Let me start with big congratulations for Ashley and Brian McCann, who had their first child on Saturday, a son named Colt Michael. The boy will go by Colt, according to Mac Daddy, who said being there at Northside Hospital for the birth was “by far the coolest moment and experience of my life.”
McCann was in his wife’s room watching the Braves-Mets game last night when backup catcher David Ross hit a three-run homer in the 7-5 win. McCann said whooped it up a bit after Ross went ‘yard, and a nurse, who had no idea who he was, asked, “Why are you so invested in this game?”
“I play here,” McCann replied, adding yet memorable moment to a day he won’t ever forget.
McCann is back in the lineup today and takes a four-game home run streak into this afternoon’s tilt against the Mets and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. He’s 7-for-16 with four homers and 11 RBIs in that four-game stretch, including a homer in each game of the sweep at Philadelphia just before the All-Star break.
“It’s on,” McCann said in the dugout before batting practice today, in what was yet another sign of how confident he feels right now at the plate. Seriously, I can’t recall Mac sounding quite so good about his swing as he’s indicated he’s felt in the past couple of weeks.
This after making an adjustment to regain the extension he used to get but hadn’t had since returning too quickly from an oblique strain late last season and trying to protect that side from re-injury.
By the way, add Ross’s four-RBI game and Braves catchers have a five-game homer streak going, during which they’ve gone 8-for-18 with five jacks and 15 RBIs.
• Chipper one away: After hitting a solo homer Friday to tie Mike Schmidt for second place on the career RBI list for third basemen, Chipper Jones needs one to tie and two to move past George Brett (1,596) at the top of the list.
The 40-year-old also extended his hitting streak to 14 games, his longest since a 20-game streak during the 2006 season. (Kind of surprising that he didn’t have a streak as long as games in 2008, when he hit .364 to win the batting title.) He’s gone 22-for-51 (.431) during his streak with eight doubles, two homers, 10 RBIs, a .517 OBP and a .706 slugging percentage, and has struck out only six times.
Now let me ask you a question: What would you have said if someone had told you during the last week of spring training, when Chipper tore cartilage in his knee on the same day that he announced he would retire after the season, that on July 14 he would lead the Braves in batting average (.322), on-base percentage (.401) and slugging percentage (.503)?
Personally, I would have laughed. And probably called the person delusional after walking away.
But Chipper does, indeed, lead the team in all of those categories. At age 40.
He’s done a lot of his best work in front of the home fans this season. Since May 1, he’s hit .394 (28-for-71) with three homers, 12 RBIs, a .469 OBP and .606 slugging
But it’s been the road where he’s had some of his most memorable moments, because Jones has been honored and treated better than he could’ve ever imagined he would be in every opposing ballpark where he’s made his last scheduled visit. And in the case of the All-Star game at Kansas City, where he made his first and only visit to Kauffman Stadium and received a boisterous ovation as “Crazy Train” was played over the stadium P.A. system when he strode to the plate for his pinch-hit appearance in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic (he hit an infield single).
“It’s been awfully touching,” Jones said of the treatment he’s received across the country. “I certainly didn’t expect any kind of farewell tour when I announced I was going to retire. I’ve never really seen myself as a particularly popular player, outside of the city of Atlanta. Obviously in my town I’m extremely popular, but outside it just hasn’t been that way.”
Little did he know, beneath those boos he heard for all those years in other major league cities, there was a lot of respect. And as he makes his last trip to each city, the respect comes through.
• Pitching deal near? Speaking of Chipper, I’m sure most of you saw it here Friday where he said that he’d like to see the Braves acquire another starting pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline, and that if they do they can “most definitely” become more consistent. He’s usually got his thumb on the pulse of the franchise, and to me him saying that was an indication that he’s fairly confident such a move is coming. If I had to guess, I’d say Ryan Dempster or Francisco Liriano.
• Payroll flexibility: And there was also a quote from Braves GM Frank Wren that I found telling, when asked how much payroll room the Braves have as they approach the trade deadline: “We have flexibility to make a deal. I think we have the kind of talent that other teams want in our system. We have flexibility in the payroll to add a significant piece if we think it’s justified.”
That jibes with what CEO Terry McGuirk told me a couple of weeks ago, when he said no available player was out of the Braves’ reach if they felt it was a good move.
Wren’s comment was part of a Q&A with our Chris Vivlamore, which you can read here.
• Shortstop on way? The Braves don’t think they’ll need to put Jack Wilson on the DL after he dislocated his right pinkie during Friday’s game, but his injury — in his first game filling in for injured rookie standout Andrelton Simmons — only increased the sense of urgency to trade for a shortstop and soon. Until they get one, which sounds like it could be in the next day or two, Martin Prado can fill in at shortstop (he’s in the lineup today, his second career start at short and first since May 2008).
