Archive for June, 2012

Braves get another crack at NL East-leading Nats

As Craig Kimbrel pointed out last night, what made giving up a game-winning homer in the ninth inning against Arizona even harder to take was the fact that the Braves missed an opportunity to pick up a game on the Nationals, who had lost in 11 innings at Colorado before the Braves game began.

Nats rookie Bryce Harper has hit .500 with three homers in his first five games against the Braves.

Nats rookie Bryce Harper has hit .500 with three homers in his first five games against the Braves.

That meant the Nationals would still be 3-1/2 games ahead of the second-place Braves entering tonight’s opener of a hotly-anticipated – and simply hot, as in blazing hot outside – series against the NL East upstarts from D.C. The temps are expected to soar past 100 this weekend at Turner Field, where the Braves want to cut at least a game or three off Washington’s lead.

It won’t be easy.

Tonight, Randall Delgado (4-8, 4.52 ERA) faces lefty Ross Detwiler (4-3, 3.09), who has an 0.98 ERA and .175 opponents’ average in his past seven outings, including one start after moving back …

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Braves quotes after Thursday’s loss to Diamondbacks

FREDI GONZALEZ

On missed opportunities

“We had some opportunities to add on and they got out of it. I tell you what, I was impressed with their pitching overall. Their starting pitching and some of their guys that come out of the bullpen. They’re pretty impressive. Overall I think that might be one of the best staffs we’ve seen, one through 12.”

On Jurrjens

“I thought he did OK. I thought he did fine. He wiggled out of a couple jams but that’s good to see. I think he did fine. Go on to his next start.”

On if plan was to get him through the sixth inning with him due up second

“Yeah. You go out and you say you want your starters to go deep in the ballgame, now you talk with a forked tongue if you go out and get him in the sixth. He was fine to get him through that inning.”

On Young timing Kimbrel’s fastball

“I think he didn’t play the first two games and he comes in and gets a home run off Venters yesterday and one off of Kimbrel today. I think he is …

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Kimbrel gives up 9th-inning homer, Braves fall 3-2 to Dbacks

In a season marked by precipitous highs and lows for the Braves, Craig Kimbrel has been their biggest constant. But Thursday, the machine-like closer showed he’s not infallible.

Chris Young hit a ninth-inning solo home run off Kimbrel to lift the Arizona Diamondbacks to a sweep-averting 3-2 win against the Braves at Turner Field.

The first homer allowed this season by Kimbrel(0-1) snapped a string of 17 consecutive scoreless appearances for the right-hander, who had 24 strikeouts with no walks and two hits allowed in his previous 13 innings.

“I missed a spot,” said Kimbrel, who has allowed only four homers in 129 career relief appearances, the last two coming in consecutive games Sept. 18-19. “We were trying to go down and away [against Young]. He’s a good high-ball hitter and I threw it right into his wheelhouse. He got the barrel on it and it went out.”

The second-place Braves remained 3-1/2 games behind the NL East-leading Washington Nationals, who come to Atlanta for a …

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Next for Braves: Washington Nationals

Series preview: vs. Nationals

When (TV): 7:35 p.m. Friday (WPCH), 4:05 p.m. Saturday (WPCH), 1:35 p.m. Sunday (FSSO)

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday: Braves RH Randall Delgado (4-8, 4.52 ERA) vs. LH Ross Detweiler (4-3, 3.09)

Saturday: Braves LH Mike Minor (3-6, 6.14) vs. RH Stephen Strasburg (9-2, 2.60)

Sunday: Braves RH Tim Hudson (6-3, 3.58) vs. LH Gio Gonzalez (10-3, 2.78)

About the Braves:

Batting: Jason Heyward had a career-high 12-game hitting streak entering Thursday’s game, while hitting .455 (20-for-44) with 11 runs scored, four home runs and seven RBIs. Heyward had hit safely in 20 of his previous 24 games and was second in the majors with a .395 batting average in June. Chipper Jones homered Wednesday night to give him 252 homers at home games as a Brave. That moved him past Lou Gehrig and into a 12th place tie with Stan Musial in home-game homers for one team, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Pitching: The young pitching duo of …

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Day off for “a breather” possibility for Uggla

Second baseman Dan Uggla has started every game this season but could get his first day off on Friday when the Braves open a series against the Washington Nationals. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been kicking around the idea of giving him a “breather” and broached it with Uggla on Wednesday and Thursday, though the second baseman prefers never to sit.

Uggla has been scuffling offensively, though, hitting only .113 (7-for-62) in his previous 19 games entering Thursday’s game, and was hitless in his previous eight at-bats. Not that his manager is overly worried about Uggla’s mindset. His struggles of last year were enough to show Gonzalez that he could work his way through things.

