Results tagged ‘ Rockies ’

Let the Hot Stove season begin

When I arrive at Citizens Bank Park for this afternoon’s  Division Series workout,  I’m going to present Ryan Howard with the First Annual White Flag  —  an award that will be presented to the player that proves to be the most destructive to the Braves over the course of the regular season.

Howard won this year’s award in a close battle against Dan Uggla and Jeff Bennett, who  will receive an autographed picture of Kevin Brown to recognize that he was  unanimously chosen as the Braves player who was most destructive against clubhouse property this year.

When the Braves won seven of the first nine games they played against the Phillies this year, Howard hit .250 with two RBIs, seven strikeouts and a .659 OPS.  The powerful first baseman didn’t homer or walk during this span

While dropping six of the final nine games played against the defending world champs, the Braves saw Howard hit .438 with eight homers, 14 RBIs, eight strikeouts, two walks (one intentional) and a 1.776 OPS.

Despite his early struggles, Howard still hit more homers (8) and  collected more RBIs (16) than any other player against the Braves this year.  Among those who registered at least 20 plate appearances, his .794 slugging percentage ranked fourth behind Jay Bruce (1.000), Ryan Braun (.833) and Andre Ethier (.800).

During their final six wins against the Braves this year, the Phillies totaled 27 runs.  Howard drove in 11 of those runs and each of these RBIs came courtesy of the longball.

When Tommy Hanson took the mound during home games this year, he was serenaded by Green Day’s “Know Your Enemy.”

My suggestion would be for the Braves to provide a friendly reminder to their pitchers by playing this song whenever Howard strolls to the plate at Turner Field in the future.  Or maybe they should just cut to the chase and play Aerosmith/Run DMC’s  “Walk This Way”.  

Before flying to Philadelphia last night, I went to Turner Field to talk to Bobby Cox and Frank Wren.  Here are some of their interesting thoughts that weren’t included in the story I wrote for MLB.com and  braves.com.

At the All-Star break, I chose Yunel Escobar as the team’s first-half MVP and I think I’d have to say he deserves he still deserves this distinction when evaluating the entire season.   (We’ll debate that in a blog I’ll post later this week).

Anyhow, those mental mistakes that tarnished Escobar’s tremendous talents during the first half were basically non-existent during the second half.  He committed just two errors in his last 75 games and continued to take advantage of a healthy percentage of the opportunities he was provided to drive in runs.

When I asked Cox if Escobar made some impressive strides this year, he chose not to address the improvement element.  But he does now share the opinion that Chipper Jones expressed last year, when Escobar’s name was being included in the Jake Peavy trade talks.  
“He’s the best shortstop in baseball right now,” Cox said.  “I can’t think of anybody better honestly.”

Another guy who would draw consideration as the club’s MVP this year is Martin Prado, whose value extended far beyond his .307 batting average.   He’s not  a Gold-Glove infielder, but he certainly enhanced the club’s defense after he was provided a chance to play second base on a regular basis.

When asked about Prado, Cox talked about what he’s heard about the defensive skills Prado has shown while playing the outfield in Venezuela.

“They say he’s a real good outfielder ,” Cox said. “That’s why we weren’t hesitant to put him out there  (on Sunday)) when we had to pinch-hit  (Brooks) Conrad to try to win the game.  He plays right field on a regular basis in Venezuela.  He has for the past couple of years.  So he’s a possible candidate.”  

Yes the Braves will be looking for a power-hitting, right-handed outfielder.  But I wouldn’t expect Prado to ultimately fill this need.  

Cox’s comment likely had something to do with the fact that the Braves don’t know what they’ll do with Kelly Johnson.  Despite his struggles this year, Johnson is still drawing attention from a number of clubs, who recognize his talents and believe he can still experience some of the success  that has been on display in the past.

So I would think they’ll be able to trade him before reaching a point where they may have to debate whether to tender him a contract.

“We just can’t give up on Kelly,” Cox said. “He had too solid of a season last year.  I think if he’d have gotten the at-bats, he’d have been close with all of those numbers (from 2008), except for the batting average maybe.  But the homers, doubles and triples, if you add another 250 at-bats would have probably been the same.

