The newly patient Braves are closing in on first-place Philly

Chipper Jones hit this one where the Pirates weren't. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Chipper Jones hit this one where the Pirates weren't. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

We’re seeing a different sort of Braves, and the difference isn’t just between bad and good. It’s the difference between professional and amateurish. It’s the difference between a guy who’ll take a pitch and one whose aim every plate appearance is to air-condition the ballpark.

“We seem like we’re a patient team,” Jason Heyward said Sunday. “We don’t give any at-bats away.”

The Braves … a patient team. When last could we say that?

Said Chipper Jones, drafted by this organization in 1990: “I never thought I’d see it here. Bobby Cox’s way is to sit back and wait for the three-run homer. This team is more suited to my liking — .300 hitters, .400 on-base percentages.”

The men who batted first, second and third in Sunday’s lineup — Martin Prado, Omar Infante and Heyward — finished the game hitting above .300. The man who delivered the tiebreaking single in the eighth — Jones, appearing as a pinch-hitter — has an on-base percentage of .399. The man who drove in the clinching runs with a triple off a lefthander submariner — Heyward, hitting against Pittsburgh’s Javier Lopez — has an OBP of .421.

Jones again: “It started to click when we got the best on-base percentage guys [meaning Prado, Heyward and himself] at the top of the lineup. [Brian McCann's RBI] numbers are going up. Troy Glaus’ numbers are going up.”

Even as we lament the miseries of Nate McLouth and wonder when Yunel Escobar will find himself, we must credit the Braves for this: They’ve taken a flawed batting order and turned it into something worthwhile, and they’ve done it in a way unlike any band of Braves in memory.

Jones: “We’re leading the league in walks by a pretty fair margin … In the past, we’ve swung ourselves out of innings. But now we’re giving the opposing pitcher a chance to beat himself, and sometimes he will if you let him.”

Said Terry Pendleton, the batting coach: “When you’re patient, you get to see more pitches, and it gives you the opportunity to hit the pitch we want to see.”

And this has been the time-honored Braves method? Said Pendleton, laughing: “I can honestly say we’ve been a team that swings first and thinks about it later.”

No longer. Maybe it’s because these Braves don’t possess megatons of power. (They’ve hit 40 home runs in 50 games.) Maybe it’s because recent imports — Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske, even Melky Cabrera — have American League backgrounds, and the AL way is to work the count for all it’s worth. Or maybe the patience of the 20-year-old Heyward has rubbed off on his elders. But something has taken hold.

Sunday’s victory marked the Braves’ ninth in their final at-bat this season. It was closer than necessary — they left 10 men aboard in the first six innings — but in the end it felt inevitable in this newfangled way. McLouth walked leading off the eighth and stole second. McCann walked as a pinch-hitter. Jones fought off a fastball and dunked it into left field.

“It got me pretty good,” Jones said, speaking of Joel Hanrahan’s delivery, but he put it in play. It’s uncanny how much can happen if you manage that simple act.

And now the Braves, who trailed the Phillies by 6 1/2 games on May 17, have a chance to lead the National League East by the close of business Memorial Day. “We haven’t been this close to the top in a long time,” Jones said, “and now we’ve got a chance to be in first place [Monday] after the April we had.”

This from a team that has a center fielder batting .184 and a gifted shortstop needing a 3-for-5 afternoon to nose above .200. This from a team that hasn’t yet gotten a win from two starting pitchers — Kenshin Kawakami, who yielded a tying homer in the seventh inning Sunday, and Jair Jurrjens, who’s on the disabled list. This from a team that was 8-14 a month ago.

These aren’t the Braves we’d come when they were taking those 14 division titles, but the 2010 Braves have started to win. Once you start, it gets harder and harder to stop.

98 comments Add your comment

Michael in Dunwoody

May 30th, 2010
6:02 pm

First! Great game Bravos.

mike lum

May 30th, 2010
6:08 pm

I knew they’d be OK all along.

Michael in Dunwoody

May 30th, 2010
6:08 pm

You just knew that 2-0 lead wouldn’t hold up after the Braves failed to push across all those runners in scoring position. Feel bad for Kawakami that he can’t seem to get a win, but at least he didn’t get a loss.

chin music

May 30th, 2010
6:20 pm

exactly one month ago: “as constituted, these braves aren’t going to win anything….” it was ridiculous then, and it sounds even more ridiculous now.

this is a very solid team. hitters with a history of hitting will hit. glaus has since come around. cabrera’s been red hot. escobar’s been driving the ball for about a week now. mclouth should eventually get things turned around. and diaz and jurrjens will bounce back when they return from the dl and make this team even better. in the future, mb, you should leave the histrionic opinions to your commenters.

