After a road trip that saw the Braves go 4-2, they entered a three-game home series against the Pittsburgh Pirates only 1.5 games back in the NL East. Sure, they haven’t been playing the Rays or Yankees, but with the help of some “rivals” (Mets and Red Sox) the Phillies have been on a downward slide (perfect games not applying). I can smell first place…or maybe that’s salmon…yup it’s salmon, but they are closing in on first place.
The Braves took care of the Pirates, sweeping them all three games due to big innings in each game against the Pirate bullpen. The Braves got good starting pitching and timely hitting, granted it’s the Pirates, and are now 7-2 in their last three series.
In a pleasant surprise Derek Lowe (yes Derek Lowe) has seen his ERA gradually decrease over his last few starts and is finally under 5 (4.86), as is Kawakami (4.93). I would still love to see Medlen stay in the starting rotation when Jurrjens is ready, but I’m starting to feel a bit better about the starts, which was supposed to be the strong point of the team going into the season.
An even more pleasant-er (is that a word?) surprise has been the play of Melky Cabrera and Yunel Escobar. Melky raised his average .43 over the last three series and has really begun to look like the guy I expected when we sent Javy Vazquez to the Bronx. Yunel didn’t necessarily raise his average (at all) but with multi-hit games, the last two in Florida, and Sunday against the Pirates, he looks a lot more like the Yunel we saw the past two years. If this keeps up, the Braves are in business—though it may mean Nate McLouth spends more time on the bench…but I’m OK with that, really.
The last thing I want to touch on from the road trip is Hanley Ramirez—plain and simple he is a punk. On Wednesday night he hit a first inning home run off of Tommy Hanson. As he ran….no walked down the line he raised his hands; similar to Mark McGwire in the 1988 World Series, but this wasn’t the World Series—it was a May game, in the first inning no less. Obviously Ramirez isn’t the only guy who show boats, there is another guy named Ramirez who does the same thing (just ask Scot Proctor) but it’s something that I wouldn’t take kindly and it seems that Tim Hudson didn’t either.
In the first inning of Thursday’s game, Hudson drilled Ramirez in the back on the first pitch. Ramirez then stole second, pointed to his chest so that Hudson saw it, and drew attention to himself the whole time he was on base. If it were me I may have thrown at him again as we went from home to first as soon as the catcher threw the ball back to me, and again as he stood at first, and so on. I was somewhat surprised we didn’t see any more fireworks, but I have a good feeling this isn’t over. This also isn’t the first time Ramirez has shown his unsporstman-like behavior. Just last week he was benched by Freddi Gonzalez for not running out a grounder. Ramirez then ripped Freddi for the move and was benched until he apologized. This isn’t Hanley’s first year. He should know better but he doesn’t and never will. You would never see Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, hell even David Wright act like this, which is why they are bigger stars. Ramirez may be more talented than a lot of players, but he will never earn the respect of a Jeter, or even Heyward. Moral of the story—Hanley Ramirez is a punk.
The Braves will begin a three-game series against Ryan Howard and the Phillies, starting on Memorial Day, now just ½ game out of first place (one in the loss column). If the Braves can continue their great play at home (which I think they will) they could be in first place by June 1st. I don’t want to get too carried away, but the Braves will miss both Roy Halladay and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Jamie Moyer. By the way…you think we can return McClouth and get the Pirates NEW center fielder? Andrew McCutchen is really, really good! As long as the Braves win, I love to watch that kid play. Anyway…
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Until Next time…Hanley Ramirez is an imbecile, and GO BRAVES!