Tag:Braves
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:45 am
Edited on: September 24, 2010 12:23 pm
 

3 to watch: The Giant issue edition

Even if you count the Rockies as now basically out of the National League West -- the standings say they're in serious trouble, their recent history says who knows? -- the Giants' three games this weekend at Coors Field are a potentially huge obstacle to San Francisco's chances of winning the division.

Despite what happened Thursday at Wrigley Field (a nine-run inning, a 13-0 win), the Giants' path to first place in the West has been built almost totally on pitching. Including Thursday, they've now gone 17 games since they last allowed four runs, a streak that according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the longest by any team in a single season since the 1917 White Sox went 20 games in a row.

Now they go to Coors Field, where the Rockies have scored four or more in 19 of their last 21 games, and where the home team hits so well that some Giants apparently think the Rockies have been monkeying with the humidor process .

Since Coors Field opened in 1995, only five teams have gone through an entire three-game series without ever allowing four runs. All five of those series have come in the humidor era (which began in 2002), but it still comes down to one series a season -- and it hasn't happened yet this year.

And the Giants, despite all their pitching and despite three trips a year to Colorado, have never done it.

Maybe that's why the Giants haven't won a season series at Coors since 2005. They're 2-4 in the first six games this year, so they'd need a sweep to win this season series.

Given the Rockies' collapse on the road this week -- they couldn't hold a 6-1 lead Sunday in Los Angeles, then got swept in three games in Arizona -- the Giants don't necessarily need a sweep this weekend. Their lead over the Padres is only a half-game, but San Diego also faces a potentially tough series, at home against the Reds.

Besides, the Giants' head-to-head showdown with the Padres next weekend will be at AT&T Park, where the Giants have allowed just 16 runs in their last nine games.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Tim Lincecum hasn't won at Coors Field since May 20, 2008. Then again, Lincecum hadn't won anywhere for a month before his 2-1 win over the Rockies on Sept. 1 in San Francisco. He's been very good the entire month, and maybe that means he'll win at Coors, too, when he opens the series in Giants at Rockies, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Coors Field . While the Giants are 0-4 in Lincecum's last four starts in Colorado, he hasn't been awful, with a 4.32 ERA in that span.

2. The Reds enter the weekend with a magic number of 3, and that means the soonest they could clinch their first division title in 15 years is in Reds at Padres, Saturday afternoon (4:05 ET) at Petco Park . That would take a little cooperation from the second-place Cardinals, but all the Cardinals have been doing recently is cooperating. As Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse pointed out on Twitter, the Cards are 9-17 since Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols attended Glenn Beck's rally in Washington.

3. The biggest advantage the Braves have in the National League wild-card race is that the Giants and Padres play each other next weekend. That means for three of the remaining 10 days on the schedule, either the Giants or the Padres is guaranteed to lose (and that the team that wins could win the division and not affect the Braves' wild-card chances at all). For it to be an advantage, though, the Braves need to win. They need to do to the Nationals this weekend what they did to the Mets last weekend, and that means they need to beat Livan Hernandez in Braves at Nationals, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Nationals Park . Hernandez threw eight shutout innings in a 6-0 win over the Braves last weekend in Atlanta, and he's 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in four starts against the Braves this year. The Braves starter Sunday, they hope is Jair Jurrjens, who missed his Monday start in Philadelphia with a knee problem. As manager Bobby Cox said, "He'd better be able to pitch." Sunday is also the Braves' final regular-season road game, which means it's the final time an opposing team will pay tribute to Cox, who is retiring at the end of the season. The best gifts he has received so far: a No. 6 from the scoreboard at Wrigley Field, a set of wine glasses with all the NL team logos from the Reds, and many checks to support his charity helping homeless veterans. Cox entered the weekend with 2,499 wins in 4,499 career games.




Posted on: September 20, 2010 3:16 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 6:00 pm
 

Braves rookie to sub for injured Jurrjens

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are starting Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt against the Braves this week.

The Braves are starting 24-year-old Brandon Beachy tonight.

