Prado streaking as Braves continue road sizzle

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It’s not as if the Braves are a bad team at home, but their engines have hummed at a higher and far more consistent level on the road during the first quarter of the season.

They did again Friday, when the Braves mounted a two-out, two-run rally in the fifth inning of a 5-3 win against Tampa Bay, opening an interleague series at Tropicana Field with their 10th win in the past 12 road games.

Tommy Hanson (5-3) pitched seven strong innings and Martin Prado homered and doubled for the first-place Braves, who are a season-high 10 games over .500 and lead Washington by 1-1/2 games in the NL East.

“We’re grinding out at-bats, and we’ve done that really well this year,” said Chipper Jones, who left in the eighth inning with a bruised and badly swollen contusion above his left ankle and is likely to miss the remaining two games of his last scheduled series at Tampa Bay.

He smiled and said, “It’s safe to say my career in Tampa is over.”

After the Rays scored an unearned run off Jonny Venters in the eighth inning, Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth  for his 12th save.

“We have have a real good team, obviously,” said Hanson, who allowed a run in the second and a run in the third before recording 14 outs in the final 15 batters he faced. “Definitely you can feel it pitching. All the starters feel like at some point [in every game] we’re going to get some runs.

“So giving up two in three innings  is not that big of a deal. You’ve got to stop the bleeding right there and try to put up scoreless innings, because at some point we’re going to score.”

Hanson improved to 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA in his past six starts after allowing six hits, two runs and two walks in seven innings.

The score was 2-all before the Braves scored a pair of two-out runs in the fifth against Rays starter James Shields (6-2) on two walks and RBI hits by Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. Freeman went 2-for-5 with two RBIs to give him 31 RBIs in his past 29 games.

Prado’s seventh-inning homer off J.P.Howell increased the lead to 5-3.

“We don’t see this guy [Shields] very often, so we watched a lot of video,” said Prado, who drew a two-out walk to start the fifth-inning rally and advanced to second base on Shields’ errant pickoff throw.

“One idea that I had was to take as many pitches as I could to see which kind of plan they had against me,” Prado said. “There was a couple of pitches that I put the barrel on. I’m glad I got that homer in that [seventh], because we know the game’s close and that Tampa always bounces back in tight games.”

Prado has hit .476 (20-for-42) with nine extra-base hits during a 10-game hitting streak.

“He’s swinging the bat like he did two years ago when he was healthy and made the All-Star team,” said manager Fredi Gonalez, whose Braves lead the majors with 15 road wins and lead the National League with a .652 road winning percentage (15-8). They have a 10-7 home record.

They are 15-4 on the road since starting 0-4 on the season-opening trip that included a sweep at the hands of the Mets in New York and a loss at Houston. Jones was activated before the fifth game of the season and hit a two-run homer in his second at-bat to spark the Braves to a win against the Astros.

They’ve been a different team since that night.

Jones, 40, is retiring after the season. The Florida native got a standing ovation Friday when he came to bat leading off the second inning, then singled on the first pitch from Shields.

Jones scored on a two-out wild pitch, and one inning later, in the third, he was struck in the left calf by a hard, one-hop grounder off the bat of B.J. Upton.

“If you’re standing 85 feet from home plate and somebody hits a rocket at you, you better get a glove on it,” Jones said. “I didn’t.”

He went to one knee and was attended to by a Braves trainer before shaking off the discomfort and staying in the game for four more innings before being replaced by Juan Francisco in the top of the eighth.

“I would be able to tell if it was broken,” said Jones, who did not plan to have it X-rays and was confident it was only a contusion.

“But, my gosh, that really hurt — really,” he said. “I stayed on it. I mean, if I sat down it was going to stiffen up. Finally there in about the seventh, I couldn’t move on defense. I told Skipper [Gonzalez], better get somebody in there that can move.”

Gonzalez said after seeing Jones’ left following the game: “It’s not real pretty right now. It’s between the calf and the a ankle bone, and it’s pretty ugly. Swollen up and bruised real bad. We’ll check him tomorrow, but he might have a tough time playing tomorrow.”

Prado extended his hitting streak with a first-inning double, then scored when Freeman followed with a single to center that put the Braves up 1-0. They pushed the lead to 2-0 in the second after Jones slid at home plate to score on a close play on Shields’ wild pitch.

The Rays answered with a run in the second on Elliot Johnson’s one-out bunt single to the first-base side with runners on corners. They tied the score in the third inning, after loading the bases on Upton’s one-out single off Jones’ leg followed immediately by a pair of walks.

