Not how Braves wanted stretch drive to go, but…

ST. LOUIS – Among the five National League playoff contenders, there are three teams surging and two sputtering a bit in the stretch drive. The Braves, as you’re probably aware, are not one of those surging.

They are 3-7 with a 4.40 ERA and 33 runs scored in their past 10 games, including six games with three runs or fewer. They are 2-5 on this eight-game trip, and need a win this afternoon or be swept in a three-game series for the second time in seven days, which is something the Braves had avoided altogether for their first 139 games.

But for those many Braves followers who are concerned, worried, angry or all of the above, and those wondering if there is similar panic or consternation in the clubhouse, or any other sort of negative vibe, I really don’t sense that there is. At least not much.

Sure, I heard someone mention today that he wished some players got as worked up over there recent losses as they were over the Eagles-Rams game that was playing on the clubhouse television today at noon. But for the most part, the overwhelming mood seems to be, the Braves are still in control and their season and goals are not slipping away.

“There has been some good baseball games, there really have,” Gonzalez said of the Braves’ recent stretch. “We just haven’t come out on the plus side of many of them.”

Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, who knows something about postseason success from his playing days (see iconic home-run celebration above), has his Diamondbacks on a 16-2 surge after being swept last month by the Braves.

Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, who knows something about postseason success from his playing days (see iconic home-run celebration above), has his Diamondbacks on a 16-2 surge after being swept last month by the Braves.

Then he was asked about Braves still being in the proverbial driver’s seat in the wild-card race, leading the Cardinals by 5-1/2 games and the Giants by 8-1/2 with 16 games left on the schedule.

Here, Gonzalez cringed a little. As he does everytime anyone has implied for the past few weeks that the Braves would have to totally collapse not to make the playoffs. He’s superstitious about this stuff, would prefer not to talk about magic numbers and games ahead, just as he didn’t like talking about relief pitchers having scoreless-innings streaks.

“You’d rather be up than down,” Gonzalez allowed. But, he quickly added, “You just want to win ballgames and start winning series. Seems like we haven’t had a series win in at least three now, because you can’t really count the doubleheader [Thursday’s twinbill sweep of the Mets]. We lost two out of three against the Dodgers, three against Philly and at least two out of three here. We’ve got to get back to winning series.”

But then he got back to his point about the Braves, in his view, not playing badly despite results that indicate otherwise.

“You talk to the coaches after a game and say, we’re playing good baseball games,” he said. “It’s not like we’re playing bad baseball. It’s just how it goes sometimes. I’m happy with the effort the guys are giving. You feel like it’s just at any given time, if somebody breaks a bat and scores two runs, it’s going to get everybody going.”

I mentioned to him that the Braves have wasted countless opportunities in recent weeks to move runners over or get them in from third base with less than two outs. If they’d done those kinds of things well, the 4-3 outcomes in each of the first two games of this Cardinals series might have been reversed.

On this point, he agreed.

“Those end up being big runs in a nine-inning game,” he said. “You look back and go, we could have had a run there. Or something else here, a wild pitch, something.”

Then, the seemingly inevitable caveat: “Looking at our team, I’m not concerned because we’re playing some solid baseball. Just rather be winning those games.”

I mentioned the same thing to Brian McCann after Saturday’s loss, how the Braves have not done “the little things” well like advancing runners and getting a guy in from third.

“Yeah, you’re right, 100 percent,” he said. “We haven’t done that well with guys on third base and less than two outs. Little things. But at the same time, we all know that. We’re working on it every day.”

Since anyone looking at the situation mathematically realizes the Braves are still very likely to win the wild card, I asked Gonzalez if the point wasn’t so much getting into the postseason, but rather going in with some sort of good feeling rather than sputtering to the finish line and then hoping to flip a switch and turn things around in a best-of-five division series.

“You want to go in with momentum, obviously,” he said. “But for us to stay in the driver’s seat and win the wild card, we’re going to have to go in with momentum.”

He meant that, they’re going to have to play better between now and the end of the season to clinch, so the point would be moot. But that’s necessarily true. Because the Braves could go, say, 6-10 the rest of the way and still clinch if the Cardinals go 11-6 or worse. That’s provided the Cardinals don’t pass the Brewers, in which case the magic number would revert to the Brewers and we don’t have time to get into that math right now before this 1:15 p.m. start.

