NL showdown will feature plenty of good pitching

Exactly one week after securing World Series home-field advantage for the National League, Brian McCann  will have an opportunity to  help his Braves teammates maximize the number of games played at Turner Field in October. 

The Padres enter tonight’s series opener at The Ted with the NL’s best record, one-half game better than the Braves. There was little reason to think these two teams would be in this position when they matched up in early April.

There was certainly reason to believe the Braves would be a postseason contender.  But it would have been hard to predict that the Padres pitching staff would enter July 20 with the best ERA (3.25) in the Majors.  They ranked 17th during the 2009 season, while having the benefit of having Mat Latos only make 10 starts. 

Fortunately for the Braves, they won’t have to see Latos this week.  The talented young right-hander is currently on the disabled list because of an aborted sneeze that caused him to strain a muscle in his left side.

Greg Maddux likely isn’t among those who might be surprised to see what kind of pitching staff Bud Black has assembled.  When I asked Maddux to name the game’s best pitching coach about eight years ago, he quickly nominated Black. 

With this I regress and once again express my belief that Roger McDowell has what it takes to be a successful Major League manager.  But it appears that he’ll be happy to remain in his current role under Bobby Cox’s successor (a.k.a. Fredi Gonzalez). 

When Jair Jurrjens takes the mound to oppose Wade LeBlanc in tonight’s series opener, he’ll be much different than he was on April 12, when he allowed the Padres eight earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings.  His velocity was significantly down that day and only since returning from the disabled list has he admitted that he still was attempting to regain strength in the right shoulder that ailed him at the beginning of camp. 

As Jurrjens walked toward the dugout that day and Jo-Jo Reyes took the mound, I turned to Jim Misudek, the new Braves media relations assistant, and said, “It’s about to get a whole lot worse.” 

After losing that series opener in San Diego by a count of 17-2, the Braves came back and won the final two games of the series.  Of course the next couple of weeks weren’t exactly memorable for Cox’s troops. 

But since May 10, the Braves have produced a Major League-best 41-20 record.  The 5 1/2-game advantage they hold over the second-place Mets in the National League East race is the largest division lead they’ve held this late in the season since Sept. 27, 2005.

As you know, Nate McLouth is expected to return from the disabled list tonight and resume his role as the club’s primary centerfielder.  McLouth didn’t exactly abuse International League competition during his Minor League rehab stint. 

But he’s healthy and the Braves need to evaluate him over the course of the next week to see if they are confident in his ability to be a productive piece down the stretch.

It will be interesting to see what Jonny Venters (four games) and Cox (one game) have to say about the suspensions MLB handed them in response to Prince Fielder getting hit with a pitch on Saturday night. 

Whether or not you believe Venters was intentionally throwing at Fielder, you can’t dispute the fact that he gave everybody plenty of reason to believe he was throwing at the big first baseman.  In the end, MLB had to levy some kind of punishment.    
 

96 Comments

I think the Cubs will have a lot of players available none of them named Marlon Byrd.

They just signed him to a 3 yr Cotract, team friendly prices.

Plenty of other deal Cubs will try to swing.

Byrd will not be involved.

With this caveat, a team could always severly overpay. Other than that, Lee,Ramirez, Fukudome and a host of others will be moved more than likely.

Cubs also have the cash to include in deals if necessary.

Byrd,Colvin Castro will be the three offensive players they try to build around.

I would go after bryd as maybe if i cant get anyone else like Hart Kemp or Upton. But I wouldnt mind getting Dunn and put him in lf and seeing if the nats can part with morgan or bernadina and place either one in cf and put hitting second or leadoff. I also was wondering is that would Prado be a decent 3rd hole hitter or stay where he is at the leadoff spot?

It’d be nice. Would pretty much remove all offseason speculation.