Beachy, who will be making his big-league debut, will sub for Jair Jurrjens, who was scratched after testing his sore right knee in the bullpen this afternoon. Jurrjens hurt his knee during a bullpen session Friday in New York.

"His knee's still bothering him, and it's not worth chancing it," manager Bobby Cox said. "He wasn't smiling too much. He still felt [the knee] on every pitch."

Cox said that Jurrjens was sent to Atlanta for an MRI exam on the knee. If everything checks out, the Braves are hopeful that Jurrjens will be able to make his next start.

"Maybe missing one start, he'll be super starting the last two," Cox said.

Beachy was with the Braves instructional league team in Florida, but he last pitched in a game on Sept. 3 with Triple-A Gwinnett. He split this year between Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi, going a combined 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He's quite a story, passed over in the draft after pitching at Indiana Wesleyan, signed out of a summer collegiate league for $20,000, then rising this year to become one of the Braves' top pitching prospects.

While pitching for Gwinnett, Beachy faced the Phillies' Lehigh Valley affiliate, allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings. The Phillies had video of that start playing on their clubhouse televisions this afternoon.

The Braves begin the series three games behind the Phillies in the National League East, and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Padres in the wild-card race.

The Braves got one piece of good news today, when an MRI exam on reliever Takashi Saito's right shoulder showed nothing but tendinitis. Cox said the Braves believe Saito, who left Friday's game in New York thinking his season could be over, may be ready to pitch as soon as Wednesday.


Posted on: September 19, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 6:03 pm
 

3 to watch: The Philly dilemma edition

Three games back of the Phillies in the National League East, the best thing the Braves have going for them is six remaining head-to-head meetings with the Phils, starting with a series that begins Monday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Two and a half games ahead of the Padres in the NL wild-card race, the biggest thing the Braves have going against them is that they play six of their final 12 games against the league's best team -- the Phillies.

"It is tougher," Chipper Jones said. "But I don't think we'd want it any other way."

One reason, of course, is that the Braves would like to think that they can still win the East. To win the East now, they need for the Phillies to lose. The best way to guarantee that the Phillies lose is to beat them yourself.

The other reason is that the Braves actually have a winning record against the Phillies over the last two years. They went 10-8 last season, and they're 7-5 so far this year.

"The one thing we have done really well the last couple of years is play well against the Phillies," Jones said. "And we're going to have to. They're the best team in the National League, and for some reason, we get sky-high to play them.

"To beat them, we need to play a near-perfect game."

But to make the playoffs, the Braves don't need to finish ahead of the Phillies. They just need to win the wild card -- although that might necessitate beating the Phillies a few times.

"Now we can't split hairs," club president John Schuerholz said. "Now it's about getting to the playoffs."

But still, Schuerholz said he doesn't mind it that half of the Braves' remaining schedule features the Phils (with other six games against the Nationals and Marlins).

"It might be the energy level we need," he said. "They will be energized games."

And they're leading off this week's edition of 3 to watch (which doesn't include the Rangers, Twins or Reds, even though all three could clinch their divisions in the next few days:

1. The Phillies were easily able to adjust their rotation, so that the Braves will face Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, maybe the closest thing we've seen to a true Big Three since the days of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The Braves would have had a harder time making similar adjustments, and thus ace Tim Hudson won't pitch in this series. The Braves planned to start off with Jair Jurrjens, in Braves at Phillies, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park , but Jurrjens hurt his right knee in a bullpen session last Friday in New York. So 24-year-old Brandon Beachy, who was in Florida with the Braves' instructional league team, will get the start and make his major-league debut. Rookie Mike Minor and young Tommy Hanson are the other two Braves starters this week. The Phillies' Big Three would be lined up again to pitch in the final three regular-season games in Atlanta, although if the Phils have wrapped up the division by then, there's a chance they wouldn't all pitch.