“I feel bad about Kelly Johnson, not being able to get him in there at all. After Prado got in there, you couldn’t take him out.  He was the hottest hitter we had.”

Next week, Jason Heyward will begin competing in the Arizona Fall League.  At the same time while the Braves are holding their planning meetings in Orlando, the 20-year old top prospect’s name will be a hot topic of discussion.  Or that’s at least Cox’s expectation.  

Heyward has just 173 at-bats above the Class A level.  This was Wren’s response when he was asked if the club could go into Spring Training with an open mind about the possibility of the young phenom starting the 2010 season in the Majors:  

“I think it’s premature to have any mindset about Jason,” Wren said. “We know that he’s an outstanding  young talent.  We just want him to go play in Arizona and get as much experience as possible.  We’ll see where that takes him.”  

I’ll be covering the Phillies-Rockies Division Series and the NLCS.  But obviously I’ll be keeping up with the Braves-related news and updating this blog frequently.    The Hot Stove season will allow us to keep this forum just as lively as it was during Spring Training and the regular season.  

Can you still Believe?

Postseason hope might not be officially dead in Atlanta.  But I think it’s pretty safe to say it’s currently floating down the E. Coli-infested Chattahoochee River with Chad Paronto on its back.

There’s no doubt that the Braves are capable of sweeping their four-game series against the Nationals this weekend.  But you have to think the Rockies will likely clinch the Wild Card spot by winning at least one of their last four games against the Brewers and the Dodgers, who have lost four straight and five of six during a stretch against the Pirates and Padres.

When Matt Diaz hit his game-tying, three-run homer against the Marlins on Tuesday night, it was still easy to Believe that the Braves were going to find a way to get into the playoffs.

Two losses later, it’s hard to Believe how that one last gasp to keep legit hope alive was destroyed.

While getting picked off third base to end Wednesday night’s game, Diaz went from being the unsung catalyst to the goat in the matter of minutes. 

That same aggressive, shoes-on-fire approach that led Diaz to stray too far off third base was arguably what had allowed the Braves to load the bases in the ninth. 

Had Diaz not busted down the line after producing his two-out grounder, Marlins third baseman Wes Helms might not have rushed his throw that resulted in the inning-extending error.

In the end, there is no excuse for getting picked off in that situation.  Diaz knows that and he’ll continue to be bothered by this event for many days to come.

But as the Rockies continue to roll and the Dodgers continue to slide, Sunday may conclude with the realization that even with a perfect finish the Braves might have found themselves forced to face the fact that the hole they had dug was too deep to escape.

With the playoff picture now fading out of focus, there will still be a few things to follow over the next couple of days.

Perez Watch:  The Indians will likely call the Braves to ask permission to interview bullpen coach Eddie Perez for their vacant managerial role.   While playing in Cleveland in 2002, Perez developed a strong bond with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. 

While Perez might not yet be deemed ready for a managerial role, it will be interesting to see what he would do if the Indians were to offer him the greater responsibility that he’d experience as their bench coach.

Perez’s ultimate goal is to serve as Bobby Cox’s successor and remain in Atlanta.  But he could also be tempted to leave for a role that would allow him to better prepare himself to serve as a manager in the Majors.

Garret eyeing 2500:  Garret Anderson is just one hit shy of becoming the 90th player in Major League history to record 2500 in his career.  Dating back to the start of 1995, Anderson’s first full season in the big leagues, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are the only players to have compiled more hits.

Chipper needs two more: Chipper Jones remains two homers shy of becoming the first Major Leaguer to ever begin his career with 15 consecutive 20-homer seasons.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume we’ll see the veteran third baseman coming out of his shoes with a couple of swings during this final weekend.

 

  

Hope remains

Maybe it was not realistic to believe that the Braves were going to be able conclude the season with a 13-game winning streak.  But the next few days will tell us whether running the table in this fashion was the only way they were going to be able to completely dig themselves out of the hole that was dug before they became hotter than Jessica Simpson. 