As a rookie, Brian McCann hit this three-run homer off Roger Clemens in a Game 2 division-series win against Houston. McCann said the Braves are in good position despite their recent record.

As a rookie, Brian McCann hit this three-run homer off Roger Clemens in a Game 2 division-series win against Houston. McCann said the Braves are in good position despite their recent record.

The Braves will tell you that they grinded and fought through injuries and picked each other up during the course of a long season, that they played well to put themselves in position to make the playoffs, and that struggling for a few weeks hasn’t changed how they view themselves or how they see their chances.

“With two weeks left we’ve built ourselves [a lead], we’re up 5-1/2 games with two weeks left,” McCann said. “We know what’s ahead of us. We know we need to start winning some games. We’re fine. We’ve just got to keep playing.”

Whether they all believe that, deep down inside, is not something any of us would know.

But here’s the simple fact: The Braves could go 6-10 the rest of the way, giving them a 9-17 record in their final 26 games, and still win the wild card if the Cardinals go 11-6 or worse (which seems fairly likely given that the Cards still have a four-game series at Philly).

Going into the postseason with 17 losses in your final 26 games would probably not be the best thing for confidence and morale, right?

Then again, the 2006 Cardinals lost 14 of their last 22 regular-season games, then won the World Series. So who knows?

“Once you’re in, for me it’s a whole new season,” Gonzalez said of the playoffs. “It’s like the analogy of a hockey goalie, when they get in [the playoffs] and they get hot….”

The stretch drive: You know how the Braves have done. Here’s how the other four NL playoff teams or contenders have done recently.

– The Brewers have fared much as the Braves recently, going 4-8 in their past 12. They’ve scored two runs or fewer four times during a five-game losing skid before today.

– The Diamondbacks are the hottest team in baseball, even hotter than the Phillies. Yes, they’re beating up on mostly substandard teams, but nevertheless they have a 16-2 record .286 avg and 2.42 ERA in past 18 games, while scoring 90 runs (average five per) with 20 homers in that span. They are 16-3 since being swept in three games at Turner Field Aug. 19-21

– The Phillies are the Phillies, going 11-2 with a 2.37 ERA, 67 runs and 15 homers in past 13 games. They keep plowing through teams, showing no signs of coasting to the finish.

– The Cardinals are 11-4 with .281 avg, 3.22 ERA and 69 runs and 17 homers in past 15 games.

Speaking of the Cardinals, the Braves are just 3-10 with a 5.35 ERA against them in the past two seasons. The Cardinals have hit .280 and outscored the Braves 73-49 in those games.

And there’s this: The Braves are 0-6 with 18 runs scored in six games at Busch over the past two seasons.

BRAVES LINEUP

  1. Bourn CF
  2. Wilson SS
  3. Jones 3B
  4. Uggla 2B
  5. Freeman 1B
  6. Hinske LF
  7. Ross C
  8. Heyward RF
  9. Hudson RH

♣ OK, I need to get this up before the game starts. I’ve got a couple of 9/11 stories to relate, from Chipper and Derek Lowe (who was with Boston at the time, and the Red Sox were rained out at Yankee Stadium the night before 9/11 and flew out of New York about eight hours before the attacks). I’ll try to post those later. For now, enjoy this tune from The Man In Black, which you can hear by clicking here.

johnny-cash

“I STILL MISS SOMEONE” by Johnny Cash

At my door the leaves are falling
A cold wild wind has come
Sweethearts walk by together
And I still miss someone

I go out on a party
And look for a little fun
But I find a darkened corner
because I still miss someone

Oh, no I never got over those blues eyes
I see them every where
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there

I wonder if she’s sorry
For leavin’ what we’d begun
There’s someone for me somewhere
And I still miss someone

by David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog

1,171 comments Add your comment

CB

September 11th, 2011
2:30 pm

kenhotlanta

September 11th, 2011
2:31 pm

haggard, I responded to you on the old blog, great to hear from you.

Lew, I am so sorry to hear the news of your son, I had missed that somehow. He and all of your family will be in my prayers.

Venice Jim

September 11th, 2011
2:31 pm

Thanks, DOB! And, FANTASTIC song!!!

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
2:32 pm

Not sure what to say….

Kat

September 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

WOW awesome catch by Ske!