Guys (mostly directed at NC), please do not mention Nyjer Morgan or BJ Upton in trade proposals. I realize they are both athletic, but Morgan showed us in the last Nats series that his defense and baseball knowledge are not so great, and BJ Upton is a lazy sack of … well you know the rest (ask Evan Longoria if BJ is lazy)….Now if we could somehow get our hands on his brother, that’s a different story… (which that isn’t going to happen either).
McLouth has about a week and a half to prove his worth, and he knows it. Let’s see how the kid responds, maybe he’ll surprise us all (but i wouldn’t put money on it).

With all of the talk about Corey Hart, I would really like to see Wren package a deal for Marlon Byrd. The Cubs are sure to be in a selling mode. Byrd is from “Braves Country” and I think best fits the chemistry of this team. He is smart, and he plays hard all the time. He can play CF which is our need. I mentioned him earlier, but got no response. What do you guys think?

Gonna have to agree with David on this one, I know, I know…
Marlon ain’t going nowhere. Braves wanted him as FA weren’t willing to pay the reasonable price and now they would have to include a boat load of prospects plus pay more than they were willing to in the offseason.

Interesting to here Mark talking about Fredi as if the deal is done, are we expecting a new hire here shortly????

hear not here

I was also gonna comment on…. “But it appears that he’ll be happy to remain in his current role under Bobby Cox’s successor (a.k.a. Fredi Gonzalez).”

Any sightings of Freddie at the minor league stadiums? I’m guessing they would be letting/having him roam about at this point to help put the September version of the Braves together. He may also have some “favorites” in the Marlins system that the Braves can look into. I would not be surprised to find a “Freddie guy” show up here next season from Miami. We’ll certainly learn where he stands on Dan Uggla soon given the pending Chipper off season. I’m guessing Hanley won’t be on the short list though.

How do we know for sure that he is gonna replace Cox the braves may go a different path and make Eddie as bobby successors

Can we just dispense with the formalities and change all catchers in MLB last name to Molina.

Yeah, Chipper hurt it swinging right-handed, so he probably can’t go from that side. I bet he could pinch-hit from the left side, though, so he’s not totally gone.
ncbravefan82, Prado probably could hit anywhere except 4th or 5th and be just as consistent. Remember, he bats leadoff for us out of necessity right now.

Nice throw, Melky!

Someone say something negative about Cabrera’s arm now.

I guess I should be happy to see Omar in there, but Chipper c’mon. I’m guessing the hami hurts batting from the right side.

McClouth’s return tonight was always suspect because of the LHP on the bump.

The only other thing I have questions about after looking at the line-up is why is Heyward still hitting second? Why not let Infante hit second, Diaz 3rd (as hot as he’s been) and put J-Hey somewhere in the 6-7 area. That’s why I’m sitting at home watching games instead of managing I guess

Can someone tell me if Prado would make a better 3hole hitter then a leadoff hitter?

I have been trying to get Melky some love for quite some. He has a fantastic arm – accurate and strong. McClouth would not have even thrown that ball and I was shocked that it was even close. He charges pretty well for a little chubby guy. Even if McClouth remains to struggle, I would take Diaz, Heyward, and Melky over the Philly OF or the Mets OF. Sorry guys, go ahead and rip me, but I am just expresssing my opinion.

I would like to see Diaz hitting 3rd against the lefty as well. I think this would be a stronger line-up.

That’s his sixth CF assist this year, which ties him for 2nd in the NL. Also, he did lead the AL in that same category in ’07. So yeah, I’d say Cabrera has at least that going for him, even if you fail to see otherwise.

One throw, does not a career make. That being said, nice throw, Milk.

Sorry, that’s his 3rd CF assist, and he has 7 overall, not just as a CF. Still, he gets his fair share until they stop testing him as much.

Yes…Heyward and Diaz…3 of my favorite players. I’ve talked crap about Melky, but he is a nice 4th OF. I just don’t like that he starts before Diaz.

How about we trade Blanco and Chavez for a decent reliever who might have a little contract on him, like someone like Kyle Farnsworth(not necessarily him), for down the stretch? He can take Chavez’s role(I use the term role lightly), give us another option late in the game. We can take on the salary and plus Blanco and Chavez are expendable.

^I meant 2. And yes, Venters is the man.

Welcome back, pre-sprained-thumb Jason Heyward. We missed you.

