Live from Philly: The Braves approach Game 3 in a jolly mood

Nate McLouth will again be stationed in left field for tonight's game. (AP photo)

Nate McLouth will again be stationed in left field for tonight's game. (AP photo)

Philadelphia – The Braves seemed in fine spirits Wednesday afternoon. Players were sitting in the visiting clubhouse laughing over a Will Farrell sketch from “Saturday Night Live.” Bobby Cox had his managerial feet propped on the desk in his office, and he was mock-cringing over the notion of yet another Farewell Ceremony about to be staged in his honor.

In sum, the Braves weren’t glum. They’d lost the first two games of the series, but they had one more to play. And then they’d hop on their chartered Amtrak car for the haul down to D.C. for a weekend series against the Washington Nationals. And then they’d be done with this final road swing of 2010.

Asked if his team needed to win Wednesday, Cox said: “We need to have a good road trip. I look at road trips.”

Also this: “We win one here and a couple in Washington and we’re 7-2 or 6-3 on the trip. Every day is a big day.”

The Braves came to work trailing the Phils by five games in the National League East but still atop the wild-card standings. Someone wondered if Cox had stayed up late Tuesday awaiting the pertinent late scores from the West Coast. He said he hadn’t. Then someone else asked when Cox would start staying up late for such results.

“Hopefully we never have to,” he said, and he laughed.

People on the outside never seem to understand about baseball men: They’re not brooders. They see every day as a fresh chance. In Cox’s mind, the Braves hadn’t embarrassed themselves in the two losses here. “I think we’ve made it a ballgame,” he said, speaking of Games 1 and 2. “Our starter went four innings the first night and 2 1/3 last night, and we still had a chance.”

Wednesday figured to be better, if for no other reason than that the Braves weren’t set to deploy a rookie pitcher. The Game 3 starter was to be Tommy Hanson — a second-year man. And if you’re wondering whether Cox has been kicking himself about not shuffling his rotation for this series the way the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel did … don’t even start.

“That’s not even a second-guess,” Cox said. “There are reasons why you don’t do things.”

Such reasons presumably included the need to keep a tiring rotation on regular rest. And certainly no one could have foreseen the need to sub the rookie Brandon Beachy for Jair Jurrjens as Monday’s starter at the last minute. Neither Beachy nor Mike Minor could offset their Philadelphia counterparts, but Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay were so unyielding — between them they worked 15 innings, yielding four earned runs — that it mightn’t have made any difference who pitched for the Braves.

A writer asked if Cox had sought to impress on his men the need to “step up” in the series closer. Cox laughed. “How do you ’step up’?” he said. “If that’s the secret, then we’re 162-0.”

This is baseball, not football. This is baseball, a game played daily, as opposed to weekly, a game of skill and precision, as opposed to strength and passion. Trying harder doesn’t make a baseball team play better. If anything, the Braves seem to be trying too hard. How else to explain Brian McCann being thrown out at third base trying to advance on a sacrifice fly Tuesday night?

So maybe it’s true: Maybe laughter really is the best medicine. The Braves were laughing as they prepared and Cox was laughing as he entertained a host of national writers, and a team desperate for a victory didn’t seem desperate in the slightest.

And if a wild card is to be this team’s destiny … well, the old skipper wouldn’t toss back that parting gift, either. Said Cox: “I wouldn’t mind seeing a ‘WC’ up on the wall of our ballpark.”

And with that, the figurative floor has again been opened for questions, comments and tips on how to better play sound fundamental baseball. I’ll be honored to share yet another night with y’all, and it could be an extended one. There are storms in the forecasts. So get our your umbrellas and join me, won’t you?

1,058 comments Add your comment

Pete

September 22nd, 2010
5:14 pm

Ummmmmm….. Bobby? Your ship is taking on water. You better abandon it NOW!

Reality

September 22nd, 2010
5:14 pm

The Reality is, I’m first. WHAT UP

Reality

September 22nd, 2010
5:14 pm

And by first I meant second.

Mark (a different one)

September 22nd, 2010
5:15 pm

Why mess up a rotation that still has to see Phil again next week? I agree with his approach, just not the results.

