Archive for April, 2010

Glaus wants to help Braves beat his old team

St. Louis – Troy Glaus enjoyed his two years with the Cardinals, and now the big first baseman would enjoy helping the Braves beat them.

Glaus snapped a 3-for-29 skid with a pair of singles in Monday’s series opener against the Cardinals, giving him a .567 career average in 10 games against the team he played for during the past two seasons.

He hit .270 with 27 homers and 99 RBIs for St. Louis in 2008, then missed most of last season recovering from shoulder surgery and was let go as a free agent.

“I enjoyed my time here, no doubt it,” he said. “But this year I’m happy to be [with the Braves], and hopefully I’m going to help this team win.”

He hit a dramatic two-out, ninth-inning homer to help the Braves beat Philadelphia on April 20, the high point in an otherwise sluggish start for Glaus in his first season with his new team and a new position.

The former third baseman and years-ago American League home-run leader had a .210 average with two homers, nine RBIs and 17 …

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Wagner anxious after week of no pitching

St. Louis – Braves closer Billy Wagner hadn’t pitched in a week, and said even veterans have a hard time staying sharp with that much time off.

“Oh, hell yes,” he said before Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. “It’ll be no fun when I come in the game, and I’m sure it won’t be any room for error. It should be about a one-run game with [Albert] Pujols coming up.”

He wasn’t complaining. He knows the situation comes with the territory for a closer whose team is struggling.

The Braves had a six-game losing streak before Tuesday, the last four  losses coming on the current trip – three at New York over the weekend, and a 4-3 defeat in Monday’s series opener at St. Louis.

“Especially on the road it’s hard” to get regular work for the closer, said Wagner, 38. “Because you can’t work him into a game like last night, into a tie game. I mean, that could be a situation where you come in, throw an inning, you don’t take the lead….”

But there’s only so long the closer or any other …

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Kawakami faces impressive lefty Wednesday

Who: at Cardinals

When: 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.

TV; radio: PTV; 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Wednesday’s matchup: Braves RH Kenshin Kawakami (0-3, 4.76 ERA) vs. LH Jaime Garcia (1-1, 1.42).

* Kawakami has had two quality starts in three outings this season, but the Braves have scored a total of four runs while he’s been in his games.  In 31 games (24 starts) since May 1, 2009, he has a 6-12 record despite a solid 3.50 ERA. He has not pitched against St. Louis.

* Garcia has allowed just 12 hits and three earned runs in 19 innings over three starts, and opponents are hitting .179 with no homers against him. Left-handed hitters are 1-for-12. Garcia hasn’t faced the Braves.

– DAVID O’BRIEN

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For skidding Braves, might be time for The Speech

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.Theodore Roosevelt

St. Louis — So this wasn’t exactly what Teddy Roosevelt had in mind when he made the famous speech 100 years ago that the above quote comes from. Nevertheless, if I’m a coach or manager, you better believe I’d …

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Stat of the day: No homers in 9 of 10 games

9– the number of times in their past 10 games that the Braves have gone without a home run.

They hit  three homers in span of four batters in the ninth and 10th innings of their memorable 4-3 win against the Phillies on April 20:  a two-run shot by Troy Glaus followed by a tying homer by Jason Heyward to force extra innings, then a game-ender by Nate McLouth to start the 10th.

And that’s it. Those are the only home runs the Braves have hit in their past 10 games. They have totaled 21 runs in that 10-game stretch, including 13 runs during their current seven-game losing streak.

For the season, the Braves have hit 12 home runs in 20 games.  Only the Astros have hit fewer in the National League.

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Braves blow 3-0 lead as skid reaches six games

St. Louis – They showed up Monday not with heads hung, but rather full of optimism, determined to put a five-game skid behind them and start cranking out some wins.

But after taking a three-run lead to the sixth inning, the Braves found another way to lose as their agonizing early season skid continued unabated.

The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the sixth through eighth innings to pull out a 4-3 series-opening win at Busch Stadium, giving the Braves a six-game slide to equal the one that closed their 2009 season.