The Grinch

May 30th, 2010
6:20 pm

If they can win like they did despite the way the lineup card was filled out, that’s certainly encouraging. “Hmmm…Chipper and McCann are out, and McClouth’s an automatic out, our weakest pitcher is on the mound so we need all the offense we can get…I know, I’ll sit Hinske again too! He plays once a week; he needs the rest.”

Thankfully the players who do get to play are starting to overcome these baffling decisions, but that kind of utter and complete nonsense won’t likely work against the Phillies. Here’s hoping.

"Chef" Tim Dix

May 30th, 2010
6:20 pm

Bobby will never admit it, but monday’s game is as big a game that can be played in ther month of May.

chin music

May 30th, 2010
6:23 pm

“as constituted, these braves aren’t going to win anything.”
– mark bradley, exactly one month ago.

it was ridiculous then, and it sounds even more ridiculous now.

this is a very solid team. hitters with a history of hitting will hit. glaus has since come around. cabrera’s been red hot. escobar’s been driving the ball for about a week now. mclouth should eventually get things turned around. and diaz and jurrjens will bounce back when they return from the dl and make this team even better. in the future, mb, you should leave the histrionic opinions to your commenters.

Delbert D.

May 30th, 2010
6:25 pm

Troy Glaus…who can explain it?

The Most Intresting Man In The World

May 30th, 2010
6:28 pm

I may not watch baseball, but when I do it’s the Atlanta Braves. Stay thirsty my friends

kal

May 30th, 2010
6:31 pm

Mark,
Were you not writing just not too long ago that these Braves are built to lose? How convenient for you now to side with the Braves and praise them? Some people never change. You should show some professionalism in your writing and understand that it is a very long season and teams have to go through ups and downs.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley and TDC, Shannon Moore. Shannon Moore said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: The newly patient Braves are closing in on first-place Philly http://bit.ly/94mXVq [...]

chin music

May 30th, 2010
6:34 pm

“as constituted, these braves aren’t going to win anything.”
– mark bradley, exactly one month ago.

it was ridiculous then, only a tenth of the way through the season, and it sounds even more ridiculous now.

as constituted, these braves are a very solid team. hitters who have a history of hitting will hit. glaus has since come around. melky’s red hot. escobar’s been driving the ball for the past week. mclouth should eventually start hitting. and when diaz and jurrjens return from the dl, they’ll make a good team better still. in the future, mb, you might consider leaving the histrionic opinions to your commenters.

Jeremiah

May 30th, 2010
6:38 pm

This team has the potential to do great things this year, I have felt this from Spring Training. They just got to keep on keeping on. They will be fine.

Jonathan

May 30th, 2010
6:43 pm

Actually last year when we acquired McLouth, we got the first player to work counts and draw walks. He infected the rest of the team. Chipper has to be more patient because he has become a hitter that needs to wait for his pitch. Prado does a great job of working the count and so does Hinske.

Mitchell

May 30th, 2010
6:45 pm

Said Chipper Jones, drafted by this organization in 1990: “I never thought I’d see it here. Bobby Cox’s way is to sit back and wait for the three-run homer. This team is more suited to my liking — .300 hitters, .400 on-base percentages.”

Et tu, Chip-ay? Wow, the Hall of Fame third baseman observing a flaw in the Hall of Fame manager’s style of baseball.

Where are the Cox lovers on that one? Talk about a BC hater.

Old Coach

May 30th, 2010
6:49 pm

Great job Braves!!! Great month also!! Where are all the baseball experts wanting to ged rid of Glaus one month ago? Some so called fans do not know their butt from third base.

Randy

May 30th, 2010
6:49 pm

Great piece. And, nail on head.
Sitting in Section 211 today, I was frustrated when Hinske didn’t ph for Nate the 2nd time he came up with bases loaded. Still don’t understand that….but…we win again.

Randy

May 30th, 2010
6:53 pm

Oh, and I SWEAR I am not making this up.
My 11 year old daughter turns to me in the 7th and says,”We need to give Pittsburgh Mclouth back and a farm guy for McCutchen.
LOL

Greg

May 30th, 2010
6:53 pm

If the Braves are still in it at the end of June, I’ll get more interested. They have mostly been beating up on the weak sisters of the league. We’ll see what they can do against some of the better NL and AL teams. The good news is that the Phillies schedule in June is absolutely brutal.