N Nine

September 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

Falcons can’t win a game.
Braves keep free fall slide
UGA has zero wins.
Thrashers got smart and left.
Hawks can’t get past round 1
Need a new city to cheer on.

Venice Jim

September 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

ERIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

McFann :Ô: :Ô:

September 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

HINSKE!!! NICE!!! Sweet goodness…

Peter

September 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
2:34 pm

HINSKE with an amazing grab robbing Holliday of a home run!!!

The BIG OL’ WATER BUFFALO

Mitchell

September 11th, 2011
2:36 pm

David O'Brien

September 11th, 2011
2:36 pm

I’ve never seen Hinske make a better catch, that’s for sure. Wow.

Peter

September 11th, 2011
2:36 pm

Eric Hinske=Otis Nixon?

Ok maybe not.

Mitchell

September 11th, 2011
2:37 pm

You turn away for five minutes and then that happens.

Eric Hinske?

DAP

September 11th, 2011
2:38 pm

thanks for the blog and the song, DOB. nice pick.

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
2:38 pm

That is the first time I remember a Braves player robbing a homerun since Willie Harris robbed Carlos Delgado of a homerun at Shea Stadium in September of 2007.

DAP

September 11th, 2011
2:38 pm

theyre gonna have to go repair that section of the fence between innings, id bet.

David O'Brien

September 11th, 2011
2:41 pm

From a woman on Twitter seated in left field: I’m above the bullpen and he knocked one of the posts off the fence. heck of a catch.

Has

September 11th, 2011
2:42 pm

Has anyone noticed that those tv announcers trash Derrick Lowe while he is pitching, yet Hudson is doing the same thing today, but they haven’t said a word!

Brava

September 11th, 2011
2:42 pm

OK, I take back what I said earlier about Constanza playing instead of Hinske. No way little Georgie jumps that high. Fredi’s a genius!

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
2:43 pm

David Ross strikes out every game he plays.

jeffrey d

September 11th, 2011
2:44 pm

That Tweet’s a lie. Women don’t watch baseball games.

Mitchell

September 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

Oh my God.

A base hit for Jason Heyward.

Yay.

cabravesfan

September 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

That Tweet’s a lie. Women don’t watch baseball games.

This is true. We only watch football. :roll: ;)

T for Texas

September 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

Nice AB, Jason.

Efrim

September 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

It could be worse. We could be the Red Sox right now. About to be only 3 games up.

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
2:45 pm

Get the f’in bunt down for F sakes.

Wow. This is basic baseball we’re talking about here….

Efrim

September 11th, 2011
2:46 pm

Jason has been putting together better plate appearances. More power would be nice, but I’ll take walks and singles now.

bravesgrl4life

September 11th, 2011
2:46 pm

Nice bunt, Huddy.

Trey

September 11th, 2011
2:47 pm

Has, what the hell are you talking about? Derek Lowe is complete garbage.

TnBrian

September 11th, 2011
2:47 pm

Has, yes I noticed this before. McCan, Chipper and McCann can do no wrong it seems. Also, Joe absolutely LOVES Diaz, so dont expect anything negative out of Joe’s mouth regarding “the hittin’ fool”. Hittin fool my ass.

DAP

September 11th, 2011
2:48 pm

Has, Hudson doing the same thing as Lowe? how you figure? Hudson’s ERA is over a run and a half lower.

maybe the reason Lowe earns criticism is 4.70 ERA and his inability to pitch deep in games.

McFann :Ô: :Ô:

September 11th, 2011
2:48 pm

cabravsefan This is true. We only watch football.

When I was little, I thought that men liked football and women liked baseball, like, that’s just the way it was…always…

TnBrian

September 11th, 2011
2:48 pm

Of course I meant McCann, Chipper and Hudson can do no wrong in the announcers eyes.

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
2:49 pm

Wasted opportunity number 1 for the Braves.

Mitchell

September 11th, 2011
2:49 pm

jeffrey d, I spoke in a sarcastic tone about Jason Heyward.

I realize that now and I see that it was wrong of me.

Will you accept my apology?

Please say yes.

