Results tagged ‘ Rich Rodriguez ’

Braves once again attempt to break free from Marlins

Covering a Sunday night baseball game in Philadelphia and then experiencing the majority of your sleep on the flight to Ft. Lauderdale isn’t exactly pleasurable.  But arriving in your hotel room and gaining the joy created from the sight of Rich Rodriguez fighting back tears made this a great day to be a West Virginian.

Losing two of three to the Phillies obviously wasn’t the way the Braves wanted to end a week that was also damaged with the two losses they’d suffered against the Padres.  But at the conclusion of this past weekend’s series, I’d have to say I felt as optimistic about their postseason hopes as I had earlier this month, when they took three of four from the Dodgers.   
Mother Nature affected both clubs on Friday night.  But it seems obvious that the Braves were affected more by the fact that they had to remove Tommy Hanson after just two innings.  

During Saturday’s game, the Braves baffled Cliff Lee and captured an unexpected win.  Then while claiming Sunday night’s series finale, the Phillies took advantage of the events that followed Adam LaRoche’s decision to charge on Pedro Feliz’s surprise seventh-inning bunt that went to the third base side of the mound.  

Still Martin Prado got to first base in time and should have sacrificed his body while attempting to secure Chipper Jones’ catchable throw.   His decision not to do so created the error that put the Phillies in position to claim a victory that ended with Greg Norton concluding Brad Lidge’s perfect ninth with a strikeout.  

Norton has managed to produce a .419 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.  But he also has just one hit in his last 19 plate appearances and it’s not like he has the speed to potentially turn a walk into a double.  

Still with the benefit of having two middle infielders (Omar Infante and Kelly Johnson) on his bench, Braves manager Bobby Cox stuck went with Norton.    In Cox’s defense, Johnson is hitless with three strikeouts in five career at-bats against Lidge and Infante is 1-for-6.

As for Norton, he is 2-for-7 in his career against Lidge and he had drawn walks in each of his three previous plate appearances against the veteran closer this year.

While it was a questionable decision, it wasn’t as if Cox made the worst coaching mistake in sports history.   I mean, it’s not like he squandered  a chance to go to the national championship game by losing a home game to Pitt or anything.   Oh wait, did I mention that Rodriguez was seen fighting back tears this morning?  

For those of you who aren’t college football fans, West Virginia’s loss that night to Pitt  would be the equivalent of the Braves losing four straight to the Nationals to end the season and erase the three-game WC lead they’d possessed entering the series.   

Now back to the Braves postseason outlook.  For you Michigan fans not familiar with baseball, this would be like advancing to one of those bowl games that you used to visit during the pre-Rodriguez days.

Unfortunately time isn’t providing the Braves  the same margin of error that they possessed on Aug. 9, when they exited Los Angeles having used the series win over the Dodgers to move to within 3 games of the National League Wild Card lead.  

At that time, their challenge was to erase that deficit and leap frog four teams in a span of 50 games.  

Heading into tonight’s series opener against the Marlins, the Braves have just 32 games to erase this same 3 -game deficit that they  face in the Wild Card standings.  But  they now have just two teams in front of them and the opportunity this week to put the Marlins in their rear-view mirror.  

This is the third time since July 28 that the Braves and Marlins have started a series against each other with identical records and to further prove how evenly-matched these two clubs appear to be, they’ve split the previous six games played during this span.  

Once this series with the Marlins concludes, the Braves will play 19 of their final 28 games against teams that currently possess a losing record.   The Rockies will play 19 of their final 31 games at Coors Field, where they’ve gone 36-26 this year.
 
The Giants play 16 of their final 31 games at home might be more intriguing.  They’ve gone 44-21 in San Francisco and 28-38 on the road this year.  

CF update:   After examining the results of Nate McLouth’s MRI exam today, doctors once again determined that his left hamstring is simply strained and not torn.   The Braves will further discuss his status as the week progresses and determine whether he’ll continue to rehab with the big league club or in Minor League games.  

With his back feeling better on Tuesday, Ryan Church gained hope that he could return to the lineup on Tuesday.
 
Jordan Schafer underwent a surgical procedure to remove a bone spur from his left wrist on Monday.  The 22-year-old center fielder won’t be able to participate in Winter Ball.  But the Braves are confident that he’ll be ready for the start of Spring Training.  

