Now that my aging home a.c. unit has been reenergized with several pounds of freon, I’m cool again – it had been been a couple of brutally sticky days here at the hacienda since returning from the long trip.
So let’s crank out this blog before heading to Turner Field for the rubber match in this Braves-Rays series as the Chipper-is-poised-to-join-the-retiring-Skipper homestand continues.
Since I didn’t write the past couple of days, I won’t bog you down with more Chipper Jones stuff today since you’re probably temporarily tired of reading what we all think of him, etc.
So rather than overload you today with anecdotes or observations about Hoss that you might skip over, I’ll just say he’s not just the best player I’ve covered on a regular basis in 16 years as a baseball beat writer, he’s also the best quote and one of the sharpest and most enjoyable players I’ve dealt with.
We’ll have a lot more to say about him later.
Now, regarding tonight’s Tim Hudson vs. James Shields matchup, do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news? I thought so. I know you people.
The bad news is that Huddy is 1-12 with a 6.78 ERA in 15 interleague starts as a Brave. I know, that’s hard to believe. But I looked it up, checked his record against every interleague opponent these past six seasons, and it’s accurate.
The good news is, that’s largely irrelevant tonight. Because he made a lot of those starts while in, as we found out later, a weakened state, in terms of the health of his pitching arm.
This season, he’s been as effective as he was during some of his best seasons in Oakland. In his past nine starts, he’s 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA and .220 opponents’ average.
Secondly, he’s not faced Tampa Bay since coming to the Braves. Hudson is 6-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 10 starts against the Rays, but the last one was in 2004.
Finally, there’s his opponent. In his past four starts, Shields is 0-4 with an 8.37 ERA and .337 opponents’ average. He’s allowed 30 hits and four homers in 15-2/3 innings over his past three starts. Repeat, 30 hits.
♣Then there’s this: The Braves continue to play good baseball, even if every time they lose you’d think from the tone of the blog comments here that the sky’s falling, they’ve slipped first to last place, and that it’s inconceivable and inexcusable that they could lose a game by multiple runs.
For the record, the Braves are 30-14 since their nine-game losing skid ended April 30. They’re tied with the Dodgers for the most wins in the majors since them. (Among some other teams you might be curious about, the Yankees are 27-17 in that period, and the Mets and Rays are 24-19).
During that 30-14 stretch, the Braves are 15-3 at Turner Field. They’ve hit .306 with 20 homers while averaging six runs per game over those 18 games. They’ve scored five or more runs in 12 of those 18 games, and yes, the Braves remain unbeaten this season – home or road – when they score five or more.
♣ Hanson’s really good: when Tommy Hanson threw seven scoreless innings of three-hit ball against one of the AL’s best lineups last night, it marked the fifth consecutive game that the budding Bravos ace allowed two runs or fewer, and the fourth time in those five games that he gave up four hits or fewer.
He’s 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his past five starts.
Folks, he’s really good.
He’ll probably get overshadowed by Stephen Strasburg, like every other young pitcher in the NL and especially the NL East will be. But how much better will Strasburg do in his first 35 starts than this: 18-7, 3.08 ERA.
That’s what Hanson has done in his first 35 starts in the majors. A full season, in other words. Most starters make about 35 starts in a full season.
And that’s what the tall, lanky redhead has done in his first 35.
He’s 18-7 with a 3.08 ERA, .231 opponents’ average and 202 strikeout with 74 walks in 210-1/3 innings since arriving in the major last June.
The Braves are 23-12 in his starts, including 9-1 in the past 10.
♣ Prado’s All-Star bid: Even as Martin Prado keeps insisting he doesn’t care about going to the All-Star Game, he keeps strengthening his case that he belongs there.
The unassuming 2B has hit .371 with 13 extra-base hits and a .933 OPS in his past 29 games, raising his overall average to .338 (second in the NL) and his home average to a majors-leading .400.
Prado’s OBP as a leadoff man is a majors-leading .412, which has been as big a reason as any for the Braves’ turnaround (they took off when they moved him to the top of the order).
Prado has hit .404 in his past 19 games, with 12 multi-hit games in that stretch including each of the past four. He’s 11-for-19 in those past four games.
He’s got 31 multi-hit games, five more than any other NL player and one behind Ichiro’s major league-leading total. Prado also leads the majors with 13 three-hit game, including three in his past four games.
♣Wait, this is too much good news. The blog may explode if we don’t offer something negative. So we’ll just remind you that Kenshin Kawakami is 0-9, and it’s not a given that he’ll be the one bumped from the rotation when Jair Jurrjens returns.