“I’ve been with him for 6 years. I know what he’s capable of,” Gonzalez said. “I know you have to have patience with him, keep supporting him like we have been, give him a breather every once in a while, and I don’t need to worry about him.”

It would be a good time to get Jack …

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Chipper keeping teammates loose

Chipper Jones is doing a little more than sparking the Braves with his bat these past few days. He’s been doing his part to keep his teammates loose.

For the first two games of the Arizona series, Jones tried out a new pre-game routine, entertaining his teammates with a dizzying series of high knee jumps while spinning around in the dugout just before the Braves took the field.

Just this side of something former Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar might have done in the on-deck circle?

“No, those are young legs,” said a smiling 40-year-old Jones, who has knees that have been surgically repaired six times.

Jones said it evolved out of the pre-game ritual where he and his teammates go into a series of handshakes, high-fives, chest pumps and such. For him, it’s rooted in wanting to do something to help the team relax at an important stretch during the season.

“If I can make these guys laugh and it loosens them up, that’s what leading by example is,” Jones said. “You …

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Sunday starter Hudson preparing for weekend heat

Forecasts are calling for temperatures in the triple digits all weekend in Atlanta, with highs of 104 on Friday, 106 on Saturday and 103 on Sunday according to weather.com.

Of all Braves’ pitchers to have to pitch in the heat of the day this weekend in that kind of heat, Tim Hudson might be the worst candidate. The 36-year-old right-hander, who is scheduled to start Sunday against the Nationals at 1:35 p.m., has a history of cramping problems and struggling in the heat.

As recently as last September in Washington, Hudson had to be taken to the hospital to receive IV fluids after a start against Stephen Strasburg when he admittedly failed to hydrate properly, thinking the game would be rained out. This time he’s preparing well in advance.

“I’ve got 700 more of these to drink,” Hudson said with a smile, sipping on a bottle of water in front of his locker on Thursday afternoon.

Hudson normally gets a bag of IV fluids on the day he pitches. This time he plans to get two. …

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While others streak and power surge, Prado plugs away

In his past 44 games, he’s hit .348 with 22 multi-hit games, 19 extra-base hits and an .895 OPS, but he still seems to get overlooked in a Braves offense that’s had a dynamic leadoff man, Michael Bourn, in front of him, and at least one streaking slugger at any given time somewhere in the batting order behind him — first Freddie Freeman, then Dan Uggla, and for the past four weeks, Jason Heyward.

Prado is having a career-best season, but isn't satisfied and insists he's had too many bad games and too many wasted at-bats.

Prado is having a career-best season, but isn't satisfied and insists he's had too many bad games and too many wasted at-bats.

And so, the hitter who leads the Braves in batting average (.317), on-base percentage (.377) and positions played (three), and ranks 24th in the NL in OPS (.838) between Bryce Harper (.841) and David Freese (.829), continues to get largely overshadowed.

But that’s OK with Martin Prado, who just wants to do his job and thinks he can do it even better. That’s despite the fact that the 2010 All-Star – at second base, by the way, not one of the three …

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Chipper’s two-run homer lifts Braves over Arizona

For a while this season, the Braves couldn’t seem to win without Chipper Jones in the lineup. He recaptured a little of that sentiment Wednesday night, when they wouldn’t have won without him.

Jones reasserted his presence in the lineup with a two-run home run, his first in nearly two months, and it proved the difference in a 6-4 win over Arizona.

“It’s a situation where this is a big point in the season and I think for us, I need to be vocal, I need to be upbeat, I need to be producing, all those things,” Jones said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Tommy Hanson didn’t make it look quite as easy as Tim Hudson did Tuesday night, but he got the same result, pitching deep into the game and leading the Braves to a second straight win over Arizona.

Hanson threw six shutout innings before giving the Diamondbacks some pitches they could sink their teeth into, and he used a six-run cushion to hold them off when they did. Ryan Roberts hit a three-run home run with …

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Braves postgame quotes after Wednesday’s win over Arizona

CHIPPER JONES

On feeling better at plate:

“Finally got my swing right. Feeling good, got some confidence. I got a good pitch to hit right there in a big spot and centered it.”

On Jones bopping around feeling better:

“This game is fun when you’re playing well and you feel like you can go out there and do some damage. It’s a situation where this is a big point in the season and I think for us, I need to be vocal, I need to be upbeat, I need to be producing, all those things. That’s what I’m trying to do, keep everybody up, keep everybody light, keep everybody in the game and hopefully go out and do my job well enough to help us win.”

On frustrated when balls to left didn’t go:

“Frustrated with myself because I missed them. I can tell you 95 percent of the time off the bat whether I got it or not, and I knew in both situations last night and tonight that I didn’t get them. Those balls are in my wheelhouse from the standpoint of that’s the ball that I hit …

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