Archive for September, 2012

Next for Braves: New York Mets

Series preview: vs. Mets

When (TV): 7:35 p.m. Friday (WPCH), 7:10 p.m. Saturday (WPCH), 1:35 p.m. Sunday (FSSO)

Radio: 680, 93.7, 100.5

Probable starting pitchers:

Friday: Braves RH Tim Hudson (16-6, 3.61 ERA) vs. LH Jonathon Niese (12-9, 3.49)

Saturday: Braves LH Mike Minor (10-10, 4.27) vs. RH Chris Young (4-8, 4.21)

Sunday: Braves RH Kris Medlen (9-1, 1.64) vs. RH Jenrry Mejia (1-1, 4.91)

About the Braves:

Batting: The weekend’s honoree Chipper Jones has hit .311 with 46 doubles, four triples, 49 HRs and 159 RBIs in his career against the Mets. Martin Prado was leading the National League with 59 multi-hit games entering Thursday. He was batting .353 (30-for-85) in 22 games in September to raise his season average to .306. Brian McCann went 5-for-9 with two home runs and six RBIs in two games against the Mets in New York Sept. 8-9.

Pitching: Hudson is trying to reach 17 wins for the second time in three seasons. He is coming off a dominant outing at Citizens Bank Park in …

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Uggla (3 RBIs) helps Braves finish Marlins sweep

They wanted Tommy Hanson to put it together and get on board the train Thursday, and the Braves couldn’t have asked for a better opponent than the Marlins to help make it happen.

The Braves erased an early two-run deficit with a four-run fourth and beat the Marlins 6-2 to complete a series sweep at Turner Field, pushing their winning streak to five games and snapping Hanson’s winless streak at seven starts.

Dan Uggla had two hits and three RBIs and David Ross and Andrelton Simmons added two hits apiece for the Braves, who won for the 17th time in 23 games and moved to 10-2 with a 2.09 ERA in their past 12.

“We’re playing good baseball and doing what we need to do,” Uggla said. “We’ve got six games left, so we’ve just got to keep taking care of business and keep going in the direction we’re going.”

Uggla has played two games with painful cuts and medical staples on his right hand from an accident during Tuesday’s celebration after the Braves clinched a postseason berth. He …

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Heyward’s patience rewarded in 20/20 feat

Jason Heyward was stuck on 19 steals for a month, but he wasn’t going to let a personal milestone get in the way of the flow of the game for his team. His patience was rewarded Wednesday night when he saw a good opportunity to run and took it to swipe his 20th base.

Heyward became the first Brave since Andruw Jones in 2000 to steal 20 or more bases in a season while also hitting 20 or more home runs. He’s only the ninth player in franchise history to do it.

Heyward’s 27 home runs came quicker. Heyward attempted only stolen base between his 19th steal on Aug. 26 in San Francisco and his 20th on Wednesday night.

“I feel like I’ve been on base enough it was just not the situation to run,” Heyward said. “I’ve got Chip behind me or Freddie behind me or just a tight game situation where you may not want to attempt to steal a base right there, and I’m fast enough to score from first…

“It’s on my mind. It’s evident that you’re close to an accomplishment like that but at the same time …

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Bourn still day-to-day with sore thumb; McCann rests

Michael Bourn missed his fourth game Thursday night since injuring his left thumb sliding head first into second base Saturday in Philadelphia, but the Braves still consider him day-to-day.

The center fielder has been assured by Braves hand specialist Gary Lourie there’s no structural damage, and he had an MRI to confirm it Thursday, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. The MRI revealed no ligament tear and Bourn was diagnosed with a slight sprain.

Bourn said he hoped he could return to the Braves lineup in the next couple of days, but he also didn’t rule out a return Friday night against the Mets.

“I wanted to play as soon as I can, but I knew the day after (injuring it), it was too sore,” Bourn said. “It swelled up the day after. But now most of the swelling’s gone. Some of the soreness is gone and it’s starting to feel better, but they just didn’t want me to rush out there and have any setbacks, which I can understand.”

Bourn said Thursday his thumb was still sore but it felt …

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Kimbrel enjoys four-strikeout chance

In the lofty air where Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is dwelling these days, it’s not all serious business. It’s pretty fun too.

That’s why when catcher Brian McCann apologized to Kimbrel after Wednesday’s game for letting a wild pitch get past him, Kimbrel just smiled and said “I didn’t mind.”

He was kidding around, of course, but because that batter, Donovan Solano, reached base on a third strike, Kimbrel was able to strike out four batters in the inning. It’s something only three other Atlanta Braves pitchers have ever done: Mark Wohlers (1995), Paul Assenmacher (1989) and Phil Niekro (1977).

“It was pretty cool,” Kimbrel said.

Kimbrel said he has struck out four in an inning before in the minor leagues, and thinks he probably struck out as many as five in an inning at Lee High School in Huntsville, Ala.