Luke Scott’s sacrifice fly brought in the tying run, with right fielder Jason Heyward making a nice running catch the play to prevent potentially worse damage.

Heyward’s catch began a string of nine consecutive batters retired by Hanson before Scott’s one-out single in the sixth. Hanson induced a double-play grounder by the next batter to make it 11 outs in a stretch of 11 batters, including a 14-pitch, nine-foul-ball strikeout of Carlos Pena before the Scott single.

“I feel real good,” Hanson said. “I think the biggest thing right now is my fastball command; I’m throwing real well, and everything else kind of follows that. I threw a lot more changeups tonight and felt really good with that, too. So hopefully just keep this thing going.”

51 comments Add your comment

ACE

May 18th, 2012
10:23 pm

ACE

May 18th, 2012
10:28 pm

You got to tip your hat to the way the Braves are playing. Where are all the Diaz haters lately?

BobDawg

May 18th, 2012
10:29 pm

WISH THIS WAS OCTOBER!

ACE

May 18th, 2012
10:30 pm

You have to believe the back of Chipper’s bubble gum card. He is a HOF player and does make a difference when he is in the lineup.

A Brave in Minnesota

May 18th, 2012
10:33 pm

This team is SMOKIN hot right now……..

….making all these boobs I call “Twins Fans” a tad bit jealous!!! ;-)

GO BRAVES!!!

John Madison

May 18th, 2012
10:33 pm

Er, Dave…they did it again Friday, not Monday. Recycling is a good idea; proofing an even better one!

bostonbravo

May 18th, 2012
10:35 pm

GREAT game!!
Now…Fire Fredi

A Brave in Minnesota

May 18th, 2012
10:35 pm

Ummmmm…….now sitting a game and half in first after the kNATS go down to the equally hot ORIOLES………this is such a fun year of baseball!! :)

Kris

May 18th, 2012
10:36 pm

RebelHell

May 18th, 2012
10:37 pm

great win!! the braves defintly have a swager about themselves…..aint seen these boys play like this in along time!! feels like the early 90s keep on chopin boys!!

Clint

May 18th, 2012
10:42 pm

Brave in Minnesota – I’m in the same boat as you. Surrounded by Twins “fans” when the team is doing well. They haven’t been much of a problem for me this year, to say the least.

Where in MN are you?

A Brave in Minnesota

May 18th, 2012
10:44 pm

I live in the Twin Cities (St. Paul)……I get down to Target Field from time to time……….

……awesome stadium, one of the best in baseball…..for such a crappy tram this year!

#failuretwins

A Brave in Minnesota

May 18th, 2012
10:45 pm

*tram = team

Sorry but this damn light rail they are building down the middle of University is getting on my last nerve!! LOL

A Brave in Minnesota

May 18th, 2012
10:48 pm

Ummm sorry Braves fans….got a little off track!! Let’s talk some BASEBAWW YA’LL!!

This team is so fun to watch this year and I am absolutely STUNNED at our offense right now……there is no question that the hitting coaches are to blame for this turn around….THEY SOOO ARE!!

The Braves bought into it……..and look where they are now!! And the pitching, will come! :)

Brent

May 18th, 2012
10:52 pm

Im pretty sure the Prado Homerun made it 5 – 2!?

Clint

May 18th, 2012
11:03 pm

I’m down in Mankato and went to two of the three Braves games at Target Field in 2010. It is a wonderful stadium, that’s for sure.

This Braves team seems to be the real deal. Before the season started, I predicted 88-92 wins. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up with 96-98.

I would like to see more consistent results out of Hanson, Minor, and Delgado, though.

A Brave in Minnesota

May 18th, 2012
11:21 pm

Actually I like the fact personally that the bats are doing the job for them right now…….we all know that the pitching will finally catch up in the second half, and that’s when we will need them the most to hold leads for us when the offense finally starts slowing up.

I am going to make one very bold prediction though………..I believe Dan Uggla is going to be the one who is going to carry this team at the end of the year, and I am not the only one who believes that either!! :)

D.A. Nuggla

May 18th, 2012
11:30 pm

Hate to pour a little cold water on things, but the Rays have 2 or 3 main cogs out right now. It may have been a different ballgame tonight if they(especially Longoria) had been in there. Have to be realistic and not get all bubbly and wild until after the all star break. FG has a tendency to throw away 3-4 games per year by simply resting players, sometimes 2 main players, at the same time. At the end of the year that can be the difference as we saw last year.

bravo-n-knoxville

May 18th, 2012
11:36 pm

Great win Bravos! Agree with hitting coaches philosophy in 2012 & kudos for players for applying their instruction too.

