Live from Game No. 162: Fredi tries, gently, to rally his Braves!

Is darkness about to descend on the 2011 Atlanta Braves? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Is darkness about to descend on the 2011 Atlanta Braves? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

You wanted a team meeting? Fredi Gonzalez convened (a brief) one after Tuesday’s game. “He let his feelings be known,” Chipper Jones said, but now I offer this warning:

You’re going to be disappointed.

The Braves’ manager did not hurl invective or furniture. What he said was essentially what he told the press moments later. “I told them I wouldn’t pick another bunch of guys to go out and win one game,” Gonzalez said. “I also told them to get a nice sleep and come out ready tomorrow.”

Then: “It wasn’t like Knute Rockne. But maybe 50 years from now it’ll be in a book of great speeches.”

When you’ve handed back an 8 1/2-game lead and there’s only one game to go, what else is there to say? “If we blow this, you’re all fired”? (Those pesky longterm contracts might mitigate against such a purge.) “Take two and hit to right”? (Sounds like something the hitting coach should have been saying.) “You’re a bunch of choking dogs — now go relax and win this game”? (A bit of a mixed message, eh?)

It’s Game No. 162, you’re can’t install the Wishbone. And if you’re wondering why Fredi G. didn’t try to incite his men … well, these are grown men. They know what they need to do.

Chipper said Wednesday that the city of Atlanta was ready to box these players’ ears. (Or words to that effect.) Someone noted that at least such venom showed this city cares. Said Jones: “We care, too. Nobody cares more than we do. We just need to batten down the hatches and give ourselves a chance.”

Of his manager, Jones said: “I just don’t know what strings he can pull. It’s up to the players to put up good at-bats and up to the pitchers to put up zeroes.”

Of the Braves’ inability to score (four runs in the past four games), Jones said: “We have picked an inopportune time to make outs with runners in scoring position.”

Here he smiled. Baseball can be such a simple game. “If we could control when we struggle and when we’re hot, the game would be pretty easy.”

Nobody disputes that these Braves have made this much harder than it should have been. At the same time, they haven’t quite blown it yet. They’ve got Tim Hudson working tonight, and he’s the guy you’d want taking the ball even if Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson were hale and hearty. And the Cardinals will be facing a hot pitcher.

“We’re big Brett Myers fans,” Chipper said, speaking of Houston’s starter. “He went to my high school. I’m hoping for some Bolles mojo.”

The Braves didn’t appear a beaten team beforehand. They went about their pregame business the way they usually go about their pregame business. And Gonzalez sounded utterly upbeat in an extended media session.

He had, he said, packed “all the way through Sunday night.” If a one-game playoff with the Cardinals is required, the Braves will depart tonight. Should they win in St. Louis, they’d head for Milwaukee or Phoenix. Did Fredi pack attire for both the Midwest and the desert?

“They’re both indoor stadiums,” he said. “Besides, I don’t have that kind of wardrobe.”

The big news of the afternoon: Shortstop Alex Gonzalez could, his manager said, miss up to two weeks with a calf injury. Jack Wilson will start in his stead and bat eighth tonight. And batting seventh with be the right-handed hitting Matt Diaz; Jason Heyward has been omitted from the starting lineup for Game No. 162 — even though the Phillies are deploying righthander Joe Blanton.

Fredi’s reasoning: Blanton is actually more effective against lefties than righties — the numbers underscore the point — and Philly plans to bring in lefty Cole Hamels after three innings, which would force the Braves to pinch-hit early if Heyward started.

Gonzalez: “We’ve got a lineup capable of grinding out a group of at-bats.”

And that, assuming some of the at-bats conclude with hits, would be a good thing. And these Braves weren’t acting as if they were looking for a soft place to plop down. They want to keep playing. They want to win. I think they’ll be playing in St. Louis tomorrow night. So does their manager.

Asked if his team would win tonight, Gonzalez said: “Yes. We’re going to go out and play the best baseball game we can play.”

That might be enough. It might not. That’s why they play the game. “Hopefully at about 10:30 or so we’ll be shaking hands and seeing what’s happening with the Astros and Cardinals,” Gonzalez said.

And I’ll be here until we know what’s what, baseball-wise. I ask you to join me as Game No. 162 unfolds. I thank you, as ever, in advance.

By Mark Bradley

1,908 comments Add your comment

1990_Champs_GT

September 28th, 2011
5:43 pm

I’ll believe it when I see it…

1990_Champs_GT

September 28th, 2011
5:44 pm

And first that was my first ever “first.”

1990_Champs_GT

September 28th, 2011
5:45 pm

Mailed in all the way from Arkansas!

KB in Cumming

September 28th, 2011
5:49 pm

You know 1990_Champs_GT…I’m a long time GT fan and I said the same thing about the 1990 GT football team. I saw it and then believed, and I hope to be shown again…Go get’em Braves!!!

O'Brien

September 28th, 2011
5:49 pm

Mark,

Regardless of what happens, do you think the Braves should replace their hitting coach this offseason?

