Archive for May, 2010

Cabrera, Escobar getting hot

Add two more players to the list of Braves players starting to swing a hot bat.

Melky Cabrera had two more hits Sunday to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Yunel Escobar went 3-for-5, his first three-hit game of the season and first since Sept. 10, 2009.

“Escobar is starting to go … and Melky has had some nice ball games,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

During his nine-game hit streak, Cabrera is hitting .433 (13-for-30).

Escobar is hitting .368 (7-for-19) in his last five games, including three multi-hit games.

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Kawakami’s strong outing doesn’t yield win

At least he didn’t lose.

Kenshin Kawakami pitched 6-2/3 innings, allowing just four hits, against Pittsburgh Sunday but came away with a no-decision in the Braves’ 5-2 win.

Kawakami, who is 0-7 with a 4.66 ERA in 10 starts this season, allowed two earned runs in the seventh inning before leaving. After a walk to Garrett Jones, Jeff Clement ripped a two-seam fastball over the centerfield fence. The Braves scored three in the eighth for the win.

“The win for the team is more important than my win,” Kawakami said through a translator. “Giving up that two-run home run was difficult for me but at the same time the team won and I’m happy about that.”

In his past three starts, Kawakami has allowed five earned runs and 16 hits in 18-2/3 innings. He has been a victim of poor run support all season. Before Sunday’s game, Kawakami had 2.7 runs of support per nine innings, third worst in the National League. By contrast, teammate Derek Lowe, who is 7-4, had 6.9 runs of support per nine …

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Series preview: vs. Phillies

Series preview: vs. Phillies

When (TV): 1:05 p.m. Monday (SPSO); 7:10 p.m. Tuesday (WPCH); 1:05 p.m. Wednesday (SPSO)

Radio: 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Probable starting pitchers:

Monday: Braves RH Tommy Hanson (4-3, 4.06 ERA) vs. RH Joe Blanton (1-3, 5.63 ERA)

Tuesday: Braves RH Tim Hudson (5-1, 2.24 ERA) vs. LH Cole Hamels (6-3, 2.22 ERA)

Wednesday: Braves RH Derek Lowe (7-4, 4.86 ERA) vs. RH Kyle Kendrick (3-2, 5.04 ERA)

Monday’s matchup:

Hanson leads with the Braves with 62 strikeouts, 27 more than Derek Lowe. He is second in the National League in strikeouts per nine innings with 9.7, trailing only the Giants Tim Lincecum’s 10.9.

In his five starts this season, Blanton has a 1.80 ERA in the first five innings of games, allowing five earned runs in 25 innings. That number balloons to 14.46 in the sixth and seventh innings where he allowed 15 earned runs in 9-1/3 innings.

- Chris Vivlamore

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McCann will return to lineup Monday

Braves catcher Brian McCann was out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game Sunday in the series finale against Pittsburgh. However, manager Bobby Cox said McCann would be back behind the plate on Monday when Atlanta opens a three-game series against Philadelphia.

“He could have played [Saturday], he could have played [Sunday],” Cox said. “This is the smart thing to do.”

McCann suffered a strained right quadriceps last week against Florida. Also out of the starting lineup on Sunday was Chipper Jones. Omar Infante replaced Jones at third base.

“I gave him a day off,” Cox said. “Plus, Infante has got to get in there.”

Infanted batted second and Jason Heyward moved down to hit third.

McCann and Jones didn’t stay on the bench. Both had key at-bats in the eighth inning when the Braves broke open a 2-2 game. McCann drew a one-out walk and Jones, batting for Infante, delivered the game-winning hit – a two-out bloop single to left field to score Nate McLouth. Heyward …

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Stat of day: Glaus leads NL with 23 RBIs in May

23 – Troy Glaus’ National League-leading RBI total in May.

Atlanta’s first baseman has hit .320 (31-for-97) with four homers and 23 RBIs in 26 games in May.

This comes after Glaus hit .194 with two homers and nine RBIs in 23 games in April, when he was booed during several home games in his first month with the Braves. He missed most of the 2009 season with St. Louis while recovering from shoulder surgery, then signed with Atlanta as a free agent.

