Archive for September, 2009

Playoffs or not, Braves’ strong finish bodes well for future

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Believe? The Braves believe they must run the table. They're probably right.

 

Three games behind the wild-card leader with only five to play seems about as desperate a situation today for the Braves as they faced on the morning of Sept. 10, when they were fifth in the wild-card standings, 8-1/2 off the lead.

But if you’ve been following them closely and don’t view the Braves any differently today than on Sept. 10, well, then all I can say it you must be determined not to change your perception regardless of events.

Because it’s been a helluva run back to relevance for these Braves, and no less a realist than Chipper Jones has been talking the past week about how much this finish could and should mean for the Braves moving forward next year.

The same Chipper who in previous weeks had talked about how next season might be his last if he doesn’t play any better than he did for much of this one.

Seeing his team rally down the stretch and win 15 out of 17 games before …

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Next hurdle: Josh Johnson

Josh   (Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)

   We’re at the point where every game is important, the end-all-be-all. Yes, agreed, we’re there. But let me venture out on a limb and say tonight is especially so, if, for no other reason than because Josh Johnson is pitching.

   The Marlins were going to run Rick VandenHurk out there until they figured out Johnson was well enough from the flu to start (he was scratched from Sunday’s start vs. the Mets). So now, the Braves face one of the best pitchers in the league, if you ask Bobby Cox, and if you look at the radar gun.

   Johnson has a mid-90s fastball that doesn’t let up. He’ll throw hard in the sixth inning just as sure as the first. He has a nasty slider and changeup, and together the kind of repertoire that had him no-hitting the Braves into the sixth inning the last time they faced him in Florida on Aug. 31.

   You remember that game? When Kenshin Kawakami was the one to finally help the …

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It’s the Marlins…and it’s serious

   (Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

   Let’s see if I’ve got this right. Braves are back in the hunt, down only 2 ½ games in the wild card. And there’s a touch of fall in the air (overnight temps in the 50s?!) and a zero percent chance of rain come game time. Could that combination bring fans back out to Turner Field tonight for the start of a seven-game homestand?

   It’s the final homestand of the season, one where any one loss along the way – really two – could dash the Braves hopes. But any win could keep this momentum rolling and put that much more pressure on the Rockies.

   Don’t you hear, kind of anecdotally, among your friends and acquaintances, people talking more about it now? I wonder if, and for the Braves sake I hope it will, translate into a little more excitement at the ballpark this week.

   It’s hard to say. I’m never sure with Braves fans how much what’s going on between the white lines affects whether they …

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Braves winning and watching scoreboard

 Washington – Plenty of the Braves stayed in the clubhouse at Nationals Park until the end Friday night. That is, until the end of the St. Louis-Colorado game in Denver, which the Bravos were watching on TV in Washington.

Vazquez could be Braves MVP

Vazquez could be Braves MVP

 The Rockies won in the bottom of the ninth, drawing groans across not just Baseball City (St. Louis) but wherever Braves fans were seated in front of TVs around the nation, and in one visitor’s clubhouse in our nation’s capital.

 Braves players watched the Rockies celebrate for a moment, then gathered their belongings and headed to their D.C. hotel to get some sleep before getting back to the business at hand. The business of pursuit.

 Still 3-1/2 games behind, with nine games left for the Braves before a Saturday afternoon tilt with the Washington Generals … er, Nationals. The Rockies have only eight games left, as do do the Giants and Marlins, but the Giants and Marlins are five games off the lead, so they’re …

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Braves still in running with 10 to go

 

Washington — If someone had said in the last week of June that the Braves would be playing important games in the last week of September, many would have scoffed. Many of us did, in fact. And why not:  the Braves were 34-40 at the time, hitting just .256 as a team and averaging 4.1 runs per game.

Tonight's starter Vazquez hasn't lost on road in three months

Tonight's starter Vazquez hasn't lost on road in three months

Their lineup was punchless, and it seemed a near-certainty that one or two of their starting pitchers would eventually break down or throw their hands in the air in frustration from the serial lack of run support.

But here we are on Sept. 25, with Atlanta entering the final 10 games of the season in second place in the wild-card standings, 3-1/2 games behind Colorado. Let’s be clear: they still face long odds if they are to overtake the Rockies and end Braves Nation’s three-year nightmare by getting back to the postseason — which once seemed a standard part of the Braves schedule when they went to 14 consecutive …

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Hot Braves still need plenty of help

 

Escobar has been getting key hits all season, and did it again in Tuesday's 3-1 win.