The Braves might decide that Kris Medlen, who has clearly outpitched K.K. as a starter, is nonetheless better suited to making the switch back to the bullpen. I didn’t say I agreed, just said the team might view it that way.
But the way Medlen has pitched since getting settled into the rotation, I’ve got to think the Braves will keep him in the rotation and move Kawakami to the ‘pen, provided there are no unexpected developments in the next week or two.
♣Speaking of All-Star pushes: Also making a loud case, for an All-Star berth and Comeback Player of the Year, is Troy Glaus.
After batting .194 with three extra-base hits, nine RBI and a .602 OPS in 23 games during April, Glaus has hit .327 with 19 extra-base hits (11 homers), 42 RBIs and a .997 OPS in 43 games during May and June.
By the way, he’s hitting .322 with six homers and a .913 OPS in 115 at-bats with runners on, compared to .250 with an .834 OPS in 116 at-bats with none on.
Braves lineup tonight:
♣ Diversions: Got back from the long trip and watched two hours of Justified (that show’s held up well in its first season), the most recent episode of Treme (terrific) and the last two hours of Breaking Bad (wow, did anyone see that turn coming? That show somehow keeps getting better.)…. We saw the great Tom Russell at Eddie’s Attic on Tuesday, and the Braves’ rain delay was so long that I got home to watch most of the game, too…. Of the CDs I bought out in L.A., the Helen Stellar album, If the Stars Could Speak They Would Have Your Voice, feels like the big find, since I’d never heard the band (it’s a band, not a girl) before. Might be second-best Southern California band that I got turned onto this year, behind San Diego’s The Soft Pack, which is just tremendous. Helen Stellar’s a really strong album, shoe-gazer rock in the best since…. Speaking of new albums out, got the new Gaslight Anthem and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers CDs yesterday, and love ‘em both. Gaslight Anthem has put out two three CDs, and hit a home run with both of the last two (I don’t have the first one). Or at least a homer and a standup triple (I’ve got to listen to the new one a few more times to decide). Petty and the boys have done their best studio album in quite while, in my opinion. Very blues-influenced…. Oh, and speaking of The Soft Pack, check out this performance on Letterman. And get this baseball tie-in: Lead singer Matt McLoughlin was a former pitcher at the University of Richmond. Check out his bio from old media guide: http://www.richmondspiders.com/sports/m-basebl/mtt/mcloughlin_matt00.html
“THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN” by Bob Dylan
Thunder on the mountain, fires on the moon
There’s a ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
Today’s the day, gonna grab my trombone and blow
Well, there’s hot stuff here and it’s everywhere I go
I was thinkin’ ’bout Alicia Keys, couldn’t keep from crying
When she was born in Hell’s Kitchen, I was living down the line
I’m wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee
Feel like my soul is beginning to expand
Look into my heart and you will sort of understand
You brought me here, now you’re trying to run me away
The writing’s on the wall, come read it, come see what it say
Thunder on the mountain, rolling like a drum
Gonna sleep over there, that’s where the music coming from
I don’t need any guide, I already know the way
Remember this, I’m your servant both night and day
The pistols are poppin’ and the power is down
I’d like to try somethin’ but I’m so far from town
The sun keeps shinin’ and the North Wind keeps picking up speed
Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need
I’ve been sitting down studying the art of love
I think it will fit me like a glove
I want some real good woman to do just what I say
Everybody got to wonder what’s the matter with this cruel world today
Thunder on the mountain rolling to the ground
Gonna get up in the morning walk the hard road down
Some sweet day I’ll stand beside my king
I wouldn’t betray your love or any other thing
Gonna raise me an army, some tough sons of bitches
I’ll recruit my army from the orphanages
I been to St. Herman’s church and I’ve said my religious vows
I’ve sucked the milk out of a thousand cows
I got the porkchops, she got the pie
She ain’t no angel and neither am I
Shame on your greed, shame on your wicked schemes
I’ll say this, I don’t give a damn about your dreams
Thunder on the mountain heavy as can be
Mean old twister bearing down on me
All the ladies of Washington scrambling to get out of town
Looks like something bad gonna happen, better roll your airplane down
Everybody’s going and I want to go too
Don’t wanna take a chance with somebody new
I did all I could and I did it right there and then
I’ve already confessed – no need to confess again
Gonna make a lot of money, gonna go up north
I’ll plant and I’ll harvest what the earth brings forth
The hammer’s on the table, the pitchfork’s on the shelf
For the love of God, you ought to take pity on yourself