“It’s so frustrating,” said second baseman Martin Prado, who lined into an inning-ending double play  with two on in the fourth, when the ball sailing a foot  either way might’ve added a run or two to a 3-0 lead.

Instead they failed to tack on runs, and eventually Albert Pujols and Co. rallied to beat the last-pace Braves (8-11), who remained three games behind division leader Philadelphia in the closely bunched National League East.

After the Cardinals …

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Schafer progressing in comeback from wrist surgery

St. Louis – It’s taken longer than Jordan Schafer expected, but the center fielder is making significant progress toward returning from wrist surgery.

He’s played in a handful of games the past week at Braves extended spring training camp in Florida, general manager Frank Wren said. Schafer steadily increased his workload in that span, going from two at-bats to a scheduled full nine-inning game Monday.

That’s quite a bit ahead of where he was last month at the end of spring training, when Schafer, the Braves’ 2009 Opening Day center fielder, still wasn’t ready to face live pitching or hit on consecutive days. He had surgery Sept. 5.

Barring setbacks, a May return to Class AAA Gwinnett seems likely. The Braves said during the winter that they hoped to have Schafer, 23, ready to rejoin the major league team by midseason.

With the team getting little production from outfielders Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth and Matt Diaz, it could be interesting to see whether Schafer might be …

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If Howard’s worth $25 mill per, what about Pujols?

St. Louis – As news spread Monday of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract extension, one question kept popping up at Busch Stadium.

How much could Albert Pujols’ next deal be worth?

“$50 million a year – at least,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, and it wasn’t clear whether he was being facetious or really meant it.

Pujols is in the final season of a seven-year, $110 million contract, but the Cardinals have a $16 million option for 2011. He’d be a free agent after that, unless they sign him to a new deal first.

“I’m sure the Cardinals will do everything they possibly can,” Cox said. “He’s the best ballplayer in all of baseball. He does everything, too. He’s great defensively, he runs the bases great, he’s smart, and he’s the best hitter there is.”

“I don’t know how you [put a price tag on it, compared to other players]. He’s the best, let’s put it that way.”

Howard’s mammoth new contract kicks in with the 2012 season, after his current deal runs out. …

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Braves look to Escobar for spark in leadoff spot

St. Louis – With the Braves getting continued dismal production from leadoff hitters, Yunel Escobar was moved to the top of the order for Monday night’s series opener at St. Louis.

Braves leadoff hitters were a majors-worst 7-for-77 (.091) with a .165 on-base percentage and .143 slugging percentage, worse statistically than the team’s No. 9 hitters (.121/.190/.207).

“We’ve tried just about everybody but him, might as well,” manager Bobby Cox said of the Escobar move. “He’s had some good at-bats lately.”

Escobar has slumped like so many other Braves lately, batting .167 with one extra-base hit, two RBI and a .271 on-base percentage in his past 13 games before Monday.

The Braves were desperate to find a spark from someone in the No. 1 spot, however, and had tried every other obvious candidate except team batting leader Martin Prado, who Cox wants to keep in the No. 2 spot ahead of Chipper Jones.

Escobar had good numbers (.309 average, .371 OBP) in 320 career at-bats in the …

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Next-day preview vs. Cardinals

Next day for Braves

Who: at Cardinals

When: 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.

TV; radio: PTV; 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Tuesday’s matchup: Braves RH Derek Lowe (3-1, 5.24 ERA) vs. RH Chris Carpenter (2-0, 3.60)

* Lowe is a career-worst 1-6 with a 6.69 ERA in seven starts against the Cardinals including 0-3 with an 8.80 ERA in three at new Busch Stadium. That’s also his worst record and ERA at any ballpark. Ryan Ludwick is 6-for-10 with two homers against him, Matt Holliday is 18-for-32 (.563) with one homer and nine RBI, and Albert Pujols is 7-for-20 with a homer.

* Carpenter is 2-2 with a 6.31 ERA in seven starts against the Braves, including a Sept. 13 loss in which he allowed nine hits and seven runs in six innings, his worst home start in two years. Troy Glaus is 5-for-18 with two home runs against him and Brian McCann is 2-for-7 with a homer, while Nate McLouth is 4-for-16.

* DAVID O’BRIEN

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