2. Elsewhere on this site , I made what I thought was a reasoned but traditional case for Felix Hernandez as the American League's Cy Young leader. Hernandez could help his own case considerably with a big performance in Mariners at Blue Jays, Thursday afternoon (12:37 ET) at the Rogers Centre . The Jays have hit a major-league high 128 home runs in 69 home games (nearly two a game), and they average more than five runs a game at home. Hernandez hasn't faced the Blue Jays yet this year. Neither has CC Sabathia, who never lined up with any of the Yankees' first five series against the Jays (but figures to pitch in Toronto during the Yankees Sept. 27-29 visit).

3. First, Sabathia has a rematch with Tampa Bay's David Price, and if it's anything like their last game, it might be the 1 to watch this week. The first time around, a week ago in Florida, Sabathia and Price combined for 16 scoreless innings (eight apiece), while allowing just five hits (three of them off Price). They hook up again in Rays at Yankees, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium , and by the time it's over, we should have a better idea of who wins the American League East (and who's the AL wild card), and also of who is the leading threat to Hernandez's chance to win the Cy Young.


Posted on: September 17, 2010 10:05 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2010 10:06 pm
 

Braves' Saito leaves with shoulder problem

NEW YORK -- The Braves got an important win over the Mets Friday night, but they may have lost key set-up man Takashi Saito with a shoulder problem.

Saito struck out the first two batters in the eighth inning in the Braves' 6-4 win over the Mets, but appeared to feel something in his right arm on the final pitch to Carlos Beltran. After a visit from the Braves' trainer, Saito left the game.

"He had to leave the game, and that's never good," manager Bobby Cox said. "It's the outside of the shoulder, the side, not the back. It's an odd place."

Cox said Saito will be examined by a doctor, but it wasn't immediately clear when or where that would take place.

The Braves have a deep bullpen, but Saito has been a big part of it, with a 2.52 ERA in 55 appearances.

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 17, 2010 7:29 pm
 

Braves try Chipper meeting at start of big trip

NEW YORK -- Chipper Jones can't hit the Braves into October. He can't get the Braves to the playoffs with his glove.

Can he get them there with his mouth?

With the Braves coming off a series that one opposing scout described as "ugly," and heading into a trip that includes three showdown games with the Phillies, the injured third baseman called a pregame meeting Friday and told his teammates to relax.

"Guys just need to relax and focus at the same time, and play the brand of baseball they're capable of playing, and we'll make it to the playoffs," Jones said later. "I told them, I don't want to hear that we've had injuries. I don't want to hear that. This is the hand we were dealt. I'm not going to be out there with you. Kris Medlen is not going to be out there with you. You still have the club to go out and beat anybody."

The Braves lost two of three games to the Nationals this week, completing a 3-4 homestand that allowed the Phillies to open up a three-game lead in the National League East. The Braves still lead the NL wild-card race by half a game over the Padres.

"It's crunch time," Jones said. "The game is not played any different because we're in September. But for some players and some teams, it's hard to play in September with both hands around your neck, when you're squeezing [the ball] real tight, when you're squeezing the sawdust out of the bat."

Jones hasn't played since Aug. 10, when he hurt his knee making a play in Houston. He had surgery on the knee, and hopes to be healthy by spring training.

The Braves held a 2 1/2-game lead in the division when Jones was hurt. They've gone 18-16 since then, while the Phillies have gone 24-11.
Category: MLB
Posted on: September 17, 2010 11:05 am
Edited on: September 17, 2010 11:06 am
 

3 to watch: The Comeback edition

Chris Young returns to the Padres rotation Saturday. Andy Pettitte returns to the Yankees rotation Sunday.

The Padres fell out of first place Thursday. The Yankees fell out of first place Wednesday.

Yes, there's a difference. Of course there is.

The Yankees, according to the computers at coolstandings.com, are a 97.3 percent lock to make the playoffs. The Padres, the computers say, are basically 50-50.

But the computer here at 3 to watch says Pettitte's return could have just as big an impact on this coming postseason -- probably more -- than Young's.

Young might help the Padres get into the playoffs. Pettitte could well be the difference in whether the Yankees win once they're there.

The Padres rotation, 7-14 with a 5.33 ERA over the club's last 25 games, could use a boost. But unless Young drives in some runs (he's a .139 career hitter, with 10 RBI in 190 at-bats), it may not be enough to matter.