Man, I loves me some Jonny Venters. This kid is wicked.

We go 7 up over Philadelphia and 10 over FL. Keep the pedal on the gas.

Anybody read what this says?: http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2010/07/20/the-view-from-philly-first-place-braves-are-nothing-special/?cxntfid=blogs_mark_bradley_blog

This a**hole even said that the Ted, one of the fairest parks in the game, is a “launching pad”, considering what the Phils play it. What a joke.

I am now officially the worst troll ever to grace the nightmare state of Pennsylvania. They crossed the line. You guys think I’m difficult here, you wouldn’t want to be a Filly fan tonite.

Bill, I saw the Bob Ford article. Biggest piece of fail since Raúl Mondesí played RF for us. But I haven’t seen much of your handiwork… which blog is it?

That is why beating Philly is so much fun. What a fan base. At one point a couple years ago 50 of the 100 worst records in baseball history were Philly teams. Even Cleveland can’t claim that as they saw their wrists with plastic spoons over the LeBron thing.

I have lived for substantial amounts of time in Virginia, Baltimore, and New York City (currently), and nothing in this area really compares to how bad Philly is?ok Boston is probably worse. But the Philly fanbase is soooooo bad. Though I will have to say some of the comments on that article by Philly fans do call the author out for being a crackpot.
I mean, come on… “with one game to save, you?d feel any more comfortable with [Billy] Wagner than with Brad Lidge. By the end of the season, the difference could be minuscule.” Maybe this guy is the secret identity of the Philly Phanatic..

I thought I would get a bigger response from the Filly Fans. I guess they are all under their beds sucking on their blankies.

Let the Frillies talk all they want… when they look up in two weeks and see that they are 11 games behind us, you will hear a different tune. I love how he sites Jurrjens ERA pre-injury and neglects Jair’s starts since returning. What a *******.

I know it’s basically a pep talk for the Philly fans while they sink further into 3rd place. Let’s hope this is the last gasp of optimism, cause I honestly still think they’re still a greater threat than the NY Mess.

Yeah papil.. it’s definitely nice to point and say “SCOOOREEEEBOAAARRRDD!”

I get such a kick out of Matt Diaz. The stat sheet says he is currently hitting .257. Matt Diaz NEVER hits .257. He is either hitting .180 for the last 10 days or .450 for the last 10 days. I don’t think I can ever recall him actually hitting “.257″ for the last 10 days.
What a natural see ball hit ball guy. I’m glad to have him with the Braves.

Viva, I agree… several NE cities have rabid fanbases, but not all those fanbases are what you’d call “good” fans. Time and time again I’ve said that Philly has the worst fans in all of pro sports. I mean, they booed Santa Claus and cheered when Michael Irvin’s career ended on the field!
It is a good thing to be able to point to the standings as the end-all to any argument.

I read the article Brandon posted and it also says ” Troy Glaus and Brian Mccann, the allstar MVP, have decent power numbers, but they are also easy outs.” Seems pretty stupid for someone thinking the third place team in the division to talk about easy outs on the team in first. Just wondering what will that guy be doing when the Braves are in the Playoffs while the Phils are taking an early vacation.

Yeah the two guys who in the first half combined for about 100 RBIs and 25 HRs… And that’s with McCann’s slow start and Glaus’ slow start / finish. “Easy outs” indeed.

Strangely, I agree Bill. I was dumbfounded by Diaz not being in the lineup. He’s absolute on fire, and Hinske is very much not. And I’m not optimistic about McLouth.And I’m to the point where I think Tommy Hanson’s mechanical flaws are in his head now. As in, Im pretty sure he doesn’t even know where the pitches are going anymore.

Is that Ryan Klesko I spot in the yellow behind homeplate?

Tommy “Bipolar Gasoline” Hanson strikes again.

How, on God’s green earth do you sit Matt Diaz tonite. So you can play Hinske?? Diaz hits for a better avg against righties than does Hinske, and he is on fire!!!! Dumb. And I think one thing should be obvious, McLouth is on a very short leash, or , at least, ought to be. If he starts taking those big hacks with his foot in the bucket, he needs to go.

