After 75 forgettable games, Braves have one to remember

When you’ve played 75 games and nothing much has happened, you’re looking for that one good night. You’re looking for a start, a spark, a reason to keep hoping when you’re a good week away from even nosing above .500. Maybe this was that night. Maybe this was the start of something, if not quite big, then at least bigger than what we’ve seen.

The Braves blew a game against the reigning world champs and won it anyway. They won it because Gregor Blanco, who was playing only because Bobby Cox decided after batting practice that Nate McLouth shouldn’t, and Martin Prado, playing only because Kelly Johnson has forgotten how, mustered seven hits between them.

They won it because they outpitched the Phillies, which everyone does, and also outhit them, which you wouldn’t figure these Braves could ever do. They won it despite two horrendous pitches from Mike Gonzalez that turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit. They won it in the way the Braves used to win games all the time but this team hasn’t yet.

They won it in the bottom of the 10th, and after they did Matt Diaz, who touched off the winning rally with a tough two-strike single and scored the winning run, said this sort of winning is capable of being replicated on a more or less nightly basis. “That’s what has been so frustrating about this team,” Diaz said. “We should be able to play this way more often that not.”

What way is that? Diaz again: “We got great pitching [six big innings from a rejuvenated Derek Lowe and clutch relief from everyone save Gonzo]. We got great defense. [Chipper Jones authored a beautiful double play in the top of the 10th.] We got timely hitting.”

And what, having done all that for seemingly the first time this millennium, were the 2009 Braves left to think? “That we can do this,” Diaz said.

The Braves began the day in fourth place in a five-team division, five games below .500, and then they trotted out a lineup that didn’t include McLouth (hurt), Johnson (awful) or Yunel Escobar (hurt). They got no hits from Brian McCann or Diory Hernandez but 13 from everybody else. They trailed three times — and how often has it felt a one-run deficit was insurmountable for these hitless wonders? — and hit their way back in the bottom of every inning.

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Prado had four hits and four RBIs, and afterward Bobby Cox proclaimed him his starting second baseman. “Right now, yes,” Cox said. “He’s too hot to take out.”

And sometimes that’s what it takes to light a fuse: A utility guy is given a chance and renders himself indispensable. Three times Prado drove home a tying run, and in the 10th he hammered a two-strike pitch over the head of John Mayberry Jr. in left field to untie this one forever. Martin Prado, of all people, and he could have picked no better moment.

Diaz again: “We’re starting to play division games now, and someone has to win. We need that someone to be us.”

Just like that, the Braves are within four games of first place and within one of third. Just like that, a homestand that went flat against the Yankees and Red Sox has found a second wind. Just like that, a team that has had no reason to feel good about itself celebrated the best night of 2009.

121 comments Add your comment

jdmac

June 30th, 2009
11:14 pm

You’re no T.J. Simers, Mark, but you slay me. This makes me feel good about the braves for what feels like the first time in months.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

June 30th, 2009
11:20 pm

Games like this are what baseball is all about….Hope.

Hope that the first 75 were just a mirage and tomorrow won’t be more of the same. Enjoy the glow, it will probably wear off real fast.

Hawk01

June 30th, 2009
11:21 pm

Good win. Please let Prado have a chance at being the everyday 2B. I still want the Bravos to trade Francouer. He iis not a big time run producer. I like an outfield of Diaz, Mclouth, Blanco.

Bill Heller

June 30th, 2009
11:28 pm

What’s it going to take for Prado to win the second base job? And will somebody teach Franceour how to throw a knuckleball? He’d be the best hitting pitcher in baseball!

Whopper Dawg

June 30th, 2009
11:29 pm

Man I hope so, good positive column. Go Braves!!!!

O'Brien

June 30th, 2009
11:29 pm

Mark,

I hope Bobby continues to play Prado as long as he continues to produce.

Mr C.

June 30th, 2009
11:31 pm

Great win. Can someone convince Bobby Cox to keep Prado at 2nd base. Watch him play Kelly in 2 days.

Mark u are doing a great job. First post at 6 am and the last one at 11 pm. Maybe u don’t have a life but we appreciate the hard work

Herschel Talker

June 30th, 2009
11:33 pm

MB – keep up the great work. The writing has been awesome lately. That being said, I put the chances at 50/50 that they lose the final two. That’s how this team is. They suck you back in only to clobber you over the head when you least expect it.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
11:37 pm

Thanks, folks. I do have a life, but today it seems to have been put on hold. (Sometimes duty calls.) But I’m taking Friday off.

