Archive for June, 2010

Stat of the day: Strasburg’s dazzling numbers

41, 1.78, .242 – Strikeouts, ERA and opponents’ on-base percentage for Nationals rookie Steven Strasburg in his first four major league starts.

The hard-throwing right-hander makes his fifth start Monday against the Braves and Tim Hudson, and a large crowd is expected at Turner Field to watch the latest chapter of the most-chronicled and buzzed-about season by any rookie pitcher.

Strasburg’s 41 strikeouts (in 25-1/3 innings) are a major league record for a picher’s first four starts, and he’s only issued five walks and allowed 19 hits.

Right-handed batters are 8-for-47 (.170) with a staggering one walk and 26 strikeouts against him. Lefties have fared a little better at 11-for-47 (.234) with two homers, four walks and 15 strikeouts.

Right-handed batters have an absurdly low .358 OPS (on base-plus-slugging percentage against him, while lefties have a .677 OPS.

It shapes up as a sensational matchup of Strasburg vs. Hudson, who is  8-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 14 career starts against …

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Hanson, Braves quotes after Sunday’s loss

BOBBY COX

on Hanson:

“He struck out the side in the third inning and everything looked perfect. He got behind a few hitters and left his breaking ball up. He had a great breaking ball at times and a bad one, at times.”

Any mechanical issues?

“No, his mechanics are exactly like they’ve always been. Nothing new there. He could have had better luck in the one inning where they scored five. He gave up a little single to Damon. We thought we had Cabrera struck out twice, and that changes the whole inning. You know, instead of getting one they end up with five. So… But Tommy can pitch a whole lot better than he did, that’s for sure.”

No health problems? “No, [he's] 100 percent. Kind of like Verlander’s last start [Verlander's start: 2 innings, 5 hits, 5 runs, 3 walks]. He [Verlander] wasn’t exactly lights-out today, either. But he’s good.”

On the back-to-back day games in heat: “That didn’t have anything to do with losing the game, no. It’s hot. May as well get used to it, because …

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Heyward likely to miss matchup vs. Strasburg

Jason Heyward’s sore left thumb is expected to keep him out of the lineup  Monday for the Braves’ highly anticipated first game against Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.

The injury might also prevent Heyward from playing in the July 13 All-Star Game, depending on the diagnosis when the rookie right fielder is examined again by a hand specialist this week.  He’s scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.

“It’s nothing major because I’ve been on the field for the last two months with it,” said Heyward, who hurt the thumb when he jammed it sliding head-first on May 14. “But it’s something that’s creating a problem as far as being consistent.

“I want to get it taken care of now instead of having to worry about it later.”

In the past 24 games in which he batted, Heyward hit .172 (17-for-99) withthree doubles, one homer, seven RBIs, 33 strikeouts, a .274 on-base percentage and a .232 slugging percentage (.506 OPS).

In 46 game before the slump, he hit .301 …

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Monday’s big matchup: Hudson vs. Strasburg

Who: vs. Nationals

When (TV): 7:10 p.m. today-Tuesday(WPCH), 7:10 p.m. Wednesday (SPSO).

Radio: 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Probable pitchers:

Monday: Braves RH Tim Hudson (7-3, 2.54 ERA) vs. Nationals RH Stephen Strasburg (2-1, 1.78 ERA).

Tuesday: Braves RH Derek Lowe (9-5, 4.42 ERA) vs. Nationals TBA.

Wednesday: Braves RH Jair Jurrjens (0-3, 6.38 ERA) vs. Nationals RH J.D. Martin (0-3, 3.03 ERA).

Monday’s matchup:

– Hudson is 8-1 with a 1.62 ERA in 14 career starts against the Nationals, including 7-0 with a 1.62 ERA in past 10. He’s 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in five home starts this season.

– It’s the fifth start for hard-throwing phenom Strasburg, who figures to push Jason Heyward for NL Rookie of the Year. He’s piled up 41 strikeouts in 25-1/3 innings, with only 5 walks and 19 hits allowed.

* DAVID O’BRIEN

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Wags, Chipper know about homers on 100-mph heaters

It was Sunday morning, a day after Chipper Jones beat Detroit with a three-run homer on a Joel Zumaya 100-mph fastball.  The Braves third baseman and closer Billy Wagner were in the clubhouse, talking about homers and triple-digit heaters.

Two 38-year-old graybeards, swapping “war” stories like Hooper and Quint in the movie Jaws, just without blood and scars.

“If it’s straight enough, you can time a jet plane,” Jones said, referring to a baseball axiom about straight fastballs being hittable no matter the velocity.

“If it’s got a little sink to it, it’s a little tougher,” Jones said, smiling. “Ain’t that right, Wags?”

Wagner was at his locker a few feet away.

“Believe it,” Wagner said. “The harder you throw it, the farther it goes.”

Wagner can tell a story about as well as anyone in baseball, with passion and details.