Three games back with just five games to play certainly is not an enviable position.  But while realistically looking at how they might catch the Rockies in the Wild Card standings, Braves general manager Frank Wren said he accounted for his team to lose once this week with the hope that the Rockies split their final three games.

“I think realistically if you talked to everyone in this building, they probably thought we would lose one game this week,” Wren said.  “We didn’t know when it was going to be and we knew that we probably needed the Rockies to lose three times…We could have been hopeful of winning them all, but that probably wasn’t as realistic.”   <p>

Obviously the Braves still do a chance to pull off what would truly be deemed a miraculous run.  But they’ll have to start coming up with the clutch hits that haven’t been present as they’ve gone 1-for-15 w/ RISP during the first two games against the Marlins and also get some assistance from this Dodgers club that has spent the past few days letting the Padres and Pirates feel better about themselves.

While losing four of their past five games against the Pirates and Padres, the Dodgers haven’t provided any reason to feel confident about what they might do when the Rockies arrive in Los Angeles this weekend with the hope of securing the Wild Card entry. 

But the Dodgers have won 12 of 15 against the Rockies this year and if they can manage to add two or three wins to that win total this weekend, then the Braves might still find themselves playing next week. 

 

Did Barmes make the catch?

At the conclusion of Monday night’s win over the Marlins at Turner Field, the big video board in center field ran a clip that concluded with Chipper Jones saying, “It’s time to believe.”
 
There’s no doubt that it’s time to believe that the Braves could erase the two-game deficit they currently possess against the Rockies and find their way into postseason.  

But I’m not sure that Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes truly believes that he made that miraculous catch that ended Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Cardinals. 

With runners at the corners and one out, Barmes raced into shallow right field and made what appeared to be a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch while tumbling and turning into the Coors Field grass.  He then quickly turned and threw to first base to complete a game-ending double play.

 “By the time I looked back up, the ball was on top of me,” Barmes told MLB.com.  “That was where it kind of got all off-balance, with the roll…As I was going down, it hit my glove then went across my body or something and … I don’t even know, but I came up with it in my bare hand.”

But did he come up with the ball in his hand before it hit the ground? 

Before screaming about the need for Major League Baseball to broaden its instant replay system, I’ve got to tell you that I’ve looked at this video clip countless times this morning and I still haven’t seen the ball hit the ground.

But in the fan photo section that The Denver Post runs, Craig Welling has posted at least one shot that appears to show the ball on the ground.  Click here to see all of the pictures that Welling has taken of this moment and posted on his photoblog.

Here is the most revealing shot he took. This is the only view that I’ve found that shows that the ball seemingly did hit the grass.

Barmes catch.jpg   

Former MLB.com colleague Troy Renck addressed this question for The Denver Post and received an interesting answer from the always light-hearted and media-friendly Ryan Spilborghs, who was racing in from right field as Barmes performed his acrobatics.
 
“Only me and Barmes know the truth,” Spilborghs told Renck. “It’s the same as (Matt) Holliday touching home plate. It’s better that it’s (mysterious).”

When the Rockies won their one-game playoff against the Padres in 2007, they did so with Matt Holliday seemingly sliding across the plate with the winning run.  But replays never confirmed that he actually touched the plate.  

If the Rockies hold off the Braves and gain the National League Wild Card entry, this Barmes play will be one that’s celebrated in Denver and heavily debated in Atlanta.

But just like the Braves can’t lament the fact that they lost a four-run, seventh-inning lead during their July 12 loss at Coors Field, they can’t lose focus now by worrying about whether or not Barmes truly made this catch.

With the Marlins sending Josh Johnson to the mound to oppose Tim Hudson tonight, the Braves are preparing to face what appears to be the greatest challenge that they’ll encounter over the course of the final six games.

Johnson went 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his first eight career appearances against the Braves.  But the big right-hander has gone 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA in his past three outings against them.

One thing going for the Braves is the fact that Johnson may still be feeling the effects of the flu symptoms that caused him to miss Sunday’s scheduled start.  He’s completed just five innings in three of his four starts this month and has thrown more than 92 pitches in just two of his past seven outings. 