Glaus is 17-for-42 (.405) with 11 RBIs in 11 home games in May, after hitting .125 (4-for-32) with two RBIs in 10 home games in April.

The Braves have won nine of 11 home games in May, batting .312 while averaging 6.4 runs per game in those 11. They will go for a home-series sweep of the Pirates on Sunday in their last game of what’s been a turnaround month for the Braves.

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Sunday preview: Kawakami faces Pirates

Next for Braves

Who: vs. Pirates

When: 1:35 p.m. Sunday

TV; radio: Fox Sports South; 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Saturday’s matchup: Braves RH Kenshin Kawakami (0-7, 4.93 ERA) vs. LH Paul Maholm (3-4, 3.98 ERA).

* Kawakami is allowing a .284 average to opposing hitters this season — .313 to left-handers. His seven losses are tied for second most in the NL, behind the nine the Pirates’ Charlie Morton.

* Maholm is 1-1 with a 1.33 ERA in four career starts against the Braves. The Pirates are 4-1 in Maholm’s five road starts this season.

– CHRIS VIVLAMORE

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Talking Heyward, Venters, Kawakami, Otis Redding….

It’s not supposed to look anywhere this easy for a 20-year-old in the major leagues, much less for a rookie who had only 208 plate appearances above Class A before this season.

Jason Heyward began today as the National League leader in on base-plus-slugging percentage with a .991 mark, just ahead of Philadelphia slugger Jayson Werth.

[Blogmeister addendum, 12:24 a.m.: After homering and doubling Saturday night, Heyward's league-best OPS climbed to 1.011, ahead of Josh Willingham (.973), Werth (.968) and  Joey Votto (.961) entering Sunday's games. OK, now back to our original blog written just before Saturday's game...]

Get out of this kid's way. Heyward is National League OPS leader entering Saturday.

Get out of this kid's way. Heyward is National League OPS leader entering Saturday.

Consider that Werth’s .990 OPS before Saturday was 111 points higher than the career-best OPS that the veteran posted last season, when Werth made the All-Star team and finished 17th in the MVP balloting.

Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley … …

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Etc.: Rain delays longer than game on Friday

Friday’s game featured two rain delays that totaled 2:31 – or five minutes longer than the 2:26 in took to beat the Pirates. The start of the game was delayed 1:21 and another 1:10 in the ninth inning. …

The Braves had 17 wins in the month of May before Saturday, tied for second in the majors and one behind the Dodgers. …

The Braves led the National League with 5.72 runs per game in May. …

The Braves led the majors with 217 walks, 18 more than the Twins. …

The Braves’ .344 on-base percentage was second in the NL and fourth in the majors before Saturday. …

With a 14-6 record prior to Saturday, the Braves have played the fewest home games in the NL. …

Their .700 win percentage at home was tied with the Yankees as the best in baseball. …

On Tuesday, the Braves began a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, with 14 on the road.

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McCann misses third straight start with quad injury

Brian McCann missed his third straight game Saturday with a strained right quadriceps.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said the catcher was “80 to 90 percent” and was held out of the lineup again as a precaution.

McCann did agility work in the outfield hours before the start of Saturday’s game.

“There is no sense pushing it,” said McCann, who described himself as day-to-day. “It’s getting better.”

McCann felt a “tweak” running between first and second on a fly out during Wednesday’s game against Florida.

David Ross started his third straight game behind the plate. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs in Friday’s win over the Pirates. Before Saturday, Ross was batting .316 (12-for-38) with 11 RBIs and seven walks in 11 starts as a catcher this season.

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Jurrjens throws bullpen session

Jair Jurrjens threw a bullpen session before Saturday’s game against the Pirates but could still be several weeks away from returning to the Braves’ rotation.

After being cleared by a doctor Friday to step up his rehabilitation from a strained left hamstring, the right-hander said he felt good after throwing off a mound.

“JJ had a really good day,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Cox said Jurrjens would have to throw three or four more bullpen sessions and some simulated games before making a minor-league rehabilitation start.

Jurrjens, 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA in five starts this season, injured his hamstring preparing for a start against St. Louis on April 29 and had to be pulled after one inning. He suffered a setback while running in Milwaukee earlier this month. An MRI didn’t reveal a significant tear but enough swelling to cost him more several weeks.

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