’s a fun time for him. He’s done his best work coming down the stretch, and his numbers back it up.
Lowe’s career monthly ERAs are at their best at the end of the year, and they get progressively better. He’s got a 3.19 career ERA in August, a 3.14 career ERA for September and a 3.00 ERA for October.
“This is the time of year, I’ve always enjoyed playing,” Lowe said. “Every game is magnified. Every game is important throughout the year, but when you get down to the last two months, six weeks, you can really make a difference if you pitch a good or bad game. I’ve always enjoyed that. Hopefully the next two months will be the same that it has been the last couple years.”
OK, I’m going to leave it at that. Let’s get it going! And good luck to DOB who, if I’m not mistaken, is giving a speech today in Cooperstown to introduce the Spink Award winner: it’s Nick Peters who covered the Giants for 47 years, mostly with the Oakland Tribune and Sacramento Bee.