We’re live, and Braves are alive: Do you think it’s for real?

Jason Heyward has a team leading 29 RBI after a game-winning double against Cincinnati Wednesday night. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Jason Heyward has a team leading 29 RBI after a game-winning double against Cincinnati Wednesday night. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

So are you feeling a little more comfortable today, or are you still nervous about this Braves’ team?

I’ll be heading out to the stadium later for the finale of a seven-game home stand that has seen the Braves go 4-2. They are back to .500 (20-20) after a nine-game losing streak had dropped them to 8-14 and general manager Frank Wren had angry torch-carrying villagers climbing the hill to his front gates.

If we divide the season into 10-game increments — and yes, I know the season is 162 games, not 160 — here’s how things break down:

♦ Games 1-10: 6-4 record, 56 runs scored, 47 against (plus-9)

♦ Games 11-20: 2-8 record, 21 scored, 38 against (minus-17)

♦ Games 21-30: 5-5 record, 41 scored, 43 against (minus-2)

♦ Games 30-40: 7-3 record, 61 scored, 38 against (plus-23)

What jumps out obviously are the runs scored. The Braves scored 40 more runs in the last 10 games than they did in the second 10. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider three key members of their lineup — Chipper Jones (.234), Yunel Escobar (.198) and Brian McCann (.261) — are still miles from their average levels of production. Nobody expected the top four RBI men in the lineup to this point of the season would be Jason Heyward (29), Troy Glaus (27), Martin Prado (18) and Eric Hinske (18).

Heyward (29) has driven in nearly as many runs as Jones (11), Escobar (8) and McCann (14) combined (33).

About Prado. I love stories like this. Kid spends most of seven years in the minors and developmental leagues (going back to 2001) and he eventually wins the starting second base job because he just keeps getting better — and also Kelly Johnson implodes. He’s hitting .321 this season and his career major league average is now .309.

It doesn’t matter where Bobby Cox sticks him in the order: Prado is hitting .381 (8 for 21) as a leadoff hitter, .309 (42 for 136) second and .400 (2 for 5) third.

Prado vs. lefthanders: .313.

Prado vs. righthanders: .325.

OK, I’m going to hit the road here. When I get to the park, I’ll check back in and then blog live during the game against Cincinnati. Are you feeling comfortable, nervous or somewhere in between?

Earlier post

Fredi Gonzalez should top Braves’ list to replace Cox

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

354 comments Add your comment

Danny O

May 20th, 2010
9:51 am

When has Heyward not come thru in the clutch?

Brian

May 20th, 2010
10:02 am

Cautiously optimistic. Even Nate McClouth has looked better recently.

Dr. Phil

May 20th, 2010
10:03 am

The Braves are capable of playing pretty good baseball but not championship baseball. They would be a better team without Chipper and Escobar and Wren, for that matter.

Bravos33

May 20th, 2010
10:06 am

I am still nervous, but I am very optimistic. the race is likely not for the East however, it will be for the Wildcard. Which is fine by me, how many times in the past was our Division Champion club outshined in October by a Wildcard contender? Hopefully we can put together a prolonged stretch (30-40 games) of solid baseball that shows we are capable of playing consistently. That would go a long ways to convincing people in Atlanta that the Braves are legitimate this season.

EW

May 20th, 2010
10:14 am

Jeff, some things still concern me..take the last two wins for example…we can’t execute a bunt and get bailed out by Wright’s throwing error and Saito/Wagner blow a 4 run lead late…yes we won…but let’s not ignore the red flags..I don’t think our newfound offensive prowess is with us to stay…call me negative but the Braves hitters have done little to prove otherwise..

bali

May 20th, 2010
10:14 am

hope the game is as good as last night s game. Have you ever seen a rookie perform like Heyward has so far this season

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Fire Frank Wren

May 20th, 2010
10:18 am

The Atlanta Orioles are 4 and 10 in their division. As soon as they start playing real teams again they will start losing again. The Atlanta Orioles are going nowhere but Heyward is the MAN!

