Where will this three-game winning streak lead?

Welcome back to Braves Mountain.  We once again ask you to keep your hands and feet inside the car as we continue this ride includes both quick ascents and frustrating descents.   And we are happy to announce that the early portion of this week’s journey has provided more reason to believe that the light at the end of the tunnel will still be lit after the All-Star break.
 
With last night’s win over the Phillies, the Braves once again matched a season-best three-game winning streak and if this year’s trend continues, you may want to put your hands in the air and at least attempt to enjoy the rush created by the descent that could follow. 

“We’ve proven both ways that momentum doesn’t help us or hurt us,” Matt Diaz said after highlighting his three-hit performance with a homer and two RBIs last night. 

After sweeping the Nationals (April 10-12) to move to 5-1 on the season, the Braves immediately followed with a five-game losing streak and an eight-game stretch that included just one win. 

When the Braves gained another three-game losing streak April 22-25, they soured those positive vibes by enduring a nine-game stretch that included just two wins. 

How about that inspiring three-game sweep of the then-American League East leading Blue Jays in May?  Well as you likely painfully remember, that was followed by an 11-game stretch that included just three wins. 

But providing reason at least some reason for optimism is the 7-4 stretch that followed the three-game winning streak achieved (May 9-11) against the Mets and Phillies. 

“We’ve gotten excited before and then went on a losing streak,” Brian McCann said. “So we’ve just got to keep playing and see what happens.  We can’t worry about what we have or haven’t done.” 

While taking the first two games of this week’s three-game series against the front -running Phillies, the Braves are now just three games out of first place for the first time since May 27.  Considering that they’ve gone 14-17 since that date, they have to be greatly appreciative of the generosity provided by the Phillies and Mets.
  
Dating back to May 28, the Mets have gone 12-19 and the Phillies have gone 14-16. 

Regardless of what happens against the Phillies tonight, Braves fans should guard against saying anything like, “this is a great time to be playing the Nationals.”  This was a popular cry after the Braves lost of five of six to the Marlins and Pirates in April. 

Then we all watched as the Braves managed to lose two of three games in Washington D.C.  But this wasn’t anything new.  They’ve lost nine of the first 12 games they’ve played at Nationals Park and seven of the 12 games they’ve played against the Nationals since last year’s All-Star break.

Remember when the Braves lost 14 of the first 16 games they played against the Phillies last year?  Well, while winning six of the first eight games played against the defending world champions this year, they’ve moved to 10-16 against them since the start of the 2008 season.   During this same span, they’ve gone 10-14 against the Nationals.
 
All-Star stuff:  With All-Star voting set to close tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET, it would be nice to see Braves fans show some final-hour support by voting  for Brian McCann, who has seen Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina take a more commanding lead when results have been updated both of the past two weeks.

McCann leads all NL catchers in batting average (.310) and OPS (.906) and despite battling left-eye vision problems throughout the season’s first five weeks, he ranks second and both homers (8) and RBIs (33).  With 44 more at-bats, Molina has totaled five homers, tallied 24 RBIs and compiled a .728 OPS. 

While the St. Louis fans have taken advantage of the opportunity to see Molina behind the plate for the start of the July 14 All-Star Game at their own Busch Stadium, McCann seems to still be a lock to gain his fourth consecutive All-Star selection in what is his fourth full Major League season. 

Whether he’ll be joined by Javier Vazquez, Jurrjens and/or Rafael Soriano remains to be seen.  But all deserving pitchers were given more reason for hope on Wednesday, when Major League Baseball announced that the rosters would be expanded to 33 players to accommodate a manager’s selection for one extra pitcher.

Player balloting will determine eight reserve position player and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers) for both rosters.  Eight more selections, including the extra pitcher, will be made by the managers, with input provided from league officials.

Soriano has actually produced the best credentials among Braves pitchers to pitch in this year’s Midsummer Classic.  
Along with being perfect in his six save opportunities, Soriano ranks third among NL relievers with a 1.23 ERA, third in OPS (.457) surrendered, fifth in both batting average allowed (.160) and slugging percentage allowed (.216),  and sixth with a 0.90 WHIP.  

Having watched Jurrjens limit his Phillies to a two-out, seventh-inning single on Wednesday night, NL manager Charlie Manuel might be further persuaded to include the 23-year-old right-hander, who ranks fifth in the NL with a 2.73 ERA. 
 
