Archive for the ‘Braves/MLB’ Category

Heat Check: Braves lose the NL East; Falcons haven’t lost

If you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

Well, if you're not going to win something, the division title is the thing not to win. (AP photo)

The regular Monday Heat Check was delayed because of logistics. It arrives today, and we can only hope that absence really did make the heart grow fonder.

BRAVES: They can’t catch Washington. They were eliminated from the divisional chase last night. That’s a disappointment, but — speaking of logistics — it might not be the worst thing in the world. The thought of having to play a division tiebreaker in D.C. on Thursday and then, if they were to lose, play the wild card elimination game here on Friday and then, if they were to win, start the best-of-five NLDS here on Sunday was rather daunting, not to to mention confusing. Forecast: The play-in game is a coin flip, but if the Braves prevail — and Kris Medlen hasn’t lost since May 23, 2010 — they’ll be a tough out. And I say that knowing full well they managed only two hits against Pittsburgh on Monday.

FALCONS: You can’t really …

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Chipper wasn’t the Braves’ first choice – just the best

He had something to do with a lot of those flags. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Chipper Jones had a lot to do with a lot of those flags out there. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Buzzard’s luck, one AJC writer called it. I  know. I was the writer, and I was describing the Braves’ plight in the 1990 draft. A forlorn franchise — its last winning season had been in 1983 — had finally been graced with the No. 1 overall pick, and the guy the Braves (and every other team) wanted most had scared them off.

So: Buzzard’s luck, which is what occurs when you can’t kill anything and nothing will die. Bobby Cox, then the Braves’ general manager, had spent the weekend before the draft in Texas, trying to convince the high school pitcher Todd Van Poppel to sign with the Braves. No sale. Van Poppel stuck to his stated position: He wanted to play college ball for the Texas Longhorns, meaning that any team drafting him would likely wind up with nothing.

Which, for an already forlorn franchise, would have been a new nadir: You get to exercise the No. 1 pick and you net a big fat …

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Why are these Braves playoff-bound? Credit steady Fredi

Chipper J. and Fredi G., awash in sweet victory. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Here are Chipper J. and Fredi G., awash in sweet victory. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Hours before Tuesday’s clinch that was, Fredi Gonzalez was asked about the clinch that wasn’t. How often in September 2012 had he reminded his men of September 2011?

“I haven’t,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve not mentioned it since spring training. And I don’t really remember what I said then.”

Even if the Braves’ manager had been inclined to offer a few words on the subject, what would they have been? Something inspirational? Something along the lines of, “Men, let’s try not to blow it this time”?

The only way to handle the disappointment of last season was — not to get all Zen on you — by handling it. Fredi Gonzalez, characterized by some as doing a Nero-on-his-fiddle number while his team burned to an epic collapsing crisp, hit every grace note this time. He kept it loose. He kept it steady. He did what a manager is paid to do.

Yeah, it helped that his team was healthier and that it has played a …

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Video: On the Braves and what making the playoffs means

Continue reading Video: On the Braves and what making the playoffs means »

A year after an epic collapse, the Braves offer an epic clinch

Marlins Braves Baseball

A night of deliverance, as delivered by that man Freddie. (AP photo by David Goldman)

They were characterized as choking dogs a year ago and, truth being the ultimate defense, they had no cause to sue for libel. They’d gone 9-18 in September and wasted an 8 1/2-game lead, finally losing the wild card in the 13th inning of the 162nd game. In the bitter days that followed, some among us wondered if this team could ever recover from a collapse so egregious.

Three hundred sixty-three days later, we got our answer. Yes, it could. Yes, it has.

The man who made the final out — the final two outs, having hit into a 3-6-3 double play — of  September 2011 hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to put the 2012 Atlanta Braves in the playoffs. “Probably the coolest thing ever,” Freddie Freeman said of his climactic blast to dead center field, and nobody felt moved to dispute the point.

Champagne flew afterward in the Braves’ clubhouse, and if you’re saying, “Champagne for a wild …

Continue reading A year after an epic collapse, the Braves offer an epic clinch »

Live from the Braves: There’s a wild card to be clinched

This is how it ended last season. It should go better this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This is how it ended last season. It should go better this time. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Three hundred sixty-three days after they last took the field with a chance to make the playoffs, the Braves are here again. The night of Sept. 28, 2011, went badly: They lost 4-3 to Philadelphia in 13 innings while the Cardinals were winning 8-0 in Houston, and the Braves went nowhere but home.

