They may be the two most dreaded words in baseball: home sweep. It may have taken 3 jerseys and 3 hats while toiling in the 95 degree Atlanta heat, but “Big Red” Tommy Hanson prevented the Braves from that demoralizing embarassment at the hands of the San Diego Padres on the first day of June. After issuing a 2-run homer to new Braves killer Kyle Phillips in the 2nd inning, Hanson shut down the Friars through 6, only allowing 3 hits total on a brutally hot summer day. Phillips, the rookie who hit the 10th inning go ahead solo homer off Braves reliever George Sherrill in the seriers opener on Memorial Day Monday, proved to be a thorn in the Braves’ side the entire series. Fortunately for the Braves, ”Mr. Clutch” Martin Prado would belt a solo homer in the bottom of the 6th for a much needed insurance run, and Jordan Schafer would make a Web Gem-worthy running catch against the center field wall for the final out with a man on (preventing Craig Kimbrel from tallying his 5th blown save) as the Braves would go on to win the final game in the series by a skinny run, 4-3. In fact, all three of these games were hotly contested, fitting for the high temperatures, each game being decided by a run. The Pads took the first 2 games in the series by final scores of 3-2 and 5-4.
It was great to see Tim Hudson back on the mound after missing just one start with a sore back, and he was sharp in the first game on Monday, lasting 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs (only 1 of them earned) with no walks and 7 strikeouts. Unfortunately there wasn’t much offense to back him up, and he wouldn’t factor in the decision. Mike Minor kept the Braves in the game on Tuesday in another tight contest but the Padres bats would eventually tack on a couple late runs against the bullpen and despite threatening against All-Star closer Heath Bell in the bottom of the 9th, Atlanta could only scratch out one of the two runs needed to prolong the game. Minor will now head back to AAA Gwinnett to get some more seasoning. This is the kind of series the Braves will need to win going forward- at home, playing a lesser team, with 2 of your aces taking the mound- if they are going to contend this season. Granted, injuries are still a factor, but Jason Heyward, Brandon Beachy, and Nate McLouth don’t appear to be coming back anytime soon, so the Braves (and Chipper Jones’ bad knees) are just going to have to tough it out.
The Braves (31-26, 3.5 GB) got the day off on Thursday. Friday night kicks off a 3-city, 11-day, 10-game road trip in New York against the Mets, followed by the Marlins and the Astros. A glance at the calendar finds the Braves on the road for 16 of their 26 games in June, so this will be a key stretch heading towards the All-Star break. Bravos were 17-11 in May, that’s pretty solid, especially considering they didn’t get much of anything from Dan Uggla or Jason Heyward. The Mets are dealing with some injury woes of their own, 3B David Wright is on the shelf with a back injury, and hot-hitting 1B Ike Davis is also out. SS Jose Reyes is playing very well for them, he leads the league in stolen bases, so the key will be to keep him off the basepaths where he’s been a terror all season. OF Carlos Beltran pretty much wrote the terms for his big contract against the Braves in the playoffs a few years ago while he was with the Astros, so it’d be nice to get some retribution and shut him down. One programming note, Braves are back on ESPN Primetime on Sunday Night Baseball at 8pm in the final game of the Mets series (June 5th).
The Good: Brian McCann is coming off an outstanding 12-for-20 homestand at the plate against the Reds and Padres that rose his average from .274 to .309. He has four multi-hit games in his last five total. He’s been getting hosed out of starting the last couple All-Star Games by the fan voting so make sure to vote him in this year…Freddie Freeman is on a tear, finally displaying his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field into the left field gap, rising his average up into the .270′s, and is still providing a steady glove at first base…After 2 more games in which the Braves pitching staff gave up 3 or less runs, they are now leading the Majors in that category.
The Bad: Jason Heyward will not travel with the team to New York, instead he will go to Orlando for more treatment on his sore shoulder. He said after this most recent homestand there is no change yet and he won’t start hitting until it feels right.
The Ugly: After an extra day off, Dan Uggla (.175) was dropped to 7th in the batting order for the first time on Wednesday. He went 0-for-4 including a bases loaded infield pop-up on the first pitch, ending a big scoring threat in the 1st inning. The natives are getting restless.
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!