Archive for the ‘Braves / MLB’ Category

Braves crumbling at first sign of adversity, just like 2011

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez may have problems with their team beyond injuries. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez may have problems beyond team injuries. (Jason Getz/AJC)

The Braves hope this is just about injuries. They hope it’s just about a ground ball freakishly caroming off Chipper Jones’ calf and the fact none of their starting pitchers suddenly can make it through three innings without getting hit on the head with a mallet.

But when a team seemingly crumbles whenever adversity hits, there’s something wrong.

The Braves have gone from the third-best record in baseball (26-16) to losing eight consecutive games, the past five by a combined score of 36-15. Stay calm, say the eternal optimists. It’s a mere hiccup. Maybe. But if this spiral is being magnified, it’s justified.

The slide comes with the backdrop of last season’s unraveling. General manager Frank Wren brought back the same team that went 10-20 in the final stretch in 2011 because he viewed the drain-circling as an aberration. But here we are again, watching players do dumb things in the field, …

Continue reading Braves crumbling at first sign of adversity, just like 2011 »

Braves suddenly lack pitching, defense and a clue

Michael Bourn misplayed this fly ball into a run-scoring triple by Rick Ankiel, one of several lowlights in Braves' loss (AP photo)

Michael Bourn misplayed this fly ball into a run-scoring triple by Rick Ankiel, one of the Braves' several lowlights. (AP photo)

If for a moment we can get past that the Braves currently have too many players who either can’t stand without wobbling (flu) or can’t see straight (blurred vision) or can’t walk without pain from a strained groin or a bruised leg (or “hematoma,” to use Chipper Jones’ new word), this isn’t a difficult problem to figure out.

If the Braves hope to survive this problematic intersection of injuries and batting slumps, they’re going to need two things: pitching and defense.

They received neither Saturday.

For the second game in a row the Braves spotted the Washington Nationals an early 4-0 lead. They scrambled back to tie, but ultimately spontaneously combusted again — like no perceived pennant contender should.

They lost 8-4. That makes six straight. They’ve suddenly tumbled into fourth in the National League East (not that standings are worthy of panic …

Continue reading Braves suddenly lack pitching, defense and a clue »

LIVE: Ailing Braves try to end skid against Strasburg

The Braves will go against Nationals' 23-year-old fireballer Stephen Strasburg today.

The Braves hope to break out of a slump today but will face Washington's young fireballer, Stephen Strasburg (AP photo).

The Braves are not completely devoid of positive signs these days. It’s just that after starting the season 22-13 and beginning to take the form of a wrecking ball, there has been a market correction.

And the question is: How ugly will this get?

Losers of five straight games and faced with the prospects of missing Chipper Jones for another several games, the Braves face the Washington Nationals today (4 p.m.).

Mike Minor (2-4, 6.96) — who allowed four home runs in his last start and generally has been a mess for the past month — will be opposed by Stephen Strasburg (4-1, 2.21). So much for positive foreshadowing.

It’s only late May. The Braves are two games out of first place, and trail

Mike Minor has allowed 31 runs and 11 homers in his last five starts. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Minor has allowed 31 runs and 11 homers in his last five starts. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

a team (Nationals) who don’t exactly have a resume of Octobers behind …

Continue reading LIVE: Ailing Braves try to end skid against Strasburg »

Chipper Jones goes on DL — can Braves win without him?

Chipper Jones has missed six starts since getting by a ground ball. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones missed his seventh straight start with calf injury suffered at Tampa Bay.

(Updated: 11:31 p.m.)

When the Braves returned home Friday night, they didn’t have the usual look of a team just one game out of first place.

Their egos: dented from being swept in a four-game series for the first time in three years. Chipper Jones’ left calf: a blistered-and-blood-engorged mess from taking a missile of a grounder just above the ankle. Freddie Freeman: still unsure whether to go with the new prescription goggles or new contacts for the dry eyes that caused blurry vision. Brian McCann and Matt Diaz: fluish (although Diaz strangely felt comforted that he was now coughing up “red and green” mucus).

But near the end of May, despite a five-game losing streak, the arrow still generally points north for a team that played 29 of its first 46 games on the road — except for one significant area. They’re not giving much of an impression they can win without Chipper Jones.

This is an …

Continue reading Chipper Jones goes on DL — can Braves win without him? »

McCann shows a spark, but will Braves give him new deal?

Brian McCann's solo homer in second inning jump-started the Braves' offense. (AP photo)

Brian McCann's solo homer in second inning jump-started the Braves' offense. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 10 p.m.)

In his first six full major league seasons, Brian McCann has played in six All-Star games, won an All-Star game MVP, won five Silver Slugger awards, accumulated more home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and game-winning hits than any catcher in baseball, won a lot of games, smiled a lot, never caused a riff and has proved to be so genuine and honest that he probably wouldn’t know a magic muscle-inflating pill if one did a backflip into his morning Cocoa Puffs.

“He puts up numbers, and he did it even when other guys were taking performance-enhancers,” Braves teammate David Ross said. “He’s more like, ‘How many Advil should I take?’ I can’t corrupt him. He won’t even drink a Red Bull. I want to punch him.”

All of which makes you wonder how it could be that the Braves and McCann may part ways at some point in the near future.