For all of you that insist that we don’t need to trade for an OF power bat, consider this. Our team leader in Slugging percentage?? Our leadoff hitter, Martin Prado. When your leadoff hitter is leading the team in slugging, you might want to think about adding some thunder. The only place we can add it is in the OF. And if McLouth shows even a glimmer of new ability, TRADE HIM AS FAST AS YOU CAN!!!!!! When we get to the playoffs we are gonna need some thunder. Someone who can step up. All this talk about seeing where we are is making me nauseous. Grab the golden ring, Frank, Quit dillydicking around or you are gonna miss out.

Boy, it sure looks like McLouth returned in the same condition as when he left. Swing is the same. Timing is the same. result is the same. Nice pop up in the 11th. maybe he should have been bunting and Hudson could have taken the PH role. I’d much rather have Timmy swinging the bat than Nate right now.

Boy, it sure looks like McLouth returned in the same condition as when he left. Swing is the same. Timing is the same. result is the same. Nice pop up in the 11th. maybe he should have been bunting and Hudson could have taken the PH role. I’d much rather have Timmy swinging the bat than Nate right now.
Where has Saito been. Moylan had 4 apps in the last 10 days , Wagner about the same. Saito hadn’t pitched since 10 days ago. Now Medlen is pitching out of the bullpen again. Why is KK still on this team??? Why is Chavez still on this team? Come on Frank, grow a pair.

So, we walk Salazar to pitch to Hundley, just so they use their last position player. Way to go. That worked out really well. Guess what Bobby, if you get Salazar out, which is better odds than Hundley, then J-Hey can end the game on one swing. Going to take a lot of work now.

Not looking good for tomorrow now.

And I was just getting ready to come on here to say how much I enjoyed the dillydicking comment. That was funny. I’m not laughing anymore though.

What a bonehead move by Cox. He intentionally walks Salazar batting .207 to get to Hundley. Hundley doubles in 2 and now we lose. We had a chance to bury NY and Philly tonite and we blew it. Man this might be the worst loss this year.

Katjam, my sentiments exactly. What is so ironic is that if you are playing to WIN, who bats after Salazar doesn’t even matter. You have 3 outs and you play to win in the bottom of the 12th. I think Cox was asleep in the dugout, they woke him up and he said “put him on”.

At this point, and given last week’s turn of events, I have to wonder… is McLouth really fighting it this bad or does he even wanna be here?

I have the ultimate question for billreef.
Who would you rather have:
Francoeur or McLouth?

I’ll take a Player to be Named Later.

Lol. I think personally I’d take Francoeur. Way better arm. McLouth has a bit more versatility and speed though. I guess because Francoeur doesn’t have a huge contract and is a hometown kid.

Lineup for 7/22:Prado 4Heyward 9Chipper 5Glaus 3Diaz 7Gonzalez 6Ross 2Cabrera 8Hudson 1

Luck? Gonzalez is having a very good day. Can we give Frank a little credit when credit is due?

Nice to see Heyward manage back to back multi-hit games. Hopefully the power isn’t too far behind.

LOL Time stamp!! That comment was meant to follow Brandon’s comment about Alex Gonzalez (below)

Thank you, Will Venable, for your service.

Huddy’s been dealing through 6. Sadly, he’s thrown 84 pitches. I’d love to see the CG, but it’s not likely that Bobby lets him finish if he keeps going at the pace of 14 pitches/inning.

I would like to see Gonzalez get regular at bats in the six hole. That or somewhere in the top 3 of the lineup. We traded Escobar to upgrade the offense, yet hit him in the bottom of the lineup?

Prado has been working wonderfully at the lead off spot so why mess up a good thing? Heyward needs to bat towards the top to capitalize upon his base stealing ability. That leaves Chipper as the odd man out.

