Results tagged ‘ Cole Hamels ’

Will June prove to be as memorable as May?

Broadcasters  John Smoltz and Tom Glavine have combined for as many wins as Kenshin Kawakami and Jair Jurrjens.  Projected leadoff hitter Nate McLouth’s batting average has rested above the Mendoza Line for a total of three days since April 10.   The ever-consistent Matt Diaz was healthy long enough to tally six more hits than Tim Hudson has recorded this season.

Still through the first two months of this season no other member of the National League East has proven to be as successful as the suddenly rejuvenated Braves. After vaulting into first place with yesterday’s 9-3 win, Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus spoke with the kind of tempered excitement you would expect from veterans who understand that they will experience a number of different plot twists over the course of the next four months.  

“There will be more low points during the season,” Jones said. “The key will be to limit the length of the downswings a lot better than we did in April.”

There wasn’t any reason for the Braves to be overly-excited about the fact that they moved into the top spot of their division with 111 games remaining.  The Rangers and Brewers led their respective divisions on June 1 last year and ended up at least 10 games back by the time the season concluded.  

But the Braves did have reason to feel good about the fact that they had tangible proof that they have managed to essentially negate what was a horrendous April.  While losing just eight of their 28 games in May, they notched their first 20-win month since August of 2004.  

When I asked Jones if this season reminds him of any of the previous ones he has experienced, he responded with, “dude, I’m old.  I can’t remember what happened yesterday.”

Like the Braves managed to brush off the frustration created during April’s nine-game losing streak, they must quickly move away from yesterday’s excitement and focus on attempting to take advantage of a slumbering Phillies offense over the course of the next two days.

Attempting to maintain their half-game lead, the Braves will send Tim Hudson to the mound tonight to oppose Cole Hamels, who went 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five May starts.   Hudson proved to be a little better, going 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA in the six starts he made during the season’s second month.   

When the Braves lost to Hamels on May 9, they fell to 3-7 in games which the opposing team started a left-handed pitchers.   Since then they have won six of the seven games played while opposing a left-handed starter.  

During this successful span that dates back to May 11, Jason Heyward has hit .385 (10-for-26) with a 1.121 OPS against left-handers.   Entering May 10, he had  just .222 (6-for-27) with an .808 OPS against southpaws.

This seems to be further evidence that Heyward has the unique ability to quickly make adjustments and adapt to this Major League level that was supposed to provide him a greater challenge.   
Heyward enters Tuesday ranked second in the National League with a .988 OPS and his 10 homers are just three off Corey Hart’s league-leading total.   

It will be interesting to see where Heyward ranks among NL outfielders when the latest All-Star balloting results are released tomorrow.  The 20-year-old phenom is certainly making a strong case to receive a starting assignment.    

A tale of two schedules:  When looking at the great turnaround the Braves made in May, you can’t overlook the fact that just four of the 23 games they played in April were contested against clubs that currently have a sub .500 record.  

In May, the Braves played 14 of 28 games against clubs that are currently below .500.   Another nine came against teams that currently own a .500 mark.    In other words, they played just five games this past month against clubs with a winning record.  

During their 28-game slate in June, the Braves are scheduled to play 13 games against clubs that currently possess a winning record and another three against a .500 club that is about to add Stephen Strasburg to its starting rotation.   

With Strasburg scheduled to make his Major League debut on June 8 for the Nationals, it appears that he could in line to start at Turner Field during a three-game series that runs from June 28-30.

Freeman update:   Freddie Freeman was scheduled to have his right knee examined via an MRI exam this afternoon in Atlanta.  The highly-regarded prospect tweaked his knee while stretching to grab a throw to first base during the second inning of the no-hitter that Todd Redmond completed for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night.  

Freeman has hit .261 with five homers and a .762 OPS in 43 games with Gwinnett this year.  

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?   



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