Archive for April, 2010

Braves return home to face Astros

Series preview: vs. Houston Astros at Turner Field.

When (TV): 7:35 p.m. Friday (SPSO), 3:10 p.m. Saturday (Fox), 1:35 p.m. Sunday (FSS).

Radio: 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday: Braves RH Tommy Hanson (1-2, 2.14 ERA) vs. LH Wandy Rodriguez (1-2, 3.65).

Saturday: Braves RH Tim Hudson (1-1, 3.28 ERA) vs. RH Brett Myers (1-1, 3.81).

Sunday: Braves RH Derek Lowe (3-2, 5.79 ERA) vs. RH Bud Norris (1-2, 5.60).

Friday’s matchup:

— Hanson pitched eight scoreless innings of five-hit ball with no walks and seven strikeouts in his only start against the Astros; he got not decision in the Sept. 9 loss. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in all four starts this season, though he’s not been very efficient and has yet to pitch past the sixth inning.

Rodriguez has three quality starts in four, and won the only game in which the Astros scored more than one run while he was in. He’s 1-0 with a 2.59 ERA in his past four starts against the Braves, and 2-1 with …

Continue reading Braves return home to face Astros »

Jurrjens and Escobar injured in series finale

St. Louis – The hits keep coming for the Braves, just not the kind they need.

Starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens left with a strained left hamstring after the first inning and shortstop Yunel Escobar exited with a groin injury later in the Braves’ 10-4 loss Thursday against the Cardinals, which capped a horrid 0-7 trip.

“I think J.J. has a good chance to make his next start,” said manager Bobby Cox, whose last-place Braves have a nine-game losing streak. “I’m not sure about Escobar. He gets that [injury] once in a while and it takes a little while, so we’ll see. There’s no off days, so we’ll see tomorrow.”

The Braves finished an 0-7 trip that was the worst in six decades for the franchise, since the 1949 Boston Braves went 0-8 at Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

Jurrjens allowed a three-run homer by David Freese in the first inning and was replaced by reliever Kris Medlen to begin the second. He said he felt a mild  hamstring twinge a few days ago during a conditioning sprint, but …

Continue reading Jurrjens and Escobar injured in series finale »

Slumping McLouth remains positive, but….

St. Louis – Say this for Nate McLouth, he’s a pleasant guy who’s always upbeat, always looking at the positive side of things. In times like these with the Braves, that’s important.

Did I mention that McLouth is hitting .160 with one homer, three RBI and 17 strikeouts in 50 at-bats for a Braves team that began Thursday on an eight-game losing streak, in last place in the NL East, and ranked last in the league with a .227 team batting average and tied for last with a .337 slugging percentage?

“Everybody’s kind of in a rut,” McLouth said when I talked to him in the clubhouse this morning. “And it’s tough, especially when … it’s just tough.

“But it’s part of baseball, unfortunately. It can kind of go one of two ways — you can’t let it ruin your season, or you can learn from the tough times and ultimately it can make you better.”

Before we go any further, I should say if the Braves are going to end their skid today and avoid going winless on this seven-game trip, they’ll have …

Continue reading Slumping McLouth remains positive, but…. »

Stat of the day: .207 and 21 runs over 11 gms

.207 and 1.9 – Atlanta’s  batting avg. and scoring avg. in past 11 games.

The Braves have not totaled more than four runs or more than nine hits in any game during that 2-9 stretch, and went without a home run in 10 of 11 games.

Colorado’s Ubaldo’s Jimenez threw a no-hitter against them in a 4-0 win April 17 to start the miserable stretch, and they’ve been shut out three more times since.

After rebounding from the Jimenez no-no to post consecutive 4-3 wins against the Rockies and Phillies, the Braves started a losing streak that was extended to eight games with Wednesday’s 6-0 loss in St. Louis.

During the streak, they’ve been outscored 34-13 and hit nary a home run.

Continue reading Stat of the day: .207 and 21 runs over 11 gms »

Braves shut out again; losing skid’s at eight

St. Louis — When the skidding Braves held voluntary early batting practice Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at Busch Stadium, the entire team showed up.

They hit then and hit again during regular batting practice a few hours later, but they didn’t hit when it counted against the St. Louis Cardinals. Again.

Kenshin Kawakami didn’t make it out of the fifth inning and the lineup stayed punchless during a 6-0 Braves loss, the eighth consecutive defeat for a team most pundits expected to compete for the National League East title.

Maybe they still will; it’s a long season. But right now those projections seem way off-base for the reeling Braves, who are 8-13 in a division where no other team has a losing record.

They trailed 2-0 after the first inning and got their lone extra-base hit in the eighth inning.

“It’s just another downer,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “You come out and you have high hopes every time you walk out on the field, and then bam, before you can blink, …

Continue reading Braves shut out again; losing skid’s at eight »

No moves imminent to improve offense

St. Louis – Manager Bobby Cox’s farewell season is off to a brutal start, but Braves general manager Frank Wren indicated it was too early to expect any trades to bolster the sputtering offense.