Of all the shortstops that might be available, Arizona’s Willie Bloomquist and Colorado’s Marco Scutaro make the most sense to me, but it won’t surprise me if the Braves go for Brendan Ryan despite anemic offense (.184 average, .556 OPS). He’s strong defensively, and that’s what they want most from a fill-in shortstop until Simmons returns in six weeks or thereabouts.
Bloomquist is signed for $1.9 million 2013 and could be a versatile backup (shortstop, third base, second base, outfield). Scutaro would also be a good pickup for this season, but he’s making $6 mill and reportedly the Rockies’ asking price is too high for a guy who’ll be a free agent after the season.
By the way, how ‘bout this quote fefore Friday’s game, when Wilson was asked about filling in for Simmons: “I really think it’s a ‘let’s see how he does’ type of deal,” Wilson said. “I didn’t get to show them much in spring training [after being injured] and then got a couple at-bats here and there. Then when [Simmons] came up, it was pretty much dry from then on. I think it’s going to be one of those things where I’m going to have to prove that I can stay on the field and help the team.”
Only hours later, Wilson left the field with a dislocated right pinkie. It was the very next game after Simmons sustained a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal, the bone in the hand that attaches to the pinkie. Yes, the right pinkie. Two shortstops, back-to-back games, injuries to the right pinkie or the bone that connects to the right pinkie.
• Today’s matchup: The Braves’ Tommy Hanson faces Mets All-Star knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.40 ERA), whose only loss this season came against the Braves on April 18 at Turner Field.
Dickey is 1-1 with an 8.71 ERA in two starts against the Braves this year and 2-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 12 games (nine starts), the most losses he’s had against any team. The Braves tagged him for a season-igh eight runs and eight hits including three homers in 4-1/3 innings of that April loss in Atlanta, which made him 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA in seven games (four starts) at Turner Field.
That’s his highest ERA at anyplace he’s pitched more than twice.
Since that loss to the Braves, he’s gone 10-0 with a 1.84 ERA and .180 opponents’ average in his past 14 starts, with 108 strikeouts, 19 walks and only four homers allowed in 102-2/3 innings. However, he’s twice allowed five runs in his past three starts, posting a 4.29 ERA in that stretch but getting no losses due to strong run support.
Chipper is 4-for-8 with a homer against him, Freddie Freeman is 6-for-15 with a homer against him, but Dan Uggla is 1-for-25 (with a homer).
Hanson will try to snap a four-start losing streak against the Mets. He’s 0-4 with a 6.64 ERA in those four games against them since the beginning of the 2011 season.
Hanson is 5-1 with a 3.55 ERA and .237 opponents’ average in his past seven starts while getting 5-1/2 support runs per nine innings in that period.
Justin Turner is 2-for-3 with two homers against him and Josh Thole is 9-for-21, while David Wright is just 4-for-22 with eight strikeouts and Ruben Tejada is 1-for-11.
Hanson’s home ERA (4.63) is more than 50 percent higher than his road ERA (3.00). He’s 3-3 with a .282 opponents’ average and .798 OPS in eight home starts, and 7-2 with a .232 OA and .700 OPS in 10 road starts
Freddie Freeman’s past 14 games: .367 (18-for-49) with five doubles, two homers, eight RBIs, seven walks, .458 OBP, .592 slugging….
Martin Prado went 0-for-5 last night, his first 0-for-5 of the year and only his second hitless game in 15. But he made a big contribution nonetheless, moving from left field to shortstop mid-game and handling it with ease. In his past 18 games, he’s hit .348 (24-for-69) with six doubles, a homer, 11 RBIs, four steals, a .400 OBP and .478 slugging…
Jason Heyward since June 1: 33 games, .328 (41-for-125) with 18 extra-base hits (eight HRs), 19 RBIs, .370 OBP, .608 slugging (.978 OPS)…
The Braves are 5-0 with a 2.60 ERA in the past five games (before Saturday), hitting .273 with 10 homers and 29 runs in that five-game streak, including three consecutive 10-hit games. The Mets are 2-4 with a 6.28 ERA and 23 runs scored in their past six games.
• All right, let’s close this with “Oh The Warm Feeling,” among the many powerful, emotional songs from one of Van Morrison’s masterpiece albums, No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. Sublime, timeless stuff. Listen here, bet it’ll make your day a little better.
“OH THE WARM FEELING” by Van Morrison
Oh the warm feeling
As we sat beside the sea
Oh the warm feeling as I sat by you
Like a child within the kingdom
As we sat beside the sea
Oh the warm feeling as I sat by you
And it filled with devotion
And it made me plainly see
And it healed all my emotions
As I sat by you
As we sat inside the sunshine
And we sat beside the sea
Oh the warm feeling, as I sat by you
And it filled me with religion
And it gave great comfort to me
Oh the warm feeling as I sat by you
Oh the warm feeling as we sat beside the sea
Oh the warm feeling as I sat by you.
– by David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog