Can this possibly be a sign from the Braves?

Tommy Hanson battled the Yankees and excessive adrenaline but won his third straight.

Tommy Hanson overcame the Yankees and his own adrenaline issues to win again. (Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com)

It had been nine years since the Braves played host to the New York Yankees. In that 2000 season, they turned out to be division champions (again) but hit the wall in the playoffs (again). The Yankees won the World Series (again).

When Tuesday arrived, both teams were struggling with identity issues. New York hasn’t won a title since 2000, while nobody in Atlanta has been allowed to complain about little division flags in the past three. But at least one seemed to recall what success felt like.

Looking to the future with, well, their future, the Braves got 5-1/3 innings of shutout ball from rookie Tommy Hanson on Tuesday night. They blanked the Yankees 4-0.

This win follows a shutout of the Chicago Cubs the night before, which followed a competitive series (albeit two losses) in Boston last weekend.

The obvious question: Is this it?

Is this when a team that largely has been mediocre since those bubbly days in Orlando finally makes a move?

“We’re playing good baseball,” catcher Brian McCann said.

And, you know, it really is that simple (Chipper Jones’ drop of a throw for an error, notwithstanding). Effective starting pitching. A shut-down effort by the bullpen. Timely hitting by McCann (run-scoring double and a homer) and Garret Anderson (two-run double).

Remember when it used to come together like that all the time?

This one started with Hanson — a rookie pitcher facing a star-laden lineup on a $201 million roster (a payroll that more than doubles the Braves). Turner Field was mostly packed, but by the sound of it, one-third were from the Bronx. It’s no wonder Hanson got a little overexcited at times. That led to control issues (five walks and a hit batter). He was over 50 pitches by the third inning and at 99 with one out and two on in the sixth, when he was pulled.

But as much as Hanson pitched into problems, he pitched out of them. The Yankees left the bases loaded in the second and fourth. They stranded eight runners in a three-inning span. They left two more on (belonging to Hanson) in the sixth, when Peter Moylan got Derek Jeter to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

“Really, the walks are something I’ve never experienced before,” Hanson said. “I know what I’m doing wrong. I just need to slow myself down. I’m just making it harder on myself than it could be. That being said, none of those guys scored. I got out of there with some zeroes.”

In his first major-league start two weeks ago, he was slammed for three homers and seven runs (six earned) in six innings. But look at what has happened since: Three straight wins, two runs allowed in 17 innings and 14 straight shutout innings.

If an improbable postseason run is coming, what happened Tuesday against the Yankees can’t be an aberration. It has to be closer to the norm.

The season, as described by general manager Frank Wren, has been a grind. The pitching, which has been generally solid, has been negated by the offense, which has been generally anemic. The biggest stories have centered on demotions, trade rumors and outright releases.

This is not just another week for the Braves because a few games under .500 in late June isn’t going to get it done for a team serious about winning the division. They have to send up some sort of flare.

Could this be it?

Hey, look at this: A Braves celebration. There's something we haven't seen every day. (Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com)

It's a Braves celebration. There's something relatively new. (Jason Getz / jgetz@ajc.com)

141 comments Add your comment

Powder Springs Jacket

June 23rd, 2009
10:18 pm

They still need one more bat…Matt Holiday? Brian Roberts? maybe even Mark DeRosa? Washington might be willing to part with Adam Dunn..unless the Braves get another mid-to-top tier hitter, I don’t see us making the Playoffs

NRBQ

June 23rd, 2009
10:21 pm

Leave it to a jacket to bitch.

Great win. Hanson’s the man.

dwaynerice

June 23rd, 2009
10:25 pm

Great win, for sure..can’t wait for Infante to get back, and for Jeff and Kelly to get it together, if not get a bat..heck, get a bat anyway

dwaynerice

June 23rd, 2009
10:26 pm

that should be, Jeff and Kelly to get it together (hopefully)

Herschel Talker

June 23rd, 2009
10:37 pm

In baseball, anyone can win on any night. Let’s see them do this for 2 weeks straight, something like an 11-2 run, and then we can talk. Any talk at this point is quite premature. They are who they are.

