Two-game sweep followed by a two-hour delay
Coming off a relaxing two-day stretch away from the team, I certainly wasn’t happy to be introduced to the two-hour delay that Delta presented this morning.
But refreshed from the two-day break, I’m going to keep a positive outlook and be thankful that the long concourses at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport provide wide-ranging ways to pass the time. Thus instead of feeling my blood pressure rise while the AJC’s Dave O’Brien continued to complain about the delay, I opted to participate in the more tranquil activity of dancing barefoot on a bed of nails.
OK, enough stretching the truth to simply deliver a point. What I’m trying to say is that there’s a light at the end of every tunnel and the Braves have seemingly started to dig themselves out of a mess by beginning this eight-game road trip with a two-game sweep of the Marlins.
When you’ve got your ace (Derek Lowe) going up against a Minor League replacement (Graham Taylor), you’re obviously supposed to win. Then when you finally give Jair Jurrjens the little bit of run support that he’s been seeking over the past couple of weeks, you certainly need to take advantage of this opportunity to sweep your way out of South Florida.
But the Braves have simply passed level one during this game that we’ll call May’s influential road trip. Fortunately like in the world of video games, passing this first challenge has gained them the opportunity to enter their upcoming battles against the Mets and Phillies with a new weapon in the form of Brian McCann.
With his new prescription Oakley sports glasses, McCann is expected to return to the lineup for tonight’s series opener against Cole Hamels and the Phillies. It’s going to take him some time to get comfortable with his new goalie-style mask. In addition, he’s going to have to find a way to limit the amount of fog that gathers on his lenses as a result of heat and perspiration.
But as long as he can continue his productive offensive ways, the Braves are going to start consistently providing the support that their pitching staff has been consistently denied over the past three weeks. We’re 28 games into the season and it’s been 24 games since McCann made his presence felt in the lineup.
This is the primary reason that it’s truly remarkable that the Braves are just two games behind the front-running Phillies in the National League East race. If we truly are trying to look at things in a positive light, would it be ridiculous to at least allow yourself to think about the possibility of them sweeping their way to the top of the division by the end of the weekend?
In order to defense against being held responsible for jinxing the possibility, I will say that the numbers prove that there’s no way in Philadelphia that Jo-Jo Reyes will beat Hamels tonight.
During his 11 career starts against the Braves, Hamels has allowed two runs or fewer six times. In his past three appearances at Citizens Bank Park, Reyes has worked 12 2/3 innings, allowed 20 hits and posted a 9.24 ERA.
But this is the new-and-improved Reyes and Hamels has to go all the way back to Sept. 18 to remember his last win against the Braves. Five days later, while allowing two earned runs in seven innings, he suffered his first loss against them in a span of nine starts.
The decisive blow that provided Mike Hampton a win that Sept. 23 evening came courtesy of Casey Kotchman’s sixth-inning solo homer.
If you are only as good as your last game, then Kotchman is coming into Philadelphia on a power barrage. The Braves first baseman homered for the first time this season during his three-hit performance against the Marlins on Thursday afternoon.
While compiling a team-high 12 extra-base hits this year, Kotchman has lived up to the billing of being a solid gap hitter with limited power. But in Hamels’ eyes, the left-handed slugger has plenty of pop in his bat.
In nine career at-bats against Hamels, Kotchman has collected four hits and three of those have landed over the outfield wall. Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Delgado and Jorge Cantu are the only other Major Leaguers who have hit three homers against the Phillies ace and each of them have compiled this total with at least 14 at-bats.
Kevin Millwood is the only other Major League pitcher that Kotchman has homered against three times. He has reached this total in a span of 15 at-bats against the former Atlanta right-hander.
Kotchman is a reserved man who generally hides his emotions. But this will certainly be a special Mother’s Day weekend for him and his family. As many of you know, his mother, Sarah, nearly lost her life when her brain began to hemorrhage last August.
It was great to see Mrs. Kotchman and her husband, Tom, at Turner Field on Monday. They are justifiably proud of their son and it was truly a delight to talk to them about the miraculous medical ordeal that they encountered last year.
I want to thank them for taking time to talk about the event and end this blog by saying Happy Mother’s Day to my mother, Sara Bowman.
Many of us will say thank you to our mothers this weekend. But can words truly convey the appreciation we have for the women who gave us life and then sacrificed so much with the hope that ours would at least be as great as the ones they’ve enjoyed?