Reality

September 22nd, 2010
5:15 pm

(Which, ironically, is what we were meaning all year when we said we’d get first in the division, I suppose)

Herschel Talker

September 22nd, 2010
5:17 pm

MB:

They really need to win 2 of the remaining 4 on this trip. Assuming they lose tonight, anything less than 2 out of 3 in Washington is going to cause a lot of pain.

HT

CSpin

September 22nd, 2010
5:20 pm

Again, well said MB. Thanks for being an opiate to the masses.

Sioux Falls

September 22nd, 2010
5:23 pm

What do the Phillies have planned for Bobby for tonight’s Farewell Ceremony?

Pete

September 22nd, 2010
5:23 pm

The reality is that the Braves over achieved. Next, the Braves are losing tonight and then they get to slither down to D.C. to face a team that JUST took 2 of 3 from them at Turner Field.

Bobby

September 22nd, 2010
5:27 pm

Any word on shutting Minor down for the remainder of the season and either putting Beachy in his spot or going with a 4 man rotation the rest of the way (considering they have the next 2 Thursdays off)?

Sons of Rick Matula

September 22nd, 2010
5:29 pm

Magnificent line from the skipper on “stepping up.” He’s a good baseball man.

michael033

September 22nd, 2010
5:33 pm

For those who can’t understand why people bash Bobby Cox… and can’t understand why people are frustrated with Bobby’s style of managing.
I submit exhibit A: in his own words above
“A writer asked if Cox had sought to impress on his men the need to “step up” in the series closer. Cox laughed. “How do you ’step up’?” he said. “If that’s the secret, then we’re 162-0.”

I understand he went on to say it’s not football and high emotions are not good for baseball… blah, blah. blah.

This is EXACTLY his problem in every critical series down the stretch, playoffs and world series his entire career. And exactly why with all the talent we have had on the Braves for the last 20 years, we only have 1 Championship. So thank you Bobby for explaining yourself for all to see!

Will

September 22nd, 2010
5:34 pm

Was fairly certain Braves were gonna get swept this series anyways so hopefully they can at least hold onto the wild card lead tonight

Mike

September 22nd, 2010
5:36 pm

This is the second time I’ve seen the McCann sac fly thing today in the AJC. With no outs or two outs you don’t try to get to third. Certainly if the sac fly is the second out.

I didn’t see the play to know how deep the fly ball was, but you ALWAYS try to get to third with one out if possible.

Can we send a baseball writer to Philly?

Jim Grogan

September 22nd, 2010
5:37 pm

After 152 games the Braves have the second best record in the National League. If you can’t be proud of that, you’re not being realistic. I’m delighted with the effort from Frank Wren on through the Coaches and the players. This is the most interesting year in the last 40, with new faces, trades, rookies from nowhere, the saga of Bobby and Chipper, and now the drama of the final 10 games. I hope that the baseball Gods smile on my beloved Braves and on Bobby Cox, because we’ll likely never have a better man or a better group to cheer for. If they play they’re best and get some breaks, we’ll see the Phillies again in the NLCS, and I’d LOVE that chance, to hopefully play the Yankees again and end Bobby’s career with a 7 game World Series win! Go BRAVES!!

Dr. Phil

September 22nd, 2010
5:39 pm

I have followed the Braves, off and on, mostly on, since they came to Atlanta. They will always be my team. They have played above their ability level at times this year and still have a chance at the wildcard, but they really need a win tonight. Let’s go Braves!

Chief pitchanono

September 22nd, 2010
5:42 pm

Just more reason to believe. This team shouldn’t be hang’n there heads, This season is not over and in the end Bobby may be in line for another Manager of the Year award. Its true this team has overachieved, but yet here we are at the end of the season with a handfull of wins between us and the playoffs. Be thankfull fans, this is the most exciting September baseball we’ve had in Atlanta in years. Go Braves!!

Arkie

September 22nd, 2010
5:43 pm

Cox is very close to our Braves not making the play-offs. Why would you not adjust your pitching to have your best available for the Phillies. Neither Beachy nor Minor are going to win a MUST game. Our young pitching may SOMEDAY be good, but they need experience and confidence that will come next year by pitching at the NL level. If you cannot throw strikes by hitting corners and stay ahead on the ball strike count, major leaque hiters will make you pay.

