(Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So it’s Aug. 14 and we’re right, smack dab in the middle of the dog days. But for the Braves, it seems like a time for opportunity too.
With 2 ½ weeks left in August, the Braves are playing a less demanding schedule than they’ll see in September, and this is where they can not only hang onto their lead, but maybe even build up a little cushion if they play their cards right.
The Braves’ five series to finish out this month, including this one against the Dodgers, are against teams in no better than third place in their divisions, and that’s the Rockies on Aug. 23-25 and Mets Aug. 30-Sept. 2.
In September they’ve got four games against the first-place Cardinals, and six games against the Phillies. They also will have had four more home games in August (19) than September (15).
So even though the injuries have been mounting and they’re just trying to feel their way through, without Martin Prado and Chipper Jones in the lineup, the Braves will have to, as Brooks Conrad said last night, “keep pushing” and try to take advantage of their dominant pitching here lately.
The Braves’ old friend Teddy Roosevelt Lilly is pitching tonight for the Dodgers. (Remember his plunking of Edgar Renteria three years ago and subsequent ejection?) He’s won both of his starts since he was traded from the Cubs to the Dodgers, allowing only four runs in 13 innings for a 2.77 ERA, striking out 11 and walking none.
For his career he is 3-2 with a 5.02 ERA in eight starts against the Braves, but the Cubs won each of his last three starts against the Braves while he went 1-0 with a 3.66 ERA. Troy Glaus is only 2-for-20 against him for his career, but one hit is a homer. Alex Gonzalez is hitting .333 (6-for-18) off him with a homer and four RBIs.
Lilly faces Derek Lowe, who had to leave his last outing Sunday afternoon against the Giants in the sixth inning with cramps. As bad as the weather is supposed to be today and tomorrow as we try to dodge rain showers, I’m sure he’s just glad it won’t be quite so stifling hot.
The Braves have lost seven of Lowe’s last nine starts, dating back to June 18. But he’s allowed two or fewer runs in five of those, including his 5 1/3 innings on Sunday against the Giants. David Ross said that day Lowe’s stuff was good, and he was getting a lot of groundballs. He’ll need that kind of stuff again tonight, because the way the Braves have played lately, runs are at a premium.
In the month of August, the Braves are batting only .224 as a team, which is 15th in the National League. Their 46 runs scored in August rank 11th in the NL. By contrast, their team 2.08 ERA for August leads the majors.
Oh, and speaking of things to try to take advantage of, the Phillies have two more games at Citi Field in New York this weekend, where they can’t seem to score a run. After being one-hit by R.A. Dickey last night, the Phillies had been shut out four straight times by the Mets at home, including a three-game sweep in May in which they were outscored 16-0.
Chipper Jones was scheduled to have his surgery this morning. While I was running around the park near my house, he was getting scoped on. I’ll take the run, thanks.
You also might have seen what our esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore wrote about Tom Glavine having shoulder surgery. It’s been a busy week or so for him, eh? Get jersey retired and enter Braves Hall of Fame – check, check. Get surgery – check.
I know Glavine had said even last year that every time he reached up for a carton of milk in the refrigerator he could feel it in his shoulder. I’ve had a little shoulder surgery myself, and if I had to guess, his first time through the process, it wasn’t quite as extensive. I’m sure they didn’t want to do much to cut down on range of motion for a guy who needs to extend his arm all over the place to throw a baseball. But now that he’s just tossing kids around on his knee, or at least the littlest Glav, go ahead and get it tightened up.
But, ok, back to Chipper for a second. There were a few things I had to cut out of my story yesterday afternoon that he said that might interest you.
This is Jones on having played his last game for Bobby Cox:
“I haven’t really thought of that until you just brought it up. But that’s when it really hits you that the next game I play, if I do play another one, will be for another manager. I don’t think it’s hit me or Bobby, either one of us. I still think Bobby has got other things at the forefront of his mindset. He’s still got a month and a half left to try and close this thing out. But now that you bring this up, it’ll be tough.”
This is Jones on how much he’ll be around/coaching:
“I don’t know. Right here at first I’m sure I’ll be here at stadium, especially during home games. I would like to travel. I still think I have something to offer guys on the club, with my experience. It helps when guys can lean on another guy who’s been out there with them, (who knows) a pitcher’s repertoire and what he’s going to do when he’s in trouble. While TP does the majority of the instructing hitting wise, there are certain times when you need that guy who’s been 60 feet 6 inches away from Roy Halladay. And if you can give those guys a little nugget of information that’s going to help them be successful at the plate then I want to be there to do that.”
This is Jones about missing out on the playoff run:
“That’s what makes this (injury) so disappointing is we’re in first place and I think we’re going to the playoffs and the reason I say that is this team is very unique. We’ve got ballplayers in that clubhouse, ballplayers with some heart, with some guts, and a bunch of guys that I would go to war with. That’s what’s so disappointing that I’m not going to be there in that fox hole with them. I may be in the dugout, but I want to be out there on the field helping. I’ll help out in any way.”
Freeman on an offensive tear
I haven’t been to Gwinnett lately to see for myself, but I can only imagine there’s a little smoke coming off Freddie Freeman’s bat. The kid first baseman went 4-for-5 last night and is hitting a scorching .419 (18-for-43) in the month of August. His average for the season is up to .309, with 30 doubles, 15 home runs and 73 RBIs in 107 games. Feels like it’s only a matter of time now before he comes up. Will it be before September? I’m not so sure.
But as some bloggers pointed out, he could still be placed on the postseason roster after Aug. 31 if there is an injury to a position player, whose place he could take on the roster. I also know the Braves lineup is so incredibly left-handed these days, and so is Freeman, so it’s not like they’re going to bench Glaus for him right now.
OK, more from the ballpark in a couple of hours.