(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
The Braves are back on the home front, and that’s been a safe place for them this season. They’ve been 8-4 at Turner Field and 8-14 on the road.
Where it’s been treacherous is any time Kenshin Kawakami is on the mound. He’s lost each of his six starts this season while putting up a 5.73 ERA. So what gives tonight against the Diamondbacks when Kawakami matches up against former Yankees first-round pick Ian Kennedy (2-2, 3.48)?
Will the Braves continue the offensive tear they were on in Milwaukee to help put Kawakami out of his misery?
Me? I’ll be looking around for any evidence or photos of the zoot suits DOB wrote about manager Bobby Cox and the coaches wearing home from the trip to Milwaukee.
Hey, I just thought it was a Who song, not something Cox would ever wear. It’s neat to see the ol’ skipper loosening up and enjoying his final season. Maybe some of that will translate over into the Braves loosening up and enjoying this season, and this series, looking to continue the good work of the three-game sweep in Milwaukee.
Chipper Jones (groin) should be back in action tonight and Yunel Escobar (groin) tomorrow if things go well tonight in Triple-A Gwinnett on his one-game rehabber. One thing’s for sure, I’d expect Eric Hinske to be in left field.
KJ and LaRoche in the house
So which kind of a streak will former Brave Kelly Johnson be on when he arrives at Turner Field with the Diamondbacks tonight? We all know he’s about as streaky as they come. So how cometh he to Atlanta?
After winning National League player of the month for April, hitting .313 with nine homers and 18 RBIs in 22 games, it’s been a little different in May. So far this month, Johnson is hitting .179 (7-for-39) with one homer and three RBIs in 11 games. (He’s the anti-Troy Glaus.) Johnson struck out 17 times in April. He’s already up to 13 times in May in half as many games.
The left-handed hitting Johnson has also continued his backwards ways – hitting .244 (20-for-82) with five home runs vs. right-handers compared to .324 (12-for-37) with five home runs vs. lefties. So that should bode well for the exclusively right-handed Braves rotation and might explain if the Braves make any counterintuitive moves from the bullpen.
I’m sure this will be an emotional night for the former Baby Brave who was such a big part of things around here for so many years. He lost his second base job here to Martin Prado and the prospects of making millions in arbitration. But I’m sure it’ll still be weird to see him in D-Backs gear.
As for LaRoche and his departure
Here’s an account from D-backs writer Jack Magruder of our notes group.
First baseman Adam LaRoche is looking forward to seeing old friends in Atlanta this weekend. Not that he believed the renewal would be necessary a short time ago.
LaRoche, who broke in with the Atlanta organization and spent 2004-06 in the majors there, returned for the 2009 stretch drive and hit .325 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 57 games. But as a free agent entering the offseason, he received very little interest from Atlanta before signing a one-year, $6 million contract with a $7.5 million mutual option for 2011 with a $1.5 million buyout with the D-backs.
“We had some real good chemistry there. I thought I would for sure be back. It didn’t take long to figure out that they were going a different direction. There was no real serious talk involved,” said LaRoche, who instructed his agent not to call Atlanta but to wait for an indication of interest.
“I’m not going to go beg anybody. I don’t mind going somewhere else. It wasn’t first time. It worked out.”
LaRoche is hitting .257 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 23 RBIs while hitting in the middle of a D-backs’ lineups that has the most homers and is tied for third in runs in the NL.
Third baseman Chipper Jones and right-hander Tim Hudson are two of LaRoche’s closest friends in Atlanta. Hudson is scheduled to start Sunday, and LaRoche said: “I’m looking forward more to seeing him than I am facing him. It’ll be fun.”
LaRoche, 30, has no hard feelings about moving on.
“Not at all. Back when I was younger I would have, but the more I play the more I understand that it is a total business,” LaRoche said. “If you even let something like that bother you, you probably don’t have a place in this game, because there is a lot of little things like that that happens. You just roll with it.”
The NL West last-place Diamondbacks limp into Atlanta from an 0-6 home stand, in which they were swept in three games each by the Brewers and Dodgers. They are 3-9 this month, and their only three wins have come against the Astros.
Their biggest vulnerability at the moment is their bullpen, where the D-backs have had five pitchers with ERAs over 6.00 – Chad Qualls (6.39), Esmerlin Vasquez (6.10), Juan Gutierrez (9.00), Bob Howry (8.16), former Brave Blaine Boyer (8.49) and Leo Rosales (8.10), who just went on the DL. The lone effective reliever has been right-hander Aaron Heilman with a 3.68 ERA.
So that means, regardless of the score, we sportswriters better be ready for the game to change in the late innings. That’s what it says to me. Better loosen up those typing fingers.
Political rally on Saturday
Well, this is something we haven’t had much of since the John Rocker days, and the tomahawk demonstrations of the early 1990s, but apparently a rally has been organized for Saturday for people to demonstrate against the new Arizona immigration law.
The press release I got about it actually says “Braves fans to protest Arizona Diamondbacks at Turner Field.” That seems a little unfair to me. Not sure what the Arizona Diamondbacks had to do with passing any laws, but hey, I’m just a messenger. And here’s the message:
The release is calling this a “unique pep rally, calling for the Braves to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Major League Baseball commissioner to pull the 2011 All-Star game out of Arizona.” It will be held at the front gates of Turner Field Saturday night at 6:45 p.m.
Organizations behind it include the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the US Human Rights Network, Building Locally to Organize for Community Safety, etc.
Hey, for those of us who expect to be inside the gates during that time, let us know on the blog or via twitter what you see happening out there.
In other news, I’m sure you saw where former Braves third base coach and Milwaukee manager Ned Yost is back in business as manager of the Royals. He takes over for Trey Hillman who was fired yesterday after going 152-207 in the last two-plus seasons with the Royals, including 12-23 this year.
OK, more from The Ted this afternoon.