Archive for August, 2011

When it comes to HRs, Uggla stands alone among 2B

CHICAGO – Dan Uggla’s tumultuous season like no other continued in surge mode Monday when he hit the 30-homer plateau for the fifth consecutive season, doing it with a towering shot over the left-field bleachers and out of Wrigley Field.

His 30th homer was a solo shot onto Waveland Avenue that helped the Braves beat the Cubs 3-0 and put more distance between Uggla and all other power-hitting second basemen.

Uggla has hit 30 or more homers in five consecutive seasons, while no other player at his position in major league history ever had more than three 30-homer seasons, consecutively or otherwise.

This is the same guy who hit a majors-worst .173 through July 4. Since then, Uggla had a .348 average in 42 games before Tuesday, with 18 homers and 37 RBIs.

“It’s the fastest I’ve ever gotten to 30,” said Uggla, who had 15 homers and 31 RBIs in his past 32 games before Tuesday and led the majors with 10 homers in August. “But I’ve been saying all year long, that’s …

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Power arms have served Braves well in late innings

CHICAGO – Here’s a luxury most teams could only dream of having: On Monday night the Braves rested closer Craig Kimbrel, he of the majors-leading 39 saves and 32-2/3-inning scoreless streak, and plugged in backup closer Jonny Venters.

Venters converted his fifth save while lowering his ERA to a majors-leading 1.10 and extending his own scoreless-innings streak to 22-2/3, second-longest active streak in the majors behind Kimbrel’s.

Uggla hit his 30th homer Monday, his fifth consecutive season with at least 30.

Uggla hit his 30th homer Monday, his fifth consecutive season with at least 30.

Oh, sure, Every Day Jonny made things interesting in his majors-leading 70th appearance — four more than any other pitcher — by walking the first two Cubs, bringing the potential tying run to the plate with none out and the Braves ahead 3-0.

Then Venters did what he does, striking out Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd before Alfonso Soriano hit a grounder up the middle that Alex Gonzalez smothered before leaping to tag second base with his glove (that held the ball) to end …

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Braves quotes after Monday’s win against Cubs

***FREDI GONZALEZ

“J.J. pitched good – 6-1/3 innings, gave us a great opportunity to win the ballgame. Then Vizcaino comes in and gets those two nice outs [in the seventh], O’Flaherty [in the eighth] …”

“We escaped a lot of jams today. They got on base a lot and we were able to make the pitches we had to.”

On Venters in 9th

“That’s not the way you draw it up, but Jonny’s got that composure that he can get out of that jam.”

“It was nice to give Kimbrel a day, an opportunity to rest him a little after yesterday’s outing. I think he cranked up almost 30 pitches yesterday [25]. Coming into today we talked about giving him a day, and it worked out.

“You think about the matchups, two out of the [first] three hitters in the ninth facing Jonny were left-handers, and he walks the first two. That’s the grand game of ours sometimes.”

On Uggla’s fifth 30-homer season, two more than any other 2B

“Never been done. First time in history, right? As a second …

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Moylan begins rehab stint; Braves hitting comes around


CHICAGO – Pitching in his first game in more than four months, Braves reliever Peter Moylan worked an inning for  Triple-A Gwinnett and had no problems with his surgically repaired back.

The Aussie sidearmer allowed one hit and one walk with one strikeout in the first inning of Gwinnett’s game Monday against Charlotte. He faced five batters and threw 10 strikes in 18 pitches.

Asked via text how he felt afterward, Moylan replied, “Good, man. Got ahead of hitters, but the slider was [bad].”

The Braves expect to activate Moylan when the major league roster is expanded Sept. 1.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves would probably add about seven to the roster, including top pitching prospects Julio Teheran and Delgado from Gwinnett and a third catcher, likely J.C. Boscan.

Hitters pulling their weight

For the first half of the Braves’ season, their pitchers needed to be nearly flawless many nights to make up for an underperforming offense.

That …

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Hanson keeps it brief in Monday’s return to mound

CHICAGO -- Tommy Hanson said he shoulder felt fine when he threw nine pitches in the bullpen Monday at Wrigley Field, the Braves pitcher’s first time on the mound in 16 days.

He’s on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis and tentatively scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Gwinnett.

“He played a little catch, then just a little touch-and-feel [session on mound],” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And now he’ll throw a side session tomorrow.”

Hanson’s full side session Tuesday chould  determine whether he’s ready to make a rehab start.

“I just threw a short one today,” he said. “I felt fine. It was alright. I just wanted to get on the mound and try to get my arm back in shape. That’s part of the process of being able to get back and be able to pitch in games.

“Get back on the mound, throw some off the hill and just gradually build.”

He last pitched Aug. 6 at New York, where he gave up a career-high four …

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Braves’ hitting turnaround is more than just Uggla

CHICAGO – Can you believe it was just seven weeks ago when many angry Braves fans were calling for Dan Uggla to be benched and Larry Parrish to be fired?