Ken Stallings

June 23rd, 2009
10:49 pm

Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, Jeff. And you finally have written something nice about Hanson. It only took you three quality starts and 17 consecutive scoreless innings pitched!

I deal in fact. Be nice if you did!

Larry

June 23rd, 2009
10:51 pm

Jeff,

No, its not a “sign,” Jeff, merely two consecutive games of shoutout pitching which removes the element of doubt known as Bobby Cox in game decisions. Yes, even Bobby Cox can manage not to blow shutout pitching performances.

chamblee dawg

June 23rd, 2009
10:52 pm

meh… yankees suck

Reid Adair

June 23rd, 2009
10:55 pm

As nice as the back-to-back shutouts have been, I just don’t see how this “offense” can get any semblance of consistency for the sake of a run at the playoffs.

RHR

June 23rd, 2009
11:40 pm

So far the story of these 2009 braves is beat the good teams, lose to the cellar dwellers so its not surprising to see them play the bosox, cubs, and yankees well. If they would/could bring that same intensity to the field vs the orioles, pirates & giants of the world then they’d have something to get excited about.

kalen

June 23rd, 2009
11:45 pm

get adam dunn

Alpharetta

June 23rd, 2009
11:52 pm

Yes. A blind squirrel can find an acorn sometime. 4 runs against the Yanks, not enough most of the times, somehow enough tonight. I call that lucky.

Mitch C

June 23rd, 2009
11:53 pm

Two good wins on consecutive nights, but we need so much more. As RHR said, we have played very well against the good teams, and awful against the mediocre to bad ones. Remember the good stretch of baseball in May, where we had that excellent road trip to New York and Philly, and the good homestand? After that, we bottomed out.

The saving grace for this team is that no one else in the division is playing well. The Mets have serious injury problems, and the Phillies cant seem to buy a win at home.

If we were to have a seven and three homestand, and the Mets and Phillies continue to falter, then, maybe we can talk contention for wild cards or divisions. Until then, to use to old baseball cliche, we have to take things one game at a time, and try to win as many games as possible, while hoping we get help from opponents of the Mets and Phillies.

Mitch

Vince

June 23rd, 2009
11:59 pm

The Braves need more power from either left or right field and from first base. Can David Ross play first base? That would solve a power problem there. I liked Canizares from the Gwinett Braves. Maybe they could trade Kotchman and a low minor leaguer for a power first baseman. Either way once Infante gets back he and Prado should be in the lineup everyday. They’re both too good of hitters and the Braves need them playing everyday. Maybe that would put a fire into Kotchman, K. Johnson, and Francouer. If Bobby Cox is creative and as good a manager as everybody thinks he’s got enough bats once Infante gets back to play whoever is on a hot streak. Chipper/McClouth/Escobar/McCann play everyday and move whoever is hot into the other positions. With our pitching I think that it’ll work. The Braves will be the talk of baseball with 4 daily platoon positions. Cox will look like a genius.

atlpaddy

June 24th, 2009
12:04 am

If you are from Atlanta or the South and you root for the Yankees or BoSox, you are a tool. Period.

NO MORE BOBBY

June 24th, 2009
12:16 am

For this year? No. But I do see the Braves back in the playoffs within two years. If they dont screw with the young players and trade them away. let them mature the way Gant, Justice, Avery and the 90s Braves did. I can live with losing if we play the way we have against Boston and tonight.

The playoffs in two years will be with a new manager though. Im hoping Smoltz sucks this year and decides to walk away. Then comes back to Atlanta to manage the Braves. Imagine him and Wren going at it like Billy Martin and Steinbrenner back in the day.

NO MORE BOBBY

June 24th, 2009
12:18 am

Ahhhh the Adam Dunn name appears again.

Adam

June 24th, 2009
12:19 am

Still most of our runs being scored with 2 outs — no sustained rallies.

7-8-9 in the order is like a free inning for the opposition.

Yoman

June 24th, 2009
12:20 am

Thats exactly right RHR. It all started a few years ago, they always struggle against sub .500 teams and debut pitchers.