Realistic

May 20th, 2010
10:19 am

Let’s be real here folks. This team is not going to win much of anything. We MIGHT squeak in to a wild card situation but it’s doubtful. You all are really delusional if you think this is a playoff caliber team.

Dayman

May 20th, 2010
10:19 am

Yeah its going to be tough to beat the Phillies for the East. The only chance they have is if the Phils bullpen stays in shambles all year and jamie moyer starts pitching like a 47 year old. That still may not be enough with the Phis 1thru8 lineup. I’ll put the braves in the wildcard mix though, watch out for the Rockies they’ll get it going, the Marlins always hang around and the Gaints with that great rotation. I would say look for the Reds, Padres, Mets and Nats to fade.

fred g

May 20th, 2010
10:20 am

I think they are what they are now, a 500 team. We will see ups and downs all year.

THE TONE

May 20th, 2010
10:20 am

nervous as a restaurant attendant on all you can eat chile day !

Clay

May 20th, 2010
10:21 am

Where’s that moron who three weeks ago kept squealing that Kelly Johnson was a better 2nd baseman than Prado, and that Wren shoulda kept LaRoche instead of getting Glaus?……? (Crickets chirping…..) ??

DV

May 20th, 2010
10:24 am

I said 88 wins at the beginning of the season and I’m sticking with that.

Mark

May 20th, 2010
10:25 am

Have to agree with you EW. As a baseball coach myself you take the wins when you can get him but you aren’t going to win many games the way the BRaves did the last 2 nights. They have to hope that McCann, JOnes, Escobar, and McClouth continue to claw their way out of their slumps to have any chance this year.

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:37 am

Are they for real? It is a Bobby Cox team, of course they are for real. You detractors might think differently, but I assure you, the Marlins, Mets, and Nats know Bobby Cox teams are for real, Think, after 40 years, a 9 game losing streak early in the last season, this team could have packed it in right there. This team has won 7 of 20 games in the last inning, that is the type of magic that spells “for real”.

Sonny Clusters

May 20th, 2010
10:38 am

We could bunt. The Braves can’t. In the Spring, Coach would teach us how to bunt and he would have us do it until we could do it right. We was wondering why the Braves can’t bunt since most National League teams know how to get a runner on, move the runner over, and score the run. Watching McCann die on second base last night after a leadoff double reminded us that Bobby’s teams play for the three run homer. We was always wanting to hit a homerun, too, but if it looked to Coach like we was swinging for one with runners on base instead of trying to hit the ball hard somewhere Coach would wear us out running steps the next day. We was state championship.

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:39 am

They have the pitching, I know Mc, Chipper, and Yunal will come around. Glaus looks like a 30/100 guy once he knocked off the rust. Hinske is playing to prove something. It is early, but how many of you thought they would be .500 by the 1/4 way point after the 9 game streak?

Jake

May 20th, 2010
10:43 am

Not persuaded. McCann is adequate at best defensively and at times is a liability. Cox still overworks his relievers and, worse, is still wooden and robotic in his “feel” for the game, still sits back and waits for the three-run homer rather than playing aggressive “small ball.” Jones is undependable at 3rd and not a dynamic leader in the clubhouse/dugout. McLouth is struggling for the second year in a row. Escobar seems to have regressed. And it was shocking to read that Lowe was just using one side of the plate, and that it took him so long to figure out what wasn’t working. Isn’t that watch pitching coaches are for?

The good: Prado was last year’s MVP, and is brilliant again. Heyward is exciting, and the hope is he doesn’t get pulled down by the environment created by Cox/Pendleton/McDowell/Jones. Hinske is a great pickup, on and off the field. Glaus looks pretty good so far, but it’s a long season. And Medlen’s go-at-’em fire is refreshing.

Conclusion: it’s going to be interesting to see if they guys with a sense of passion and purpose (Prado, Heyward, Hinske, Medlen, maybe McCann) can overcome the stale, business-as-usual passivity that has set in over the past few years.

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:44 am

We do have to show that we can beat the Phil’s to have any hope of winning the division. However, I do believe in any BC team.

MitchC

May 20th, 2010
10:46 am

Jeff, the only really bad stretch the Braves had this year was the nine game losing streak, and the 2-8 record. Besides that, they have played okay.

JJ being gone will hurt, but, if Medlen can fill in, KK can pitch like he did last night, and Hanson, Hudson, and Lowe continue to win, we will be fine. I have no illusions of catching the Phillies. They are too strong, and we probably would not have caught them, even if we had all our people healthy..

My call remains what it had been since pre season. 85 to 90 wins, a fight for the wild card, and maybe we will snare the wild card. We don;t match up to the Phillies, but, there is no reason we cannot compete for, and hopefully win, the wild card, if everyone is healthy, and playing up to potential.

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:48 am

Throw out the 9 game steak, we are 20-11 which would be the best winning % in baseball.

meh

May 20th, 2010
10:49 am

I think the Braves could make the playoffs. Heyward and Prado are gonna hit all year. Chipper,McCann, and Escobar will get it going. If Glaus can keep it going and McLouth gets it going the Braves will have a pretty good 1-8. And the pitching is pretty solid. So it depends on how cosistent the offense is but I think the Braves have a good shot at the playoffs.

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:50 am

If we stay healthy, we will be in the hunt in September, that is all I ask for, a reason to watch.

C. Tampa Ironworse

May 20th, 2010
10:52 am

I think Chipper’s power is toast. But if he can have guys on base when he gets to the plate…he can still slap hit. Santa Glaus and Nate McLousy are actually playing well and if we can get Jimmy Cater to take Escobar back to Cuba next time he goes, the Bravos might have a chance.

clay

May 20th, 2010
10:54 am

Everyone quit calling Jason the “J-Hey Kid” he is not a kid anymore he is a man THE MAN on top of that. His new nickname-”The Hey-maker” because he gives that deadly blow late in games that puts the teams away and give us the win.

King James

May 20th, 2010
10:55 am

I believe this team gives me a reason to watch. Are they perfect? By no means, but they continue to give me a reason to watch and want to go to the Ted on occasion. The reason this group gives hope is because of their early struggles and their fight to overcome them. The past couple years we have seen Braves teams realize that the Phillies are simply in a different realm than they are. There wasn’t much fight or grit. We see that grittiness this year. With addition of Hinkse, Glaus and obviously Heyward, this team will fight through games and even bad stretches.
I’m predicting playoffs too. Not a 100 win-blow-through-the-division-like-the-90’s kind of season- but a tough team doing what it takes to make it happen.
Just glad I’m along for the ride….

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:55 am

I agree Chipper has lost his mojo. Yunal will be fine, he will get on a tear at some point. I do worry about Mclousy, kind of reminds me of KJ.

F-105 Thunderchief

May 20th, 2010
10:56 am

I was one of those torch carrying villagers. And, I don’t promise not to become on again if another nine-game losing streak presents itself. Glad to see Glaus having such a good rebound. Hinske, Prado and of course Heyward have given us plenty to cheer about. Looking ahead, I hope we have a closer who is close to being able to step up. I like and hope the best for Wagner, but I think a younger option getting some chances this season would be a good thing.

Mr Charlie

May 20th, 2010
10:59 am

The fact is, every season you look back and see games you shoulda coulda, and you see games that you stole. So far, the braves have stole more games than they have blown, a departure for last year. That bodes well.

Tim

May 20th, 2010
11:00 am

Not quite sure how you think they would be a better team without Wren. The only bright spots in this line up have been people he acquired this off season. And Heyward- Wren made the call for him to start opening day with the effect of losing a year of before arbitration. I would almost say they would be better without Cox. He started Melky 2 nights ago because he “hadn’t hit in a while”, at the same time benching our hottest hitter at the time, Hinske.

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:06 am

Brian — Right about McLouth. That would be huge, given problems at leadoff.

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:09 am

EW — I agree that at times Braves still lack in fundamentals, which is mindboggling — or “mindbottling,” as Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) said in Blades of Glory — when you get up to this level.

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:09 am

DV — seems like a safe projection.

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:13 am

Mitch C — Well, yeah, but to say the Braves’ only bad stretches are 2-8 and a 9-game losing streak are significant when you’ve played only 40 games. If they only had a 2-8 stretch and 9-game losing streak after 100 games, that would be a lot different, don’t you think?

