Archive for October, 2012

MLB Network’s Larry Bowa analyzes Braves-Cardinals

Larry Bowa, an MLB Network studio analyst who spent 40 years in Major League Baseball as a player, manager and coach, analyzes the Cardinals-Braves NL Wild Card game for the AJC. Bowa can be seen MLB Network’s ‘MLB Tonight’ before and after every postseason game.

Starting pitchers

Braves’ Kris Medlen: “Right now, Medlen might be best pitcher in National League. I’ve watched him pitch several times and not many teams are able to square up on him. He has 3-4 pitches he throws at will, whether he’s ahead or behind in the count. Pitching in his own park will be important. He’s as good as anybody.”

Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse: “He’s one of those guys who keeps you in ballgames. He throws you strikes. [But] he is the kind of guy you’re gonna get something to hit. Secondary pitches are important.”

Edge to: Medlen

Bullpen

Braves: [Craig] Kimbrel’s command’s a lot better. … Keeping that bullpen fresh has been the big thing. They went through a period of time [last season] where they used …

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Braves vs. Cardinals — Friday at 5:07 p.m.

Rush hour in the ATL will be even busier this week when baseball’s first-ever Wild Card game is played at Turner Field.

The Braves plan to have 45,000 foam tomahawks chopping in unison when they face St. Louis on Friday at 5:07 p.m. in the National League Wild Card game, to be televised nationally on TBS. The winner of the single-game playoff will advance to a best-of-five division series against Washington that begins Sunday in Atlanta or St. Louis, with a starting time to be announced.

Kris Medlen, who is 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts since moving from Atlanta’s bullpen, will start Friday against Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA).

The first 45,000 ticket-holders through the gates will get a free foam tomahawk. Braves parking lots are sold out and will open five hours before the game, while stadium gates will open at 2:07 p.m., three hours before the first pitch. Country singer Travis Tritt, a Marietta native, will sing the national anthem.

The only …

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Braves tune up for Wild Card with shutout at ‘Burgh

PITTSBURGH – Before putting their 162nd and final regular-season game in the books Wednesday, Braves players got chill bumps watching the first-inning adieu of retiring pitcher Ben Sheets and the sixth-inning farewell to another city by retiring icon Chipper Jones.

They finished a 4-0 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Braves’ 94th of the season, and looked ahead to drama that awaits Friday at Turner Field, where they’ll face the St. Louis Cardinals in what amounts to a Wild Card death match – one game to determine who advances to a division series against Washington, and who goes home.

“You win 94 games, a lot of teams win the division with that,” Jones said. “I certainly think we played well enough to win the division this year, but Washington just played a little bit better. We’ve got to get over this one-game playoff thing to give ourselves a legitimate shot at what we were all shooting for out of spring training.”

After the Nationals clinched the National …

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Braves quotes after season-finale win vs. Pirates

**CHIPPER JONES

On getting standing ovation when he came to bat in sixth

“It’s nice to be appreciated. Smart fans, knowing that this is it. I was just glad to get in there. I’ve been working on some stuff the last couple of days, and it’s nice to get a nice result out of it. I think A.J. for coming right at me [laughter]. I’m proud of A.J. He’s a good guy and he’s done it right for a long time. Well-deserved for him coming off the field, as well.”

On winning 94 games

“That’s a lot of games. You win 94 games, a lot of teams win the division with that. I certainly think we played well enough to win the division this year, but Washington just played a little bit better. We’ve got to get over this one-game playoff thing to give ourselves a legitimate shot at what we were all shooting for out of spring training.”

On this September compared to last

“Like I said last year at the end of the year, I think we’ll look back on that September as a learning experience more than …

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Uggla back in lineup; no red jerseys Friday

PITTSBURGH — Two days of rest and ice reduced swelling in the right hand of Dan Uggla, who returned to the lineup Wednesday and had an RBI single and a walk in four plate appearances.

The second baseman missed two games after waking Monday with swelling around staples that held together a cut near the first knuckle. He got the cut during the Braves’ postgame celebration after they clinched a wild-card playoff berth last week, when he reached into a cooler and apparently sliced his hand on a glass someone had dropped inside.

As for the swelling, Uggla didn’t know what caused that, though team trainers said it was probably the flight from Atlanta Sunday night.

