Posts Tagged ‘Braves’

Don’t look now, but the Bravos are back in this thing!

They’re back in it. We can’t know if they’re going to win it, but they’re in it. The Braves went 6-4 on their loudest homestand in years, and if 6-4 doesn’t sound all that hot, let’s recall they were 2-4 as of Sunday morning. Let’s also recall that only five days ago a lot of us figured they’d wind up 2-8.

But they didn’t. They roused themselves and played at a higher level than we had seen since Memorial Day, which not coincidentally marked the last time they had won a series. Back then they swept the Blue Jays, who were leading the AL East. This time they swept the reigning World Series champs, who arrived leading the NL East but who depart in a first-place tie.

The Florida Marlins are now co-leaders, and the Braves, while still in fourth place, are only two games back. Talk about exquisite timing. Lose three to the Phils and they would have been eight games out and surely looking to dump salary at month’s end. They’re not dumping anything now. They figure with their …

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Live from the ballpark: The mighty Bako and my U-turn

I’m headed to the ballpark for Game 3 of Braves-Phils. Actually, I headed for the ballpark at 8:55 p.m. last night but never made it. Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of my fateful trip …

Last night I endeavored to do absolutely nothing, and I was successfully negotiating my mission — hadn’t looked at the computer in three hours — when I happened to pick up MY NEW IPHONE. And I noticed, via the ESPN scoreboard app, the Braves were leading the Phillies 9-1. Then I noticed the Phillies didn’t have a hit through 5 2/3 innings. I waited until the third out in the top of the sixth was made, and I called the office and said, “If Jurrjens throws a no-hitter, can we take a column for print?”

Yes, came the answer. And I swung, as it were, into action. Put on blue jeans, sandals and the same Led Zeppelin T-shirt from Wolfgang’s Vault — it has an iPhone app, too — I was wearing when I drove to the ballyard at 9:15 on a Friday night in September 2007 because the office called …

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The Hot Button: Should the Braves trade Yunel Escobar?

Yunel Escobar is, shall we say, a different sort of Brave. He has blond highlights in his hair. He doesn’t always pay attention. He has a temper and is given to the sulks. He has yet to respond to the gentle urgings of Bobby Cox, which have become less gentle over time.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Braves “are willing to trade Escobar for a good hitter right now.” (Link requires registration.) But I don’t think they will. Nor do I believe they should. Because Yunel Escobar is a different sort of Brave in another way:

He can really hit. And he can really play.

The Braves have become so skilled at siphoning off higher-maintenance types that they have lesser tolerance for one than do, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers. But sometimes a higher level of maintenance isn’t just needed but advisable. Some guys are worth the trouble. John Rocker was not. Yunel Escobar is.

He’s a great talent who comes with an inherent disconnect. He doesn’t speak much English. (He’s from …

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Your attention, please: Braves have a new second sacker

You know dumb ol’ Bobby Cox? The manager who never changes his mind? The one who wouldn’t give up on Kelly Johnson as his second baseman no matter how little he hit?

Bobby Cox announced Tuesday night he has a new second baseman.

After Martin Prado had four hits (two singles, a double and a homer) and four RBIs (three to tie the game on three separate occasions, the fourth to win it in the 10th), Cox said: “Every time he’s in there, he does something good.”

So an enterprising journalist (blush) asked the manager: Is Prado your starting second baseman?

Should Martin Prado start at 2B the rest of the season?

  • Yes.
  • No.

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Said Cox: “Right now, yes. He’s too hot to take out, unless his groin flares up.”

Contrary to popular belief, Cox isn’t the world’s biggest idiot. (As we know, this enterprising journalist is the world’s biggest idiot.) He has seen his team not hit for what seems like forever, and he has seen the nudge Prado has provided. …

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After 75 forgettable games, Braves have one to remember

When you’ve played 75 games and nothing much has happened, you’re looking for that one good night. You’re looking for a start, a spark, a reason to keep hoping when you’re a good week away from even nosing above .500. Maybe this was that night. Maybe this was the start of something, if not quite big, then at least bigger than what we’ve seen.

The Braves blew a game against the reigning world champs and won it anyway. They won it because Gregor Blanco, who was playing only because Bobby Cox decided after batting practice that Nate McLouth shouldn’t, and Martin Prado, playing only because Kelly Johnson has forgotten how, mustered seven hits between them.

They won it because they outpitched the Phillies, which everyone does, and also outhit them, which you wouldn’t figure these Braves could ever do. They won it despite two horrendous pitches from Mike Gonzalez that turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit. They won it in the way the Braves used to win games all the time but this team …

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Live from the ballyard: Charlie Manuel reconsidered (by me)

I’m going to the Braves-Phillies game and will be doing another in our series of live chats — please note the Braves have lost the past two times we’ve tried this — but I’ll be a little late getting to the ballpark. We Digital folks at the ol’ AJC have a media coaching session this afternoon, and if you recall my encounter with the Mayor of Cleveland you know I need all the media coaching I can get.

