(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Wow, just watching the games on TV the last two nights, Turner Field just looks dreary. So few fans in the stands, such long faces in the dugout. When’s the last time we saw Chipper smile?
Too bad the Braves can’t have a “Senior Skip Day.” Remember those? Or was it just my high school? Just when you were dying of “Senioritis,” when it was sunny and lovely and you just needed a break from school, we all blew off school and did things like go to the lake for a day. Shoot, I can’t even remember if the school knew about it, or what, but we didn’t get in trouble, I don’t think.
The Braves are in some trouble themselves.
Things just absolutely fell apart last night with that six run sixth inning. The loss Monday night to the Padres hurt, yes, but the Braves had bounced back from series-opening losses to win four of their previous five series (of three or more games) after dropping the first game. That’s been well-documented. And actually, say what you will about the Padres being terrible, Mat Latos is not. So there wasn’t total shame in struggling to beat him.
But last night was different. It was one of those deflating losses, especially after the Braves and Kenshin Kawakami had a three-run lead. Is that the one we’ll look back on and say that was the beginning of the end?
The Braves are now eight games back in the NL East, with 36 games to play. They’re 5 ½ games back in the wild card. Those sound like awfully big gaps to me, but I guess mathematically we can’t rule anything out when you have 13 more games against the two teams ahead of you in the East – the Phillies and Marlins ‑ and you have seven of your last 10 games against the Nationals (dare I say that’s a positive? I’m not sure).
But gosh, the Braves don’t want to be “out of it” before September even gets here.
So yes, everybody knows this is a “must-win” game tonight, but again, say what you will about the Padres, this is no simple task. The Padres are pitching left-hander Clayton Richard, one of the young arms that came over from the White Sox in the Jake Peavy deal, and he’s been hot. He’s 3-0 with a 3.67 ERA in five starts since the trade. He’s coming off six shutout innings against Albert Pujols and the Cardinals.
He hasn’t pitched more than six innings in any of those five starts, so perhaps if the Braves work the count and get his pitch count up early, things will work out for them.
Javier Vazquez hasn’t been as automatic lately. He’s lost his last two starts to break a streak of seven straight games the Braves won with him on the mound.
I will say, as bad as things seem for the Braves at the moment, at least it’s not this: I just read on the Notes Group from my esteemed “cousin” Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, this little nugget that Milton Bradley said Wednesday about all the “hatred” he’s receiving from Cubs fans.
“All I’m saying is I just pray the game is nine innings, so I can be out there the least amount of time as possible and go home,” Bradley said.
TATE, MYERS TIDBITS FROM NOTE GROUP:
Tate: Two days after reporting to the Padres rookie league team, their No. 3 overall draft pick
Lidge, the closer who was 48-for-48 in save opportunities including the playoffs last season, just blew his ninth save of the season Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and his ERA was up to 7.33 going into Thursday night.
Charlie Manuel continues to say Lidge is the closer, but he really doesn’t have much choice. Lidge is in the first season of a 3-year, $37.5 million contract. And, at least at the moment, there are no real options.
This is where Brett Myers comes in. Myers, who opened the season as the No. 2 starter, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip on June 4. He made his third rehab appearance Wednesday night for Double-A Reading and struck out five Erie Seawolves in two innings.
The Phillies don’t need another starter right now. And there isn’t time to stretch him out, anyway. But he was the closer in 2007 when the Phillies went to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. And he relishes the role.
Myers downplayed the thought that he could ride to the rescue.
OK, that’s it for now. More when I get to the ballpark. I’m working on a new laptop today, which ultimately should be a good thing, but right now it kind of feels like I’m walking in mud with heavy boots on. So I apologize, if it seems like things aren’t moving as quickly as usual. They aren’t just yet!