Chipper Jones said it best, Arizona is a house of horrors for the Braves. Funky things just seem to happen there. After a 2 game mini-sweep of the Astros that included the dramatic flair of 2 late homers by Brian McCann off the bench, the Braves got their second west coast road trip of the season off to a shaky start, dropping 2 one run games to the Diamondbacks. In the first game the story should have been how the resilient Braves kept battling back to pick up young starter Julio Teheran (forced into duty with Brandon Beachy on the shelf with an oblique strain), but, unfortunately, the headline was closer Craig Kimbrel once again failing to hold a 1 run lead, suffering his 4th blown save of the season as the Braves fell in 11 by a final of 5-4. Teheran was only able to get through 4 innings in his second major league start, falling victim to a high pitch count. It looks to me like the kid is trying to be a little too fine, and needs to trust his stuff a bit more. He’s got what it takes to get major league hitters out, and should have a bright future in Atlanta. The big league experience he’s banking now will be good for him in the long run. Just gotta fine tune a couple things when he gets back to Gwinnett, but he’s certainly not lacking in the talent category.
The second game was all about offense, or the lack thereof, as Jair Jurrjens turned in yet another quality start but with only 1 unearned run in the 9th to support his effort, he posted his first loss of the year as the Braves went down 2-1. I’d like to see the Braves’ “dangerous on paper” offense put some runs on the board earlier in games and establish some separation so that O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel can get some rest. Too many tight ones, forcing the studs at the back end of the bullpen into action almost every night. I’m looking at you Mr. Heyward and Mr. Uggla. Hopefully the treatment Heyward received on his sore shoulder last week will help him get his timing back at the plate. Uggla seems to still be pressing trying to make a big impact on his new team and justify the big contract extension. He’s really grinding that bat in the box, dude just needs to relax and start going the other way with those outside pitches. Can’t complain about the starting pitching, it’s tops in the league right now. And the defense has been sound. Vote Prado for All-Star!!
Interleague play gets kicked off this weekend. The Braves (25-21, 2.5 GB) will be in Anaheim to take on the struggling Angels, which means more late starts for us East Coast folks. Chipper Jones should get a chance to DH a couple games and rest the knees while staying in the lineup. That’ll most likely move Prado to 3rd and give the red hot Hin-Dogg (Eric Hinske) or Mather some at-bats in left. Need to take advantage of a team while they’re not playing well and win this series.
The Good: I like the competitiveness and chemistry of this team. They’ve played 46 games, that’s 3 more than the Phillies and 4 more than the Marlins, and have been in a lot of extra inning games already. But they get fired up in the dugout and on the field when someone gets the job done late in a game. And after the disappointing D-Backs series, Jair Jurrjens said something along the lines of – no disrespect to them, but this is a team we should beat if we want to get to where we want to be. I like that attitude. The Marlins are in 2nd place with Hanley Ramirez batting .200, so imagine what they can do once he starts hitting. And we all know the Phillies aren’t going away. So the Braves are going to have to keep grinding out wins and series wins, especially against the lesser teams.
The Bad: With another blown save from Kimbrel, fans are starting to call for the switch to Jonny Venters as closer. Not sure how Fredi is going to handle that situation. Don’t want to shatter Kimbrel’s confidence, but right now the fastball is just too straight and control problems continue to be an issue. Could just be growing pains. As of today, Fredi says he’s not making any changes. Pretty deflating to see the Braves pitchers hold Arizona to 3 runs over 10 innings and then watch Kimbrel give up 2 runs in less than an inning. In his defense, a potential game ending double play ball was ticketed for Uggla at second but deflected off of Kimbrel’s glove into no man’s land as he tried to make the play. See what Chipper meant by house of horrors?
The UGG-ly: .193. That’s Dan Uggla’s batting average. And J-Hey’s is .214. Yikes.
About the Author
Written by Marcus Young
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!" The late great Skip Caray with my favorite sports call of all time as a lumbering Sid Bream was able to beat Barry Bonds' three-hopper to the plate by an eyelash in the old Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to secure the Atlanta Braves' miraculous back-to-back World Series trips in 1991 and 1992. I grew up in Atlanta, I am still a die hard Braves, Falcons, and Hawks fan and am hungry for another championship to put alongside that lonely 1995 World Series trophy! I graduated from Wake Forest University in 2002 and am back living in Hot-lanta now. Go Deacs and Go Dawgs! My favorite athletes are John Smoltz, Magic Johnson, and Brett Favre. Braves are on a mission in 2011 in the 20th anniversary of that magical 1991 season!