Archive for April, 2012

McCann leaves Friday’s game with intercostal muscle strain

Braves catcher Brian McCann had to leave Friday’s game after the fifth inning with a strained intercostal muscle in his right side. It’s not considered as serious as a strained oblique muscle and something the Braves are holding out hope will just require a few days off.

“Just want to be smart about things and make sure I make this a day or two or three thing instead of a DL stint,” McCann said. “Just precautionary reasons. We wanted to make sure it heals up.”

McCann’s 2011 season was derailed after he strained his left oblique making a throw to second against the Pirates in the 19-inning marathon on July 26. He went on the disabled list the following day and ultimately might have rushed back too soon, struggling at the plate for the final six weeks of the season.

McCann said this time the problem area is higher in the ribcage and on the opposite side. He said he felt it in the fourth inning after blocking a pitch and throwing to second, trying to prevent Garrett …

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Jurrjens to make first Triple-A start Sunday

Jair Jurrjens will make the first start of his Triple-A stint Sunday in Toledo at 2 p.m. He was originally projected to pitch Saturday, which would have been on regular rest, but by going Sunday it was an easier fit for the Gwinnett rotation.

The Braves have no timetable for Jurrjens’ return but are just hoping time in Triple-A will help him recapture his form, whether it’s by working on his mechanics, arm strength, leg strength or simply confidence. Jurrjens is 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts this season.

“Obviously something there is not right,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Go down there and fix it and come back. You don’t think I want a guy who’s won 40-something games back here pitching for us?”

Jurrjens, 26, has won 47 games in four seasons for Atlanta and 50 overall including three wins in 2007 with Detroit.

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40th birthday surprises keeps coming for Jones

As fun as it was to homer against the Dodgers on his 40th birthday, Chipper Jones had a pretty nice birthday gift waiting at home too. His wife Sharon surprised him after a birthday dinner out with his family on Thursday night with keys to a brand new Ford F-150 pickup truck.

She got him too. Jones said she has given him 15 or 20 watches over all the years he’s known her. He thought that’s what was coming, when she gave him a small box in the car on the way to dinner, and then scolded him for shaking it to try to figure out what was inside.

“Opened it (at dinner), sure enough, Gucci box,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘All right, just act surprised,’ and I looked in there. There was a key in there. I was like ‘nuh huh.’”

The new silver truck was waiting in the parking lot of the restaurant.

Jones took advantage of the day off Thursday to give his knee a rest as well. While it bothered him waking up after the cross-country flight, by Friday it felt “good …

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Heyward benefits from watching Bourn on bases

Jason Heyward set out to be more aggressive on the basepaths this season, and he’s well on his way. The Braves resurgent right fielder was a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases entering the weekend series with the Pirates. That’s just three shy of his total in steals from all off last season, when he was 9-for-11.

“I’ve got some speed, use it,” said Heyward, who lost 20 pounds during the offseason, which has made him even lighter on his feet.

He’s also got the National League leader in stolen bases over the past three years to learn from in Braves leadoff man Michael Bourn, who also led the majors last season with 61 steals.

Heyward said he’s kept a close eye on Bourn and makes a point to stand with bench coach Carlos Tosca in the dugout when Bourn is on first or second, to get pitchers’ times to the plate.

“I really get a good visual feel,” Heyward said. “Other than that, it’s just going off what I know now and trying to improve on it, getting better at …

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Pirates, and their surprisingly good pitching staff, are back in town

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

Remember the last time the Pirates were in town? It was last July for the four-game series that actually felt more like six games. That’s because of the 19-inning marathon that lasted until 1:50 a.m. in the second game of the series, and ended with home plate umpire Jerry Meals calling Julio Lugo safe on a play at the plate whenever everyone else could see catcher Michael McKenry had swipe tagged him on the shin.

Meals acknowledged the next afternoon that he’d missed the call, but the damage was done.Lugo

The night proved to be pretty devastating for the Pirates, who had been 53-48 before that game, off to one of their best starts in ages. But from that day forward, after the six hour 39-minute marathon, they were 19-42. If the hurricane bound for New York got the Braves season off track in early September, that late night on July 26 at Turner Field seemed to do the same for the Pirates.

The 4-3 win …

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Chipper can still deliver; just ask Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – When Chipper Jones made up his mind to retire after the 2012 season, he hoped it would be a big year for the Braves with him contributing plenty to the success.

So far, the future Hall of Famer is getting what he hoped for, albeit with a bit more knee pain and swelling than he’d prefer.