Prado's NOT a 3rd baseman

September 28th, 2011
5:51 pm

GENTLY? thats the problem, no FIRE! someone needs to get pissed & break some stuff, if Bobby was still manager he would be cussing out somebody, lets show some passion guys

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
5:51 pm

Yes, O’Brien, I do.

Brave4life- Have faith!!!

September 28th, 2011
5:51 pm

Mark Bradley—-Predict what happens tonight

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
5:52 pm

Kudos, 1990_Champs_GT.

Brave4life- Have faith!!!

September 28th, 2011
5:52 pm

Mark Bradley

What happens tonight?

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
5:53 pm

I did predict, Have faith!!!

Speedy Gonzalez ( Fredis cousin)

September 28th, 2011
5:54 pm

Bravos counting on a 100+ loss team to help them out…… sad state of affairs :( Chop Chop NOT!

Brave4life- Have faith!!!

September 28th, 2011
5:55 pm

Mark Bradley

Any idea on the attendance tonight? sold out?

1eyedJack

September 28th, 2011
5:57 pm

I believe Parrish has to go. You don’t take talent like Heyward and have him regress. He don’t seem to have done much for the rest of the lineup either.

Ben. L

September 28th, 2011
5:59 pm

I think the key to tonights game is getting on base, and that starts at the top with bourn, he has to get on early and often, cause if we cant trust chipper to drive em in, we got no shot, GO BRAVES, i still believe

Telfo

September 28th, 2011
6:00 pm

Heyward has the highest OBP on the team this month and he should be in the lineup over Diaz regardless of the pitcher. I hope this debacle gets Fredi and Larry Parrish fired but i’m not holding my breath.

Parrish has to go at a minimum. Braves went from the highest OBP team in the NL last year to this crap.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
6:01 pm

Putting runners on base is a key to every game, Ben. L. But so is actually driving them in.

Worm

September 28th, 2011
6:01 pm

Bunch of tired arms.Might bode well for Hudson’s sinker…Braves best start quick or the noose will become tighter.

BCC0224

September 28th, 2011
6:02 pm

Jack Wilson = Cousin Oliver.
He’s a jinx!

BCC0224

September 28th, 2011
6:05 pm

And Mr. Bradley, if the Braves have a 50 game division lead, please don’t write an article about how the Braves aren’t going to blow it.

I love your columns & your writing, but this will be two years in a row, sir.

Ben. L

September 28th, 2011
6:06 pm

How is the atmosphere in the locker room? The Braves always make it seem like each game is equally important, finding a way to usually forget about the night before result, which is a great mindset, don’t get me wrong. But does this feel like more of a playoff game then just a regular season game?

Dripping Sarcasm

September 28th, 2011
6:07 pm

Hello everyone, Welcome to “Choker Field” aka the “Choke House”, the “Choke” or just the “Flop”. Tonight the Philadelphia Phillies will take on our Atlanta Cowards(opposite of Braves) or the Atlanta Chokers. Here’s our winning lineup for tonight:

1. CF Michael “can’t steal first” Bourn
2. LF Martin “solo homer” Prado
3. 3B Chipper “don’t have any more clutch hits left in me” Jones
4. 2B Dan “swing for the fence” Uggla
5. 1B Freddie “i’ve done everything I can to win ROY” Freeman
6. C Brian “swing at everything” McCann
7. RF Matt “I can’t hit right handers” Diaz
8. SS Jack “I’ve never made the postseason” Wilson
9. P Tim “there’s no one on base to bunt over” Hudson

And our winning team is managed by Fredi “sticking with Derek Lowe no matter what” Gonzalez

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
6:09 pm

It feels like a big regular-season game.

Drew

September 28th, 2011
6:10 pm

After just watching the Steve Bartman Doc last night, if the braves blow this. Who will we remember has the person or persons that blew it?

Willthethrill

September 28th, 2011
6:11 pm

Huddy will come up big tonight!! Go Braves!!!!

O'Brien

September 28th, 2011
6:11 pm

Agreed Mark. It would have been one thing if Parrish had a reputation as a good hitting coach. but Bourn has regressed since he came over, Uggla has had his struggles, and BMac, Prado, and Heyward are having horrible years.

P Rose

September 28th, 2011
6:13 pm

“I think they’ll be playing in St. Louis tomorrow night.” Curses! The Bradley Jinx is on!

O'Brien

September 28th, 2011
6:13 pm

Agreed Mark (although I didn’t like the hire in the first place).

I have no issues with Fredi coming back though

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
6:13 pm

The OBP percentage crash is the biggest indictment of Parrish.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
6:14 pm

Fredi will be back. Can’t imagine that not happening.

BFS

September 28th, 2011
6:15 pm

I’m sorry…who are these “Braves” everyone is talking about. I thought baseball season was over.