There’s reason to believe tonight will yield a better return. Kris Medlen is pitching, and the Braves haven’t lost a game he has started since May 23, 2010. The opponent is Miami, which quit on the season long ago and is apparently trying to decide who to fire when. But this is baseball, and as the famous philosopher/pitcher Joaquin Andujar once noted: “There is one word in America that says it all, and that word is ‘you never know.’ ”

The magic number for clinching a wild card is down to 1, so even if the Braves lose the deed would be done should both the Brewers and Dodgers lose. (The …

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Heat Check: Hot Falcons, hot Dawgs – and then there’s Tech

"Don't worry, guys. I know exactly what I'm doing." And he does. (AP photo)

"Don't worry, guys. I know exactly what I'm doing." And he does. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check finds that a warm front has settled over the area. With certain exceptions.

FALCONS: There are three unbeaten NFL teams. This is one. I’d argue that this has been the most impressive one, but sometimes I get carried away. Heat Index: How many times does a team fly across country on a short week and win a game by 24 points on a day it was slotted as a three-point underdog?

MATT RYAN: Leads the NFL in passing efficiency. Just presided over victories in which the opposing quarterbacks were Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. Heat Index: Yeah, it’s early. But he’s looking a bit like an MVP candidate, is he not?

GEORGIA: Beat Vanderbilt by 45 points and looked great doing it. And it’s not always easy to beat Vandy — ask South Carolina — or look good in the process. Heat Index: The comprehensive nature of Saturday’s victory recalled the Georgia teams of 2002-2004, when great talent was …

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Fantasy baseball: Could the Braves really catch the Nationals?

Does this look like a team in the early stages of collapsing? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Does this look like a team in the early stages of collapsing? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Washington holds a five-game lead over the Braves with 14 to play. (The Braves have 12 games remaining.) That’s still a sizable margin. But it’s not nearly as big as it was a week ago, when the Nationals were 8 1/2 games in front. And if you’re wondering if such a lead has ever been squandered in so short a time, the answer is yes. The 1964 Phillies, long the gold standard of flops, led by 6 1/2 with 12 to go.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering, “How far ahead of St. Louis were the 2011 Braves with 14 games remaining?”, the answer is 4 1/2 games. We know how that turned out.)

In sum, it can happen. Working against the Braves is that they don’t play Washington again. Working for them is that the schedules are imbalanced. All of the Nationals’ remaining games will come against Los Angeles, Milwaukee, St. Louis or Philadelphia — all of whom have reason to believe they can still make the …

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Heat Check: The Braves close in; Tech and UGA run wild

Pennant fever! Ger yer pennant fever right here! (AP photo)

Pennant fever! Ger yer pennant fever right here! (AP photo)

Is it just me, or do the local teams never lose? Our Heat Check examines.

BRAVES: Swept the team they’re chasing, so the season’s final 2 1/2 weeks might actually see a real chase. They’re 5 1/2 games back with 15 to go — the Nationals have 16 remaining — and if you’re wondering if such a thing could happen: Sure it could. The pholdin’ Phillies of 1964 led the National League by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play. Heat Index: Even if the Braves don’t catch Washington, they’ve still all but assured themselves a wild-card spot. And, assuming they’re indeed a wild card and assuming they win the play-in, they could well play the Nats in the Division Series, which would be a best-of-five with the first two games at Turner Field. (With the new playoff format, teams from the same division can meet in Round 1.)

FALCONS: Technically they haven’t played yet — that comes tonight — but they had a very good Sunday. The Saints are 0-2. …

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Heat Check: Keeping up with the Joneses (Julio and Jarvis)

Julio Jones celebrates with his quarterback, who apparently has mad hops. (AP photo)

The burgeoning Julio Jones celebrates with quarterback Matt Ryan, who apparently has mad hops. (AP photo)

Atlanta, city of winners! And our weekly Heat Check reflects as much.

FALCONS: Went to Missouri, faced an energized home team, still scored 40 points and won by 16. Heat Index: A mighty impressive opening victory.

GEORGIA: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but … went to Missouri, faced an energized home team, scored 41 points and won by 21. Heat Index: A mighty impressive road-opening victory.

JULIO JONES: Best receiver on the Falcons roster? Yes. Best receiver in Falcons history? Maybe. Best receiver in the NFL? Maybe soon. Heat Index: That draft-day trade looks better and better, does it not?

JARVIS JONES: Best defender in the SEC? Yes. Best in the country? Probably. Best in Georgia history? With apologies to Bill Stanfill, Jake Scott, Ben Zambiasi, Terry Hoage, Champ Bailey and David Pollack … yes, maybe. Heat Index: Tell me his fourth quarter in Columbia didn’t …

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