Archive for May, 2011

Braves’ hitting woes deepen; Arroyo anyone?

Tonight the Braves are facing a pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, who has been pretty awful in May, with an 0-3 record and 6.90 ERA. Which, of course, means the Braves are in trouble.

The Braves have struggled particularly against struggling or young pitchers. They face a struggling one tonight, Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo.

The Braves have struggled particularly against struggling or young pitchers. They face a struggling one tonight, Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo.

Because while they have difficulty scoring against just about any pitcher lately, these Braves have struggled especially against mediocre or struggling pitchers, guys with 5-plus ERAs, and/or pitchers they’ve not seen before.

Give ‘em a Cliff Lee and they go to work. Give ‘em a Marco Estrada, Jake Westbrook or Mike Leake and it’s trouble for the Bravos.

But like we said, right now it doesn’t seem to matter who they’re facing. The Braves, they just ain’t scoring. So when they get behind early, like Friday night against Cincy, it can be particularly difficult to watch them try to play come-from-behind.

(By the way, the Braves have lost 18 of 28 games against the Reds …

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Braves quotes after Friday loss to Reds

***FREDI GONZALEZ

“We didn’t do the stuff that we work on all the time. That’s a little bothersome.”

“To tell you the truth, I thought we were in that game the whole night, even in the ninth inning. Keep it at two runs and you’ve got a chance. You know, you start to see some spark in the offense, you see some swings, and you think, OK, keep it at two runs and we may sneak one out tonight. But that wasn’t the case.

“I thought we hit a ball hard there in the eighth inning, Gonzo to the shortstop. But … regroup and come out tomorrow.”

By things you work on, you mean things like throws by the pitcher to second base?

“Yeah. The fundamentals. And you know what? It happens. It’s part of this game. I mean, nobody’s trying to throw the ball away anywhere. That’s why you go over and over them in spring training and during the season, and you still … they’re a little harder than they appear. You know, what are you gonna do?

“I thought Danny swung the bat well. Had a chance. How does his …

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Chipper: Braves need urgency in early innings

For the second season in a row, the Braves have a penchant for hitting home runs in the late innings of close games.

Veteran third baseman Chipper Jones just wishes they’d adopt a similar approach for other situations, too.

The Braves were hitting just .223 in close-and-late situations, which ranked 13th in the National League before Friday. However, they had 17 homers in those situations, more than twice as many as any other NL team.

“It’s nice to have that ability and nice to be able to turn it on when we need to,” Jones said. “I just wish there was a little more urgency early on in games, because if we keep playing [close] games like we’re playing, we’re going to blow out [relievers Eric] O’Flaherty, [Jonny] Venters, [Craig] Kimbrel.”

Only 11 major league pitchers had 25 or more relief appearances before Friday, including that Braves trio: Venters had a majors-leading 28, O’Flaherty had 27, and rookie closer Kimbrel had 25.

The Braves had averaged one homer per 19.5 …

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Hudson back Monday, Beachy in 3-4 weeks?

Pitcher Tim Hudson has recovered from back stiffness and is set to start Monday, while Brandon Beachy (oblique strain) is probably at least three weeks from returning to the Braves’ starting rotation.

Beachy, injured while batting during a May 14 game against Philadelphia, played catch from a distance of about 100 feet on Friday.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said once he’s cleared to throw from the mound, the rookie right-hander would need to rebuild arm strength and probably make two or three minor-league rehab starts before he’s ready to return to Atlanta’s rotation.

Beachy was 1-1 with a 3.45 ERA in eight starts before the injury.

Hudson missed a rotation turn Wednesday at Pittsburgh, after returning to Atlanta last weekend to have his back checked by Braves specialists. He has been cleared to pitch Monday’s series opener against San Diego.

The veteran right-hander had back stiffness during a May 20 loss at Anaheim, where he allowed eight runs, seven hits and three walks in 3-2/3 …

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Heyward’s 2nd MRI: no structural damage

A second, more advanced MRI on slugger Jason Heyward’s right shoulder showed the same thing as the first MRI:  no structural damage.

“Just normal wear-and-tear of a normal major league shoulder, some inflammation,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Heyward has been on the 15-day disabled list since Sunday, and Gonzalez said the Braves would wait for rotator-cuff inflammation to }calm down” before he resumes hitting.

Gonzalez said Heyward could be ready soon after the 15-day DL period, if he has no setbacks.

The right fielder will probably be sent to Orlando for a few extended-spring training games, then play a rehab game or two at Triple-A Gwinnett before he’s activated. In extended-spring games, Heyward could bat in every inning to get more work on his swing.