Yoman

June 24th, 2009
12:22 am

My long term goal is to replace Jeff Francouer.

RC35

June 24th, 2009
12:23 am

Remember that old poem some of us had to memorize: “Out upon it, I have loved three whole days together/And shall likely love three more, if it prove fair weather…”? That’s how I feel about the Braves right now. They gave us three or so days of hope at the beginning of the season, then three more against the Blue Jays, and now two against the Cubs and Yankees. When they win 14 of 20 or 30 of 50, then I’ll feel hopeful. Until then, the Braves are just too inconsistent to be consistently bad.

Adam

June 24th, 2009
12:25 am

I like the increase in SBs….. love Yunel tagging and going to 2B on the fly ball…. That is what this team will have to do in the 2nd half.’

If the Braves average 4 runs a game in the 2nd half, September and October will be extremely meaningful.

They’ve gotten a reprieve because of the poor play of the NL East. But you saw what the Phils did to David Price tonight. That was scary.

Randy J.

June 24th, 2009
12:40 am

Great Great Win!! Go braves!!

alsim

June 24th, 2009
1:07 am

Some may think this is an important homestand but more vital to me is how they follow it up on the road trip that follows (Nats, Cubs, Rockies). These Braves seem to have trouble with the mediocre and last place teams.

.

Decision Time

June 24th, 2009
1:08 am

It’s time for the Braves to make some trades – buyers or sellers – make the decision and let’s get on with it.

Prado and Infante are ready to play and have tremendous potential but if they were the answer they would be playing everyday already.
KJ is something of a known commodity but had been a tease over and over again with moments of brilliance and months of mediocrity.
Frenchy just pisses me off with his lack of plate discipline and inability to make a legitimate adjustment in his past 1000 at bats.

All you Bobby haters out there need to wake up and realize that beyond Chipper, McClouth and McCann the Braves are full of 7 and 8 hole hitters.

If I were Frank Wren: KJ, Kotchman, Frenchy, Escobar and Diaz (apologies to Diaz I love that guy) would all be on the trading block. I wouldn’t deal all of them – but they would be in discussions.

I’m all for the Braves trading to win now – but they’re gonna have to increase payroll to do it. If they can’t increase payroll we’re just gonna end up with more deals like Texeria.

I like Mark Derosa – but he ain’t the answer – by himself. Go get DeRo to play 1st base or second only if you can get an upgrade in RF or LF – a pipe dream but get me Nick Markakis from Baltimore to man a corner spot and you’ll be building for the future.

Pipe Dream of the day – Justion Upton from the D’Backs – but I’d assume he’s untouchable.

ugh…..what are the Braves gonna be this year….winners…or loooosserrs???

Ron Roberts

June 24th, 2009
1:19 am

Well, not for nothing, but where would this team be if Chipper weren’t hitting .163 the last 14 days? If Casey Kotchman weren’t hitting .095 the last week? If Jeff Francoeur weren’t hitting .235 the past week (like that’s unusual). At least Garrett’s coming around and McLouth is hot the last week (and .28 the last 14 days). And McCann’s just being All-Star caliber McCann.

WHEN Bobby Cox benches KJ for Prado and WHEN Chipper comes back around (it’ll happen), this team has a fighting chance. We have better pitching than the Mets and Phillies, so if we can just muster 4.5 a game, and do that more consistently than being shut out one night, scoring 9 the next, we’ll be alright.

StateBird

June 24th, 2009
1:34 am

The season boils down to the performance of Francouer and K. Johnson. If those two guys hit above .275 the rest of the season the Braves win the division easy (of course barring no major injuries).

Najeh Davenpoop

June 24th, 2009
1:36 am

I’m enjoying the win against the Yankees and their obnoxious fans, but I’m not holding my breath on this team as long as the offense stays as is. The Braves have been a .500 team all season, and a couple of nice wins following a couple of close losses only continues that trend. Until they show that they can put together all aspects of the game for more than a few games at a time, they are not truly contenders. But count me among the many thousands (millions?) of baseball fans impressed with Tommy Hanson. He is a lot of fun to watch.

