(UPDATE below on Roger McDowell, 1 p.m.)
After winning five out of six to close a West Coast road trip, the Braves returned home and reaffirmed they’re not quite in a groove yet.
They blew late-inning leads and lost consecutive games to St. Louis to open this series (5-3 in 11 innings on Friday; 3-2 on Saturday). Now they find themselves scrambling just to avoid being swept in today’s series finale. And as unusual circumstances go, here’s one: The pitcher who will try to turn them around is Derek Lowe, who spent late Thursday evening and early Friday morning in jail on charges of DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change.
In addition to off-field incidents involving Lowe and pitching coach Roger McDowell — who remains on “administrative leave” for alleged anti-gay slurs and inappropriate language with San Francisco fans — the Braves have a few lingering issues.
– Despite high expectations for the offense, the team batting average remains at an anemic .229, which ranks 28th in the majors. (The Cardinals are first at .295.)
– The Braves’ team ERA is a solid 3.11. But one reason for the 13-15 record is the bullpen has blown five of 12 save opportunities. Craig Kimbrel has six saves in eight chances, Jonny Venters is 1 for 2, Scott Linebrink and Jairo Asencio each are 0 for 1. The Braves’ ability to replace the retired Billy Wagner is one key to this season.
– Keep an eye on Dan Uggla. He is hitting only .194 but he has hit the ball hard in this series. In his career, Uggla is hitting .238 in March/April but .294 in May. Today is May 1.
That’s it for now. I’ll be back to live blog. Let me know if you have any early questions. I’m here to serve. Happy Sunday.
There’s is still no news for the Braves or Major League Baseball on discipline that may be handed down to McDowell. But a story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle doesn’t paint a good picture of the incident. Columnist Gwen Knapp interviewed one of the fans who witnessed McDowell’s exchange with others and pretty much corroborated everything that has been alleged. Here’s a link to the article. Here’s are excerpts, quoting Todd Achondo, who attended the game with his young sons.
Two days after attending the April 23 game at the Giants‘ ballpark, Achondo wrote a two-page letter of complaint, which he mailed to MLB’s Joe Torre, Giants general manager Brian Sabean and Atlanta CEO Terry McGuirk. The letter supports most of Quinn’s allegations about profane and hostile behavior by McDowell during batting practice, although it makes no mention of the explicit homophobic language that Quinn described.
(In an interview, Achondo said he did hear an apparent allusion to San Francisco’s large gay population as McDowell said he would shove a bat up three fans’ backsides: “That’s how you like it here, right?”)
But baseball can’t afford to discount a point made in Achondo’s letter, which ended up in the hands of Pat Courtney, senior vice president for public relations, Saturday afternoon. Achondo identifies himself as a small-business owner and describes bringing his sons, 5 and 7, from Sacramento for their first Giants game. While his wife and younger son played near the Coke-bottle slide, he and the older boy went to the outfield seats for batting practice.
Achondo wrote that he hoped to re-create his childhood trip to Candlestick “when I caught one along the right field line in BP and a player later tossed one up to me, so I had two balls on my first major-league game – so I truly know the memories my kids can have.” Instead, he wrote, McDowell ruined the day.
If MLB believes Achondo’s version of events, then it believes McDowell devalued its main currency – the moments when one generation transfers a connection with the game to another.
UPDATE II: McDowell has been suspended for two weeks. Here’s a link to the blog:
By Jeff Schultz