Archive for the ‘Focal’ Category

Chipper won’t play in WBC, but plans spring-training visit

MIAMI – Two of the four World Baseball Classic qualifying tournaments start this week in Germany and Jupiter, Fla. The only reason we mention this is because some folks have asked me if I thought Chipper Jones might consider playing in the third edition of the WBC in March 2013, since he played in the first two.

As Chipper Jones showed again last weekend against the Nationals, he can still hit plenty. Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen asked him why he's retiring.

As Chipper Jones showed again last weekend against the Nationals, he can still hit plenty. Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen asked him why he's retiring.

My answer was that I didn’t think he’d have any interest, since he’s retiring after the Braves are done playing this year.

And on Monday, Chipper confirmed as much during an interview before the opener of his final series in Miami, an interview that was as compelling and adroitly handled as have been all his others during No. 10’s Farewell Tour.

To the WBC question, he smiled and said, “I’m a little old for that I got to play in two of them and they were two of the best baseball experiences of my life. But it’s time …

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Braves must avoid slip vs. Marlins team they’ve handled

MIAMI — Coming off an impressive sweep of the Nationals that kept alive faint hopes for the division title and made it even more apparent the Braves will at least win a wild-card berth, the key for the ATLiens now is not to let up this week on the road in six games against the Marlins and Phillies, starting tonight at the first-year Miami ballpark where the Bravos have so far made themselves at home.

Chipper had a big two-run single in Sunday's win against the Nationals. Now he'll play his last series in Miami. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

Chipper had a big two-run single in Sunday's win against the Nationals. Now he'll play his last series in Miami. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

The Braves are 9-3 against the Marlins this season and 9-2 with a stunning 1.38 ERA in their past 11 games against them, which includes five wins in six games at the retractable-roof Marlins Park in Little Havana. This will be Chipper Jones‘ last visit to Miami before retirement, and the Marlins plan to pay tribute before Wednesday’s series finale.

In six games at the new stadium, the Braves have outscored the Marlins 33-9. Their only loss was …

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Nats to see improved Minor in series finale

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)

ESPN is descending upon Turner Field tonight for the Braves fourth appearance of the season as the game

Simmons scored winning run Friday (above), drove it in Saturday

Simmons scored winning run Friday (above), drove it in Saturday

of the week when the Braves host the first-place Nationals. Who knew it would actually live up to the billing?

Well, the fans did, who are showing up in good numbers and giving the Braves good and loud crowds to buoy them against the Nats.

But it wasn’t really looking too good when the Braves scored three runs in three losses to the Brewers earlier in the week and slumped into this series 8 ½ games back, their largest deficit in the division this season. Since then, the Braves have come up with some new ways to score runs – they won Friday on a throwing error and Saturday on a pitch that grazed Andrelton Simmons’ jersey with the bases loaded.

But when you’re the Braves and you lost games like the one in Washington on Aug. 20 when Dan Uggla …

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Braves’ Medlen draws heavyweight comparison

Kris Medlen was surrounded (again) by reporters early Saturday afternoon when backup catcher and amiable veteran David Ross ambled past in the clubhouse and said, loud enough so that everyone would hear, “All I’m saying is I caught Med twice and he had 25 punchies in 16 innings. That’s all I’m saying.”

More and more, when you ask people about Medlen....

More and more, when you ask people about Medlen….

(Ross caught Medlen’s Sept. 3 start against Colorado, when he collected a career-high 12 strikeouts in a five-hit complete game, and caught Medlen’s start Friday against Washington, when he struck out 13 in seven innings. Brian McCann caught Medlen’s start between those two, Sept. 8 at New York, when he had three strikeouts in six innings.)

Just as Ross is saying the above, veteran pitcher Tim Hudson, he of the self-deprecating sense of humor, walks in from the dining area and cracks to Ross, “Where is that [stuff] when you catch me.”

And Ross, without missing a beat, busts his friend’s [chops] with this: “That’s like driving …

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If Braves hit with RISP, they’d be pushing Nats

We credited Fredi Gonzalez last week when the Braves manager stepped outside his comfort zone and made a few moves he’d previously indicated he might never make – using Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning of a tied game on the road; benching Dan Uggla and his league-worst batting average for three games; and moving Martin Prado to shortstop for several games until Andrelton Simmons came off the DL.

Prado is one of the few Braves hitters who hasn't struggled during the team's 11-14 stretch. The Braves have slipped to last in the majors in hitting with runners in scoring position.

Prado is one of the few Braves hitters who hasn't struggled during the team's 11-14 stretch. The Braves have slipped to last in the majors in hitting with runners in scoring position.