Call me crazy, but I think the following presents our most formidable lineup:

1. Prado
2. Heyward
3. Gonzalez
4. McCann
5. Glaus
6. Jones
7. Diaz
8. McLouth/Melky/Hinske
9. Pitcher

Gonzalez, Has good day get’s his 1st 2 RBI’s as a Brave. Escobar- has good week, batting .471, 7 RBI’s and 2 HR’s.
And we are giving Frank Wren credit for what?

Alex Gonzalez was not acquired to be the next Troy Glaus. He was acquired to ride out his luck this year with us so we could win this year. Gonzalez is not a power hitter, or an on base guy. He’s a good defensive shortstop who is on some kind of high and we’re trying to ride it out.

Well we have read now that Bobby would’ve rather dragged Blauser out of retirement to play SS than keep Yunel on the team. Which is unfortunate. Flashy or not, I loved to watch that guy play SS.
On another note.. how about that glove flip from Prado. Man is that guy good.

Martin, you da man.

Kris Medlen, pinch-running for Eric Hinske. This kid can do it all, gentlemen.

Gitter Dunn is going to have to learn to throw strikes if he wants MLB per diem…..

Bill, proving once again that a mind is a terrible thing…. which of my comments is “devoid of facts?”

That the Braves are staffed with professionals who are smart, play hard and know how to play as a team?

That Yunel sometimes played the game like his head was up his **S?

That we have the best late inning bullpen in baseball?

That Gonzalez (who has sparkled defensively and is hitting about 200 points higher than Yunel did when he was here) is a solid ML shortstop who contributes with his glove, bat and his head?

That our depth and bench strength is the envy of the league?

That Wren has managed this on a limited budget?

That the Braves indeed have the best record in the league?

Or that you are an idiot?.

You are not giving Wren credit for anything because you are an idiot.

I am giving him a TON of credit, because it is due. Credit for putting together a solid starting rotation that mixes ages and styles of pitching.

Credit for staffing the team with solid major league players who play hard, and know how to play TEAM baseball.

Credit for getting rid of players who don’t tag at third base with less than two outs on a fly ball to deep right center.

Credit for putting together the best late inning bullpen in the game.

Credit for acquiring a solid major league short stop who contributes with his bat, his glove, and his head.

Credit for staffing the depth and the best bench in baseball.

Credit for managing all of this on a limited budget.

Credit for being the GM of team that has the best record in the league.

Flip from Gonzo was also quite nice.

Good win, boys. Good series. And so far, a good hot bat for newcomer Alex González.

There you go again Barry, calling people names. You must have a small member or something. I loved how your post was absolutely devoid of facts and relied solely on platitudes. It kinda reminds me of the DOB Blog where posters are always posting “FIRST”. You really have to do better than this if you want to insult me. You didn’t even get my hackles up.

Did you also give Frank Wren credit for not even contacting the Red Sox(who had a stated interest) when he wanted to trade Esky? Wonder how many other teams didn’t get a call from Frank the wonder boy.

You really think he only got in touch with the Blue Jays? Do you really think he has the GM capacity of NC?
And for the record you’re always trying to throw around insults, so stop yelling at the kettle.

Also, what major league ready player OF or SS would we have gotten from the Red Sox? The whole team is injured. Or are you talking about prior to this season? Like the quote said it’s easy to ignore his attitude when he’s hitting .300. Also, you’re complaining about getting the guy who had a few brilliant plays in the field today, went 4-5, and has a hit in 6 of his first 7 games with us. I’m still not thrilled about the trade, but come on..

Long term, who knows how the Escobar-Gonzalez trade works out. Escobar was a huge headache however and Gonzalez having a great year and hasn’t disappointed since he arrived.

I would like to see him in the six or three hole going forward and capitalize on all of those hits he has been coming up with.

Escober may or may not take it to another level in seasons to come and be significantly better than Gonzalez, but it will take an attitude and work ethic adjustment for it to even be a possibility.

Gonzalez is the right fit for the Braves to win right now.

I have been down this road with Bill before. I guess he just likes to focus on the negative.

Frank Wren has done a great job….

On another note, the weather is not looking too good in Florida for the next three days.

This time stamp thing is really getting confusing.