Jurrjens’ 6-6 record is a product of the same inconsistent support that has saddled the 5-7 Vazquez, who will get his own opportunity to audition in front of Manuel while attempting to retake the NL strikeouts lead during tonight’s series finale against the Phillies.
 
Along with currently being just seven strikeouts shy of the NL-leading mark posted by Tim Lincecum, Vazquez also ranks second in the NL with a 1.06 WHIP (walks plus hits/innings pitched).  His 3.03 ERA ranks eighth and with 11 quality starts, he’s and Jurrjens both rank eighth among the Senior Circuit hurlers.

Along with his losing record, Vazquez’s candidacy could be further burdened by the fact that he’s scheduled to start just two days before the All-Star Game.  Jurrjens is slated to go one day earlier. 

63 Comments

Hopefully with Prado taking over at 2nd, McLouth and Escobar coming back this team will be able to get on a roll. The have the pitching and need to stop giving away outs at the plate.

I’m glad Prado is taking over at 2B. He has really helped spark the offense just like Blanco. I think when McLouth comes back Blanco should move over to left field. Hopefully Cox will find a way to keep them in the lineup because they both deserve to stay there.
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Or maybe Blanco should move to right field where the REAL need is. Just saying.. I like Blanco leading off a lot. Makes pitchers work, gets on base, etc..

I agree with PWHjort. McLouth is a run producer and needs to be lower in the lineup, same with Escobar. If Francoeur cools off of his micro-hot streak then Blanco should move to right. I like the top of the order as it was the past 2 nights

I wouldn’t mind seeing McLouth being pushed back to 5th in the order and have Escobar bat 6th when he returns. That way you have a staggered righty lefty lineup in the 5th-8th spots. Could be beneficial late in games. The only complaint I have is I would like to see Blanco run more. He easily has the speed. I know it’s not Bobby’s game but it never hurts to steal a few bases here and there.
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I LOVE McClouth and Escobar hitting down in the lineup where they belong. Escobar is a perfect 5-6 guy and McClouth is a perfect 3 or 5-6 guy. Kotchman needs to be the number 2 hitter because he’s a gap to gap hitter that rarely strikes out.
Now that Manny’s back, do you (Mark) or anyone else feel like he’s expendable to LA? He’s pretty much going to be relegated to the bench. In Manny’s absence he hit .322 with 22 stolen bases. Would they be willing to trade him for pitching / bullpen help? We could really use a pure lead off hitter of that caliber but no one has mentioned him.

…and by “him” I mean Juan Pierre. Sorry. Somehow forgot to mention his name in above comment.

Moneyball, he has the speed but that doesn’t make him a good stealer. He needs to practice picking up the pitchers moves, and picking the right pitch to run, situations etc. At this point, he lacks those from what I see and he doesn’t need to give up outs on the base paths.

I see where you are coming from biffsniff. I just think that when it comes to picking pitches that would come from Bobby. As far as picking up the move the first base coach is there to help. If Blanco has trouble with it as a professional it is his responsibility to go to the first base coach for assistance. The other day against Boston the Braves stole at least two bases. Both Francoeur and Johnson had at least one stolen base. It was great seeing Atlanta bring that aspect of the game back.
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O yea don’t get me wrong, I love to see stolen bases. Look what it does for the rays, runs scored corresponds with stolen bases.

Hey Mark, I was just wondering if you had any info on Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. I know their statistics are looking good but outside of that? How are they doing so far?
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Heyward made the futures game and has been tearing it up as usual. Freeman hasn’t quite had his power stroke this season but he’s still hanging in there. After all, it’s one heck of a pitchers’ park they play in. The biggest story at Myrtle Beach has been Cody Johnson’s breakout season. 20 HR before the All-Star break.

Escobar is back in there tonight, Bobby is giving McLouth one more day…Esco is batting fifth with Blanco and Prado once again occupying the top two lineup spots…Hudson impressed again with his bullpen today and he’ll begin throwing live BP at Wrigley Field on Monday…His first rehab start is July 19 with Myrtle Beach and it appears his earliest return to the Atlanta rotation would be Aug. 25.

Is it time to let G. Anderson go? Blanco & Diaz are more than capable offensively and both play better defense.

