ACT I: Weekend in Atlanta
Well, what a weekend! The Braves snapped their 9-game losing streak last Friday, beating the Houston Astros 4-2. Tommy Hanson pitched phenomenal going 8 strong innings, striking out 7. The game started with Nate McLouth blasting Bret Myers’ first pitch over the center field wall—a signal of what was to come for the rest of the three-game series. After the Astros tied it up, Mr. Heyward un-tied the game with a laser home run to give the Braves the lead and eventually the win as Billy Wagner closed the door.
I was promised before the game by Chip Caray that the Braves were going to snap the streak that night and the Braves didn’t disappoint. I guess I should have gotten a playoff promise to be safe, but at that point I just wanted to see a W.
The second game went even better. The Braves bats awoke to a 10-spot on the board and Tim Hudson pitched great as usual. My hands actually were swollen from clapping so much. What made the game even better was that we met Steve (who I actually thought was Hank Azaria at first) and his son Ike, and had some pretty good seats behind the Braves dugout. It was great to finally meet Hank…..err Steve and have some face to face talk about the Braves. Oh, and Jason Heyward hit ANOTHER home run.
Sunday capped off a great weekend of Braves baseball. Derek Lowe actually pitched a decent game, though he didn’t go as deep as I would have liked to see, but still only gave up one run. The Braves’ bats put more crooked numbers on the board and Mr. Wagner, though not a save situation, ended the game and series with another dominating performance.
After the game I was standing outside by the announcer’s lot and a guy that looked like Luke Wilson came out next to me. Then I realized holy crap, it IS Luke Wilson. Why he was at the game, I’m really not sure. My only thought was that he confused Derek Lowe for his brother Owen and thought he was watching him pitch against the Astros.
Overall, what a great series! The pitching staff pitched great, I couldn’t ask for much more out of them as a unit. The Braves bats were back to Opening Day form and I take FULL CREDIT for that. Well, I guess maybe the Astros deserve a little of it. Nate McLouth showed glimpses of his “Pirate” form with some solid hits and stolen bases. Omar Infante played so well that I didn’t notice Yunel wasn’t in the lineup, though the way he had been going it was hard to notice him in the lineup. Finally, Troy Glaus absolutely ripped the ball every game; even his outs were hard hit. No one was more surprised than I, but I have to give him credit—he was a monster and I actually was glad to see him step up to the plate.
On the other side of things, Brian McCann and Chipper Jones looked horrible. McCann looked tired. He has been catching almost every game (save day games after night games) and is not hitting the ball solid at all. Though he did get a rest for Saturday’s game, he may need to be sitting a little more often. I know he is one of our big “threats” in the lineup and David Ross isn’t, but for the best results in this long season, McCann needs to get more rest. Chipper, well…Chipper’s bat speed is not good right now. After watching him all weekend (both at the plate and in the field) he looks like he is hurting everywhere. He isn’t getting around on fastballs like he used to and he isn’t getting much on the ball when he does. Of course, this is easy for me to say sitting in the stands, but Chipper looks like he is 38-years-old. I’m afraid this isn’t only Bobby Cox’ last season, but Chipper’s as well.
Act II: Nats Town
The Braves flew into Washington on a 3-game tear and were quickly brought back down to earth by the mighty Nationals. Kenshin Kawakami didn’t pitch horrible if you look at his line, but again he is showing us he is NOT the pitcher we thought we were getting when the Braves gave him all that money. The good news was that Jason Heyward hit another BOMB to bring his totals up to 8HR 24RBI—right up there on the MLB leader board. This kid is really amazing.
Game two seemed to be heading in the same direction. Tommy Hanson didn’t have his A-game, but the Braves played well enough to win. They had the lead going into the 8th inning, but Takashi Saito, as he has been doing seemingly every appearance, gave up two runs and Hanson’s chance at a win. Luckily, the Braves were able to pull out an extra innings win and give some hope for the series.
Then there was Thursday…not again…Scott Olsen has had some good performances in his career, but he probably isn’t a starter on half the teams in MLB, so to see him no-hit the Braves for 7.1 innings was gut-wrenching. Tim Hudson left two pitches up and was punished with two solo HRs. He didn’t deserve a loss for that performance. Then, again, Mr. Heyward, sore groin and all stepped to the plate in the 8th inning as a pinch hitter. What did he do? With two strikes on him, Heyward got a pitch up and slapped a 2-run single to LF tying the game 2-2. I’m 99% sure that one of Jason Heyward’s parents is Superman. I can’t be totally sure without kryptonite.
The game didn’t end well, as we all know and now the Braves are looking at games in Philadelphia and Milwaukee down 1-2 on the trip. Gotta beat the Nats if you want to get anywhere this year! I feel like I am watching last year’s team, which I basically am…On a given day 1 or 2 hitters will be on and maybe if we’re lucky they will get an at bat with a runner in scoring position. The pitchers will pitch well, save for Lowe and Kawakami, and they will be a .500 team. Something has to change. Last year it took subtracting some players, I hate to say that they need to do something like that this year, but there are a few (well more than a few) guys not pulling their weight. Hell, they aren’t pulling the 30-some ounces of their bat’s weight.
The million dollar question is why…Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Casey Kotchman, Adam LaRoche, etc. are all having good offensive years after leaving Atlanta. I truly believe is KJ was still a Brave he’s be hitting .190 1HR 4RBI. The only one that you can blame is Terry Pendleton. TP may have to go. Something has to be done. SOON!
Now, we will sit back and watch what the Braves can do in Philadelphia. They need to make a statement and show the Phils and the rest of the baseball they are for real. Luckily, they will miss Roy Halladay….so there’s chance!
Finally, I want to thank a few people for such a great week in Atlanta. First and foremost, my friend Roger who helped me again and probably doesn’t know how much I appreciate everything he does for me. He is a class act all the way and I will find a way to pay you back some day.
Steve, it was great to meet you face to face. Thank you again for allowing me to get my thoughts out there on the site. It is a pleasure to write for you and the rest of the Crew…even Curt.
Thank you everyone who has been commenting on my blogs and who has been following me as I tweet during the games. I am sorry I can’t reply at the time, as I have an old-fashioned phone and can only send tweets but not access the actual web page. It really means a lot that people are out there following me.
Finally, my fiancée Danielle, thank you for putting up with my Braves obsession. Most people would probably call it a sickness and I have no clue how she doesn’t want to burn everything with a tomahawk on it after awhile. I guess because then everything we own would be gone…
Follow me on Twitter @ BRAVEinNY.
Until Next time GO Braves!