Viva I guess I just try to stay out of the whole schoolyard taunting thing. It’s a little sophmoric. If you want to insult me, at least come up with a clever dirge. Frankly, I expected a little mnore from you, I know barry doesn’t have a big set of tires, but I really thought you had a little more gas in the tank(using a few analogies better understood).

Bill – looks like you’re so hung up on being called names that you can even recognize that barry pretty much called you out on the table and you really had no response for him.
Let’s all just relax and relish the fact that our team has the best record in the National League and the biggest divisional lead in major league baseball!

Bravo, I don’t respond to anyone who calls me an “idiot”. It only gives them more power than they can get otherwise. Everyone here, knows I am not an idiot, opinionated, maybe i have a divergent point of view but the last thing that i am is an idiot. If Barry want’s to calm down and have a reasoned discussion, I don’t think anyone here denies that I will engage. Name calling is a 12 year old school yard thing though. Not my cup of tea, though mate.

That’s two more good wins against lefties, what should we take away from that at this point? Is it still a problem, or does having our lineup back intact balance the scales again?

Bill, I was just stating a point not throwing an insult (i can do MUCH better than pot/kettle).
I guess we just look at McLouth a little more this week. I know he didn’t set the world on fire in the extra innings game, but he did get a hit and with a man on 3rd, hit a screamer that was caught be A Gon. He was out for over 50 days. I think everyone would be happy if he could eek out a .240 average w even half the power he has shown in the past. We can get by w one offensive black hole, especially when he has speed and defense.. I’m pretty back and forth on the CF issue. Hart and Ross would look good in the outfield, but it would definitely cost us.

I would like to publicly apologize to billreef for calling him an idiot. Bill, you are absolutely right about that, and I should not belittle anyone like that. I am very sorry that I did that, and will refrain from doing such in the future.

Too bad Braves aren’t in the running for Oswalt. Would hate to see him go to Philly or St. Louis. Imagine how unhittable our rotation would be with him in it?!

U know If i was Frank wren I would have never made the Mclouth deal but him not being a Brave. I would have sent Francouer to Pitt for Mclouth then send Mclouth to The Mets for Pagan instead of Church.

U know what The Braves should have package Franouer Kotchman Canizares and Freeman for Manny Parra Hart and Fielder.

DUDE! 2 crappy 1B, a once was star, and an above average prospect for 3 great players??? and why would they want 3 1B? Would they all be on the field at the same time?
Also, you can’t play Mr Crystal Ball with trades. Pagan last year was an above average backup CF. McLouth’s upside was WAAYYYY better.

Looks like it’s gonna clear up enough to get the game in tonite. I missed a chance to go to the game though. Figured it was still gonna be storming.

Mark, can we get an O’Flaherty update? He is eligible to be activated next Tuesday, which is when Venters’ suspension will likely begin.

Also, a question – when Venters suspension begins, do the Braves have to play with 24, or can they fill that spot with another player?

Ugh. Miami in late July. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

Hey, It’s been cooler here lately than it has been in GA. Where i live I have a breeze off the ocean that kicks in the afternoon, and when you guys in NY are walking in January slush, I lean back and sip on a Margarita, and think of all of you.

But Miami is a cesspool, I only go there for my baseball fix.

Lineup for 7/23:Prado 4Heyward 9Chipper 5McCann 2Glaus 3Hinske 7Gonzalez 6McLouth 8Lowe 1

Hey, word is that Frenchy is heading to KC. Since we have such a good relationship with Dayton Moore maybe we could get Jeff back from KC.

Oh I’m not comparing. I was in Miami once in July and it was so horrible. I couldn’t imagine playing 81+ (no plus this year) games there.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE TRADE MCLOUTH AND PICK UP A BIG BAT TO SECURE ANOTHER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. I THINK THEY SHOULD TRADE MEDLEY FOR WORTH AND PUT HIM IN CENTER. ROSS IS TERRIBLE. UNLESS THEY WANT DUNN FOR HIM. WE COULD EVEN TRADE MEDLEY AND MCLOUTH OR MELKY FOR A REAL BIG BAT IN CENTER.

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