Jones drove in the winning run in a stirring ninth-inning comeback late Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, where the Braves scored three runs on five consecutive singles off Dodgers closer Javy Guerra to pull off a 4-2 win that capped one of their best West Coast trips in years.

“That was a big one, to come in here and take two from those guys,” said Braves reliever Jonny Venters (2-0), who struck out the side in the eighth inning. “They’re playing great — the best in the West. It was exciting.”

The game-winning RBI for Jones came a day after he homered on his 40th birthday in Tuesday’s 4-3 win against the Dodgers, who were previously unbeaten at …

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Next for Braves: Pittsburgh Pirates

Series preview: vs Pirates

When (TV): 7:35 p.m. Friday (WPCH); 7:10 p.m. Saturday (WPCH); 1:35 p.m. Sunday (SPSO); 7:10 p.m. Monday (SPSO)

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday: Braves RH Tommy Hanson (2-2, 3.38 ERA) vs. RH A.J. Burnett (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

Saturday: Braves RH Randall Delgado (2-1, 5.74) vs. LH Erik Bedard (0-4, 2.63)

Sunday: Braves RH Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 in 2011) vs. RH Kevin Correia (1-0, 2.00)

Monday: Braves LH Mike Minor (2-1, 3.42) vs. RH James McDonald (0-1, 2.78)

About the Braves:

Batting: The Braves scored four runs combined in the ninth innings Tuesday and Wednesday to rally for back-to-back wins in LA to finish off a 5-2 trip. Since sitting out April 16 against the Mets, Freddie Freeman is hitting .417 (15-for-36), with six doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs. Chipper Jones is hitting .351 (13-for-37) with two home runs against Burnett.

Pitching: Hanson has pitched seven innings in each of his past two outings, and is coming off a …

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Braves quotes after comeback win at L.A.

**BRIAN McCANN

“What a game that was. I mean, the way Beachy pitched was amazing, then our bullpen came in and they did what they do every time they take the mound. We’ve got as good a late-inning bullpen as you’re going to find. We came in the ninth with some big ABs. That’s what you’ve got to do to beat good teams like this. You’ve got to hang close, then have a big inning. And ours was in the ninth tonight.”

On not giving up

“It’s kind of been the same for the last two or three years. This team has won a lot of ballgames, and we’ve come back, we’ve held leads … we feel like we’ve got a great team top to bottom, and we feel like nights like this will happen quite a few times because of the hitters we have in our lineup.”

How scary was that initially for you, when the ball went off Guerra’s face

“Oh, man. I told a couple of guys he’s my new favorite player. I mean, it didn’t even faze him. I hit it as hard as I possibly could, and I don’t …

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Braves beat Dodgers with 3-run rally in ninth

LOS ANGELES – Five straight hits, and one nasty blow to the face.

That was the damage the Braves wrought upon Dodgers closer Javy Guerra in a riveting ninth-inning rally that produced three runs and a highly improbable 4-2 comeback win for Atlanta at Dodger Stadium.

“It’s a great, great win for the ballclub,” said third baseman Chipper Jones, who had the fourth of the ninth-inning singles and drove in the winning run, after which he pumped his fist. “A great series win, a great road trip.”

Catcher Brian McCann, who had the second hit of the inning: “This was huge. To win two out of three here. This was an amazing road trip that we just played. To come out west and do what we did, the way we did it – it’s pretty special.”

The Braves won the last two games to take the series 2-1 and finish a 5-2 trip that began in Arizona. They’ve won 12 of their past 15 games and handed the NL West-leading Dodgers their first two home losses of the season.

After a red-eye flight …

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Hitting coach, Chipper like what they see

PHOENIX – Their new hitting coach likes what he sees from the Braves, and so does their third baseman. Which hasn’t always been the case with Chipper Jones.

Greg Walker and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher were hired to make the Braves tougher outs than they were in 2011. To make them more confident and competitive and aggressive — and more proficient at situational hitting.

So far, results are encouraging.

After ranking 22nd in the majors in scoring last season at 3.95 runs per game, the Braves were averaging 5.4 in 18 games before Wednesday night’s series finale against the Dodgers. After ranking 26th in the majors with a .308 on-base percentage in 2011, they were 10th at .324 and rising before Wednesday.

After finishing 10th in the National League in slugging percentage at .387 in 2011, they were fourth at .430 before Wednesday.

“I just think we’ve got a lot of people that feel good about themselves,” Walker said. “They’re fighting as a unit, not …

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