Mitchell

May 30th, 2010
6:54 pm

Sunday’s victory marked the Braves’ seventh in their final at-bat this season. It was closer than necessary — they left 10 men aboard in the first six innings — but in the end it felt inevitable in this newfangled way.

Obviously they’ve been coming through a lot this year and the comeback wins have been awesome… I should point out that I wondered alound in Spring Training if the Braves wouldn’t turn out to be the comeback kids in 2010 (yeah, I’m good)… but there was still that sinking feeling I have yet to shake.

I thought for sure they’d find a way to lose that game. Seen it happen many times before.

Still want to vomit about KK not getting a win though. That is depressing.

jeffrey d

May 30th, 2010
7:02 pm

Troy Glaus…who can explain it?

He’s a good hitter who got off to a slow start because he missed almost all of the 2009 season

Dick

May 30th, 2010
7:05 pm

what’s with the surprise about Glaus? He’s proven himself over many years, hadn’t played for a while, and would be expected to take a while to get his timing down. He’s not what he was, but he’s going to be solid all year. The bigger surprise is how bad Escobar is; hopefully the 3 hits today will start something. And McLouth…I suspect that we’ll shortly see what the breakeven point is for a great fielding centerfielder who isn’t hitting a lick. You can’t help but root for the guy, but how long until he sits, at least for a while?

Mark Bradley

May 30th, 2010
7:06 pm

Belated kudos, Michael in Dunwoody. I ducked out fast. Tried to beat the rain. Failed again.

Not Don Waddell

May 30th, 2010
7:09 pm

Heyward is the NL MVP right now. His patience and approach at the plate has infected the entire organization, even getting Bobby to look at things differently. Do your duty and go vote 25 times for Heyward on MLB.com right now, this kid deserves to start the game.

Bat Masterson

May 30th, 2010
7:17 pm

Mark, the Braves should hire you as a good luck charm. The Bradley Talisman.

Bat Masterson

May 30th, 2010
7:18 pm

jeffrey d _ spreading reason and goodwill everywhere he goes.

The Grinch

May 30th, 2010
7:20 pm

This is a good team. I thought so in Spring training and I think so now. We don’t always play our best players, but this recent surge doesn’t surprise me. I think it’s safe to conclude the Nate McClouth experiment has failed, though. I expect to see Scheafer in center after the break.

The Grinch

May 30th, 2010
7:21 pm

Schaefer; excuse me.

Bat Masterson

May 30th, 2010
7:23 pm

Jrich

May 30th, 2010
7:24 pm

It would be a crying shame if Prado and Heyward dont make the allstar game! I know Utley is great at 2nd but Martin has been great also! And for Mr.Heyward, I’m not saying he’s the greatest right now but can anyone please give me a rookie that has done the things he’s done? I’m begging all the true fans of baseball please vote them in and forget the popular names you’re used to seeing in the allstar game! These kids DESERVE it! Where would the Braves be without them right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Grinch

May 30th, 2010
7:25 pm

Jeff

May 30th, 2010
7:26 pm

30th!
Thought it was classy how much love the crowd gave Kenshin. I wonder if the Braves hitters are cognizant of the Kawakami jinx when they’re at bat.

Hunter

May 30th, 2010
7:28 pm

What do you all think about Wins and Losses as stats? There’s a new article on BR about it, using Braves players as examples. Check it out here — http://bleacherreport.com/articles/398961-quick-thoughts-on-wins-as-a-statistic

savannah dawg

May 30th, 2010
7:33 pm

Why don’t Bobby just put Blanco in center field for a few games and see how it goes. I think the McClouth experiment is over. Other than that, I’m really enjoying watching this team. GO BRAVES!!!!!!!

The xd40 is a sweet shooter

May 30th, 2010
7:37 pm

That was a pretty good read. We all thought the Braves were crap a month ago- but they may be a wildcard type team after all. The Glaus story is great. So he is not the big power guy- he, like aging Chipper, will still play you some ball.

The xd40 is a sweet shooter

May 30th, 2010
7:37 pm

spellchech..HA

Dawgdad (the original)

May 30th, 2010
7:44 pm

Schafer is hitting under .200 at Gwinnett, why do you people think that he is ready this time? Let him stay down until he gets his mojo going if he can. He hasn’t done much in the last two years to give me much confidence.

