(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
So you know how you start looking something up and you think it’s going to be simple, and an hour later, you’ve still got your nose in it? Well, that was me on this Saturday morning.
I was all into trying to dig up if Brian McCann starts in the All-Star game, as expected, and gets a chance to catch Jair Jurrjens, who made a pretty good case to get the starting nod with his one-hitter last night, would that be the first time for an All-Braves starting battery in the All-Star game?
And the answer I found after much ado is…..no.
Del Crandall started the 1958 All-Star game behind the plate and caught legendary left-hander Warren Spahn for three innings of a 4-3 loss to the American League at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. (Hey, we love the symmetry there, what with the Orioles in town.)
By my math, that was it, all the way back to the first All-Star game in 1933. So still, it would be pretty special.
A McCann-Jurrjens battery would be a first for the Atlanta Braves. (Crandall and Spahn were Milwaukee Braves.)
The one time Javy Lopez started an All-Star game was in 2003 and Jason Schmidt was the starter that day for the National League. And yes, nice twist there too, that Schmidt, then a Giant, was a former Brave he had caught 15 times in 1995 and 1996.
But back in the 1990s when a Brave was starting for the National League almost every year, former Met Mike Piazza was the one most often behind the plate. He caught Greg Maddux in 1994, 1997 and 1998 and he caught John Smoltz in 1996. When Tom Glavine started back-to-back All-Star games in 1991 and 1992, Benito Santiago was behind the plate.
In fact, what McCann is doing is truly special. Lopez “only” made the All-Star team three times. McCann is about to double that at six when the All-Star rosters are announced Sunday and he’s only six full seasons into his career. The announcement show starts at noon on TBS.
Eight starters for the NL and 25 pitchers and reserves will be named as well as nine starters for the AL and 24 pitchers and reserves. Pitchers and reserves are chosen by player ballot as well as manager’s picks.
You figure on McCann and Jurrjens, and then some other Braves in the running include Tommy Hanson (he’s fourth in the NL with a 2.62 ERA and tied for third with nine wins), Jonny Venters (if last week’s hiccups don’t hurt him, there’s been no better reliever, set-up or closer) and Craig Kimbrel (who is tied with three other players for second in the NL in saves with 23).
McCann has never been voted in as a starter. But he’s been leading the ballot ever since the second tally was announced. And in the most recent results, he was ahead of Yadier Molina of the Cardinals by almost 800,000 votes.
And this is McCann’s year. He’s hitting .311 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs. His mug is repeated five times across the top of the Braves stats page on ESPN.com, since he leads the team in batting average, homers, RBIs, OBP and hits.
He’s chasing down a franchise record for All-Star appearances by a catcher, which is held by former Boston and Milwaukee Brave Del Crandall, who made the All-Star team in eight seasons behind the plate and 11 times overall – he made both All-Star games back when they played two in 1959, 1960 and 1962. He started in eight of them.
Joe Torre made five All-Star teams in his years as a Brave and started four of them at catcher in 1964-1967.
Braves All-Star Battery history
And hey, humor me here if you will, and let me share some of the info I dug up, and other examples of Braves pitchers throwing to Braves catchers in the All-Star game, just not as starters:
2003 Lopez caught Russ Ortiz in fifth inning
1983 Bruce Benedict caught Pascual Perez in seventh inning
1978 Biff Pocoroba caught Phil Niekro for last out
1959 Crandall caught Lew Burdette the fourth, fifth and sixth innings in July 7th game in Pittsburgh (there was another in LA)
1958 Crandall caught Spahn for the first three innings
1948 Phil Masi caught Johnny Sain in the fifth inning
1947 Masi caught Spahn in the ninth inning
If it sounds like I’m missing something, check me on it and let me know. But this much I know: it’s pretty rare. OK, that’s a lot of stuff to make that point. Thanks for bearing with me!
So it was a pretty special night at the ballpark last night for Jair Jurrjens, who pitched only the ninth one-hit shutout in Atlanta Braves history. He became the second Brave to do it this year, following Tim Hudson’s 8-0 one-hit gem to complete a two-game doubleheader sweep of the Brewers on May 8.
Funny, though, it wasn’t the complete-game one-hitter that came to mind last night when I asked Hudson whose one-hit shutout was more impressive, his or Jurrjens.
“It would have been a lot better if he’d hit a two-run homer to win it though,” Hudson said of Jurrjens. “I’ve heard of that kind of thing happening.”
Oh, he can’t help himself….Think the boys are going to hearing about that one all season long – Hudson’s two-run homer to go along with his eight shutout innings to beat Toronto 2-0 on June 20.
That was about as impressive outing you’ll have without quite finishing a game (Kimbrel came on in the ninth after Hudson gave up a leadoff walk and an infield hit).
It also turned the tide for Hudson in interleague play as a Brave. He’s only 3-14 with a 6.24 ERA in 19 starts against the American League as a Brave overall.
He’ll be looking to build on that tonight against Baltimore’s Jake Arrieta. Hudson hasn’t allowed a run in his past 14 innings over two starts, not since Angel Pagan hooked that two-run home run inside the foul pole in that rain-delayed game against the Mets at Turner Field.
Since then he made an adjustment with his hands, starting his windup to improve his timing and get the ball down.
Speaking of pitches down in the strike zone….One of the Orioles writers told me last night that Jeremy Guthrie said the scouting report the Orioles have on Jason Heyward is he likes the ball down. Don’t give him anything down in the zone to hit. So that’s why Guthrie climbed the ladder on him with that 0-1 fastball in the sixth inning, the one Heyward sent scathing to center field for a two-run homer and the game-winner.
(It snapped Heyward’s homerless drought at 104 at-bats and 32 games.)
I’d always figured the report was not to give Heyward anything out away that he can get his hands extended on, and teams have been trying to jam him all year. I do think he’s a good low-ball hitter, but he looked pretty good on that high ball last night. Scott Linebrink was saying to him after the game, he thought that was a pretty good pitch he hit.
Heyward said he’d actually been a little early on Guthrie’s fastballs his first couple of at-bats and just needed to slow things down in his third. “I needed to stay behind it a little more. (Linebrink noted, better to be able to slow down than trying to speed up!)
Since coming off the disabled list, Heyward is hitting .281 (16-for-57) with a homer and six RBIs in 15 games. He’s hit in four straight and six of his past eight.
“You’ve just got to keep going, stay consistent,” said Heyward, who is now hitting .234 with eight homers on the season. “I know I can’t get it all back in one day or one series. Just got to keep making progress and I think I’ve done that so far.”
This and that
Peter Moylan is gearing up to start playing catch against after the All-Star break. He’s chomping at the bit to do it and feels great since his back surgery…
Martin Prado isn’t just bopping around these days because his staph infection is close to healing. He said his mother Irma is coming over from Venezuela on Sunday and staying for the rest of the season. You might recall some of the stress Prado endured two years ago, and serious headaches, when he was worried for his mother and her safety back in their native Venezuela, and she was having trouble securing a visa to come back.
Now Prado said it’s been arranged that for the next 10 years, if he’s in the U.S., she can be too. And he’s over the moon about it. Good for him and his family…
Maybe manager Fredi Gonzalez will decide to sit Dan Uggla tonight after his 0-for-4, four-strikeout game last night. More on the lineup, and everything else from the ballpark this afternoon.