However, gotta start looking at Medlen or Teheran to take Minor’s spot in rotation???
Until Jurrjens can consistently throw strikes with a little zip on the ball (he may pitch to contact, but he aint no Maddux), Fred G. has got to figure out why Minor has stunk it up 4 starts in a row (+11 ERA). Can’t afford to give the Nats & Phillies a free game (Minor’s turn) every 5th day.

Quack Quack

May 18th, 2012
11:37 pm

Great game Bravos!! I’m not even close to getting tired of all this fun.

I’ve said it before, but FW sign Bourn… and give Prado a raise!!

GO BRAVES!!

ahmed musa

May 19th, 2012
12:30 am

Go Braves- @musabucks

BravesLover

May 19th, 2012
1:05 am

Holy moly…Pastornicky has the worst WAR of shortstop in the major leagues by 7.0. His negative 9.3 is horrible. I thought he was average or a little below but WOW that is terrible. I would love to see Simmons get a call up for the next quarter of the season and see if he is an improvement. He would have been our shortstop if he hadn’t gotten hurt at the end of spring training. Maybe give T.P a start at third when Chipper is out and let’s see if we can get a shortstop that you don’t have to hold your breath when the ball is hit or thrown to him.

IceColdATLien

May 19th, 2012
1:22 am

Seems like these guys are just taking turns with streaks or clusters of great games. This is the most fun I’ve had during the regular season in a long, long time.

B

May 19th, 2012
1:43 am

Chipper is so hot right now that Chipper

brave boy

May 19th, 2012
2:36 am

Playin sound ball!

nocryinginbaseball

May 19th, 2012
6:24 am

Thanks, DOB. I don’t post often, but have been reading almost daily for a good while. This place is a lot nicer when the Braves are winning. A lot less acrimony. Go Braves!

GT71

May 19th, 2012
6:30 am

I know Chipper wants to retire as a Brave and applaud him for it, but man, can’t you see him in the AL as a DH? He’s still a MONSTER hitter and a switch-hitting DH would make some team – not the NY Yankees, please God – so much better.

longtimefan

May 19th, 2012
6:48 am

Braves tied for the third best winning % in the major leagues. Although the Braves offense has surprised a lot of people there is no reason it can’t keep clicking. Chipper is hitting his career average. McCann and Heyward haven’t hit their stride. Pitching will improve. Series here we come.

HOF 10

May 19th, 2012
7:11 am

I was traveling, staying in hotels, during that awful last week of last season when we could not buy a win. What a difference now. Guess we have the answer, once and for all, spring training won-loss records are meaningless.

Phillies have won six straight. Every team in the division is above .500. It is going to be a wild ride.

Old Time Fan

May 19th, 2012
7:11 am

What is Heyward’s stride? Seems to me that he is a .248 hitter with occasional pop, that is about his stride. Maybe he will get better with more experience, but I think he is what you see.

Sammy

May 19th, 2012
7:17 am

I fell asleep during Hanson’r early inning troubles (man, is he slow) but other than that, nice game. Maybe the Braves can win 2 out of 3 in Tampa?? That would be sweet.

reality

May 19th, 2012
7:28 am

Baseball is magic. The Braves, right now, are playing great… and for no apparent reason from last fall. So why does anyone want to change anything? Just leave them be and enjoy it while it lasts. When the magic fades is the time to talk tinker. Go Braves!

Sammy

May 19th, 2012
7:34 am

Cowbells. Can anyone stop those cowbells before every pitch to a Braves hitter? That is torture on TV and probably worse in person. No wonder the Trop is half empty.

count_schemula

May 19th, 2012
7:36 am

What is Heyward’s stride? Seems to me that he is a .248 hitter with occasional pop, that is about his stride. Maybe he will get better with more experience, but I think he is what you see.

Yes, maybe… note the age and the production:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/winfida01.shtml

Paddy

May 19th, 2012
7:56 am

BravesLover…….try telling that WAR and negitive 9.3 .crap to players and real fans and they will beat you silly with that Tests & Measures book. Can anybody say “Nerd”?

WBuckATC

May 19th, 2012
7:59 am

I think Minor has about two more starts before they make a move. The big difference between Minor and JJ is that Minor had a strong Spring and started OK. JJ has never had it this season.
Medlen and Hernandez are too valuable to the pen.
Teheran is doing well at AAA, but if you look at the numbers, Redmond’s are better and he is also on the 40 man roster.Oswalt has been pitching for teams to show them what he has. Problem is his $ will be too high for the Braves.
Pastornicky has done well. Batting average about what they would have expected and defense has not been bad. You have to remebr that he has had no MLB action before this season and only spent one season between AA and AAA. He is holding the sport for now and will have ot hold off Simmons. He could be very well be used as part od a trade for a 3B next season.
Bench has been solid when needed.
The Braves are playing well right now and what they are doing for the most part has worked.

