Archive for April, 2012

New day for Dodgers franchise; Chipper’s last stop in L.A.

LOS ANGELES – It’s been a while since I’ve had this much anticipation about a series at Dodger Stadium, and it’s not so much because the Braves have won 10 of 12 games and because the Dodgers started out 9-1 and have baseball’s hottest hitter (Matt Kemp).

No, it’s because the king is dead, metaphorically speaking.

Few sports venues are as picturesque as Dodger Stadium.

Few sports venues are as picturesque as Dodger Stadium.

Since the Dodger franchise got out from under the dismal ownership tyranny of Frank McCourt four weeks ago, when the group that includes Magic Johnson, film mogul Peter Guber and former Braves president Stan Kasten, among others, bought the team for $2 billion, I’ve looked forward to seeing Dodger Stadium again as we’re accustomed to seeing it.

That is, with energy emanating from the crowd and smiles on the faces of the courteous ushers, and with the beautiful, venerable ballpark hopefuly spruced up and clean the way it was for decades until the O’Malleys sold the Dodgers and it slowly became …

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Braves’ win streak snapped after Delgado serves up slam

PHOENIX – There aren’t many things one imagines could go terribly wrong after a decision to walk a batter with two outs and first base open, in order to face a [far] lesser hitter with the bases loaded.

But what happened to the Braves Sunday was just about the worst of those things.

Rookie Randall Delgado walked Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy on four pitches to bring in the tying run, and two pitches later Gerardo Parra hit a grand slam that sent the Diamondbacks to a 6-4 win at Chase Field, snapping the Braves’ five-game winning streak.

“I was trying to be perfect,” Delgado said. “That was a big mistake.”

The Diamondbacks snapped a five-game losing skid and averted a four-game series sweep by the Braves, who will continue their two-city trip in Los Angeles on Monday with the opener of a three-game series against the NL West leaders at Dodger Stadium.

The Braves got three hits from leadoff man Michael Bourn, an RBI double from Martin Prado and ninth-inning homer …

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Braves quotes after Sunday loss to Dbacks

FREDI GONZALEZ

On Delgado’s four-pitch bases-loaded walk to opposing pitcher Kennedy

“That’s a young pitcher, a young pitcher that needs to mature and get in those situations and don’t let the innings get away from him.”

“We get two outs, 0-2 on Kubel [who singled on next pitch, first baserunner in inning]. He walks [pitcher Kennedy later in the inning], whether it was lack of concentration or something. And the next thing you know we’re starting down at a grand slam. To me, that was the decision.”

Did you think any of the pitches were close on Kennedy?

“No. Talking to Mac, he said he missed by a lot. I haven’t seen the replay.”

“You know, it’s just a young pitcher. You see it with everybody. You see it with Beachy last year. You see it with Minor. Two quick outs and they think the inning’s over, then all of a sudden the inning’s over.”

On intentionally walking McDonald with first open after getting behind in count 2-0 (loaded bases for …

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Up next: Braves at Dodgers

Series preview: Braves at Dodgers

When (TV): 10:10 p.m. Monday (FSSO), 10:10 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday (SPSO)

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Monday: Braves RH Jair Jurrjens (0-1, 8.10 ERA) vs. LH Chris Capuano (1-0, 4.50)

Tuesday: Braves LH Mike Minor (2-1, 3.10) vs. RH Aaron Harang (1-1, 5.40)

Wednesday: Braves RH Brandon Beachy (2-1, 0.47) vs. LH Ted Lilly (2-0, 0.69)

About the Braves:

Batting: Jason Heyward, who led the Braves with a .315 average and .383 OBP before Sunday, will face the team that’s given him the most trouble in his young career. He is 3-for-49 (.061) with three RBIs, three walks and 18 strikeouts vs. the Dodgers, including 0-for-24 with no walks in his past eight games. He is 2-for-31 with 11 strikeouts in eight games at Dodger Stadium, and hasn’t faced Capuano…. Matt Diaz is 12-for-25 with a homer and five RBIs at Dodger Stadium, and 6-for-18 vs. Capuano…. Southern Californian Freddie Freeman is 4-for-13 with two homers …

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Chipper saluted by Dbacks; Heyward gets a rest

PHOENIX – Chipper Jones was saluted as “one of the greatest players of his generation” in a video tribute during Sunday’s series finale at Arizona.

On Monday at Los Angeles, the Braves and their veteran third baseman will face a player some believe could become the greatest of the current generation, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp.

Kemp led the majors in batting average (.466), HRs (nine), RBIs (22), on-base percentage (.515) and slugging percentage (1.000) before Sunday, and his 1.515 OPS was more than 300 points higher than the next-best by Texas’ Josh Hamilton.