“I was throwing the ball all over the plate in high school,” said Kimbrel, who is reminded of that all the time by his former high school catcher and buddy Chris …

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After shedding Sept. 2011 albatross, Braves celebration fitting

Glad I didn’t write anything about it beforehand, because I’ll admit I was like the afternoon radio hosts who drew the ire of Chipper Jones, after he heard them criticize the Braves for their celebration after clinching a spot in the wild-card game.

When we were in Philly last weekend I mentioned to Mark Bowman that didn’t know if the Braves should or would celebrate clinching a spot in the wild-card game, as opposed to clinching a spot in an actual postseason series. Then when I asked the Braves PR man, he told me he was pretty sure they would celebrate if they clinched a wild-card berth.

And so they did. They drenched each other – and later a lot of fans who stuck around till the Braves came back on the field – with dozens of bottles of champagne and cases of beer after Freddie Freeman’s dramatic two-run walk-off homer gave them a 4-3 win Tuesday that clinched a wild-card berth, even though the Braves said they were still aiming for a division title.

Braves young (Heyward) and old (Chipper) celebrate after clinching wild-card berth (Curtis Compton/AJC photo)

Braves young (Heyward) …

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Sales soar for Chipper jerseys and Braves gear

Chipper Jones’ last postseason drive has sent merchandise sales soaring with fans not just in Braves Country, but across the nation.

Jones’ No. 10 jersey was the top-seller across Major League Baseball in September and Braves gear had the largest increase in sales among MLB teams during the past week at Fanatics.com, an online retailer of licensed sports merchandise.

The Braves’ 40-year-old third baseman is retiring after the Braves are done playing this year, and the team clinched a postseason berth with a dramatic walk-off win Tuesday on Freddie Freeman’s two-run homer against Miami. Jones doubled to start that ninth-inning rally.

According to a Fanatics.com spokesman, 81 percent of its Braves merchandise sales in the past week were to customers outside Georgia.

The Braves had the highest increase in week-over-week MLB merchandise sales on Fanatics.com at 68 percent, ahead of two other postseason-bound teams, San Francisco (62 percent) and Cincinnati (61 percent). The Braves …

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Braves postgame quotes after Wednesday’s win vs. Marlins

PAUL MAHOLM

On wanting to continue the momentum from Tuesday night:

“Yeah, obviously we’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs but we’ve still got some work to do to keep moving up. our goal is still for the division. We know it’s going to be tough but we’ve got to come in and play hard for the rest of the seven games and for me, I had a little over a week off, so I’m trying to make sure I’m sharp enough. Going out there the first few innings were trying to find the rhythm and get back into it. And going out for the third I felt like I found my rhythm and was able to pretty much throw every pitch for a strike.”

On last couple starts put him in a good frame going into playoffs:

“Yeah you can look at it, I had two out of three good starts, and then the start before I had two out of three bad starts. So for me, it comes down to executing pitches. I’m not going to blow it by anybody. I’m not going to go out there with stuff, where I’m going to strike out a bunch of guys. I’ve got to …

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Braves beat Marlins and clinch top wild card spot – updated

No need to break out the bubbly on Wednesday night, but the Braves clinched home-field advantage in a potential wild card game and continued trying to close the gap on the Nationals.

The Braves backed up their playoff-berth clinching victory in the series opener with a 3-0 win Wednesday night over the Marlins. After the Cardinals lost in Houston, the Braves were assured of finishing as the top National League wild card team and would host a one-game playoff on Oct. 5.

But for Paul Maholm and the Braves, their focus was trying to keep pace with the Nationals, who won Wednesday and maintained a four-game lead in the NL East with seven games to play.

Maholm dominated the Marlins with 6 2/3 innings of shutout work in what he treated as a test run for the playoffs.

“Obviously I’ve never been in this position in my career,” said Maholm, who played his first seven seasons with the Pirates and first four months this season with the Cubs. “I tried to do as much as I could to treat it …

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Jones defends champagne celebration; Cox’s advice for Gonzalez

One thing that got Jones riled up Wednesday morning, he said, was hearing the Braves criticized on a local radio station for their champagne celebration after clinching a berth in the wild card playoff game. He made no apologies.

“If our season ends on October 5, we got to celebrate and that’s something these guys haven’t gotten to do,” Jones said of his younger teammates. “Why take it away from us? Every time we advance, you know what? We’re going to celebrate whether you like it or not, whether it’s apropos or not, we’ve earned it. And quite frankly we can afford to pop a top on some champagne bottles and some beer cans if we want to.”

The last man standing from the 14 consecutive division titles remembers the criticisms Bobby Cox-led teams took for being too buttoned-down and reserved.

“We finally let our hair down and we still get bad-mouthed, so what’s it going to be?” Jones said. “Make up your mind.”

Cox advice

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he tossed and turned …

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