Someone asked if Wagner ever gave up a homer on a 100-mph fastball.

“Vinny Castilla did it back-to-back nights to me,” Wagner said.

“Vinny could do it,” Jones …

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Braves quotes following Saturday’s win

BOBBY COX

“Had a little drama in the ninth inning. I don’t know where that came from. Saito got a little bit wild and got up to 30-some pitches, so I felt the thing to do was bring in someobody else.

“Guys that normally aren’t wild got wild, for some reason. I don’t know. But the thing is we won the game and Kawakami got his first win, and threw a brilliant ballgame. Really pitched good. I don’t think there was a ball hit hard off him the entire day. I can’t ask for anything more.”

On Chipper’s homer: “That was big. Won us the ballgame. He’s been swinging the bat pretty darn good, and Zumaya has not given up a homer, as hard as he throws. He just got a pitch in a bad spot and Chipper hit it a long way. It won us the ballgame.”

On players letting Chipper go out to his position first: “That was neat. Because he couldn’t get back out when the crowd was giving him a standing O, so it was kinda neat, I thought.”

Who orchestrated that? “I don’t know. Probably [David] Ross.”

On …

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Coming off worst start, Hanson faces Verlander

Who: vs. Tigers

When: 1:35 p.m. Sunday

TV; radio: FSS; 680 AM, 100.5 FM

Sunday’s matchup: Braves RH Tommy Hanson (7-4, 4.17 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.94).

* Hanson is 4-2 with a 6.02 ERA in his past eight starts. He went 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in a stretch of five starts between his two terrible outings, the most recent coming Tuesday when he gave up career-highs of 13 hits and nine runs in 3-2/3 innings Tuesday against the White Sox.  Hanson hasn’t faced the Tigers.

* Verlander had gone 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA and .187 opponents’ average over a span of nine starts before getting shelled for five runs and five hits in two innings Tuesday against the Mets in New York. He held the Braves to one run in seven innings to win his only start against them, in 2007. Chipper Jones is 1-for-3 with a homer against him, and Melky Cabrera is 2-for-11.

* DAVID O’BRIEN

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Jason Heyward admits he’s hurt

By Ray Glier

Special to the AJC

Jason Heyward is not up against a rookie wall he cannot burst through. He does not have to change his stance or adjust to pitchers who have adjusted to him.

He’s hurt. He finally said so.

Heyward, who has been loathe to make excuses for a slump that has dragged on for a month, was out of the lineup against the Tigers on Saturday and said he will miss Sunday’s game as well because of an injured left thumb. It is the top hand he uses for his quick, compact swing, and it has bothered him.

“It’s definitely bruised, it’s swollen, and it is also jammed,” said Heyward, whose average has sunk to .251. “You can’t bend it all the way. That’s where the difficult part is, holding the bat. The pain is doable; it’s just holding the bat.

“It affects consistency in the swing. Everything else around the swing, the load, the trigger, the timing, staying on the ball, you have to have that. But if you don’t have the swing you are not going …

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Heyward to miss at least 2 games with thumb injury

So now we know what many suspected: Jason Heyward isn’t just enduring a typical rookie slump or struggling because other teams have figured out his weaknesses.

Slumping Jason Heyward's thumb injury is worse than he'd let on, and he'll miss at least two games.

Slumping Jason Heyward's thumb injury is worse than he'd let on, and he'll miss at least two games.

His left thumb is so sore that he hasn’t been able to grip the bat and load up his swing, he said this morning. It’s the first time he’s come clean, at least publicly, with how much the thumb has been bothering him.

Heyward finally conceded it’s a problem and that he’s going to see a hand specialist. He said he would be out of the lineup at least today and tomorrow, and could be longer depending on what they find in exam.

He’s never made excuses for any slump or bad game. But this isn’t an excuse, this is an injury, and Heyward finally admitted as much today.

In his last 24 games, going back to May 31, he’s hit .172 (17-for-99) with three doubles, one homer, seven RBIs, 13 walks, 33 strikeouts, a .274 OBP and a .232 …

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Wagner, Braves quotes after Friday’s win

BILLY WAGNER

on striking out the side: “I don’t think you draw it up quite like that. I mean, that’s a fantasy-type situation. But I had ‘em swinging at some high pitches so, you know, you take it. Because it doesn’t happen very often.”

Well, how does it feel to get to 400? “I don’t remember being so nervous about 399. I know that all today my kids were talking about coming to the game so they could see this, hoping I got the chance. It was fun to be out there.

“It was nerve-wracking because we’d lost, and you don’t want to put yourself ahead of the team. Knowing we needed this win, if you get out there and you start using that anxiety to go out there and you start going all over the place and get yourself in trouble. So just stay under control and make pitches, and tonight I made enough to help us win.”

Did you anticipate this when you came to Atlanta, reaching this milestone? Surely you expected to get 15 saves (for 400):

“In April I wasn’t so sure. [He smiled.] But saves …

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