The Braves also can only hope that Jason Marquis continues his recent struggles when he takes the mound for the Rockies in their series opener against the Brewers tonight.  

The Rockies have won just one of Marquis’ past six starts and during this span, the former Braves hurler has gone 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA.  He has been charged with five earned runs in four of this six outings.

Small crowd:
  Given the excitement the Braves have created while winning 15 of their past 17 games, it was disappointing to see the sparse, yet very enthusiastic crowd that attended Monday night’s game. 

But this just doesn’t seem to be the time to once again bash the fans of Atlanta.  Obviously this city was hit hard last week by floods and there are many individuals who are still attempting to recover. 

The Braves have donated $25,000 to local aid organizations and before each remaining game this week they will collect flood relief donations in the Monument Grove area.  They are asking fans to contribute monetary donations, gift cards, hygiene items, school supplies, non-perishable food items and baby items.

In exchange for monetary donations or books to help assist Clarksdale Elementary to rebuild its library that was destroyed last week, Hudson will sign autographs at Turner Field  from 5:45-6:45 p.m. ET on Friday.  

What will this final week bring?

Usually when I answer the phone, I hear “what’s up” or “hey”.   This morning the common greeting has been, “so are they going to do it?”  

One witty friend said, “The Braves are trying to out-Rockie the Rockies.”  

Obviously he was referencing the 2007 season, when the Rockies won 13 of the final 14 regular season games and forced a one-game playoff with the Padres to determine who would serve as the National League’s Wild Card representative.  

Well if the Braves were to remain perfect throughout this final seven-game homestand, which begins tonight against the Marlins, they too will have won 13 of the final 14 games on their 162-game schedule.

Or to localize this achievement, they will have completed a 13-game winning streak that will trump the excitement of the identical one posted by Glenn Hubbard, Dale Murphy and their Braves teammates at the start of the 1982 season.   

Joe Torre skippered that bunch to that incredible start and 27 years later, as the Dodgers manager, he finds himself in a position where he could play a very influential role on where the Braves find themselves at the end of another 13-game winning streak.  

Nothing has changed on the Braves front.  They still must enter every remaining game with the do-or-die mindset that they’d feel if they were down one entering the ninth inning.   Even if they were to end the season in perfect fashion, the Rockies could win five of their final six against the Brewers and Dodgers and leave the city of Atlanta wondering “what might have been?”

Things would certainly look a lot better right now had Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes not ventured into shallow right field to make the tremendous catch that started the game-ending double play against the Cardinals yesterday.

As Barmes twisted, turned and tumbled to the ground while making the catch, I wondered if he had looked the same when he broke his collarbone while carrying that deer meat that Todd Helton had given him during the 2005 season.  

But more importantly, the immediate thought was how much different would things be if that ball had fallen and the Cardinals had held on to give the Braves a chance to come home facing just a 1 -game deficit in the Wild Card standings.

With a 2 1/2-game advantage, the Rockies will close their season with three-game sets against the Brewers and Dodgers.   

The Braves have an easier road with a three-game set against the Marlins, who have seen their postseason hopes erased, and a four-game set against the Nationals, who have compiled 103 losses and still not found one to be as embarrassing as the one their Washington D.C. football brothers experienced in Detroit yesterday.  

The Brewers have won 11 of their past 17 games, but were swept at home while dropping three straight one-run games to the Rockies in June.   The Dodgers have won 12 of 15 against the Rockies this year, but might not have anything to play for by the time they meet them again this weekend.  

Even if the Pirates were to hold onto this afternoon’s lead and end up taking three of four from the Dodgers, Torre’s bunch will still head to San Diego tomorrow owning at least a 1 -game advantage in the race to gain home field advantage throughout the postseason.   

Personally, I think it’s a stretch to think the Dodgers would be motivated this weekend by the opportunity to erase the Rockies and consequently ensure that they won’t have to open the postseason against the Phillies or Cardinals.  
I
n fact, there’s definite reason to believe that given the choice the Dodgers would much rather face either of those two division winners right now instead of the red-hot Braves, who are currently enjoying some of that mojo that helped the Rockies sweep through the Division Series and NL Championship Series in 2007.
 