TnBrian

September 11th, 2011
2:50 pm

Lowe is terrible and Hudson is pitching very good, but I see what he means. Our announcers are biased. Joe especially.

cabravesfan

September 11th, 2011
2:50 pm

McFann-

And I never understood why none of my friends liked watching football. It seemed so normal to me (still does)

Doc Holliday

September 11th, 2011
2:50 pm

With 2 weeks left of baseball, the Phillies have an impressive .662 winning percentage. I went checking on how good their performance was. Found out that on the last 50 years only 7 teams have done better than that. They would be in pretty good company, with some of the greatest teams ever:

2001 Seattle Mariners AL 116 46 .716 Lost 2001 ALCS vs. Yankees

1998 New York Yankees AL 114 48 .704 Won 1998 World Series vs. Padres

1986 New York Mets NL 108 54 .666 Won 1986 World Series vs. Red Sox

1975 Cincinnati Reds NL 108 54 .666 Won 1975 World Series vs. Red Sox

1970 Baltimore Orioles AL 108 54 .666 Won 1970 World Series vs. Reds

1969 Baltimore Orioles AL 109 53 .673 Lost 1969 World Series vs. Mets

1961 New York Yankees AL 109 53 .673 Won 1961 World Series vs. Reds

McFann :Ô: :Ô:

September 11th, 2011
2:50 pm

TnBrian Chipper and McCann can do no wrong it seems.

Are you kidding? Joe gets on BMac all the time…wild pitches, mostly…

jeffrey d

September 11th, 2011
2:51 pm

You guys are talking like whenever Lowe pitches the announcers groan and make f*rt noises. He’s struggling and they’ll point that out. Same with McCann during his slump.

McFann :Ô: :Ô:

September 11th, 2011
2:51 pm

cabravesfan

Funny the way kids’ minds work… :P

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
2:51 pm

When the chips are on the table this team couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag with a two sided 4lb axe.

cabravesfan

September 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

Is it wrong that I totally just giggled thinking about Chip and Joe making f*rt noises? :lol:

jeffrey d

September 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

Geeze, Mitchell, all I said was that you complained a lot. And you do….a lot. Doesn’t hurt my feelings. It just gets old.

Woody Woodward

September 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

anyone having trouble accessing the game on mlb tv? getting the interminable spin on the puter.

TnBrian

September 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

BUT, yesterday’s game wasn’t all on Derek either. Prado screwed up and cost him, what, 2 runs. He pitched 6 innings giving up what I see as 2 runs to an All Star type lineup which is pretty damn good.

Kimbrel rocks

September 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

i really don’t think any of this matters if they actually clinch the WC—-the bottom line is they got complacent after the arizona series. starting switching line-ups and letting people rest when it really wasn’t over.

they guys have been playing baseball for years. they all know that anyone can win in tourney play—which is what the playoff games really are. one error (like conrad) or big hit from a braves can change EVERYTHING in a playoff game. when these guys clinch the WC, they will be SO PUMPED!!! and ready to rumble.

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
2:53 pm

Who wants to bet the Cardinals cash em in???

TnBrian

September 11th, 2011
2:54 pm

cabravesfan, :lol:

No, that isn’t weird. I imagine stuff like this in stressful situations and it makes things go smoother.

Trey

September 11th, 2011
2:55 pm

Jeffrey, a lot of bloggers complain a lot.

jeffrey d

September 11th, 2011
2:55 pm

Is it wrong that I totally just giggled thinking about Chip and Joe making f*rt noises?

That was the goal!

(Lowe give up a double)
Joe: ughhhh!! He SUCKS!!
Chip: *razzzzzzzzzz*
Joe: But wait, Chipper’s talking to Lowe now. Chipper’s got the answer! He’s perfect! Chipper Chipper Chipper….

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
2:55 pm

Woody – RE: MLBTV

Mines OK….and just OK. Can’t stand that interminable spin on the puter. I’m not watching in HD had to lower the resolution.

T for Texas

September 11th, 2011
2:55 pm

Woody-

Delete your browsing history, cookies, etc. If that does not help restart your computer.

Kimbrel rocks

September 11th, 2011
2:55 pm

ps. prado is not the guy we want playing third in a playoff game. love him to death but we could have a conrad situation on our hands in that situation.

uggla has been amazing (and one of my favs) but i will always wonder if we should have gotten a big hitting left-fielder instead of uggla and left prado at 2nd base—-where he was an all-star

TnBrian

September 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

How does Jon Jay hit like he does with that weird wind thing he does and Heyward cant do sh!!?

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

Nice.