Waiting on the boys from Gwinnett

Well it’s good to see a Braves pitching staff producing dominant stats similar to the ones that Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine produced back in the day.  Unfortunately it seems like the some of the guys producing these numbers in Gwinnett County are still a few weeks away from making the 30-mile trek to the organization’s home base in Fulton County. 

In their past 15 games entering Saturday, Triple-A Gwinnett’s starting rotation had posted a 1.17 ERA.  That equates to 11 runs in their past 84 2/3 innings, or one fewer run than Kenshin Kawakami has allowed in his past 9 2/3 innings. 

Tommy Hanson has allowed two earned runs in his past 18 innings and Kris Medlen has totaled 13 consecutive scoreless innings to lower his season ERA to 1.17. Charlie Morton limited Durham to one run and six hits in eight innings on
Friday night.  The lanky right-hander has allowed just three runs in
his past 20 innings.  

Obviously it hasn’t been surprising that the two weakest links in the Atlanta rotation this year have been Kawakami and Jo-Jo Reyes, who has assured himself of going at least 11 months between Major League victories.

Because the Braves decided to give Kawakami a three-year, $23 million contract in January, some might have gained the impression that he could prove to be a difference maker.  But at 33 years-old the Japanese right-hander has provided every indication he’s nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter.

But with Hanson and Medlen waiting in the wings, it would be hard to argue how Kawakami could fit in as one of the top five pitchers in the Atlanta rotation over the life of his three-year deal, which runs concurrently with Derek Lowe’s.

As for Reyes, he has shown flashes that he has the capability of being solid third starter.  But as his developmental process continues to grow even longer, the 24-year-old left-hander continues to find ways to extend a losing streak that now extends back to June 23.

With improved control and the development of a solid breaking ball, Reyes possesses almost all of the tools he needs to be a successful big league pitcher.  But he’s still lacks the ever-important ability to overcome adversity. 

As soon as Yunel Escobar botched a second-inning grounder during the second inning of Friday’s game against the Phillies, you could basically see Reyes come unwound.  He then issued a four-pitch walk to the .182-hitting Chris Coste before lobbing Cole Hamels’  swinging bunt into right field.

Should Reyes have let Hamels’ slow roller roll foul?  Should he have simply thrown through Hamels to draw an interference call?  Taking either one of these actions might have provided an immediate solution that would have likely prevented the Phillies from constructing their four-run second inning. 

But mistakes like this are going to occur and Reyes’ most glaring sin proved to be how he reacted to the growing adversity that he faced following Escobar’s error. 

I’m certainly not going to be hypocritical and claim that Morton should have been brought to Atlanta before Reyes.  Because he  was injured most of Spring Training, Morton really wasn’t even an option when Reyes joined the big league rotation on April 18. 

In addition, I was among those who believed Reyes was the better choice because he seemed to be mentally tougher.  But if he struggles on Wednesday against the Mets, Morton should be given a chance to prove himself during the final weeks of May.

Obviously, Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen are the top options available in Gwinnett.  But because they aren’t on the 40-man roster, Morton be given the chance to maintain a rotation spot until one or both of those young right-handers are promoted in June. 

Or Morton could at least fill a rotation spot until Tom Glavine is ready to return in a couple of weeks.

Regardless of how you analyze this, Reyes is running out of opportunities to prove himself.   Despite the fact that he’s improved over the course of the past year, it’s hard to see great potential when you look at the fact that he’s 0-9 with a 6.61 ERA in his past 18 appearances (17 starts).

While the Braves have the option to move Reyes back to the Minors, they aren’t exactly in a position where they could do the same with Kawakami.  First of all, he deserves more than five career starts to prove himself and secondly, by doing so the organization would be acknowledging the mistake that they made by giving him the lucrative three-year contract.

Things aren’t exactly going to get any easier for Kawakami when he opposes the Phillies at the homer haven known as Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.   Having allowed five homers during the first 25 2/3 innings of his career, the baseball gods have given him the cruel assignment of making consecutive road starts in the band boxes located in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. 

When I drew the analogy that this would be like sending Appalachian State into Ann Arbor on consecutive weekends, the AJC’s Dave O’Brien reminded me that going into Michigan isn’t much of a challenge now that Rich Rodriguez is coaching there. 

And with that, my day has been made. It’s nice to know that non-West Virginians are now making fun of the man that both the Hatfields and McCoys love to hate.  

      

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