Heyward left the team Sunday in Anaheim and returned to Atlanta for a dye-contrast MRI, wherein dye is injected to enhance the scan images. He had complained of recurring soreness and crackling sensations in his right …

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Braves: Pitching, defense, late homers

We’ve had plenty of time in the past week to hash out all that is wrong with the Braves, and judging from the tone of the blogosphere one would never know this is injury-riddled team has the fourth-most wins (28) and fifth-best winning percentage (.549) in the NL.

But it does.

Prado has three homers in close-and-late situations for a team that leads the NL with 17.

Prado has three homers in close-and-late situations for a team that leads the NL with 17.

And for those who keep track of such things this early, the Braves today would be second in the NL wild-card standings, one game behind the Marlins. They start a three-game series tonight against Cincinnati.

By the way,  if you think the Braves are erratic, check out the Reds, who are 1-8 with a 5.78 ERA and 29 runs scored in their past nine games, after going 8-1 with a 2.99 ERA and 54 runs in the nine games prior to the skid.

Going back to the Marlins for a moment. Given injuries, players who’ve underperformed, etc., which pitching staff and overall team would you prefer to have for the remainder of the season, …

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Braves trade Lopez for minor-league lefty

The Braves traded journeyman pitcher Rodrigo Lopez to the Chicago Cubs for minor league left-hander Ryan Buchter.

Lopez, 35, was 6-1 with a 2.59 ERA in nine starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. His contract would’ve permitted him to sign as a free agent with any team offering a 25-man roster spot if he weren’t on the Braves’ major league roster by June 15.

Buchter, 24, had a 3.38 ERA and .197 opponents’ average in 16 relief appearances in Class A and Double A, with 30 strikeouts in 21-1-3 innings.  He allowed 13 hits, eight earned runs and 11 walks in 11 innings for Double-A Tennessee.

A 33rd-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals in 2005, Buchter is 20-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 149 minor league games (two starts), none above Double A. He has 251 strikeouts with 141 walks in 212 innings.

Buchter has a 92-94 mph fastball, but needs work on his secondary pitch.

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Series preview: Braves vs. Reds

Reds-Braves series at Turner Field in Atlanta.

When (TV): 7:35 p.m. Friday (WPCH), 7:10 p.m. Saturday (Fox), 8 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2).

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday: Braves RH Tommy Hanson (5-3, 2.72 ERA) vs. RH Mike Leake (3-2, 5.70)

Saturday: Braves RH Derek Lowe (3-4, 3.53) vs. RH Bronson Arroyo (3-5, 5.28)

Sunday: Braves RH Jair Jurrjens (6-1, 1.56) vs. RH Johnny Cueto (2-1, 2.19)

About the Braves:

• Batting: Eric Hinske is 20-for-56 (.357) with three doubles, four homers, nine RBIs and a .998 OPS in his past 19 games. The Braves are 10-3 in his starts in that period…. Brian McCann has a .325 average with 10 homers, 26 RBIs and a 1.024 OPS in 33 games against the Reds…. Dan Uggla is 5-for-50 with one RBI (solo homer) in his past 14 games, and 2-for-33 with no extra-base hits in his past nine….David Ross is 10-for-26 (.385) with three homers against right-handers, and 1-for-10 against lefties.

• Pitching: Hanson had not …

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Video: Previewing Braves-Reds series

CineSport’s Brian Clark and the AJC’s Carroll Rogers discuss Dan Uggla’s struggles, the recent road trip, and preview this weekend’s series with the Reds.

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Braves postgame quotes following Wednesday’s 11-inning win

BROOKS CONRAD

On the homer:

“It’s so much fun to come through for the team. It’s was awesome. In that situation one out, you’ve got to do your best to stay through the ball, try not to roll over and hit into a double play. It ended up being a change-up that last pitch. I was able to stay through it long enough and get it up in the air and it went out.”

On his history of pinch-hit homers:

“All those situations up there, tie ball game, it’s so much fun, especially in the pinch hit role. Getting up there with the game on the line, you’ve got a chance to drive in the winning run for the team. It’s a big emotion swing. If you get it done, you’re flying high. If you don’t, you’ve got to sit on that until your next opportunity. The days you get it done are awesome and the days you don’t, you do your best to keep your same positive mindset for the next time.”

BRIAN MCCANN

On Venters:

“He’s something special, man. There’s not too many guys with the bases loaded one out that you feel …

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