Garrett is a plague. His lack of effort on the field typifies what has been happening for this team all year.

BiffSniff:
What are you thinking “Blanco replacing Francoeur in RF”?
You give up power, Avg and fielding prowess for a base runner who had 13 steals with 5 CS in 430 AB last year. And you are putting him in a position which crys out for more power production and RBI’s rather than less. Blanco is a utility guy who fills in when someone is hurt. When Infante is back I suspect Blanco will be sent down unless BC has completely lost his mind.

Billreef, you’re right on. Why replace Frenchy with gregor? Platoon and or utility with Diaz. Somebody please tell me why I keep hearing J. Vasquez in trade rumors. I sincerely think we should not get rid of him, it took the first half of the season for Moylan to be able to throw a strike. Javy will be an asset, and I do not think we need another bat. Does anyone remember how we use to win? Pitching, defense, speed, and good hitters.

If Blanco moves from CF it should be to LF. Francoeur hasn’t provided the expected offense but he plays Gold Glove defense. Diaz is so good because he is a role player. I really doubt he can maintain his high level of play throughout an entire season. If he plays an entire season his defense could really become an issue.
http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

For ****’s sake, we have a runner on third with no outs and we can’t manufacture a run? Come on, guys.

I know that Pete Rose wore #14, but I didn’t know that he looked exactly like Martin Prado.

Moneyball. Diaz’s defense has improved considerably. He is certainly an improvement over Anderson and I really feel like he is a guy you want in your lineup everday. He brings a lot of intangibles to bear. He hustles, he has a great work ethic and we aren’t gonna know whether he is an “everday” player unless we give him that shot. He hits righties and lefties well. Given our current situation, Diaz get’s my vote for LF everday.

everyday, everyday everyday. Geez I sound retarded

Diaz gets another hit, the defense rests

yeah, for the past two and a half seasons I’ve been wondering what Diaz has to do to start – I mean, if we’d signed some stud outfielder in the offseason, fine, put him on the bench. But he’s certainly in a position to outplay a decrepid GA.

and now he scores on the HR

That was Kotchman’s 5th homer in 109 games with the Braves and first since May 8. He’s homered once in every 75.8 at-bats with the Braves.

Did anyone notice that he had 3 HR against Cole Hamels? I think it was Hamels. Or maybe Blanton – the point is, in 10 at-bats, he had 3 HR. That’s a pretty good stat. He still has absolutely no power. But it’s a good stat.

Mark is it a def that Nate will be starting tmrw? I’m going to the game and was really hoping to get to see him play

wow. once again, Vasquez doesn’t get a win. Tough season for this guy or what?

I certainly wouldn’t guarantee Nate being in there tomorrow. Before he ran today, he said he felt good and then he reconfirmed this after he tested his legs during BP…Cox is being very cautious, but never indicating that McLouth may need to go on the DL…with tomorrow being the one-week mark since the injury, they may be more inclined to let him go, given that he doesn’t have any setbacks.

no loss either…

Over his past seven starts, Vazquez is 1-3 with a 2.06 ERA…over his past 11 starts, he is 3-4 with a 2.45 ERA.

Yeah Casey hits:

1 HR for 17.5 AB in 2005
1 in 44 in 2007
1 in 33 in 2008(Anaheim)

and now this. He’s 26 years old his power should be increasing every year. Does he not like NL pitching? Has he caught the Pendleton Flu? He looks like a guy who should be cranking a few out. Whassup?

Thanks Mark I look forward to seeing them play!

Does Fred McGriff have a job? There should be a hitting coach position opening in Atlanta soon… there SHOULD be anyway… clearly our hitting has suffered the past 12 months. Why is he still employed?

he being TP

Mark what happened to Casey?

Why isn’t Ross used more as a PH? Is it because we need him in case Mac gets hurt?

yeah, that’s exactly why they don’t use Ross in that role, unless necessary…I didn’t see anything happen to Casey. I think they just wanted some speed out there. Remember earlier this week, when he didn’t score from first on a two-out double?