Here comes Pujols

Kimbrel rocks

September 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

how many batters can tim hudson freaking hit? this is the game 1 pitcher? we got problems

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
2:57 pm

Cards will not let this kind of an opertunity slip by.

Mitchell

September 11th, 2011
2:58 pm

Can’t help but notice we haven’t scored any runs so far.

Question: Can you still win even if you don’t score?

Woody Woodward

September 11th, 2011
2:59 pm

Got it going. Thanks for the help. Braves got to get it going now.

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
2:59 pm

Read my lips!

Whoop

September 11th, 2011
2:59 pm

Just a horrible team

Atlanta Braves

September 11th, 2011
2:59 pm

rudy

September 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

any idea why fredi has wilson hitting 2nd and heyward hitting 8th??? makes no sense with huge diff in OBP…

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

Hitting batters in front of Pujols is a bad thing to do.

james

September 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

20 years ago today, the braves pitched a 3 man no hitter.
Never forget.

ChrisfromSacramento,Ca

September 11th, 2011
3:00 pm

Ace? I don’t Fu king think so!

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
3:01 pm

Braves can get this type situation 5 times a game and never score a run unless someone hits a dinger.

Kimbrel rocks

September 11th, 2011
3:01 pm

here comes the infamous tim hudson “walk a batter to make my situation even worse”

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
3:01 pm

Cards have all the runs they will need.

ChrisfromSacramento,Ca

September 11th, 2011
3:03 pm

15 is a pus s

Kimbrel rocks

September 11th, 2011
3:03 pm

does anyone think this atlanta braves team could win 3 str8 games if their season depended on it? LOL NOOOO WAY

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
3:03 pm

Enter your comments here

Brava

September 11th, 2011
3:03 pm

Depressing is the only word that comes to mind.

David O'Brien

September 11th, 2011
3:03 pm

Hudson walks Berkman to bring in a run, Cardinals up 2-0. Wow. His command has abandoned him.

T-rod

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

Wow. There goes the season. this team is really bad. They have been playing over their head all year and it’s finally starting to even out. No way this team makes the playoffs

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

Tim thinks the braves might score one run so he gives the cards another run just in case.

ChrisfromSacramento,Ca

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

All the idiots who said ” it’s ok we have Husdon pitching tomorrow” how dumb are all you idiots.

Not A Championship Team

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

What a bunch of gaggers!

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

For F SAKES.

Did anyone call it yet??? Down to 4 games. What a bunch of bumbling fools.

Mitchell

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

Tim Hudson sucks.

He’s killing us.

Only one home run this year.

bravesgrl4life

September 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

Dang, is that really Huddy pitching or an impostor???

Trey

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

What a joke of a baseball team. Hit batters in front of Pujols and then walk in a run.

McFann :Ô: :Ô:

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Haha! You’re out!!

Ralph

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

More runs with 2 outs than the braves will score in a week.

Bravefaninok

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Should have beaned him.

Whoop

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Go Cardinals!! Put this sorry azz team out of its misery.

The Braves are bigger chokers than the Mets were.

Husker Tony

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Theres always next year.

SRF

September 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

Falcons s u c k too – just give up on sports ATL

Rilo

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Braves, Dawgs, Braves, Falcons, Braves. You might want to check to see if your dog is dead. Might be the WORST weekend in ATL sports history when this thing is all said in done. Especially in what it means

McFann :Ô: :Ô:

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Hey! Maybe I should pretend that’s a Rally Butterfinger for the Cardinals and go ahead and eat it!… :D

:roll: (ITS)

NJ BRAVES FAN

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Its not the Tomahawk chop it’s the Tomahawk Choke!!!

ChrisfromSacramento,Ca

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

07 Mets choke job. Braves being violated now

MFin04

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Go ahead and call it…ballgame…and season.

Still boggles my mind why people thought the Braves were a playoff lock before this series.

jeffrey d

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Wow. There goes the season

ha!

Alright, I’m ballgaming myself from the blog.

Kimbrel rocks

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

at least i can turn it off now and do something else with my day. not wasting another moment on this game….peace out

Nova Scotia Steve

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Everyone keep saying this WC lead is insurmountable. Just keep thinking that way.

Tomahawk Mafia

September 11th, 2011
3:06 pm

Thankfully the Cardinals have run themselves into about 5 outs on the bases in this series.

Add your comment