And I understand you hesitation, HT. It’s weird, but baseball is a game almost devoid of momentum. You’d think it would be all about momentum since they play every day, but as Earl Weaver — I think it was Earl Weaver — said, “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher.”

For the Braves, Jair Jurrjens starts Wednesday against Cole Hamels.

choozer

June 30th, 2009
11:40 pm

Bill Heller, even if Francouer were a pitcher, the best-hitting pitcher might still be that Reds pitcher who beat us with a 3-run homer a week or so ago

Jerry McManus

June 30th, 2009
11:41 pm

Does anyone know why the Braves have mostly quit broadcasting the games in North Carolina. Everyone used to talk about the team. Now no one can tell when a game is going to be on. So lots of folks just don’t care anymore. Braves are falling from favor.

Bill

June 30th, 2009
11:45 pm

I hope you are right. Love games like tonight, never give up. You better get some rest, you’ll get old fast doing double duty.

Mark Bradley

June 30th, 2009
11:48 pm

Get old? Too late, Bill, I’m afraid.

Shadetree

June 30th, 2009
11:55 pm

Thanks for the effort Bradley.

Cox said Prado was his 2nd baseman.

Blanco
Prado
Hoss
McCann can
Escobar
McLouth
Anderson
Kotchman

That’s a great starting 8

Can anyone say when was the last time the Braves won 6 in a row.

Atlanta4life

June 30th, 2009
11:58 pm

MB – any word on the deal with Escobar? I know he was supposed to play, then scratched himself, then pinch-hit. Should he be ready to go tomorrow? I hope his attitude is better when he comes back. Right now the team doesn’t need any crap out of him

Pal Joey

June 30th, 2009
11:59 pm

How many times have we heard that this may be the beginning of a turn around? We have been so hoodwinked by this ball club this year that I will only believe it when I see it. Unless these guys begin to hit consistently, all the pitching in the world will not do the trick. Lowe has been disappointing his last few outings and now Gonzo almost threw the game away tonight. I hope things will improve, but unless Bobby benches Kelly and lets Prado play, and gets Escobar under control, that won’t happen. And what is up with Chipper? He can’t seem to get out of his own way at the plate. Count me a skeptic until they prove themselves on the field.

Zach

July 1st, 2009
12:01 am

Mark, I like your article. The comments from Diaz hit the nail on the head. “Why can’t we play this way all the time?” Also, do you think that the potential change we might have a second base could possibly turn into a trade in these upcoming weeks?

Finally, I laughed out loud at the “Johnson (awful)” comment. thanks

Zach

July 1st, 2009
12:02 am

oh and Shadetree that is not a great starting lineup no matter who you ask.

hhmmm

July 1st, 2009
12:06 am

Cox said he’s too hot to take out? What is he looking for a reason or something … damn Bobby.

francoeuristheman

July 1st, 2009
12:14 am

are we lookin to trade for anyone?

Wayn-o

July 1st, 2009
12:17 am

Yep, Francoeur could be a great bullpen guy. fastball/changeup

francoeuristheman

July 1st, 2009
12:17 am

shadetree why would anyone in the mlb ever start blanco over francoeur or even blanco over any outfielder

Joe S

July 1st, 2009
12:18 am

I think we just need that one POWER BAT Wren. As long as we get that Power bat we can legitimize games like this and keep them more insurmountable and unsteady. If we play like this with a lot of hope and act like true winners consistently we can get a losing team to sell to us and we’ll be awarded as buyers.

Adam Dunn, Alex Rios should do just right but I hope we put a string of wins together over this Philly team first.

Hard work like tonight’s will pay off in the long run and send messages to upcoming teams not to F’ around with the Braves.

francoeuristheman

July 1st, 2009
12:18 am

why would he ever go to the bullpen when hes playing just fine in right you idiot

Adam

July 1st, 2009
12:50 am

Actually, Cox finally figured out that Diaz is better in LF than Anderson so making that defensive switch gets Bobby the coaching move of the night. He should’ve done it the other day against Boston as well…..