Having won 15 of their past 18 games, the Braves have given us a chance to enjoy the tension that makes the regular season’s final week so special.
 
Now they just have to make sure the Marlins don’t suddenly gain that spoiler magic that has allowed them to erase the Mets from the postseason picture during the previous two seasons.  
If they pass the challenge the Marlins will present, the Braves can focus on completing their task against the Nationals, who have been present when the Phillies have celebrated the division titles that they’ve captured during final weekend of the past two seasons.

Whether the Nationals watch a team celebrate for a third consecutive season remains to be seen.  But it certainly wouldn’t bother me if I’m still answering the phone on Sunday morning and immediately hearing, “So are they going to do it?”

Braves bats have recently slumbered at Turner Field

Had the Padres bullpen kept things relatively clean following Mat Latos’ exit on Tuesday night, it would have been a little easier for the Braves to simply tip their caps and accept the fact that they were on the wrong end of a one-run shutout loss.  

During Latos’ seven scoreless innings, the Braves recorded two hits and moved just one baserunner (Matt Diaz in the sixth) into scoring position.  During each of the next three innings that followed the 21-year-old hurler’s exit, they put a runner in scoring position with one out and still managed to register just one run.
 
While recording just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position during those three innings, the Braves prolonged a troubling trend that has factored heavily in the that they’ve produced a pedestrian  7-6 record in their past 13 home games.   During this same span, which dates back to July 31, they’ve won seven of 10 road games.

Within their past 13 games at Turner Field, the Braves have compiled a .224 batting average and hit .223 (23-for-103) with runners in scoring position.  During their past 10 road games, they’ve batted .297 and been successful at a .397 (33-for-87) clip with runners in scoring position.

This glaring discrepancy comes within a small sample size.  But at the same time, it’s not as if the Braves possess the margin of error that will allow them to continue experience these kind of offensive struggles at Turner Field and still catch the Phillies or the Denver-based Rock-offs. 

With a second consecutive extra-inning, walk-off victory last night, the Rockies moved 5 games in front of both the Braves and Marlins, who are once again tied for third place in the National League Wild Card standings. 

Even with all of Colorado’s recent success,  it’s too early for the Braves to panic.  While they’re spending the next two nights facing a couple of Padres starters not named Latos, the Rockies will be facing the greater challenge presented by the Dodgers, who have the luxury of serving as the opposition when Josh Fogg makes his first big league start of the season tonight. 

If Fogg channels 2007 and once again becomes the “Dragon-Slayer”  that he was down the stretch that year, then Denver can prepare for another Rocktober and Atlanta can only hope the Dodgers continue to slide or that the Phillies send Brad Lidge to the mound to protect ninth-inning leads on a nightly basis.

Obviously before the Braves can make a serious push toward the postseason, they’ll need to get healthy.  With Ryan Church likely returning tonight and Nate McLouth confident that he’ll be ready when he’s eligible to come off the DL on Monday, they’re at least moving in the right direction.
 
While Martin Prado went hitless in six at-bats last night, it was at least encouraging to hear that he was able to complete a 12-inning game without dealing with any of the headaches or dizziness that had bothered him over the previous 10 days. 

The Braves also welcomed Garret Anderson back to the lineup on Tuesday night and watched him gut through a 1-for-5 performance.    Obviously outfield range isn’t one of Anderson’s assets.  But last night, it was apparent that he was still dealing with some of the lower back discomfort that has kept Church sidelined the past three games.
 
A healthy Anderson wasn’t going to get the game-winner that David Eckstein placed in the  left-center field gap.  But had Church or McLouth been in center, instead of Omar Infante, I think there’s a chance we might have at least seen a 13th inning.
 
Speaking of health, Chipper Jones certainly has said that he’s feeling some of the aches and pains that develop toward the end of a season for a 37-year-old man.  But it’s not as if his offensive struggles simply started over the course of the past nine games, during which he’s recorded one hit in 28 at-bats. 