Todd Grantham's choke sign

September 28th, 2011
6:15 pm

Maybe Fredi Gonzalez should give the hit sign today instead of the choke sign

hey mark

September 28th, 2011
6:16 pm

since i cant post at your buddies schultie’s blog any more (he didnt like my comparing him to congressmen vetter of diaper prostitute fame) let me propose this explanation as to why the braves have tanked.

imo it goes back to an article that chipper jones had where he said that the braves matched up well with the phillies and the braves could take them in the post season.

never mind that the braves had a ton of games left to play including 3 with the phillies.

i think that chipper’s putting the horse before the cart pissed off every single team left on the schedule including the phillies.

it would not surprise me if that same article was used as bulletin board material for every series since that fateful day.

the braves have been losing ever since.

i put the blame squarely on loud mouthed chipper.

J-Man

September 28th, 2011
6:19 pm

Too Bland and Too Late

Heyward grounds out to second

September 28th, 2011
6:19 pm

I predict Huddy pitches seven, and we pull it out. Maybe wrong, but we’ve got to jump on top of Blanton quickly, I agree with Worm. If we don’t then Hamels comes in, we could be very screwed.

Need to get guys on, drive them in and hit with authority and not roll over and die like we’ve been doing.

Let’s do this! I have for some reason a good feeling about the Astros tonight. Their starter has been shutdown and Carpenter is terrible against the Stros at Enron…. I mean Minute Maid.

Go Braves!!!

Let’s turn this around now!

I really don’t wanna get my hopes up again especially after losing that first game in the series. That was just miserable, blowing that game. At the same time, if you have no hope, you have no chance even with these slumping guys that have really made me upset lately, but that I do love with all my heart.

NorCalBrave

September 28th, 2011
6:19 pm

I too think the Braves win tonight; Cards will win, as well. Tomorrow? We can’t overcome a raucous crowd in St. Louis, blow several scoring opportunities, and the team that’s outplayed us for weeks goes on as the WC

Robert

September 28th, 2011
6:20 pm

Mark, if insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, what does it say about me that I will settle into my sofa tonight to watch the Braves?

Dutch

September 28th, 2011
6:20 pm

Poor Leo Mazzone got jolted out of his comfort zone today by Chuck and Chernoff before the Braves regular pre-game rally with the station’s other cheerleaders…One-Hit Buck, the Lemmer and the “legendary” Chuck Dowdle. The old guy didn’t know what to do or say when confronted with some stats and objectivity–so he got mad and pouted.

Heyward grounds out to second

September 28th, 2011
6:23 pm

I think Huddy does well tonight. But the bats are going to be the key. We gotta score early, gotta score often. We need a four run cushion at least.

But if we don’t score early, then Hamels will come in and we’ll be screwed. We gotta get on top and stay on top.

Enough of this slump. Let’s turn this around guys!

It’s hard for me to get my hopes up, but without no hope, there’s no point in watching. And as much as this team has made me tear my hair out down the stretch, I can’t abandon them.

Let’s do this! No more choking, come out big and make a statement that we’re not going to roll over.

Steve

September 28th, 2011
6:25 pm

Mark, not to be negative (I am a huge Braves fan) but do you really see this team doing anything at all even if they do get into the playoffs? I just don’t see it with this injuries. Are there really no other options besides Wilson at SS? Seems like another Norton.

SSIgator

September 28th, 2011
6:25 pm

O’Brien -

“Regardless of what happens, do you think the Braves should replace their hitting coach this offseason?”

The Braves have a hitting coach?

Two face

September 28th, 2011
6:27 pm

Have fun at your last baseball game of the year Mark.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
6:27 pm

Not to sound like Pollyanna, but the playoffs are a different game. Weird things happen. I wouldn’t give the Braves much chance on the face of it … but I’d give them no chance if they don’t qualify.

Mark Bradley

September 28th, 2011
6:28 pm

To wit: In 2004 Boston trailed the Yankees 3-0 and faced elimination in the ninth inning against the best closer ever. The Red Sox won that night and won every night the rest of the way. Who saw that happening?

Sonny Clusters

September 28th, 2011
6:29 pm

“Batten down the hatches, pull some strings, and put up some zeroes” . . . Chipper must be a fascinating interview. Well, let’s hope he will field his position and drive in some runs tonight.

SSIgator

September 28th, 2011
6:29 pm

Mark Bradley -

UGA football and the Braves seem to be in a race to the bottom. Who gets there first?

Bob

September 28th, 2011
6:29 pm

Nice positive article, Mark. I believe the problem is the Cox Culture: No starting pitcher past the 6th, wear out the bullpen, play over-the-hill/underachieving vets instead of talented rookies, always going for that three run homer, etc., same old, same old. I think it’s time (past time) to cut ties and clean house.

Harris

September 28th, 2011
6:29 pm

Have they lost 5 in a row this season? Would be fitting if they haven’t to do it on the last game!

Harris

September 28th, 2011
6:31 pm

Mark the difference is those teams had an offense. The braves rarely, like 10% of the time, have a late reg season or post season offense.

Nut Job

September 28th, 2011
6:32 pm

Come on Mark…you can’t be serious about Parrish leaving. You think Chipper or McCann listen to Lance? Its the most overrated position in Major League baseball. These are the thoughts of clueless people who have no idea about how things operate. Get real and get a clue