The Yankees are in a bit of a slump at the plate, too, scoring just 34 runs in their last 10 games (eight of them losses). But the real issue that threatens their run at a second straight title is a rotation that features one great pitcher -- CC Sabathia -- and a ton of question marks.

Since Pettitte's last start, on July 18 against the Rays, the Yankee starters other than Sabathia have combined to go 22-20 with a 5.68 ERA.

Pettitte was having one of his best seasons when he went down with a groin injury. Besides that, he's the winningest postseason pitcher ever, with an 18-9 record and 3.90 ERA in 40 career starts. He won four of his five starts last postseason, and left the other one when it was tied 3-3 in the seventh inning.

There's no doubt the Yankees need him to be healthy, and need him to be strong. There's at least some doubt about how ready he is, which manager Joe Girardi acknowledged when he said that recently demoted Javier Vazquez would be ready to start Sunday if Pettitte can't.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Yes, the Braves still have six games remaining with the Phillies, who they now trail by three games in the National League East. That's good, if you think the Braves can catch the Phillies. It's bad, if you think they can't, because it means their schedule is tougher than those of the other wild-card contenders. And that makes it doubly important for the Braves to beat up on teams like the Mets, particularly with Tim Hudson on the mound against Dillon Gee, in Braves at Mets, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Citi Field .

2. Young hasn't started a big-league game since the second game of the season, and he spent the rest of the year dealing with a right shoulder that took forever to recover from the surgery he underwent in August 2009. He has worked two simulated games and three minor-league rehabilitation games over the last month, and now the Padres believe he's ready. They hope he's ready, because he'll be starting in Padres at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Busch Stadium , for a team that is out of playoff position for the first time since the middle of April.

3. Getting Pettitte back is crucial to the Yankees, whether they win the division or finish second and take the wild card. But the Yankees keep saying that winning the division matters, and in that case Pettitte's start in Yankees at Orioles, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Camden Yards takes on even more significance. The Yankees' four remaining head-to-head games with the Rays will be played next week at Yankee Stadium, but the rest of the teams' remaining schedules favor Tampa Bay. Besides that, the Yankees don't want to give the Red Sox (six games behind) any hope that they can make their six remaining head-to-head games with the Yankees more significant.

Posted on: September 5, 2010 10:31 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2010 9:18 am
 

3 to watch: The Saving the Padres edition

Last Friday, the Padres had a seven-game losing streak, and we told you that it was all right, because five of the last 10 teams to make the World Series had a seven-game losing streak at some point during the season.

Now the Padres have a 10-game losing streak. Any chance history can help?

Not really. Of the 350 teams that have made it to the postseason, only two had a 10-game losing streak. Those two were 1951 Giants (think Bobby Thomson) and the 1982 Braves (think . . . Joe Morgan?).

The Braves were in first place, 6 1/2 games ahead, when they slipped up against the Giants in the middle of August and went on a losing streak that lasted 11 games. They actually lost 15 of 16, going from 6 1/2 up to four games behind, before recovering. They won the division on the final day of the season, when Morgan's seventh-inning home run for the Giants eliminated the second-place Dodgers.

And who managed that Braves team? Joe Torre, whose Dodgers play in San Diego this week. So as the Dodgers try to extend the Padres' misery, Torre can explain to Bud Black that this crazy season can still be rescued.

On to 3 to watch, with a reminder that two of the big series this coming weekend actually begin on Thursday (Giants at Padres, Cardinals at Braves):

1. For all the fuss over Manny Ramirez, the most significant acquisition the White Sox made this summer may have been Edwin Jackson. In five starts for the Sox, Jackson is 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA. Meanwhile, the guy he was traded for, Daniel Hudson, has gone 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in seven starts for the Diamondbacks. And the guy Jackson was traded for last winter, Max Scherzer, is 8-4 with a 1.90 ERA in his last 16 starts for the Tigers. We bring all this up because Jackson faces Scherzer, in White Sox at Tigers, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park . This is a big week for the White Sox, because they need to stay close enough to the Twins to make next week's three-game showdown in Chicago meaningful.