“I have no idea,” said Uggla, who had the staples removed Tuesday. “All I know is when I work up Monday morning it was swollen and sore…. Anytime there’s swelling like that, there’s always a concern that it could be infected. And the last thing you want is for the infection to go into the joint or whatever. But that wasn’t …

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Aching Chipper out of lineup for last reg-season game

PITTSBURGH – Chipper Jones knew plenty of people traveled to Pittsburgh to see him play in the retiring third baseman’s last regular-season game Wednesday. His heart said yes, his body said no, so he compromised.

Jones was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game since playing a season-high seven in a row, but he got a pinch-hit single in the sixth-inning Wednesday. He finished with a .287 season average and a .303 career average, and  hopes to have his achy body feeling better before the Braves host the Wild Card game against St. Louis at 5:07 p.m. Friday.

“I’m not healthy. I need some time,” Jones said Wednesday morning. “Knees, back… I just really needed some time. I expected to play today, or at least give it the old spring training try, a couple of at-bats and whatnot. But I’d much rather have the time off. And have tomorrow off, work out at the stadium. Have three or four solid days off before Friday, because usually when I take a day or two, 36-48 hours, I …

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Braves quotes after Tuesday’s loss to Pirates

**FREDI GONZALEZ

On Hanson’s performance

“He got six innings in; that’s the first time he got six innings in a while. Just left some balls over the plate. I think at the beginning of the game he had three 1-2 [count] hits. The leadoff double in the first was a checked swing that just happened to go down the line…. But just a couple of pitches out over the plate. But he gave us six innings.”

On the game

“We accomplished what we wanted to. Got our bench guys some good at-bats. Overbay had some great at-bats, and Hinske had a big at-bat against a left-hander. Pastornicky had a couple of good at-bats, and Rossy. That’s a little scary there when he [Ross] takes that foul tip off the knee, and you’re playing these last two games and getting guys some rest and getting some [bench] guys some at-bats. That’s what keeps you up at night….

“Tomorrow we’ll run our starters out there for a couple of at-bats, and hopefully we’ll come out of it healthy. And hopefully get a win, too. That …

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Hanson finishes on down note in 5-1 loss to Pirates

PITTSBURGH – If it had come down to the final regular-season series with Tommy Hanson competing for a spot in the Braves’ postseason rotation, his performance Tuesday night against Pittsburgh might have eliminated him from contention.

But it’s been clear for some time that Hanson wouldn’t start if the Braves made the postseason, and his work in an insignificant 5-1 loss to the Pirates served only as a reminder of issues that have plagued him during a disappointing year that began with his one-car accident in spring training.  It’s been a different kind of painful at times during the ensuing months.

Hanson (13-10) was charged with five runs and nine hits in six innings, including a two-run homer by Garrett Jones during a three-run fifth that gave Pittsburgh a 5-1 lead before a sparse crowd at PNC Park.

“Wasn’t the way I wanted to end it,” said Hanson, who allowed a Starling Marte double to start the first inning and a run in each of the first two innings. “The first two …

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Braves consider roster options for WC game

PITTSBURGH – Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he might carry 16 position players and nine pitchers on his 25-man roster for Friday’s Wild Card game against the Cardinals, instead of his initial plan of 15 and 10.

He said he might carry a third catcher to give them flexibility to pinch-run early in the game for the catcher, if necessary.

He plans to carry three starting pitchers — Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Mike Minor — for the Wild Card game. Hudson would be available to start if anything — i.e. injury or sickness — happened to Medlen, and Minor would be an emergency pitcher if the game became an extra-innings marathon like the 18-inning playoff game the Braves played at Houston in 2005.

The 25-man roster would change for the Division Series if the Braves advance.

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Braves’ Sheets to start Wednesday, then plans to retire

PITTSBURGH – When Ben Sheets starts the final game of the Braves’ regular season on Wednesday, it will likely be the last game of the veteran pitcher’s impressive though injury-plagued career.

He’s not considered a candidate for the Braves’ postseason roster, and Sheets said “for sure, 100 percent, I’m not going to play next year.”

Sheets, 34, was an improbable feel-good story of the summer, signing a minor-league contract with the Braves after being away from baseball for nearly two years following the second of his major elbow surgeries.

He was brought up after just two minor league starts and went 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA in his first three starts for the Braves and 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA in his first five, plugging a hole and excelling when the Braves were dealing with a couple of injuries in the rotation.

“At a time when we needed a little bit of a lift, he gave us a boost,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “Really, getting those four wins, those were critical.”

But his …

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