I would guess Ross doesn’t PH much because of that. Atlanta only carries two catchers so they need to be cautious. I do think I heard that in an emergency situation Diaz can catch as well as Francoeur. If you look at Kotchman’s swing he is a line drive hitter. He slaps at the ball more than drives. I still think his excellent defense out ways his lack of power at this point. In a few more years when Freeman comes this will probably not be the case.
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Not to ask about my 5th question for the day, and anyone can answer if they have an inkling: I’ve noticed Gonzo’s velocity has been very erratic this season. Most days he does sit at about 92, 93. But I see him hitting 95, 96 some days – and then some days I see him BARELY break 90. Is it fatigue when he is throwing slow and rest when he is throwing fireballs? I know it’s not a huge difference its just that I’ve noticed he’s very inconsistent. I understand he is building strength still after surgery(2 year mark yet?) but it’s still happening mid-season.

Coming from experience fatigue can be an issue or something as simple as you just aren’t feeling as well. It happened to me all the time. Some days my arm felt more live than other days. I haven’t seen any mechanical flaws from Gonzalez so I think it’s just how his arm is feeling or fatigue. Nothing serious. Hopefully…
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Yeah I understand that… Can we PLEASE get an announcement that Diaz has won the starting job? He is as hot as Prado and deserves it. And then he just stole a base, too! His defense is such an improvement. Anderson is hot, too, I know, but come on…

Garrett may have just found his new role with the team. He has the demeanor to be able to deliver in a pressure situation, He has been around so long, nothing is likely to rattle him. It also keeps his glove on the bench. Diaz has proven he IS the starting left fielder!!!!

After tonight I must agree that for now Diaz should be the starter for at least a week or so. When he cools off I think they should return to a platoon. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Blanco in left. I like the speed he can bring to the game. Nice catch by Prado to end it also.
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What a series. Seriously. The braves are finally clicking. Diaz and Prado were the heroes – and McCann and Chipper were the supporting cast. Interesting turn of events. Great job by the pitchers. All around a well done series.

“What a series. Seriously. The braves are finally clicking.” (neverwhere)

My thoughts exactly.

This team doesn’t need a big bat, just our starters to start preforming. I like moving Blanco to right… A lot. Did y’all see how Bobby pinch hit GA in place of Frenchy? Loved it. The stretch is OVER folks! And the Braves are definitely contenders. Well, IMO. Who else would love a division race between The Braves and Marlins?

“What are you thinking “Blanco replacing Francoeur in RF”?
You give up power, Avg and fielding prowess for a base runner who had 13 steals with 5 CS in 430 AB last year. And you are putting him in a position which crys out for more power production and RBI’s rather than less. Blanco is a utility guy who fills in when someone is hurt. When Infante is back I suspect Blanco will be sent down unless BC has completely lost his mind.”
By billreef

What are you thinking? Where in the world do you get the idea that Frenchy has power and average? About the only thing you lose from replacing Frenchy is his cannon, and his strikeouts with RISP. It’s obvious that RF will not be a position of power for the Braves this year unless they acquire somebody, so we might as well replace it with someone who can actually produce, not some worthless piece of crap.

Heyward, Freeman, and Thomas Palica have all been promoted from Myrtle Beach to Mississippi.

After tonight 11 of the 16 N.L. teams are separated by a total of 5 Wins (St. Louis with 43 – Atlanta with 38) and 4 Losses (San Francisco with 36 – Atlanta with 40). Including Pittsburgh would not be expanding the spread all that much. The only outliers being the bottom dwellar Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Padres along with N.L.’s best record by a wide margin currently, Los Angeles. That’s unbelieveable that at essentially the halfway point 4 teams in the East are separated by 2 games, 5 teams in the Central are separated by 3 games, and 11 teams are within 4 games of the Wild Card. This is shaping up to be a crazy and exciting second half. Congrats on the sweep Bravos….now go take care of business versus the N.L.’s worst.

Over at AJC they keep saying Anderson’s was the first PH homer of the year – I seem to remember Chipper dinging one over the left field wall earlier in the year when he was on a rest day or something, on a road trip.

biffsniff you are deluded if you think Blanco will ever match anyones offensive production. He is batting .200 and has 1 career HR. As much as you whine about Francouer that “worthless piece of crap” he is head and shoulders above anything Blanco has ever done.

Neverwhere… The statistic you are referring to was written incorrectly. It was Garrett Anderson’s first pinch hit HR of his career (and hence why he would not be good in that position for us. Greg Norton is hitting over .400 at Gwinnett so I think we will see him again in the Pinch Hitting role. As far as GA is concerned, it’s nice to see him finally coming around and if his performance continues to improve, I would have no problem with him playing everyday.