Braves Fan for 55 yrs

May 19th, 2012
8:03 am

Thank you for the great game report. I no longer have the audio on bcs I can not stand CC. the worst play by play man of all time. That’s what nepotism gets you, but watching less and using my time to practice my chipping, my golf game has improved a lot. Oh, for the days of Pete van Wieren again.

bravesgrl4life

May 19th, 2012
8:09 am

Great game! And yes, I realize some of the big stars of the Rays (my 2nd team) are on the DL right now. Might have been a different story if they had been in there, might not have.

But what no one has commented on is: since that debaucle opening weekened, we’ve only lost 2 on the road. Remember last year when this team (virtually the same team anyway), couldn’t win on the road to save their lives? This has been fun.

And I root for the Rays a lot – just not when they play my BRAVES!!!!!

reckingball

May 19th, 2012
9:12 am

The Braves ain’t that bad of a team.

sam

May 19th, 2012
9:40 am

Dude, Prado’s HR made it 5-2, not 5-3.

Brave New World

May 19th, 2012
10:03 am

Braves rock!

Joshua

May 19th, 2012
10:06 am

Clint, Hanson has been consistent. Not sure what you’re talking about there.

Bobby's Chauffeur

May 19th, 2012
10:15 am

I agree with your comment Sammy… Those cowbells are soooooo irritating. If I was a Ray’s fan, I would not attend a game and have to listen to that noise. Dave appreciate the fact that you get the quotes and give us the information quickly.These clowns that criticize “the proofing” must not be intelligent enough to know what you are stating. The mispelling, extra words, etc., just show that you are getting it to us as soon as possible. As long as the Braves have any three of their regulars contributing each game, and the pitching continues to be good, we can compete with anyone. We have a solid line up.

taylorvol

May 19th, 2012
10:18 am

Bravesgrl4life, I’ve been a Braves fan for 30+years, and my 2nd favorite team is the Rays. I lived in Tampa in 2002 and began following them. They have turned into a model franchise using the draft, player development, etc. with a super low payroll. I love the fact that the Rays compete very well with the hated, high payroll Yankees and Red Sox. Of course, my Braves are first and foremost my favorite team. This season has been a delight so far. Take care!

taylorvol

May 19th, 2012
10:21 am

DOB, what’s the most enjoyable team and season that you have ever covered? This is one of the most fun seasons that I’ve witnessed with the Braves, and they seem to really get along off the field. I bet this has been a cool season to witness with Chipper’s last season, all the classy accolades he’s received, etc. Freeman and Heyward could develop to be a tandem for the next 10 years. Prado is becoming a stud like 2010. Good times!

HOF 10

May 19th, 2012
10:40 am

I guess right now the teams that didn’t pull the trigger on a trade for JJ are relieved, while the ones that turned down any Prado proposal are kicking themselves.

Freddie Freeman

May 19th, 2012
11:49 am

I’ve figured out what Minor’s problem is. He needs a beard.

Realist

May 19th, 2012
12:10 pm

First of all love the Bravos and love the enthusiast, but I have one suggestion for the off season. Please pick up the option on B-Mac and trade him for every top prospect you can. Then bring Prado to third and go after the biggest bopper we can get. He’s a flat out liability this year both hitting and defensively, but with it being Chipper’s last year we can’t do it this year(it would look bad). Bettencourt looks ready to take over at least defensively. Now let’s win it all boys!!!

Largo

May 19th, 2012
12:27 pm

Heyward is swinging at “Suck” pitches that he never would have during his rookie year.

Mitchell

May 19th, 2012
2:31 pm

How is it we’re the ‘27 Yankees on the road and the ‘09 Braves at home?

I would take an above .500 home and road record over such a lopsided differential in wins.

The Braves had the best home record in 2010 but won only 35 games away from Turner Field.

Had they just finished with one more win than games lost they might have won the division instead of barely securing a wild card spot.

I think we know how it all ends anyway: Finish with the best road record in the majors, lose all road playoff games in October.

Whatever is their greatest strength during the regular season will inarguably be their downfall in the post-season.

It’s scientifically proven. Look it up.

Mitchell

May 19th, 2012
2:36 pm

Anyway, great win last night.

I didn’t get to see it but I was somehow not surprised to find out we won.

By the way, if we can beat James Shields we shouldn’t be limited to one run by Homer Bailey.

That just ain’t right.

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