Phillies, Class of Mom's Basement

September 22nd, 2010
5:43 pm

The Braves are DONE!! Also, that picture of Schultz on the Sack-a-Schultz page is rather effervescent. Which team is Schultz batting for anyway??

michael033

September 22nd, 2010
5:44 pm

Mike- with all due respect… you didn’t see it and obviously didn’t know the situation.
McCann was the tying run and 0 outs runners on 2nd & 3rd when the fly ball was hit to slightly deeper than average to just left of center.

In general you are correct that you try to get the 3rd to have a much better chance of scoring the run from 3rd.

McCann was thrown out by 10 feet and never even made it to the bag. And we were facing Halliday.

It was awful! and it totally deflated the Braves in that inning and their chances. Phillies score the next inning…

Heath

September 22nd, 2010
5:44 pm

“it mightn’t have made any difference who pitched for the Braves.”

I think this is their thinking. May as well save your best arms for the next series and try to lock of that wild card.

Robert

September 22nd, 2010
5:44 pm

Not at all surprising that Cox has no clue of how to get a team to step up – and no concept of the need to step up

The man demonstrated his idiocy for all to see

schmitty

September 22nd, 2010
5:45 pm

Cox is vastly overrated. He won 1 WS even with all that talent and money for a decade and a half. Maddux takes 2nd place in the overrated dept. Besides only 1 WS, Maddux was a phony because the umps somehow thought they should expand the plate by 6 inches on each side. I know another Maddux who would be in the hall of fame with that help: Mike.

Einstein

September 22nd, 2010
5:46 pm

Let’s go Bravos! Pretend this is April and you’re at home and you’re playing the Gwinett Braves. Let’s go Bobby! Sit McOut on the bench and play Freeman, and please give Moylan and Venters a rest. Thank you.

Phredd

September 22nd, 2010
5:47 pm

well said MB! Baseball is a marathon and the looser these guys play the better.

JD

September 22nd, 2010
5:48 pm

McCann made a mistake baserunning…maybe his first this year…I can deal with it. The whole team is trying to do too much. What I can’t deal with is McCann throwing into center field almost every throw. And the ill-timed passed balls…and the backhanded stabs of ball in the dirt…being a good-guy and all it seems he eludes critisism of these incredibly bad defensive “skills”.

mudcat

September 22nd, 2010
5:48 pm

Extremely well said Mr. Grogan.

bruce mac

September 22nd, 2010
5:50 pm

Just win 7 out of remaining 10 and all will be good. Ole Bobby can get on Fox one more time and maybe get ejected for good measure. He is pretty cool the way he treats the media idiots but Braves need a new cruise director IMO. His time has come and gone.

JD

September 22nd, 2010
5:52 pm

Mr Grogan: A fantasy even Walt Disney would be leery of producing…

Pete

September 22nd, 2010
5:52 pm

I’ve taken my shots at Bobby Cox but don’t think he’s stupid. He’s saving Hudson for the Nats and then hoping the Phils clinch early so they rest their players during the last 3 agmes.

Largo

September 22nd, 2010
5:52 pm

The dream is over, wake up guys.

michael033

September 22nd, 2010
5:53 pm

JD- while McCann’s baserunning mistake was a complete bonehead move….
I do agree with what you said about his defensive play. And i like him.
But something is obviously wrong with his eyes.

IlliniBrave

September 22nd, 2010
5:54 pm

Kinda tired of hearing how we have a “patchwork” roster, filled with “marginal” players.

Take a look at today’s lineup, and you’ll see that except for Ankiel and Hanson every player has been an All-Star. And those two, along with Eric Hinske and almost certainly Heyward, were in the top-three for Rookie-of-the-Year.

Given the budgetary constraints, I think that Wren and the Braves have done pretty well in fielding a team with major-league talent. Not talent at the level of the Phillies or the Yankees – but solid talent nonetheless. In fact, our infield is about as good as any in baseball. And the pitching speaks for itself. Why can’t we be more appreciative of what we have here folks?

bruce mac

September 22nd, 2010
5:54 pm

Exactly Pete, that is our only hope but the idiots on here keep complaining about the match ups in the Philly series. I guess we really do have the dumbest fans known to man.