Blanco has a .359 career OBP. Francoeur has a career .308 OBP. Blanco has a career Offensive Winning Percentage of .442. Francouer’s is .439. Francouer’s OWin% for the past two years have been .341 and .300 (good for a big fat .328 average). Blanco’s average is .442 obviously. Blanco is 20 times as useful as Francouer.

Billreef, it doesn’t take much to match Frenchy’s production. Frenchy may have done more than Blanco, in 2006-07, but that was when he had some sort of intelligence at the plate. I am referring to the Frenchy of now, the one that really matters, and he blows. I don’t think Blanco is an amazing player, and he may be better suited to a backup role, but for right now, Frenchy blows and Blanco needs to play RF. I don’t care who plays RF, but Frenchy needs to be out of the lineup.

I think everyone here has well thought out opinions. Moving escobar down in the lineup is a particularly good idea. We’re all quick to call out the shortcomings of our players and managers where relevant, but no one seems to want to call out Mark Bowman. So I’m going to do it.

Mark, I appreciate your realistic assessments. You do your job well, no one wants a cheerleader to promote the team no matter how they’re playing. But do so with balance. Lately, all you do is report negatively. If we’re winning, comment on our strengths, then put in your cautious tone because of the past. It’s entirely negative from you lately. Honestly, it’s about as damaging to your credibility as being overly optimistic. Balance. Right now you remind me of Rachel Phelps in Major League. “They’ll blow it in the ninth”

I wouldn’t say he is reporting negatively. He has done articles on this Phillies series as well as Hudson returning. Sounds like good things to me. I do however know exactly where you’re coming from. I don’t feel the same way but I know where you’re coming from.
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Wow,
You’ve really got to reach into your rabbit hat to find a stat that favors Blanco over Francouer. What about NTWTU Frenchy – .500, Blanco- .000. For those uniniated it’s new stat which mans Number of Times Wearing Turkey Underwear. Francouer has a clear lead in this all important statistic.

Ok, you were worth debating with but you just lost any credibility. Wow, just stop. Please. When it comes to blogging about things that really matter, leave it to the intelligent ones.

LOL, thanks for that, billreef. These folks have to remember that sabermetrics don’t take the place of real baseball.I mean, offensive winning percentage? That means that the team would do better with 9 Blancos on the field versus 9 Francoeurs. But that gets thrown out the window when you remember that, unless you play T-ball, you just can’t have 9 left-handed fielders on the field. Ever.Just imagine the Red Sox a few years back with 9 Big Papis on the field. They may score 40 runs a night, but they’ll also give up 40 in the field (probably 25 unearned).Sorry, PWHjort, but OWn% means absolutely nothing because it can’t ever happen… nor is it a reflection of anything that did happen.

Your kidding they have a blog for the intelligent ones? Can you leave a link? :) Biff it was a joke. You remember those don’t you?

I honestly don’t find Mark Bowman to be overly negative. He usually just makes a point and backs it up with stats. The fact is certain components of this team have really hurt the Braves this year. I know Frenchy has been playing better last lately, but who would you rather have up last night when the team needed contact – GA or JF? Cummon, JF is a nice kid, but he is overly aggressive with runners on base and really presses. GA’s apathetic attitude may drive fans crazy, but he has won my confidence over the past month. Let’s give Diaz a couple of starts a week in right and in left since he has earned it as well. I look at JF as a 250 hitter with not too much power. Diaz has more power, will hit for a higher average and even has a few SBs. Let’s keep up the momentun Braves!! We are back in the race.

I honestly don’t find Mark Bowman to be overly negative. He usually just makes a point and backs it up with stats. The fact is certain components of this team have really hurt the Braves this year. I know Frenchy has been playing better last lately, but who would you rather have up last night when the team needed contact – GA or JF? Cummon, JF is a nice kid, but he is overly aggressive with runners on base and really presses. GA’s apathetic attitude may drive fans crazy, but he has won my confidence over the past month. Let’s give Diaz a couple of starts a week in right and in left since he has earned it as well. I look at JF as a 250 hitter with not too much power. Diaz has more power, will hit for a higher average and even has a few SBs. Let’s keep up the momentun Braves!! We are back in the race.

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