2. It's not that long ago that the Padres' big Mat Latos question was how they would hold their 22-year-old ace within his innings limit. Now, with Latos scheduled to start in Dodgers at Padres, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Petco Park , it's whether Latos can be the guy who stops this losing streak. Latos hasn't gone more than two starts without a win all season, and he's at two now, having taken a no-decision in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies (while allowing just one run in seven innings) and again in a 5-2 loss to the Diamondbacks (while allowing just one run in six innings). Of course, before this losing streak began, the Padres hadn't lost more than three in a row all year.


3. Two Septembers ago, when the Rays went into Fenway Park with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Red Sox, we still weren't sure the Rays were that good. Heck, they still weren't sure they were that good. "If you want to be true with it, you say you want to be who [the Red Sox] are," Rays veteran Cliff Floyd said that week. You can bet no one on the Rays will be saying they want to be what the Red Sox are this week. You can also bet that we'll have some memories of 2008, especially when 2008 playoff hero David Price starts for Tampa Bay in Rays at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park .


Posted on: August 20, 2010 1:57 am
Edited on: August 20, 2010 9:09 pm
 

3 to watch: The Legends of the dugout edition

Between them, they've managed nearly 8,000 major-league games. But do you want to guess how many games Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella have managed against each other?

It's not as many as you think. Only 81, with three more coming this weekend in Chicago -- presumably the final three, with both Cox and Piniella saying they'll retire at the end of the season.

The tally so far, according to research through baseball-reference.com , has Cox with 41 wins and Piniella with 40. They've never met in the playoffs, even though Cox went to the postseason 15 times with the Blue Jays and Braves, and Piniella made it to October seven times with the Reds, Mariners and Cubs.

Cox, whose Braves lead the Phillies by 2 1/2 games in the National League East, has another chance at the postseason this year. Piniella, whose Cubs are 22 games under .500, has a chance to go home when the regular season ends on Oct. 3.

And that, of course, is why Derrek Lee agreed to leave Piniella and join Cox, approving the trade that gave the Braves their new first baseman. The trade was finalized while Lee was sitting in the Cubs dugout during their Wednesday loss to the Padres, and Lee's first game for the Braves will be Friday afternoon against the Cubs.

"I told him to go get his uniform off, he wasn't on our team anymore and I didn't want him stealing our signs," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster joked with reporters after the game. Dempster will be the first Cubs pitcher to face Lee, as he's the starter Friday. "He started trying to bribe me and asked me how I was going to pitch certain hitters. Sneaky dog."

On to 3 to watch:

1. According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News , the Giants sent playoff ticket invoices to their season ticket holders this week. As Baggarly said, incredibly bad timing, with the Giants falling six games behind the Padres in the National League West, and dropping out of the wild-card lead, as well. It doesn't help that ace Tim Lincecum has been pitching poorly, and it may not help Lincecum that his next start comes against Chris Carpenter, in Giants at Cardinals, Saturday night (7:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . A year ago, Lincecum against Carpenter would have been a Cy Young elimination battle. Now, with the Cards falling 3 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Central, it looks more like a wild-card elimination battle.

2. The Braves have the worst road record (27-33) of any team that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. With the Phillies getting healthy and hot, that may need to change if Cox is going to get that going-away postseason gift. This weekend against the struggling Cubs would be a good place to start. We'll know by the time Mike Minor faces Randy Wells, in Braves at Cubs, Sunday afternoon (2:20 ET) at Wrigley Field .

3. No matter how good or bad the teams out West are, East Coast teams always seem to fear West Coast trips, especially late in the season. Sure enough, the Rays lost the first game of their current seven-game trip to the coast, falling to the A's, 4-3, on Thursday night. The Rays are actually 6-4 on the Coast this season, but they're 16-19 since the start of 2008 (basically, since they've been good). The big game this weekend is the matchup of Dallas Braden and Matt Garza, in Rays at A's, Sunday afternoon (4:07 ET) at the Coliseum , in a matchup of two of the five pitchers who have thrown no-hitters this season.


 
 
 
 
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