Escobar has been getting key hits all season, and did it again in Tuesday's 3-1 win.

 

 

New York – So the Braves have won 10 of 12 games and have 11 more to play. And like we said last week, it was probably too late regardless of what they did the rest of the way, since the Braves not only needed to roar to the finish after their costly 0-5 skid, but also needed teams ahead of them to stumble.

This fan had the broom out for last week's sweep of Mets in Atlanta. They'll try to complete a another sweep tonight in Flushing.

This fan had the broom out for last week's sweep of Mets in Atlanta. They'll try to complete a another sweep tonight in Flushing.

And here we are, with 11 games left and the Braves five games behind wild-card leader. The Rockies have stumbled slightly, but they would have to skid even worse the rest of the way for the Braves to slip into the postseason, and that’s assuming the Braves win at least nine or 10 of their remaining games.

For those who still want to believe, here’s what would have to happen:

If the Braves (81-70) go 9-2 the rest of the way (given their competition, …

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Diaz finds a home … no, not Citi Field

 

 

New York — If you own Mets season tickets and attended every game at Citi Field this season, you are a person in need of companionship or a hobby.

No, no … we kid the Flushing faithful.

But seriously, if there is someone who has attended every game played at Citi Field this season, assuming they watched all the action on the field and weren’t distracted by the drunken brawls in the stands (OK, kidding again; it’s not as rough as Shea), then you have seen Matt Diaz hit as many homers here as Mets Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Brian Schneider or, yes, Jeff Francoeur. Which isn’t good for the Mets, of course, since Diaz plays for the Braves.

Let me repeat: Matt Diaz has hit as many homers (three) in 23 at-bats during his six games at Citi Field as Beltran has hit here (three homers in 129 at-bats in 34 games), Delgado (three homers in 50 at-bats in 15 games), Schneider (three homers in 66 at-bats in 24 games) or Francoeur (three homers in 119 at-bats in 32 games).

Proud papa Diaz has thrived with Braves

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Braves need power to complement pitching

 

New York – We managed to make it out of Atlanta without a boat this morning, and I’m glad to inform you that we should actually be able to play baseball without a rain delay tonight.

Braves have had big bat only since July 31 trade

Braves have had big bat only since July 31 trade

Not that that’s going to do much for you good people back in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, who are dealing with incredible amounts or rain we had dumped on us for the past several days — and which was likely to continue for another couple of days, last I heard.

I’m fortunate to live on the high end of our hilly street, so the only real mess I had was some water in the basement, which thankfully has a bare concrete floor with a drain, so as long as it doesn’t get to the pool table there shouldn’t be any real damage. And we didn’t have nearly the flood problems in our area, by Emory and Toco Hills, that they had in the north and west suburbs and east of the city.

Anyway, good luck to all of you dealing with that ugliness. It’s …

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LaRoche’s back…and his future

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

   So I’m actually squinting as I type, which is a good sign that we might actually get this game in today, or at least the first part of it! I’ve heard that if we could somehow get this game to be played by 3:30 or 4 p.m. we might be OK. Now, I haven’t covered a two-hour game in about 15 years, ahem, but I think we’ve got the man on the mound to deliver a fast game and that’s Mr. Tommy Hanson.

   Mr. Cliff Lee should do his part as well. It’s been an unbelievable week, leaving the ballpark at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday night and actually coming back the following night as a regular gal, with a guest in town who wanted to come, and sat through another two-hour rain delay.

   But somehow, some way they’ve been getting them in, and I trust that’ll continue today.

   The lineup looks a little different today. Adam LaRoche has a sore back which he injured diving for a ball Friday night. He aggravated it last …

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Do you think Braves can do it?

 

It’s seven in a row and 4-1/2 back, but with only 16 games to play. So are you in? Are you back aboard the Braves bandwagon, if you ever got off? Or were you ever on to begin with?

These are strange times to follow this team, aren’t they? Many of you Braves fans have had your hearts broken a few times these past few years, allowed yourselves to believe more than once, got caught up in the promise of rising young talent and/or a few key offseason additions.

Only to be left standing there in September wondering, what just happened and how did I let myself get caught up in it again?

Braves go for eighth in a row tonight behind Tim Hudson

Braves go for eighth in a row tonight behind Tim Hudson

Anyway, here we are, the Braves having followed their most disappointing week (that 1-6 stretch that we thought was the proverbial final nail in the coffin) with their best week in recent memory, a 7-0 stretch that’s included sweeps against the powerful Cardinals (in Baseball Town, no less) and the injury-depleted, flushing Mets.

But the …

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