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:13 am

Mr Charlie — Throw out Georgia’s four SEC losses last year and they’re 8-0.

Phil

May 20th, 2010
11:26 am

With Cox in the dugout, not a chance. When that clown is gone next year, I think we can contend for a playoff spot.

collegeballfan

May 20th, 2010
11:33 am

It is about time to make predictions on the Braves season. Although it is still a few days early, I will go with a season of about 90 wins. Not good enough for a division title & probably not good enough for a wild card.

Poorbrave

May 20th, 2010
11:37 am

The Fans need to get behind Prado & J-Hey and VOTE,VOTE,VOTE for them to make All_Stars.

What decisions Wren makes at trade deadline will determine where the Braves finish….as of now I’d say 3rd, maybe 4th.

Ramblin Wrecker

May 20th, 2010
11:37 am

What’s different about this Braves team now as opposed to early on:

1) Bobby finally put the best hitters in this lineup back to back…J-Hey & Prado. They get on base at a .406 & .370 clip respectively. When you put guys who hit and get on base a lot together in the lineup, scoring in bunches is bound to happen. Especially when one of those guys is a beast with runners on and in scoring position.

2) The hard hit balls by Troy Glaus finally started to even out and find holes. He also has slugged it better, adding HR’s.

3) Cox finally saw the writing on the wall that Eric Hinske was a WAY better hitter than Melky or an injured Matt Diaz.

4) McCann put his glasses back on.

5) McLouth is no longer an automatic out. He’s not tearing it up, but at least he’s not worse than the pitcher anymore.

Navy SealDawg

May 20th, 2010
11:38 am

I hope Bobby goes out a winner

cattle dawg

May 20th, 2010
11:39 am

Wagner worries me the most, followed by McCann.

Phil

May 20th, 2010
11:44 am

What’s different about this Braves team now as opposed to 10 years ago:

Nothing, we still have the same idiot manager.

Ross

May 20th, 2010
11:46 am

I have no idea why everyone was bailing – we hit a bad patch – better that it come early in the season. This is a competitive team – it would be more so without Jones in the regular lineup.

Blackberry Cobbler

May 20th, 2010
11:47 am

Heyward saved Booby Cocks last night. The game would have been over and the bottom of the 9th unnecessary if Booby has tried to get that run in the 9th. McCann on 2nd with no outs and Booby chooses to do nothing to try to get that run in.

But, what they hell do we dumb-@$$ fans know right? Booby’s a HOF coach, right? He’s a moron is what he is.

majorpayne

May 20th, 2010
11:50 am

Replace Escobar with Infante and we have a chance.

Driver 8

May 20th, 2010
11:52 am

The Braves’ pitching should have been good enough to prevent anything close to a 9 game losing streak but the hitting was unbelievably bad for a major league team. Still tons of holes in the lineup. If they come around we should be in good shape.

That said, we haven’t proved we can beat the Phils when the we really have to. Last year we won the season series but lost the must-win games down the stretch (3-6 August-September). This year we had a miraculous comeback to avoid a sweep at home.

The Braves are decent entertainment again and capable of playing and winning close, well-played games. They will keep me tuned in but I’m not expecting any post-season glory.

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:55 am

Major Payne — I think it’s too early to give up on Escobar. And, yes, I know, I said the same thing about Francoeur.

Jeff Schultz

May 20th, 2010
11:57 am

You all may have seen this already on Carroll Rogers’ blog, but the lineup is: Prado (4), Heyward (9), Chipper (5), McCann (2), Glaus (3), Hinske (7), Escobar (6), McLouth (8), Hanson (1)

NC Braves Fan

May 20th, 2010
11:59 am

I’m gonna sit on the fence for a while longer before making a prediction. I think the Braves need to make a move or two in the next several weeks involving the OF, and I think they need to give some serious thought to leaving Kris Medlen in the rotation once JJJ comes back.

I feel better overall than I did a week ago, but this does not appear to be one of the four best teams in the NL to me.