Best Braves win in several years because of the way they bounced back from late-inning adversity in a HUGE swing game. Blanco and Prado reminded me of Nixon and Blauser tonight. Total clutch performances.

bravesgirlnc

July 1st, 2009
12:55 am

it only took Cox a year give or take to finally say what many have been screaming for him to say. Prado is the 2nd baseman. Now if only Diaz was in there everyday…

Adam

July 1st, 2009
12:58 am

Oh, and Mark….

I would remember one other game — Kawakami’s 1-0 win over Roy Halladay.

But sometimes you need to strike the match more than once before it lights. Braves really need to seize this moment. Tomorrow might go down as the biggest game of the season because we will see if this has carryover.

Herschel Talker

July 1st, 2009
1:18 am

Booby Cocks will find some way to blow it tomorrow. Book it.

Herschel Talker

July 1st, 2009
1:18 am

Booby C0cks will find a way to blow it tomorrow. Book it.

UGA Student

July 1st, 2009
1:23 am

Jerry McManus:

The reason you are having trouble seeing some Braves games is because some of them are broadcast on Peachtree TV an ATL area only station. You can however see these games on CSS if you have cable. If you have satellite you can get it on DirecTV channel 651 or order MLB extra innings. The rest of the games are either on FS south or Sport south

vabrave

July 1st, 2009
1:26 am

Broadcaster Ernie Harwell wrote in 1955: “Baseball is a ballet without music. Drama without words. A carnival without kewpie dolls.”

I think tonight epitomizes that. It was a great game… up and down up and down… dragging us all through the mud and then elevating us to cloud nine. We all need to hope that this does carry over because it’s games like this which sparks off the powder keg.

I hope Diaz’s words and feelings is what everybody in the clubhouse was feeling (except maybe KJ since he’s odd man out after Prado’s night) because tonight for the first time in years… the Atlanta Braves looked like… the Atlanta Braves.

Will

July 1st, 2009
1:32 am

Anytime i need a REALISTIC take on the Braves, i read Mark Bradley and this column is exactly how I feel. I love the fact he is not afraid to say kelly johnson is horrible. Its so refreshing to get a real take on the braves on this website. Lets get a sweep, 2 out of 3 is not gonna cut it.

Jay

July 1st, 2009
1:32 am

Ugh. I don’t know what to say about this team, they are so frustrating. Great win tonight, tough to see Lowe not get a W, but, it appears Moylan is back to form.

The one thing that should have been drilled into Cox’s head tonight is that Kelly Johnson should never darken the left-hand batter’s box again. Maybe Wren will make that easier for Bobby by releasing him (come on, people, he’s got ZERO trade value). It’d be nice to see Blanco get more AB’s, but, unless the team can package perhaps Francoeur/Anderson and Kotchman in a trade for a power-hitting first baseman, I don’t see Blanco as anything other than a 4th/5th outfielder.

reminds me of hubbard and claudell

July 1st, 2009
1:39 am

but gonzalez is no bedrock!

MALONE

July 1st, 2009
1:44 am

What about moving KJ to the OF? Maybe the onus of 2B is getting to him. From what I remember, he’s a fine defensive LF.

dizzy5dean

July 1st, 2009
2:07 am

Prado needs to start at 2nd base, without a doubt. I only hope Cox looks at the intensity Prado has and let the baseball Gods do their jobs and let him win the job, which it appears he has. Johnson is a good kid, however I think he needs to play the outfield, maybe RF if there is a Francoure trade.

scottbravesfan

July 1st, 2009
2:12 am

Jerry,

Where do you live in North Carolina? Western North Carolina is still in the Braves broadcasting territory. So if you live in Asheville you get every game. My friend Logan lives there and received every game. But if you live in Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh metro area you are no longer in the Braves broadcasting territory you are in the Washington Nationals broadcasting territory. I know it’s awful but technically Raleigh is closer to DC than it is to Atlanta. Your best bet is to get the MLB Extra Innings package it’s not that expensive about 130 for the rest of the year and it’s worth it if you are a huge baseball fan. You will get all of the baseball games except for the Nationals since you are in their broadcasting territory.

About the game, wow the best baseball game I have seen all year long not just the Braves but any game. Just an awesome, awesome game. I can’t wait to see Jurrjens carry the winning streak tomorrow against Hamels.