Team is playing good, but we need Nate to get it going. We need his speed and defense in the lineup and his 10-15 homers. Looks like Escobar is coming around. His bat will be a welcome addition. Nice beating up on the Marlins and Pirates, but the big boys are coming in the next week or so, and be interesting to see if our bats stay potent against good pitching.

The xd40 is a sweet shooter

May 30th, 2010
7:46 pm

I was also pleased the with the ovation for KK

Shane

May 30th, 2010
7:49 pm

Was at the game today. Man was it ever hot out in CF. Good win for the Braves. Heyward is amazing.

count_schemula

May 30th, 2010
7:54 pm

Say Kawakami goes 0-1 – has a playoff team ever had a pitcher with a record like that before?

count_schemula

May 30th, 2010
7:54 pm

Rick

May 30th, 2010
7:57 pm

You write this rubbish and the phillies offense will catch fire as it always does against the braves and they will sweep.

Ryan

May 30th, 2010
7:59 pm

The phillies offense will catch fire against the braves as they always do and sweep us.

Eric C.

May 30th, 2010
8:00 pm

Mark, great work. I like many others have to wonder how long McClouth will take up space in the line-up. Even Cox’s patience must be tested by now? How long will it be before he sits?

worrywart

May 30th, 2010
8:05 pm

Gotta hope Bobby wakes up to reality for the Philly series. If he does, he’ll bench McClouth and GET HINSKE IN THE GAME!! And BTW, it was mighty refreshing to read Chipper’s truth-telling about Bobby’s “game plan.” He has always been a long-ball manager, with or without the bats to justify that strategy.

Skeezix

May 30th, 2010
8:13 pm

April was misery, but May has been the most fun I’ve had watching the Braves in years. Heyward is the real deal and I don’t miss a single one of his at bats. The pitching continues to sparkle (remember all the bullpen woes of prior years) — —-we have to see if the offense can perform against the top tier teams, McLouth needs to pick it up or get benched, but finally ,Yunel seems to have found his swing. Tomorrow , hopefully, we will start playing better against NL East teams and grab first place from the Phils.

NRBQ

May 30th, 2010
8:21 pm

Mark, I’ve been watching this team for an inordinate number of years. So how come I’ve never seen them sing their way out of a game?

Johnson & Schilling 01

May 30th, 2010
8:32 pm

Still waiting for Melky, Mclouth, and Chipper to come around. Seems like McCann is starting to get his act together, and Yunel is getting hot after averaging .200 baseball..and dont even know what to say about Nate. You’d like to think he would start getting in a groove..but starting to get discouraged. Dont wanna see him drop a pop up in centefield like a couple weeks ago..thats the last thing we need to see from him..is his defense slippin. But wow..if Chipper gets in a groove, McCann stays hot..Yunel keeps it up..Heyward keeps performing like he is..and the pitching does well..this team will be scary! We dont need Roy Oswalt..even though he would like to be a Brave. Would do it if the Astros take Lowe, and a prospect and possibly some money..( Lowe has a huge contract)..but if they dont take Lowe off our hands..we dont need Roy..once we get Jurrgens back ..that will be like acquiring a top pitcher at the mid way point! Everyone was sayin trade for Adrian Gonzalez, because Glaus sucks! Well Glaus is having the last laugh now! We would deplete our farm system even more..and already have Freddie Freeman..who will be a stud in the future. However i will say , a extra bat would be huge..could let go of one our pitchers in the farm system with our surplus of young talent..if we get the right bat! Keep it up Braves..Bring on the Phils..and the Beach Boys for that matter. I didnt know Kevin Love..a good basketball player who was in his second year with the Minnesota Twolves and went to UCLA had a uncle who is in the Beach Boys..but than again they are before my era..being 22 and all. Also was nice to see a good attendance in Atlanta today..considering the weather, everything goin on in Atlanta this weekend, Memorial Day weekend and also those fans..for the pirates.!!

Corey Weaver

May 30th, 2010
8:41 pm

Joe Simpson only speculated in today’s game that the Philies’ offensive worries started around the time they were caught with the binoculars. Just sayin’.

Joen Fagan

May 30th, 2010
8:45 pm

You can count on Bobby to always do the same thing. Leave a pitcher in who had sat on base for many minutes instead of resting between innings and who had a win he really needed. The Pittsburgh homer in the next inning was a sure thing.