(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Well it’s been a wacky day already, and let’s just hope that doesn’t mean we’re in for rain delays all night and extra innings and who knows what all.
I took the car in to have a tire fixed, filled it full of air long enough to get me to the shop, and on the way there, I took a pebble torpedo to the windshield. (Either that or the sky was really falling.) The crack is directly in front of where my right eye wants to look. So what was going to be a $25 job to patch a tire wound up $250 to replace a windshield. Somebody help?!
Ah well, what are you gonna do? Cover some baseball….
The Braves got off to just the start they wanted in this Nationals series last night, winning in 8-1 command. Now they aim to complete the deal tonight, then take a day of rest tomorrow, and get to face the Phillies at Turner Field this weekend with a real sense of confidence (not to mention maybe a chance to be within three games of them – if the Phillies lose the next two games against the Cubs and the Braves win tonight.)
Craig Stammen, the rookie the Nats have going tonight against Derek Lowe, has had some great moments so far this season. He pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Yankees to collect his first major league win. He pitched a complete game against the Astros, allowing nine hits but only two runs. All well and good, but his last three games have not gone so well.
Stammen has given up 16 earned runs in his last 9 1/3 innings. That makes him 0-1 with a 15.42 ERA in his last three starts. In his last outing against Florida, he gave up six runs without making it out of the second inning.
So the Braves might have an opening here, especially for a lineup playing with a good deal of confidence.
Ryan Church found out in batting practice yesterday that he would be leading off and playing in center field in place of Nate McLouth (hamstring). Hey, no problem, he reaches base four times on two hits and two walks, he doubles in a key run and he scores twice.
“Any name that Bobby (Cox) writes in the lineup will go out and give quality at-bats,” Church said last night, speaking for himself too.
Three of his at-bats came against left-hander John Lannan. Cox hasn’t seemed to have much hesitation playing Church against left-handers, even though the typical deal is for Church to platoon with Matt Diaz in right field.
Just had a look at Church’s breakdown for this season and he’s hitting .304 (68-for-224) vs. righties and .215 (14-for-65) against lefties. But he seems to be able to handle himself OK against lefties, judging by his work bats against Lannan. He grounded out, walked and then doubled in a run on a line drive gapper to right center.
For his career he’s hit .250 vs. lefties and .282 against righties, with four times as many ABs vs. righties (1225).
“The more I see them, the more I get comfortable,” Church said of facing left-handers. “It’s one of those things where you play once every couple weeks. People get on you ‘Oh you can’t hit lefties, this and that,’ but Bobby has been good about throwing me in there against lefties, and I’m starting to get comfortable with it.”
CHIPPER UP TO 15 HOMERS
Then we have the switch-hitting Chipper Jones showing a little better power stroke left-handed last night. His 405-foot shot off Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard was only his seventh home run left-handed this season. He has eight from his natural, right-handed side.
Typically Jones has more home runs left-handed because he gets so many more at-bats from that side, but he feels like his power has been off since he had some shoulder problems last year and because of the batting race.
“My mechanics got so screwed up last year having to play hurt and not really feeling like I could extend on anything,” Jones said. “(And) being in a batting race you’re thinking more hits than you are homers. I just got into some bad habits.”
Jones said he made an adjustment in San Diego that’s helped.
“I made an adjustment to get a little taller in the box, a little quieter with my feet, and it’s helping me see the ball a lot better,” Jones said. “And consequently, I’m centering some balls.”
PHILLIES PITCHING MATCH-UPS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS:
I posted these last night but figure they are worth mentioning again:
Friday: Phillies RHP Joe Blanton (7-6, 4.02 ERA) vs. RHP Jair Jurrjens (9-8, 3.01)
Saturday: Phillies LHP Cole Hamels (7-7, 4.77) vs. RHP Kenshin Kawakami (5-9, 4.12)
Sunday: Phillies LHP J.A. Happ (8-2, 2.74) vs. RHP Javier Vazquez (10-7, 2.90).
Also, the Braves would like you to know about a couple of upcoming matters:
A) Martin Prado will be signing autographs from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday at the Braves Clubhouse Store at CNN center. (You know all you Prado-backers want to get one.)
B) The Sunday game is at 8:05 p.m. now because of ESPN.
C) Monday’s make-up game vs. Arizona is Dave Ramsey $1 day which means Upper Reserved and Upper Pavilion seats can be had for $1 apiece. You can buy them at www.braves.com/daveramsey or at the Turner Field ticket office.
Given what the Braves and fans have been through with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz this year, thought it would be an interesting read for you to see how 46-year-old Jamie Moyer has reacted to being put in the bullpen by the Phillies, now that Pedro Martinez is in their rotation (and pitching tonight against the Cubs).
Here’s what the AP story had on Moyer:
“I feel a little disheartened,” the 22-year veteran said. “I feel a little bit like I’ve been misled. I feel like I’ve played this game long enough that the respect factor should be there.”
Moyer leads the NL East-leading Phillies in wins and losses with a 10-9 record. His 5.47 ERA is among the highest in the majors.
Moyer went 16-7 last year and helped the Phillies win the World Series, then signed a $13 million, two-year contract in the offseason. He said that Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. assured him he would not be sent to the bullpen.
“Ultimately, I’m a little disheartened because I know this past winter, when I was negotiating with the Phillies, this was a sore thumb, if you will, about this potentially happening,” Moyer said. “You can’t promise anything in this game, but I really felt that Ruben kind of parlayed to me that this type of situation would not happen.”
Moyer was told on Monday he would be going to the bullpen. The recently signed Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner, will start in his place.
“When we signed Jamie Moyer in December it was under the pretense of being a starter,” Amaro said in a statement through a team spokesman. “But right now circumstances have changed and that’s why we’re moving him to the bullpen.”
OK, more from the ‘yard.