College football commences this week, with the NFL not far behind. Even so, our Heat Check begins with baseball.
BRAVES: A key week opened badly — the Braves lost the first two games in Washington to fall seven behind the Nationals — but ended rather better. The Nats dropped their next four, and the Braves won three of five to draw within 4 1/2 games. Better still, they won’t face another opponent that is currently above .500 until Sept. 14. Heat Index: Can’t really call a losing (3-4) week hot, but it could have been much worse.
SIX-MAN ROTATION: Well, that didn’t last long. Ben Sheets is on the disabled list, which is where Braves pitchers who stop pitching well land. So now there’s no real debate over who should be sent to the bullpen. Heat Index: This means Tommy Hanson will apparently stay in the rotation, which might not be a great thing. He has worked as many as six innings only once in his past six starts, and he was gone after 4 1/3 against the Giants on Thursday.
KRIS MEDLEN: Good thing they didn’t take my advice and dispatch him to the ‘pen, eh? He won Wednesday in D.C. to break the Braves’ four-game losing streak. It might have been the biggest game of the season. Heat Index: The Braves are 16-0 over Medlen’s past 16 starts, dating back to 2010. That qualifies as hot.
JASON HEYWARD: He was 11-for-28 (.393) against the top-shelf pitching of the Nats and the Giants. He hit four home runs (including one in each of the past three games) with eight RBIs. He also stole two bases. Heat Index: He is, in sum, the anti-Uggla.
DAN UGGLA: Went 2-for-19 on the week with no RBIs. Didn’t start two games, and the Braves, perhaps coincidentally, won both. Got thrown out on the bases twice in one game in D.C. That came one night after his bobble enabled the Nationals to score the winning run in extra innings. Heat Index: Is hitting .206.
FALCONS: They won their first exhibition game since 2010, which was no big deal. But it does mean we don’t have to read that they haven’t won an exhibition since 2010 any longer. Heat Index: Coaches will tell you that the only preseason game that comes close to mattering is the third, because that’s the one they treat as a regular-season dress rehearsal. The Falcons won their third exhibition 23-6 and did it on the road.
GEORGIA BULLDOGS: They open against the Buffalo Bulls. They’re favored by 37 points. They might be favored by 37 points against the Buffalo Bills. Heat Index: Because the Bills (not the Bulls) are coached by Chan Gailey, still winless against Georgia.t
GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: They open against Virginia Tech on Labor Day night. In Paul Johnson’s previous Blacksburg excursions, his team was tied with five minutes left but was undone by a late field goal off a drive aided by two penalties, and two years later his quarterback broke an arm and still the Jackets were tied until they surrendered a touchdown on a kickoff return with 2:23 remaining. Heat Index: If Georgia Tech yields another kickoff return for a touchdown, we’ll have a real special-teams coordinator to kick around this time.
DREAM: They’ve won three of five since the WNBA season resumed after its Olympic break, but Olympian Angel McCoughtry didn’t play in two games (both victories) last week and was used as a sub in their loss Saturday to the Minnesota Lynx. Heat Index: Why was McCoughtry missing? “I asked coach for a couple of days off to get myself together,” she told reporters Saturday.
By Mark Bradley