OK, some still suggest Parrish should be fired. But it’s safe to assume that’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future. Because whether or not some care to acknowledge it, the Braves have been one of the league’s best-hitting teams since midseason.

Braves got plenty of long balls while winning six of seven against the Giants and Diamonbacks to finish a 10-game homestand Sunday. They lead the league in homers since the All-Star break, and also rank among NL leaders in average and OBP since the break.

Braves got plenty of long balls while winning six of seven against the Giants and Diamonbacks to finish a 10-game homestand Sunday. They lead the league in homers since the All-Star break, and also rank among NL leaders in average and OBP since the break.

And Uggla? He’s had an in-season, flip-a-switch turnaround so extreme that we aren’t likely to see anything quite like it again.

By the way, for those who might not have noticed, the Braves’ wild-card lead has increased to eight games over San Francisco. That’s 1-1/2 games larger than the Phillies’ lead …

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Next for Braves: Chicago Cubs

Series preview: at Cubs

When (TV): 8:05 p.m. Monday (WPCH); 8:05 p.m. Tuesday (WPCH); 8:05 p.m. Wednesday (WPCH); 2:20 p.m. Thursday (SPSO)

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Monday: Braves RH Jair Jurrjens (12-5, 2.84 ERA) vs. RH Ryan Dempster (10-8, 4.61)

Tuesday: Braves LH Mike Minor (3-2, 4.26) vs. RH Casey Coleman (2-5, 7.43)

Wednesday: Braves RH Derek Lowe (8-11, 4.73 ERA) vs. RH Randy Wells (4-4, 5.84)

Thursday: Braves RH Brandon Beachy (6-2, 3.32 ERA) vs. RH Matt Garza (6-9, 3.62)

About the Braves:

• Batting: Dan Uggla hit .333 (11-for-33) with five home runs on the Braves’ recent 10-game homestand, including three home runs in a three-game series against the Cubs. Chipper Jones hit .423 (11-for-26) with three home runs in the homestand, including 5-for-9 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs against the Cubs.

• Pitching: Craig Kimbrel needs one save to tie Rangers closer Neftali Feliz for the major league rookie record of 40 in …

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Braves postgame quotes following Sunday’s win over Arizona

TIM HUDSON

On his outing:

“(Against Collmenter) You’ve got to go out there thinking runs are going to be at a premium. Luckily I was able to get a run right there, you just try to make it last. In the sixth inning, when I gave up the leadoff triple, it was the ballgame right there. A groundball to get one out. Flyball and throw them out at home was the key to the ballgame. It was a great play by Freddie. He’s been great all year. He’s been playing some Gold Glove first base. It’s another element of his game that could warrant rookie of the year.”

On taste of October:

“I just think we’re playing with a purpose and doing what we can to get in the playoffs. I think we have a really good club. I think our pitching is one of the best in the league and our offense is pretty dynamic and pretty dangerous. We’ve got some different looks at you that a lot of teams probably aren’t used to seeing from us. I like our club. This is probably one of my favorite clubs …

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Jones encouraging Heyward to use whole field

Chipper Jones said he couldn’t help but put in his two cents, that afternoon Aug. 6 in New York, when he saw Jason Heyward working in the batting cage with hitting coach Larry Parrish. After standing and quietly watching for 10 minutes, he spoke up after noticing Heyward diving in on pitches.

By the time he was done talking, the three of them had been in the cage for an hour. Jones had showed Heyward a tee drill trying to encourage him to hit inside the ball, so he can drive even inside pitches up the middle.

“His hands had to be killing him, but he got the gist of what we were saying,” said Jones, who also emphasized using left field. “Guy can hit the ball out of the yard anywhere. He’s got too much talent to be doing what he’s doing. If you’re thinking left center and you get a fastball in, you drop the hands inside and hit a bullet right back up the middle. Good hitters do it all the time.”

Heyward has been pounded inside consistently his sophomore season …

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Who’s faster, Bourn or Constanza?

When you’re Michael Bourn, you get the question a lot: “Who’s faster?”

Ever since he and Carl Crawford were on the same Little League team at age 9 and 10, Bourn has been urged to line it up and race. Now the latest he’s getting asked about is his speedy new Braves teammate Jose Constanza.

Braves director of baseball administration John Coppolella has been clocking the two in the past few weeks, and he has both topping out around 3.8 seconds to first base, exceptional times.

Chipper Jones, for one, thinks Constanza might look faster but doesn’t think that necessarily means he is faster.

“He’s just got shorter legs and his legs are moving faster and Mike’s got more of a long, loping stride,” Jones said. “But that would be an interesting race.”

Bourn is OK with not knowing, actually.

“I want to be able to keep my speed as long as I can, but if I wanted to race somebody all the time I’d just go run track,” Bourn said, smiling. “It just isn’t the …

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