Mitun

June 24th, 2009
2:11 am

why not get Brian Robert and Nick Markakis for Kotchman, and Yunel

Tim

June 24th, 2009
2:46 am

One third of the stadium was from the Bronx???…No, One third are front running yankee fans, not from the bronx.

Jalb3rt

June 24th, 2009
3:26 am

Why is every-effing-body here talking about trading Escobar along with Francine, KJ, and others. Why the heck you put Escobar on the ”lets get rid of ___ via trade” wagon. Are you people dumb? blind? stupid? idiots? ignorants? tell me please, i would love to know… McLouth, McCann, Escobar and Anderson (yes, i said Anderson, Garrett Anderson, GA, Loaf, whatever you want to call him) are the only ones getting the job done on the offensive side (and C. Jones too, who has been just shy of hitting HRs 3 times in each of the last 2 games). Escobar is one of the only guys with some pop in the lineup, so you think the best the braves can do is trade for another bat, just to have a new hole in SS? hahaha, omg, you seriously crack me up.. you got to be kidding, this is unbelievable… Thanks God NONE of you are working for the Braves’ front office, because that would be a real mess. =)

GaCracker

June 24th, 2009
3:33 am

When the Braves get a manager like Joe Torre or the Diamondbacks’ manager, then they might have a chance. With formula managing by “Mr. Predictable”, Bobby Cox, they have 2 chances: slim, and none!

willieg

June 24th, 2009
3:37 am

toot your horn all you want ,you brat CHIENG TODAY WOW,DEMPSTER YESTERDAY WOW,this team is in 4th it will stay there this team needs to trade chipper and fire bobby,and trade hanson to the yankees.CHAMBERLIN AND PETTITE WILL SHUT DOWN THE BRAVES JUST LIKE BECKETT DID,this team will go on a 8game losing streak starting tomorrow ,see you all in the funny papers.

gotigers72

June 24th, 2009
3:38 am

The Phillies need a closer in the worst way. Lidge is on the DL and has been pitiful, blowing something like 6 saves. Madson has been just as bad since moving to closer.

How about this? Victorino and Madson for Gonzo and Diaz? Madson was great in a setup role, not so great as a closer. Victorino is more than a solid outfielder and hitter. Has a gun for an arm and runs like a deer. Suddenly the Braves have something they haven’t had for a long time; speed at the top of the lineup. Nate leads off and The Flyin’ Hawaiian hits second. If the Phils want Soriano instead of Gonzo, no deal.

Matty is a serviceable leftfielder and an above average bat. The trade is really Victorino for Gonzo. I know, Gonzo’s been great most of the time. If Bobby was a smoker like Earl Weaver was, he would have lung cancer by now from watching Gonzo pitch. But he usually gets the job done. You have to give something of quality to get something of quality. The Braves would still have Soriano. Just throwing something out there. I know GMs don’t want to trade inside their division, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

willieg

June 24th, 2009
3:41 am

LOSERS LOSERS LOSERS THE YANKEES RULE.

Kevin

June 24th, 2009
3:46 am

who let willieg out of his cell room….try tonein down u words they scarey when huge…lol.Just sad not see smoltz pitch vs us here this weekend unless he gets rain out we not….Maybe he come in n relief pitcher on sat afternoon on fox n go 2 innings and get a save after his victory over the washington(use be Montreal)Nats on thursday!

Sadtoseeitthisway

June 24th, 2009
4:13 am

This Kevin guy is the one person who will be crying the longest and the loudest when Marta raises their fare .25. But after all that complaining he`ll hang with them, we`ve seen it before. At least for now the Braves are making us proud. Great to see all those Yankee fans leaving quietly.

The ghost of Terence Moore

June 24th, 2009
5:09 am

Kevin is arguably more entertaining than Schultz.

Can you say buyout?

Collin

June 24th, 2009
5:46 am

Wonder if Oakland will take Jeff and Kelly and some 1a prospect for Matt Holliday lol

NCBravesFan

June 24th, 2009
6:30 am

Jeff: I’m with RC35 – I want to see them play .600 ball or better over a sustained period of time before I’ll believe they’ve got a shot. The offense does appear to be coming around a bit (thanks, Nate!), but their defense is still too loose on the left side of the diamond.