“What I like about him is, he works,” Jones said. “He’s working for something. He wants to be the best player in the game, and he’s got a workout routine to help him get there. That’s what you like to see out of young guys. Obviously he’s got an abundance of talent, but to have the heart and desire to get better, that’s rare these days.”

Kemp and Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier (four …

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Braves quotes after Saturday win against Dbacks

***DAN UGGLA

On his third-inning homer being the last run

“I really didn’t [think that would be enough]. I was hoping we were going to put more runs up, but it ended up being enough for Tommy and Jonny and Craig. They picked us up tonight.”

On the pitching carrying load tonight

“The pitching’s been great. They’ve been battling. They’ve faced some tough lineups. Houston, the Mets, everybody. These guys, they’re grinding out at-bats. It’s not a walk in the park for anybody, and the pitchers responded. They’ve been grinding right along with them.

“Tommy did a great job tonight. Three runs ended up being enough for him.”

On Braves pitchers retiring last 19 batters in order

“That’s pretty impressive. The first two innings even, he made a pretty good pitch on Kubel, who just got enough of it to get it out of the ballpark. He shut them down after that.”

On his second homer of the season, both in past four days

“It was just a matter of time before I …

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No slugfest, just 3-2 win — Braves’ 10th in 11 games

PHOENIX – After building a winning streak by pounding teams into submission, the surging Braves got back to winning in more traditional fashion Saturday night, with good pitching and just enough timely hits.

Tommy Hanson pitched seven strong innings and Dan Uggla hit a long, tie-breaking homer in a 3-2 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 10th win in 11 games.

Braves pitchers retired the last 19 batters they faced, 13 by Hanson and three each by relievers Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel, who struck out everybody in the eighth and ninth innings.

“At the end of the year I think we’re going to be known for our pitching,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves led the majors in scoring before Saturday. “That’s what has been the constant here in the Atlanta Braves organization. I think at the end of the year that’s what we’re going to be known for.”

Uggla didn’t think his third-inning homer for a 3-2 lead would be the last run either team …

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Delgado starts Sunday; Hudson’s return date nears

PHOENIX – The Braves will start Randall Delgado in the series finale Sunday against the Diamondbacks. And then what for the rookie?

It’s expected to be Delgado’s last or next-to-last start before being bumped from the rotation when Tim Hudson is activated from the disabled list.

Hudson has been recovering from back surgery and has one more scheduled Triple-A rehab start Tuesday. After that, the Braves plan to put him in the rotation April 29th or 30th against Pittsburgh.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves won’t go to a six-man rotation even temporarily, but he reiterated that it’s not a certainty Delgado will be sent to Triple-A when Hudson is activated.

Not a certainly, but it sure seems likely.

Delgado is 2-0 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts, but the plan all along has been for him to be a fill-in starter until Hudson’s returned.

“It doesn’t have to be him that needs to go back [to Triple-A],” Gonzalez said. “He’s pitching enough and if …

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Hot-hitting Freeman turns up Braves power surge

PHOENIX – Three doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in two nights would be fairly solid team totals, but that was the damage wrought by Freddie Freeman alone against Arizona pitching in one-sided Braves wins Thursday and Friday.

With three hits Friday including a pair of RBI doubles in 9-1 win, the Braves’ 22-year-old first baseman continued a torrid stretch in which he was 10-for-17 (.588) with three homers and 12 RBIs in a four-game Braves winning streak before Saturday.

He had more RBIs in four games than any other major leaguer had in the past 10 days.

His compact strong and opposite-field power have created a buzz in Arizona, where one American League scout raised his eyebrows and said something along the lines of “wow” when describing what he’d seen from Freeman in the first two games of the four-game series with the Diamondbacks.

A Diamondbacks broadcaster asked Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez how a player as tall as Freeman (6 …

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McCann says things are different; Braves playing like it

PHOENIX  — When the Braves lost their first four games this season in rather dispiriting fashion, Brian McCann knows there were a great many skeptics who wrote them off as the same team that lost 20 of its final 30 games last season and blew a huge wild-card lead in September.

McCann hit a two-run homer Friday night, and Freeman had two more run-scoring doubles to give him 12 RBIs in the Braves' four-game winning streak.

McCann hit a two-run homer Friday night, and Freeman had two more run-scoring doubles to give him 12 RBIs in the Braves' four-game winning streak.

But in the clubhouse, that was not the feeling, he said. The Braves returned virtually intact from 2011, and they viewed themselves as the team that had the majors’ fourth-best record in late August — not the team that produced one of the worst September collapses in baseball history.

Would you look at them now. Whew. Even the most rosy optimists couldn’t have predicted the turnaround that’s taken place with these Braves, who have hit better in the past 10 days than they ever did for any stretch of a comparable length in 2011.

The numbers are like …

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