“It’s unlikely any team would make a major move at this time with their roster,” Wren said. “It’s just 20 games, and there are a lot of players [around baseball] well under their norms and other players well over.

“We will continue to watch and look to improve our club whenever possible.”

Wren added that he wished the slumping Braves had a couple of players playing over their norm.

Among lineup regulars, only Martin Prado has exceeded expectations and most have fallen far short of them in the first one-eighth of the season.

Before Wednesday the Braves ranked last in the 16-team lead in batting average (.228), 14th in runs (77), tied for 14th in homers (12) and 15th in slugging percentage (.342).

Continue reading No moves imminent to improve offense »

Heyward out of lineup for first time

St. Louis – After being in the lineup for 20 consecutive games to begin the season, Braves rookie Jason Heyward was on the bench for the first time Wednesday night against the Cardinals.

Heyward leads major league rookies (and all Braves) with four homers and 16 RBIs, but was 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts over his past seven games, a slump that mirrored the Braves’ seven-game losing streak through Tuesday.

He struck out looking at a called third strike with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 5-4 loss against the Cardinals, and afterward manager Bobby Cox said that Heyward was “taking way too many pitches” and falling behind in too many counts.

Cox reiterated that Wednesday -– “He needs to be a little more aggressive; he knows it” — and said he wanted to give Heyward a day to rest a sore shin. He’s played with shin splints since late in spring training but never asked for a day off.

“It can never hurt you, can’t hurt your body” to have a day off, said …

Continue reading Heyward out of lineup for first time »

Heyward taking too many pitches? Watch your tongue

ST. LOUIS – In case you’d been away awhile and weren’t fully informed regarding Jason Heyward’s popularity in Atlanta and across Braves Nation,  check the volume and tone of  comments on this blog and elsewhere since Bobby Cox commented late Tuesday night that Heyward is taking “way too many pitches.”

You would have thought he said Hank Aaron and Dale Murphy were overrated, judging by the indignation and outrage that so many fans expressed since Cox’s comments hit this space near midnight, after the Braves’ seventh consecutive loss.

To me, the reaction of fans to Cox’s comment was not just a reflection of people’s genuine adoration of the franchise’s budding superstar, but also the disappointment and anger that many have over the current losing streak, the Braves’ longest since a 10-game slide in June 2006.

When subject is Heyward, be prepared for debate. Braves fans don't take kindly to criticism of their phenom.

When subject is Heyward, be prepared for debate. Braves fans don't take kindly to criticism of phenom.

Expectations and hopes were so high after Heyward and Co. led the …

Continue reading Heyward taking too many pitches? Watch your tongue »

Jurrjens vs. Wainwright in Thursday series finale

Thursday’s series finale

Who: at Cardinals

When: 1:40 p.m. Thursday.

TV; radio: SPSO; 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Thursday’s matchup: Braves RHP Jair Jurrjens (0-2, 5.48 ERA) vs. RH Adam Wainwright (3-1, 1.69).

* Jurrjens is 1-2 despite a 2.14 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals, whom he held to six hits with seven strikeouts in eight scoreless innings of a Sept. 11 road win. He has a 3.68 ERA and .180 opponents’ average in two quality starts since his April 12 debacle at San Diego, but has received the second-worst run support in the National League this season (1.57 runs per nine innings pitched). Matt Holliday is 7-for-13 against him and Albert Pujols is 2-for-10.

* Ex-Braves prospect Wainwright is 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in seven games against Atlanta, including four wins and a 1.73 ERA in four starts. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in all his starts this season and lasted at least eight innings in the past three. He has a 1.58 ERA and .200 opponents’ average …

Continue reading Jurrjens vs. Wainwright in Thursday series finale »

Cox: Heyward taking way too many pitches

St. Louis – Bobby Cox says Braves rookie Jason Heyward is taking far too many hittable strikes and limiting his chances by continually falling behind in counts.

Chipper Jones says the young right fielder is following a learning curve that every rookie faces, and on nights like Tuesday against the Cardinals, he’s also getting pitched well in crucial situations.

This much is certain: Since going 9-for-29 (.429 with two homers and seven RBIs in a six-game stretch through April 16, Heyward’s 3-for-29 (.103) with four RBIs and 12 strikeouts in his past 10 games.

“We’re going to talk to him,” Cox said. “He’s taking way too many pitches for strikes. [As a result] he’s getting one pitch to swing at right now.”

Heyward struck out with the bases loaded on a six-pitch at-bat against left-hander Trever Miller to end the seventh inning with the Braves trailing 5-4, which ended up being the final score.

“I was on second [base],” Jones said of his vantage point on the strikeout. “Miller made …

Continue reading Cox: Heyward taking way too many pitches »