Also, in a division where Rollins is hitting .230, KJ could pick it back up again for us with the bat (because he’s done it before, streak hitter though he may be), but the Braves have to make a really big decision about Frenchy in right in the next month. Do they essentially go with a .250 singles hitter who plays good defense in RF, or try to get more pop from that position?

Keef1234

June 24th, 2009
6:36 am

until Liberty raises the payroll another $50 million to $150, 000,000 (Redsox being the model) OR Arthur Blank buys the Braves, no amount of speculation/anticipation is going to help this team. Jason Bay should be here ALONG with Mclouth, NOT instead of. Teixeria SHOULD be here long term. AJ Burnett should be here IN ADDITION to Lowe not instead of…
You can’t clip coupons to win the World Series. Ask Boston…

Tommy Wildfire Rich

June 24th, 2009
7:07 am

Keef- I’ll take all of our pitchers, save Kawakami ove Burnett. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m glad AJ didn’t choose us.

TNJeff

June 24th, 2009
7:09 am

I’ve learned (man, have I learned) not to get my hopes up with this team and this manager.

Unfortunately, this team has a will to lose and lose they will

Bill Heller

June 24th, 2009
7:24 am

Someone should teach Franceour how to throw a knuckle ball.

UGASlobberknocker

June 24th, 2009
7:26 am

We need one more big bat. I havent given up on Francoeur getting hot, but almost. I wanted a new hot hitting left fielder, but since Anderson is heating up; now I’d like to see us trade for a big bopper first baseman..trade Kochman and others for him. .Also Kelly Johnson has got to go..hitting .220 but always looking for a walk. in the field,..he doesnt commit that many errors. but seems like every one is at a big time in the game. Lets at least put a slick fielder there if we arent going to get any offensive production out of the position.

The Braves pitching is good enough to win the pennant. The bats might not win the East Cobb League..Frank Wren—do something, dude…dont wait til July 30 when it is too late.

bull-gator

June 24th, 2009
7:36 am

The lineup won’t be solid until a 2nd baseman and a right fielder are found that can hit the ball. As much as I like both Kelly and Jeff as individuals, they are not everyday major league players. Prado and Infante (when he’s healthy) can play 2nd and before the trade deadline (sometime in Aug?) Wren will somehow pick up a quality right fielder. Also, Escobar needs to get his head and a$$ wired together. He’s got way too much talent to be so flakey at the plate and the field.

Cletus

June 24th, 2009
7:41 am

As a previous poster said, all we need is for KJ and Frenchy to start hitting like they are capable of. But I would still make a trade for DeRosa. If nothing else, he can play RF and Infante can play 2B.

This is a nice lineup:
McLouth (l)
Escobar (r)
Chipper (s)
McCann (l)
DeRosa (r)
Anderson (l)
Infante (r)

Trade KJ for a nice prospect and use Frenchy as a defensive replacement/4th outfielder.

MK

June 24th, 2009
7:41 am

Why are we still playing KJ? Why? Why? Why… and why are we not running more? This team could win if Bobby would just get out of the way…

Shadetree

June 24th, 2009
7:49 am

I wish people would get off of Kotchmans back. I will take him over virtually evey 1st basement in the national league. While he doesn’t hit for power his glove saves a run a game.

All we need is for Francouer to comea round, a little and bring Prado out for 2nd base. Once Infante comes back then that will let us have someone to put in Francouers spot. Prado and Infante is better than Johnson and Francouer. All day long.

The Bravos are in this thing. As a fan that’s all me can ask.

It was also nice to hear the fans last night really get into the game.

Go Braves

raymond

June 24th, 2009
7:51 am

I have to disagree with McCann, the Braves are not playing good baseball ( see their record). If the Braves are even going to win this division again their best chance is this year. The Phillies are playing like a team that only has offense and the Mets are beatup. Both are having a down year, so this is the only chance this mediocre organization has to win but they won’t unless they add some offense. We knew this in the off season and it is still true, the only way we win is getting a stellar pitching performance and scoring 3 or 4 runs.