Archive for October, 2012

Defense fails Braves in wild-card playoff

Chipper Jones nailed it early on with this Braves team – they are either really good or the Bad News Bears show up. A one-game wild card playoff was the worst possible time for the worst-case scenario, but that’s what the Braves were left to face.

One false move in a one-game playoff can spell doom. The Braves made three of them in a 6-3 loss to the Cardinals. A Braves team that lead the National League in fielding percentage this season (.986) and allowed a league-low 86 errors committed three throwing errors Friday night leading to four unearned runs.

“What hurts (is) lead the league in fielding percentage all year long and today we didn’t handle the ball quite the way we’ve done,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “…We didn’t handle the baseball like we have. It’s something we’re proud of the last couple of years here defensively. And it came back and bit us.”

Jones was the reluctant ringleader, making the first of three Braves throwing errors in the game. Dan Uggla …

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Cards oust Braves 6-3 in controversy-marred game

What had been a magical year for Chipper Jones and the Braves reverted to postseason heartache Friday. Kris Medlen, the pitcher who couldn’t lose, lost. And to cap their disappointing night, a Braves rally in the eighth inning was thwarted by a questionable infield-fly ruling.

The Braves made three errors, none more costly than Jones’ errant throw in the three-run fourth inning of 6-3 loss to St. Louis in the first National League Wild Card game before an overflow crowd at Turner Field.

The Cardinals advanced to a Division Series against Washington that starts Sunday, while the Braves were eliminated from the playoffs and left to stew about making so many mistakes in their biggest game of the year. And to wonder what might have been if not for that umpire’s call in the eighth.

“I’m not willing to say that call cost us the ballgame,” said Jones, who went 1-for-5 in the last game of his storied career, the hit an infield single in the ninth inning. “Our three errors cost us …

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Postseason ball’s back in ATL, with different feel

This is what it’s supposed to look like in Atlanta in October, with red, white and blue bunting hanging from the façade, folks tailgating five hours before the game, multiple TV crews filming batting practice, and Chipper Jones sitting at a podium talking about what makes his team’s starting pitcher tough and what it’ll be like facing the other team’s veteran pitcher.

Playoff baseball is back, and this time the Braves aren’t limping into it with an injury-riddled team and crossing their fingers while hoping their starting pitcher has one of his best games and their bullpen isn’t entirely out of gas.

Chipper said unlike in past postseasons, he wasn't the least bit nervous before this Wild Card game vs. St. Louis.

Chipper said unlike in past postseasons, he wasn't the least bit nervous before this Wild Card game vs. St. Louis.

This time, the Braves lineup is almost entirely healthy, their key relievers, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel, have been at their best for the past month or more, and their starting pitcher, Kris Medlen, has been the best in baseball since moving into the rotation on …

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More day games in Division Series; Braves set WC roster – updated

If the Braves advance to the Division Series, the first two games would be day games at Turner Field on Sunday (3:07 p.m.) and Monday (4:37 p.m.).

Major League Baseball announced starting times for division series games in both leagues through Tuesday. The Braves and Cardinals will play the National League Wild Card game today at Turner Field at 5:07 p.m., with the winner advancing to face the Washington Nationals in a Division Series.

The best-of-five division series for this year only will follow a 2-3 format, with home-field advantage translating to the final three games (if the series goes the full five) being played in Washington. In the future, baseball plans to go back to the 2-2-1 format and start the series in the city of the team with home-field advantage.

Roster watch

The Braves announced their 25-man roster for tonight’s game, which includes nine pitchers and 16 position players.

Pitchers include left-handers Luis Avilan, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Mike …

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Braves’ Medlen glad to face Cardinals in Wild Card

Braves players don’t like the new do-or-die Wild Card playoff game that effectively reduces a 162-game season into one nine-inning contest to determine which team advances to a postseason series.

But if they were destined to play in the first-ever Wild Card game, the Braves were glad the opponent would be St. Louis.

“I’m excited to get a chance to face these guys,” said Braves pitcher Kris Medlen, who makes his first postseason start Friday night against St. Louis, after 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA in 12 starts since moving from the bullpen on July 31. “ It’s fitting that it’s them, especially with how they caught us last year and they did their thing last year.”

A year ago, back when only one wild-card team from each league advanced to the postseason, the Cardinals trailed Atlanta by 10-1/2 games in the wild-card standings after the games on Aug. 25. Five weeks later, they overtook the Braves on the final night of the season, completing a 23-9 run after Aug. 25 while the Braves went …

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Lohse thinks he tipped pitches in May vs. Braves

Friday night’s Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse gave five runs on nine hits in five innings the last time he faced the Braves May 30, including home runs to both Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. He thinks he might have been tipping his pitches that night.