Einstein

September 22nd, 2010
5:55 pm

Pete,
I think you’re correct. Typical of Bobby trying not to lose rather than trying to win…filters on down to his players.

Mike

September 22nd, 2010
5:56 pm

Go Bravos!! IMHO I think the Phillies may have screwed up by letting us go against their Big 3 now and at the end of the year. When we play them in the NLCS (yes I said when not if) the pitchers still be fresh in the hitter’s mind whereas the Philly hitters haven’t seen our best in awhile.

Seinfeld

September 22nd, 2010
5:56 pm

Ketchup and Tomato on a burger are overrated too. Ketchup is made from tomatoes, pick one of them and move on already.

JD

September 22nd, 2010
5:56 pm

Thanks Michael…I love Mc…but he is killing us defensively…you walk a guy with any speed and he is on 3rd almost automatically…Additionally, something is physically wrong with Prado. Who has noticed he has stopped slamming his helmet and yelling at himself when he makes an out. Either he is really hurting or someone high up told him to modify his attitude (which is a mistake) we need some fire on this team like Klesko used to have…comments?

Seinfeld

September 22nd, 2010
5:58 pm

What’s the DEAL with the wild card? It isn’t wild and it isn’t a card!

Keith

September 22nd, 2010
6:01 pm

The reality is….and yes, I’m a positive thinker.

Philly brought their best – Halladay and Hamels. We just happened to have our worst (bad timing, yep, on JJ) – Beachy and Minor…and it was played at their park.

Reality is that one less defensive miscue and we’re still tied 1-1 in the bot of the 9th….a couple of miscues last night and who knows?

Once we have our best going head-to-head in a 7 game series, I think we have a good chance to maybe win. :)

Keith

September 22nd, 2010
6:01 pm

Bradley, my post in the last few seconds didn’t post correctly.

Petro

September 22nd, 2010
6:02 pm

Jim Grogan – Seriously? This team is the most interesting in the last 40 years? We’re you in a coma from 91′ to 05′? You had 3 – 20 game winners in 1 year, won a WS in 95′ and yet THIS is the most interesting team?

JD

September 22nd, 2010
6:04 pm

LOL Petro…Mr grogan is 8

JT

September 22nd, 2010
6:04 pm

While I am not a Cox fan, the Phillies have been red hot. We need to get into the PLAYOFFS any way we can. We go on the road to play three against the Mets, the Philles and the Nationals. Any of you geniuses want to guess which ones we have a better chance of winning? You knew we were not going to score a lot of runs against the Phillies. Why waste our best pithchers in a “my dad can beat up your dad” contest?

southern hope

September 22nd, 2010
6:05 pm

Great column Mark…..and, I gotta tell ya, I’d 100% rather have a team like the current Braves than one that’s sitting around & brooding & looking at powerpoints of how to run bases….

Reid Adair

September 22nd, 2010
6:07 pm

You don’t change your pitching rotation at this point in the season – especially with one more series remaining with Philadelphia. You run them out there when they’re supposed to be out there; people who want to blame Bobby Cox for two rookie pitchers having their turn come up in the first two games at Philadelphia are wrong.

I am glad to hear Cox is remaining positive. He made a very accurate statement the other day when he said this is the hardest-working team he’s had. They’ve had to be to even be in contention at this point. Once again, look at what Frank Wren gave him to work with – Nate McLouth, Kenshin Kawakami, Troy Glaus, Melky Cabrera, Derrek Lee and Rick Ankiel.

Headley Lamar

September 22nd, 2010
6:07 pm

Cmon Dodgers

PhillyPhanatic

September 22nd, 2010
6:08 pm

First of all, I want to congratulate the Braves for having a great year. That said, I don’t think you are going to see Philly back off in the last three games if they haven’t locked up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Certainly the Braves can appreciate the value of home field advantage.. the Braves have the best home field record in the National League.

JD

September 22nd, 2010
6:08 pm

Messing up our rotation (a strength) and adding that to our streaky, pop gun batting and our little league defense would not have been a good idea.

Headley Lamar

September 22nd, 2010
6:11 pm

That said, I don’t think you are going to see Philly back off in the last three games

Wouldnt want them to back off.