The Braves are off to a good start. They own the …

Continue reading McCann shows a spark, but will Braves give him new deal? »

Braves’ progress won’t matter until they can beat Phillies

Michael Bourn was doubled off first to complete another Braves' series loss to Philadelphia. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Michael Bourn was doubled off first to end the Braves' loss to Philadelphia. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Once the confetti finally settled in the aftermath of the Braves’ four-hour, 11-inning, 28-run, 36-hit, is-that-really-Tim-Hudson-grabbing-a-bat marathon win over Philadelphia the night before, the Braves were left with one painful truth Thursday: The Phillies still own them.

This doesn’t mean the Braves won’t reach the postseason this year. It doesn’t even mean they can’t win the National League East Division. But Philadelphia didn’t leave town without reaffirming the pecking order.

We may see a blur of replays of Chipper Jones’ walk-off two-run blast that ended Game 2 of the series. We may remember the pyrotechnics of Wednesday’s 15-13 victory for several years. But it was the Phillies who bounced back to win Thursday’s game 4-0. That wrapped up yet another series win over the Braves — and ultimately, that’s really the big picture.

“Somebody said at the beginning of the series that …

Continue reading Braves’ progress won’t matter until they can beat Phillies »

LIVE: Braves try to follow wild Game 2 with win over Phils

Chipper Jones mobbed by teammates after his game-winning homer on Wednesday. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Chipper Jones was mobbed by teammates after his game-winning homer (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Good morning. Did anybody go home?

I talked to a the elevator operator and few other stadium employees and they all look a little bleary-eyed. After Wednesday night’s crazy, E-ticket of a game — you know it’s special when 40-year-old Chipper Jones says it’s the greatest game he ever has been associated with — the Braves and Philadelphia have a short-turnaround today and close out their three-game series with a rare noon game at Turner Field.

Today’s game will have a lot of to live up to. The Braves won 15-13 Wednesday on Jones’ two-run, walk-off homer in the 11th inning.

To recap in Twitter-form: The Braves trailed 6-0, led 8-6, trailed 12-8, led 13-12 and were tied after nine innings. (I think that’s under 140 characters.) Braves highlights: Jones’ two-run homer, Brian McCann’s grand slam in a six-run fifth, Jason Heyward’s go-ahead, pinch-hit two-run single in the sixth, Martin Prado’s …

Continue reading LIVE: Braves try to follow wild Game 2 with win over Phils »

Loss aside, these Braves look way ahead of last season

Chipper Jones sees something in these Braves that was absent in 2011. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Chipper Jones sees something in these Braves that was absent in 2011. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated: 10:05 p.m.)

When the Braves started this season 0-4, a number of thoughts went through the minds of fans, not a single one of which was: “Do you realize that we could still go 158-4? That would be a record.”

But when the first month of the season ended Monday, the Braves were operating in relative bliss. (Well, bliss interrupted by the implausible wrecking ball of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but bliss nonetheless.) Until a 9-3 loss to the Pirates, they were 14-4 following that 0-4 hiccup, a nice place to be with the Philadelphia Phillies coming to town.

It’s not merely that the Braves suddenly found themselves winning games but that they were winning them in ways that suggested this stretch won’t be viewed as some aberration at season’s end.

That projection may seem just as knee-jerk as those who were panicking at 0-4. But consider the words of Chipper Jones when he …

Continue reading Loss aside, these Braves look way ahead of last season »

Braves’ bats come alive — is it all about Greg Walker?

Greg Walker has made an impression on Jason Heyward and Braves. (Jason Getz)

Greg Walker has made an impression on Jason Heyward and Braves. (Jason Getz)

After watching the Braves score 55 runs on 78 hits in the last eight games, there is a tendency to jump to rash conclusions, like: 1) How did Greg Walker get away from Mensa and; 2) Is Larry Parrish giving out the wrong change on the New Jersey turnpike?

So just a little perspective: It won’t always be this good. But Walker, the Braves’ new hitting coach by way of the Chicago White Sox, clearly has made an impression on players and it’s showing up in the numbers.

So I figured I would spend this morning’s blog on Walker. Let’s call it, the TalkBlog. What follows are nothing but comments from Walker and several players, gathered after Wednesday’s 14-6 win over the New York Mets.

First, from Walker, who spent almost his entire playing career with the White Sox and later served as their hitting coach for nine seasons:

(on connecting with players) “When I left Chicago I was pretty mentally beat up. I had …

Continue reading Braves’ bats come alive — is it all about Greg Walker? »

Appreciate Chipper Jones while you still can — Aaron does

=

Henry Aaron says he knew Braves had made the right choice in 1990. (AJC photo)

Henry Aaron said he knew the Braves had made the right choice with Chipper Jones. (AJC photo)

(Updated: 2 p.m.)

Enjoy this season because it will be your last look.

Enjoy watching Chipper Jones because the chance to watch a first-ballot Hall of Famer – and if he’s not enshrined in his first year of eligibility, I’m surrendering my vote – just doesn’t come around very often.

Jones isn’t the best position player in Braves’ history. That’s only because there’s a guy named Henry Aaron ahead of him. Sometimes, being in second place is an honor — especially when the guy who is in first place is bowing in your direction.

“I remember when we took Chipper in the draft,” Aaron recalled Thursday. “There were a lot of people in the organization who thought we should take that pitcher [Todd Van Poppel]. But I saw star written all over Chipper, and I put my vote in. There were quite a few people involved in that decision. I can tell you this: Some are going to say now that they voted for …

Continue reading Appreciate Chipper Jones while you still can — Aaron does »