“I thought maybe a couple of the hitters might have known some things that were coming,” Lohse said.

He immediately made an adjustment with his delivery, taking his hands over his head instead of keeping them up in front of his chest.

“I don’t know if that really had much of a difference for real or just maybe a mental thing,” Lohse said. “It seemed to work a little bit.”

Lohse went 7-3 with a 2.08 ERA over his next 10 starts, allowing two or fewer runs in nine of them.

Lohse, who celebrated his 34th birthday Thursday, was chosen over Adam Wainwright to start the one-game playoff for the Cardinals because he’s been their most consistent starter throughout the season. Lohse finished the season 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA while …

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Ross gets playoff start over Braves catcher McCann

Seven years after then-rookie catcher Brian McCann hit a three-run homer off Roger Clemens in his first postseason at-bat, he won’t be in the Braves lineup when they play St. Louis in Friday’s National League Wild Card playoff game.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced  that veteran backup David Ross would start the Braves’ first postseason game since 2010 instead of McCann, who’s been slowed by a shoulder injury for much of a career-worst season.

“It’s one of those things where you feel [Ross] gives you a good chance to win a ballgame,” said Gonzalez, adding that McCann would play if the Braves win the Wild Card game and advance to a best-of-five division series against Washington. “I talked to him [Wednesday]. It was a good conversation. He understood. It’s tough for both of us, but he understood.

“Mac is a very important piece to our team, and he’s a warrior and he battles. But you feel that with Rossy back there, again, for one game.…”

McCann was an All-Star each of his …

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Medlen brings confidence to wild card playoff

If you weren’t listening closely you didn’t hear it. But in addition to his pitching talents, his record winning streak, and a starting nod in Friday’s wild card one-game playoff against the Cardinals, Kris Medlen has a knack for one-liners.

So when a reporter prefaced a question about one of his eye-popping statistics recently by saying “beyond the streak, which is obviously going to end at some point…,” a little voice from Medlen’s vicinity goes, “nuh uh.”

It went unnoticed, so Medlen came back with: “Will it?”

The question was more of an answer, really, and a nod to the power of his capacity for positive thinking.

The former 10th round pick of the Braves is 5-foot-10 – maybe with his hair spiked up – and his fastball tops out at about 92, but he is a sports psychologist’s dream. For those who preach picturing the positive, Medlen is a poster boy. What images can he conjure up at this point that don’t look good?

The Braves have won Medlen’s past 23 starts, one more than the …

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Game preview and fan information for Cardinals-Braves

NL Wild Card game: Cardinals at Braves

When: 5:07 p.m. Friday (first pitch)

TV; radio: TBS; 680, 93.7, 100.5

Starting pitchers: Cardinals RH Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) vs. RH Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57)

About Lohse: One of the few games that Lohse was not on top of his game was May 30 at Turner Field when Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman both hit first-inning home runs in a 10-7 Braves victory.

About Medlen: In his past 10 starts, Medlen has given up only seven earned runs, three of those in one game against the Marlins on Sept. 25. His only previous appearance this season when he gave up as many as three earned runs was May 2 against the Philadelphia Phillies, a wild 15-13 Braves victory.

Sidelights: Two-time Grammy award winner and Marietta native Travis Tritt will sing the national anthem. Atlanta Opera singer Timothy Miller will perform ‘God Bless America’ during the seventh-inning stretch.

Choptober: The first 45,000 fans will receive a foam tomahawk.

Fan information: …

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MLB Network’s Al Leiter has advice for Kris Medlen

In 1999, Al Leiter threw a two-hit shutout for the Mets in a one-game playoff to decide the Wild Card against the Reds. He spoke about the Braves-Cardinals game with AJC staff writer Carroll Rogers.

Q. What advice do you have for Braves starter Kris Medlen?

A. “What helped me it was after years of a lot of understanding of what a pitcher’s job was. Harvey Dorfman got my mind where it needed to be. That’s the whole part of superior athletes that are able to separate what the emotions are and what the elevated anxiety will be to being able to focus at the task at hand. And having pitched in a game like that and I also started a Game 7, which is essentially a one-game playoff when the loser goes home, is to think about this pitch, this moment. Execution of a quality pitch consecutively. Exploit a hitter’s weakness. Don’t allow the exterior distractions to come into that. Repeat a consistent delivery and make quality pitches. It sounds cliché. It sounds kind of textbook, but it …

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