In the interim, I’ve giving you folks a little homework. Read this story, by Mark Bechtel of Sports Illustrated, about Philly manager Charlie Manuel. When first I had occasion to speak with Mr. Manuel — back in 2007, as I recall — I walked away thinking, “He reminds me of Eddie Haas.” And that is not, I should stipulate, a comparison you’d want me to make about you.

But the Bechtel story — it’s terrific — opened my eyes, and it also made me feel a bit ashamed. If anybody should know the perils of drawing conclusions from background and appearances, it’s a guy who was, in the summer …

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The new Bobby Cox? He’s managing the Red Sox

Of Bobby Cox, I’ve maintained — sorry to be quoting my silly self here, but know no way around it — he’s the best manager I’ve ever seen and the best I’ll ever see. But now I’m thinking maybe only the first part applies.

Because Terry Francona has Bobby Cox written all over him, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment.

Francona manages the Red Sox, and that’s a job unlike any other in sports. “I don’t think anything prepares you for Boston,” Francona said Saturday, speaking before Game 2 of his team’s series at Turner Field. But then, in almost the same breath, he admitted that maybe something did help ready him for Red Sox Nation.

The Red Sox have and have had a slew of good players in Francona’s five-plus seasons — Manny, Big Papi, Pedro, Beckett, Schilling, Papelbon, Pedroia, even Nomar — but none of them was, is or will ever be the greatest athlete this manager has managed. See, Francona had Michael Jordan.

The year was 1994, and Jordan was a Birmingham Baron. …

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Braves’ solid-gold arms are undone by dime-store bats

If pitching is 75 percent — or 90 percent; estimates vary — of baseball, why are the Braves further under .500 than they’ve been all season?

Because the other 25 (or 10) percent of their team is worth about 10 cents.

Without meaning to say it, Brian McCann said it perfectly: “We’ve got to start playing better baseball.” Then he checked himself. “Not better baseball — we’ve got to swing the bats better.”

The Braves swing the bats just fine. It’s the hitting part that bumfuzzles them. They’ve scored one run in two games against the Red Sox, who have managed only five but have already won this loud and steamy series. Jair Jurrjens was rather good Friday night but wound up the loser. Javier Vazquez was nigh-great Saturday and got beaten 1-nil by a 42-year-old who throws about 42 mph.

The Braves mustered three singles against Tim Wakefield, who was knuckle-dusting the Braves in October 17 years ago, and Garret Anderson’s two-out double off the heat-bringing Johnathan …

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Live from the ballyard: Smoltzie and I avoid each other!

I spent about a half-hour in and around the Red Sox clubhouse, and I should tell you the Red Sox have a great vibe about them. Kind of like the old Braves, only a tad livelier, and nothing like the new Yankees, who come across as spoiled and surly. The Red Sox, I can report, have a splendid mix of guys.

And now you’re wondering: Amid this splendid mix, did I encounter My Favorite Pitcher in said clubhouse? Not really. (Nor did I go looking for him, or he, I feel sure, for me.) My Favorite Pitcher and I almost crossed paths when the Sox were preparing for batting practice, but we both turned our heads. (We’re really good at this, as you may know.)

I can also tell you I’m writing a little something for Sunday print — and for posting here later today — on Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whom I see as the New Bobby Cox. (And I mean that, Larry, as the highest possible compliment.) Francona is a delightful conversationalist, and we media types got to talking with him about Michael …

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A Lowe-down dirty shame – the Braves’ ace is in a hole

Two days ago I called Derek Lowe the Braves’ ace because that’s how I’ve come to see him. Alas, he’s not pitching like one. We can hope this is a momentary lapse, the kind every pitcher must endure and correct over the course of a six-month season. But the cold truth is that Lowe isn’t looking Lowe-like.

Over his past six starts he has yielded 48 hits and 24 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings. He has won once in a month. He has had to be removed in the middle of innings in his past three outings. His ERA has grown from 3.45 on May 23 to 4.53 today. Only once since he settled in as a big-league pitcher more than a decade ago has Lowe finished a season with an ERA that lofty.

This is, as I say, unlike him. And the reason Lowe isn’t being Lowe is because his famed sinker seems not to be sinking. Over his first 10 starts — six of them wins — he recorded 101 ground outs against 47 air outs. Over his past six starts — four of them losses — the ratio is 53 against 33.

You can say, “Well, …

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