Larry

July 1st, 2009
2:16 am

Some call Bobby “stubborn” and too “loyal.” Well, I’d say they’re correct when it takes a pour soul to produce a homer, 4 hit performance, and the game winning hit to finally be named the starter over a guy who can’t hit or field and everyone but Bobby could see this months ago!

The question is, where would we be had this decision–and many others like it–been made many, many weeks back?

Coach (2010 or Bust)

July 1st, 2009
3:54 am

75, remember that number because it’s exactly how long it took Bobby Cox to pull his head out of his ass and remove KJ from the regular line up. Now, if we could only convince Cox to do the same with Francoeur……..when hell freezes over :)

hop

July 1st, 2009
5:00 am

bobby has a history of going with the hot player and that is why he is a great manager.
prado will be the starting second basement unless johnson goes on a hitting streak which he is very capable of doing.

braves are still very weak hitting team with holes at first base and the outfield.

frenchy had two hits last night,maybe he is ready to roll again.

im not so sure chippers regretting sighng it but im sure as hell regretting him sighning means 3 more years of watching slow rollers head into left field to be viwed with distain my anderson who will then slowly walk over and throw it in the vicinity of a

July 1st, 2009
5:04 am

duaz in left is even more important then prado at second in mho i can just see ga going first to third on that blanco single /double (giggle)

Kevin

July 1st, 2009
5:37 am

are u kiddin frenchy had 2 hits that after he could not drive in a run…..with people on base its oh i not wearin any jock cup strike out…Oh no worrys bobby cox will fix prado they trade him away so KJ want get his feelins hurt.

Kevin

July 1st, 2009
5:40 am

See what they doin is showin that Prado can hit so can trade away for a box of rejects in GM’s Wren office.No worrys he have Kelly (no hit) Johnson back in line-up tonight u watch!And u all can say Go Braves n take B.Cox n wren to cubs for to un-clog there toilets at cubs games

deja vu

July 1st, 2009
6:13 am

Since when does Deangelo Escobar take HIMSELF out of a game. Wow, Bobby is too old.

Ward

July 1st, 2009
6:23 am

Great win…Prado HAS to play 2nd!!! Johnson may have the skipper’s heart because he worked so hard to learn a new position but Prado is better fielder, contact hitter and has “instincts” in the field.Diaz needs to play much more..despite Anderson’s recent hitting..career 290 hitter anyway…Diaz “excites” the crowd and is better fielder. Diaz is in the middle of many exciting moments!!Chemistry is what winning teams call the Prado/Diaz moments…the laboratory professor needs to keep the chemistry boiling….NO JOHNSON!!! Ward

Baba O'Riley

July 1st, 2009
6:46 am

deja vu- Players take themselves out of games all the time. McLouth did it last night as well.

eastbound and down

July 1st, 2009
6:59 am

Cox amazes me. Prado is too hot to take out..Johnson played himself onto the bench.. trade that dude for a case of cheap beer, give everyone one on the roster a brewski and tell KJ to hit the highway.

jacket3

July 1st, 2009
7:13 am

Last nights game was finally fun to watch. Lot’s of drama. For one brief moment it had 1991 written all over it.

Diaz and Prado are either being showcased for trades or maybe someone other than braves blogger fans are finally reading everyone’s posts. Either way the game was just a sterling moment in the 2009 season. Maybe, just maybe I hope the front office, and BC finally see the light!

Uncle Dave

July 1st, 2009
7:17 am

Remember Royster in 82? Maybe Prado can be that guy. The problem is that we still do not have legitimate power. Royster was a spark on that 82 team for sure, but they also had Murphy, Horner, Chambliss, and Claudell Washington knocking the ball out of the park…. we have McCann (catcher who gets fatigued), Chipper (gets hurt) and nobody else. It would be one thing if we were built for speed… but who exactly is going to bunt for a hit or take an extra base on this team? Nobody. That is why it is a shame that Jordan Shafer was not ready. So… what we have is a a terrific Catcher and a Hall of fame third baseman on the home stretch of his career teamed with good pitching and a cast of of slow guys who cannot hit for power or average. That said… they can win in this division of underachievers… but anything beyond that is a stretch.

Turlock Brave

July 1st, 2009
7:34 am

Please stop writing these “turning point of the season” pieces. Every time one is published, the Braves lose their next five to eight games. Thank you, and pass it on.