(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So here we are. Final homestand of the season, final regular season homestand ever for Chipper Jones, and the buildup begins in earnest toward Friday night’s tribute to the retiring third baseman.
Both Hank Aaron and Dale Murphy mentioned to me in conversations for a story in our special section (coming Sunday!!) that they’ll be there Friday for the event. There are only standing room only tickets left at this point. So there are going to be goose bumps all around, maybe even if the press box, where they aren’t allowed.
No better way for the Braves to kick it off than by clinching a playoff berth?
It would just be in keeping with the drama that Chipper and the Braves have put together for his farewell season, don’t you think? The Braves magic number to clinch at least a wild card spot is one, so if they beat the Marlins tonight, they’re in, pop the champagne and party like it’s 1999, or 1998, or 1997…
For those of us who stunk at probability in math, we still had to get some help on what happens if the Braves lose tonight. They can still clinch if both the Brewers and Dodgers lose, to the Reds and Padres, respectively. (Actually when working on a chart below, I was reminded about 2000, when the Braves had to call the commissioner’s office to verify that they could clinch that night. Don’t feel so bad anymore.)
But with young Kris Medlen on the mound going for his own piece of history tonight, the Braves are hoping nobody around here will have to wait up to see if the Padres beat the Dodgers out on the west coast.
Medlen is trying to become only the third pitcher in the live ball era (since 1920) to lead his team to 22 straight victories. Carl Hubbell of the Giants did it in 1936-1937, when the Giants were playing in New York (and lost in back-to-back World Series to the Yankees), and Whitey Ford did it in 1950 and 1953 in and around two years he spent serving in the Korean War.
(I actually came across a quote from Whitey Ford about his military service: “Army life was rough. Would you believe it, they actually wanted me to pitch three times a week.” Way.)
A lot has been written about Medlen in these past few weeks and there’s more coming. In case you missed it, here were DOB’s insights yesterday from his off day story, with some pretty priceless stuff from Medlen.
I dug up something Medlen said to me during the Braves last homestand, and I thought it gave great insight into why he is pitching the way he is – he’s in full-out attack mode.
“Guys think I’m a small guy,” said Medlen, who’s listed at 5-10. “I’m just going to try and trick them to death, but I’m coming at you. I’m coming at you. Just because you’re looking for a fastball doesn’t mean you’re going to hit it good if I locate it and use in and out. Just have confidence with it.”
Tonight’s Marlins starter, young right-hander Nate Eovaldi, is no picnic, even though his record says he’s lost 12 games, and the Braves know it. They just faced him last Wednesday in Miami and got shut out for eight innings, in what was the best outing on his career.
The Braves lost that night in extra innings for their only loss in the series. Eovaldi was throwing 97, 98 mph in the eighth inning, and he gave up only four singles.
The Marlins have lost four in a row, including a three-game sweep by the Mets, and in the last 24 hours they’ve been dealing with fallout from reliever Heath Bell calling out manager Ozzie Guillen in a radio interview. Talk about drama.
The Marlins have enough on their hands facing Medlen for the second straight outing, after he pitched eight shutout innings against them to beat ace Josh Johnson 3-0 on Wednesday. Medlen held Jose Reyes hitless in three at-bats that night and to me, that’s the key for beating the Marlins.
Braves clinchers in the past:
I was thinking that the Braves have clinched against the Marlins in the past and wanted to jog my memory. Yep they did in 2004, and in 2001 (whoa, remember that score?) Not sure quite why I decided to spend the time to look all this up, but since I did, peruse away! I go back to the day that Greg Olson, jumped into John Smoltz’s arms just for a little reference.
2010, Oct. 3, home vs. Phillies, 8-7 on last day of season
2005, Sept. 27, home vs. Rockies, 12-3
2004 Sept. 24, home vs. Marlins, 8-7
2003 Sept. 18, on an off day, when Phillies beat Marlins
2002 Sept. 9, on an off day when Mets beat Phillies
2001 Oct. 5, home vs. Marlins 20-3
2000 Sept 26, in New York vs. Mets 7-1 in makeup game
1999 Sept. 26, in Montreal vs. Expos, 10-0
1998 Sept. 14 home vs. Phillies, 4-2
1997 Sept. 22 home vs. Expos 3-2 in 11 innings
1996 Sept. 22 home vs Expos 8-2
1995 Sept 13 in Colorado, 9-7
1993 Oct. 3, home vs. Rockies, 5-3 on last day of season
1992 Sept. 29, home vs. Giants, 6-0
1991 Oct. 5, home vs. Astros, 5-2
Status on Chipper
For those coming near and far to see Chipper Jones play his last six regular season home games, if at all humanly possible, he’s going to play every game of this homestand.
From his twitter account, @realcj10: “Im playing every day this week…..get ur butts to the Ted!!!”
A couple of notable numbers for Jones: his next hit ties him with Roberto Alomar (2,724) for 57th place on the all-time hit list. If he gets three RBIs in the next three games against the Marlins he’ll tie Dale Murphy’s Atlanta record for most career RBIs against one opponent. Jones has 165 RBIs in his career vs. Marlins. Murphy had 168 RBIs against the Padres in his 15 seasons as a Brave.
I, for one, can’t believe we’re down to six home games for Chipper. But I’ve save the nostalgia for a blog another day. For now, I’ll just say lineups and an update on the status of Michael Bourn’s thumb, when I get to the ballpark this afternoon.