San Francisco — A couple of things to think about before anyone considers jumping in front of a train (or cable car) because Chipper Jones is hurt and the season is over and the Braves are doomed, doomed, doomed.
When Chipper jammed his thumb in spring training and Bobby Cox said such injuries often lingered, he was back in the lineup the next game. (This time, after he strained an oblique muscle Thursday, Cox said Chipper would probably miss two or three days while Chipper indicated it was too early to estimate when he’d return.)
Secondly, the Braves last season reversed a trend of losing most of their games when Chipper was hurt. They learned to win without the third baseman in the lineup, going 9-1 in the 10 games he didn’t play after early June.
So take a deep breath, realize that Jones could be back as soon as, well, sooner than expected, and that even if he’s not the Braves have confidence they can win without him. Because they did it last season.
Some have asked if the Braves would move Troy Glaus to third base, since that was his position for so many years. I don’t know, because he’s worked exclusively at 1B since spring training began and I don’t know that the Braves would want to interrupt his development, as it were, at first base by moving him back over. Also, Eric Hinske is older and heavier than when he played over there on a regular basis, so I don’t know that that’s a great option (wasn’t there yesterday, but I don’t think Bobby discussed that after the game anyway). We’ll find out real soon, though. But I’d expect Omar Infante gets the call.
(Blogmeister addendum: As expected, Infante’s in lineup, however he’s at 2B. Prado moves to 3B, where he’s better defensively than Infante, who’s a better 2B than a 3B.)
Now to today’s series opener today here in sunny San Francisco, where the weather — it’s ideal, temps in 60s with no rain or fog — isn’t going to spoil the Giants’ home opener, so it’ll be up to the tired Braves to handle that.
I’m guessing the team got to its hotel sometime after 3 a.m., 10 hours or so before the first pitch for today’s 1:35 p.m. game. While the Braves were finishing (with a thud) their series against the Cubs on Thursday, the Giants were enjoying a day off after returning from an opening sweep at Houston.
The Giants beat them by three runs or more every game, outhit the Astros 37-20, and never trailed in the entire series. Houston needed 20 innings before it got an earned run against a Giants starting pitcher.
S.F. starters (Lincecum, Zito, Cain) were 3-0 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA against the ‘Stros, and S.F. hitters have an NL-best .347 average after one series. The Braves this weekend will face only one of the starters who beat Houston.
That one is a beast, however. Actually, a Freak — two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
The right-hander who looks more grunge-band guitarist than pitcher, Lincecum will be presented with his ‘09 Cy Young in a presentation before Saturday’s game, then he’ll face Kenshin Kawakami on Sunday.
On the subject of Kawakami, there was some confusion after it was listed in Braves game notes that he was pitching Saturday and Derek Lowe on Sunday. Just a typo, folks, there was no change in the order the Braves set a month ago.
As previously announced, it’ll be Lowe pitching on regular rest Saturday in his second start of the season, against Giants righty Todd Wellemeyer in his season debut. Then on Sunday, Kawakami makes his first start when he faces Lincecum.
The Braves will hope that Kawakami’s ‘09 tendency to be at his best against top pitchers continues in 2010, because there’s usually very little room for error pitching against Lincecum.
This series at the picturesque park by China Basin will feature teams with the league’s lowest two ERAs, the Giants (1.67) ahead of the Braves (2.33), with the Phillies (3.46) more than a run back in the third spot.
The Braves’ bullpen has been exemplary, allowing just four hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in 10-2/3 scoreless innings. Atlanta relievers haven’t allowed a run, earned or otherwise, while every other major league bullpen has been charged with at least two earned runs.
With the exception of the first inning (Lowe) of the opener, the Braves got solid pitching from starters and relievers against the Cubs. After Lowe gave up three runs in that opening inning, the staff posted a 1.38 ERA in the rest of the way.
The offense sputtered, however, with the exception of two six-run innings in Monday’s opener. The Bravos hit .258 for the series and scored just three runs in the last two games, two of those coming on Chipper’s eighth-inning homer in the second game.
Meanwhile, curious to see how the Phillies did in their opening series against the Nationals, I noticed their first five hitters had at least two hits apiece Thursday, and the first four in the lineup hit .400 or higher in the series.
♣ Braves lineup
♣ Better reverse this trend: The Braves have lost 12 of their last 21 games against the Giants, including four in a row at AT&T Park (probably my favorite ballpark, by the way; if you haven’t been and ever get a chance, do yourselves a favor and take in a game, preferably seated in second level on first-base side where you can see the marina and sailboats beyond left field).
The Braves were swept their last time here, a May 25-27 series when they hit .165 with no homers and got outscored 18-5.
Nate McLouth is a .369 career hitter with eight extra-base hits in 19 games against the Giants, including .364 with a .417 OBP and three doubles in 10 games at San Francisco.
At pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, Chipper (.303 w/ four homers in 89 at-bats) and David Ross (.238 w/ five homers in 42 at-bats) are the only Braves with more than one homer.
Meanwhile, the Giants would just as soon not face Billy Wagner or Takashi Saito, I’m guessing. Saito, a former Dodgers nemesis, has a 1.30 ERA, 4-1 record and 13-of-14 saves converted in 27 appearances against the Giants, and Wagner has a 1.93 ERA, 19-of-22 saves and 48 strikeouts in 42 innings (39 apps) against them.
♣ The Glaus update: Speaking of trends, this wouldn’t be a likely place for Troy Glaus to regain his power stroke. He’s hit .159 (11-for-69) with one homer, six walks and 17 strikeouts in 18 games at AT&T Park.
And for those wondering about Glaus this season, here’s the breakdown: He’s 1-for-6 with runners on base, 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, and 0-for-3 with two strikeouts with the bases loaded.
He’s 2-for-9 with five strikeouts vs. right-handers, and 1-for-2 vs. lefties.
Glaus and the man he replaced at 1B for the Braves, Adam LaRoche, are tied with three others for the major league lead with six strikeouts.
♣ Today’s matchup: Former A’s star Tim Hudson is back in the Bay Area to face Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez in the season debut for each pitcher.
Hudson’s 4.03 ERA in 11 starts against the Giants is the highest among six Braves pitchers (starters and relievers) who’ve pitched more than once against them, and he’s 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts at AT&T Park.
In his past six starts against the Giants, Hudson is 2-3 with a 5.49 ERA. He hasn’t faced them in the past couple of seasons, however, and had two quality starts in his last two games against them in 2007.
♣ Closing with the Hook: I’m not certain John Lee Hooker wrote this, but if someone knows otherwise let us know. Regardless, it’s a great tune. Hook doing “Frisco Blues” — and here’s a recording of the song. The late blues legend has a bar here in S.F., called the Boom Boom Room.
“FRISCO BLUES” by John Lee Hooker
I left my heart in San Francisco
I left my heart, people, in San Francisco
High on the hill, at the Golden Gate, ‘cross the bay,
in San Francisco, on the hill, the mornin’ fog,
and the cool, cool night
That’s where, I wanna be, San Francisco
That’s where my heart
Up in New York City,
I’ve been to Chicago,
but found no place, like San Francisco,
with the cable car, high, high, on the hill
In the mornin’ fog,
the evening breeze,
the cool, cool night,
is where I wanna be
Work, work people, tell me about it,
work out, work out
I got the blues for San Francisco
Yes, yes, yes, yes
My heart is there, high, on the hill,
right down by, the Golden Gate, ‘cross the bay,
that’s where I wanna be
I left my heart right there, in San Francisco
with the mornin’ fog and the cool, cool night, the cable cars, on the hill
That’s where I wanna be people,
my heart is there, my heart is there, in San Francisco