But here’s the flipside to that: If the Braves were hitting and scoring runs instead of wasting countless opportunities, it’s safe to say those moves wouldn’t have been made. Because he wouldn’t have felt something bordering on desperation. The Braves wouldn’t have found their wild-card lead shrinking and the gap on division leader growing.

When it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position, if …

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Braves need Bourn to heat up; Chipper in SI

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)

Milwaukee – OK I’m going to throw some numbers out there, but you already know what they’re getting at: Michael Bourn isn’t hitting and you know this because the Braves offense isn’t scoring runs.

That’s how important Bourn is as the leadoff man is to the Braves offense. When he’s going, the Braves are scoring runs and when he’s not, they’re not. We’ve seen it all year both on the positive and negative side.

Bourn is 0-for-8 in the Brewers series and the Braves have lost both games, while scoring one run on a double play grounder by Andrelton Simmons.

Bourn has played in all but one of the Braves games this year and started all but three. In the 81 wins he has played in, Bourn is hitting .320 with a .403 on-base percentage, 16 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 45 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. In the 61 losses he has played in, Bourn is hitting .221 with a .269 on-base percentage, seven doubles, five …

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Braves looking to even series with Hudson on mound

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)

Milwaukee – It’s going to be a super snappy blog this afternoon and I apologize for that, but while some of the Braves were touring the Harley-Davidson museum this morning, this gal was working ahead on some end-of-the-year Chipper Jones stories. Hopefully you’ll appreciate it on the back end?

It is Sept. 11, so first of all I sent out thoughts to those who lost friends or love ones in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We’ll never forget. Dating back to that first game back in New York in September of 2001, which was just a spine-tingling night at Shea Stadium (and yours truly butchered the lead of the game story because I was just too nervous and anxious and caught up in the moment), Major League Baseball has had a way of treating this occasion with real honor and grace.

I’m sure tonight will be no exception around baseball, when all 30 teams will commemorate the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11 in pre-game …

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Simmons, Braves ready to take on Brewers

(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)

Milwaukee – So it’s Monday, Sept. 10 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and you know what that means? Andrelton Simmons is scheduled to rejoin the Braves lineup. All indications are the dynamic young shortstop from Curacao will be back in the lineup tonight for the series opener at Miller Park.

His bat has been a pretty good indicator of his readiness too. Simmons has hit .320 (8-for-25) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in six games during his minor league rehabilitation assignment. And this is a guy who hit only one home run all last season while playing in the Carolina League.

But this season Simmons had taken his offensive progression to new heights, reaching the major leagues at the end of May and then winning National league rookie of the month in June at a time when he was being counted on mostly for his defense.

Simmons hit .296 (34-for-115) with seven doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 …

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Chipper enjoyed visiting NYC, but ATL was right for him

NEW YORK – Before his last scheduled series in New York, Chipper Jones held court during a press conference, which was necessary due to number of interview requests that had preceded the retiring Braves third baseman’s arrival in the city where so many fans have loved to hate “LAIR-eee, LAIR-eee” over the years, but where he’s relished playing more than anywhere else outside Atlanta.

Since he was as candid and interesting as always, I figured I’d run the full transcript of Jones’ Friday presser as our main blog today. He discussed not just what it’s been like being the black-hatted opponent in New York, but also what kept him in Atlanta for his entire career. Oh, and he gave us an update on his son Shea, named after you know what.

Chipper Jones after his recent walk-off homer against Philadelphia. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

Chipper Jones after his recent walk-off homer against Philadelphia. (Curtis Compton photo/AJC)

Before we dive in, I thought you’d want to hear his response to a question about what it’s been like to surpass the expectations that most people had for …

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It’s Chipper’s last series in Big Apple — BOOOOO!

NEW YORK – Had breakfast Thursday with a freelance writer doing one of those season-ending, career-retrospective stories on Chipper Jones. And after talking about the third baseman from the time I ordered until the time I’d eaten a big bowl of cheese grits and BBQ shrimp (tasty dish at Home Grown in Atlanta), he was still asking questions and I was still going on and on. And I thought, man, Chipper really is easy to talk about. And I’d hate to have to transcribe this interview.

chiipper_nyThen again, he is going to be a Hall of Famer, and has played his entire career with one team, and I have covered baseball in the NL East from his 1995 rookie season until now (covered Marlins through midseason 2002, Braves since then).

On top of that, he’s one of the more accessible and quotable athletes I’ve ever been around. So yeah, there’s plenty of source material.

This weekend has the potential to add another memorable moment or two to the Chipper chronicles, as it’s his last scheduled visit to …

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