This nine-game stretch doesn’t seem as concerning when he you account for the fact that he’s walked seven times in his past 18 plate appearances —  largely a product of the fact that the Marlins made it their mission not to let him hurt him this past weekend. 

Plus in the six games that preceded this nine-game slide, Chipper recorded 13 hits, including a pair of homers, in 23 at-bats. 

Concerns about Jones should focus on the fact that he’s hit just .241 with a .384 slugging percentage during his past 62 games.  Within this stretch, which dates back to June 10, he has seen his batting average drop from .335 to .281 and his slugging percentage drop from .565 to .462. 

Making this stretch even more maddening for Jones is the fact that he’s struggled from both sides of the plate and whether at home or on the road. 

Here are some of Jones’ splits during this 62-game stretch:
Vs. LHP   .235 (18-for-91) batting average, .330 on-base percentage, .395 slugging percentage
Vs. RHP  .244 (33-for-135) BA, .384 OBP, .378 SLG
Home:   .239 (28-for-117) BA, .343 OBP, .385 SLG
Road:    .242 (24-for-99) BA, .389 OBP, .384 SLG

Now that the Braves are returning to health, Jones might be given more opportunities to benefit from the rest provided by a day off.   But at the same time, this wouldn’t guarantee an immediate revival.  After straining his left oblique muscle on Aug. 7, he missed three games and didn’t return to the lineup until Aug. 11.
 
If Jones feels that he needs a day off, Braves manager Bobby Cox will likely be more apt to give him one during one of these final two games against the Padres. 

With the Braves heading to Philadelphia this weekend knowing just how significant it would be to exit with a three-game sweep, they’ll need Jones in the lineup  for each of those three games against the Phillies. 

 

Braves playoff hopes still alive

Within yesterday’s offday story, I pointed out that based on the developments that occurred during the previous two seasons, you can’t completely rule out the possibility that the Braves could still win the National League East.

At the same time, I provided a couple of recent examples (2007 Rockies and 2004 Astros) to reinforce the belief that the Braves are still very much alive in the National League Wild Card race.   Of course, I wrote that approximately 12 hours before the Rockies completed their 14-inning marathon against the Giants with Ryan Spilborghs’ walk-off grand slam.

While playing golf, fishing or resting tired muscles yesterday, the Braves lost a half-game in both the National League East and Wild Card races.  They now trail the Phillies by seven games and sit 4 games behind the Rockies.  

Having won seven of their last eight and 17 of their past 24, the Rockies aren’t providing any indication that they’re ready to release their stranglehold atop the Wild Card standings.   But at the same time, they’re providing reason to wonder if they may eventually fall out of this equation and catch the NL West-leading Dodgers, who have gone 10-12 this month and seen their lead over the Rockies shrink to three games.

The Dodgers, who owned an eight-game advantage over the Rockies entering this month, have hit .266, compiled a .330 on-base percentage and scored 4.5 runs per game in August.  From a pitching perspective, they’ve posted a 3.23 ERA.  

In the 24 games the Rockies have played since being shut out in consecutive games by the Mets, they’ve hit .274, compiled a .359 on-base percentage and tallied 5.79 runs per game.  During this span, their pitchers have posted a 3.95 ERA.  

While winning 14 of the 21 games they’ve played this month, the Braves have hit .272, reached base at a .348 clip and tallied 5.29 runs per game.   In the process, their pitchers have posted a 3.41 ERA.  

Looking at a larger sample size, the Cliff Lee-aided Phillies (3.04) are the only NL team that has posted a better ERA than the Braves (3.23) since the All-Star break.  With Spilborghs’ walk-off shot, the Rockies (5.30) became the only NL team that has scored more runs per game since the break than the Braves (5.28).   

Yesterday’s offday story also pointed out that the Braves current record of 66-58 matched the ones the Phillies had tallied on the way to winning the NL East both of the past two seasons.  In addition, I’ve since noticed that the 2006 world champion Cardinals also posted this same mark through their first 124 games.  

On the way to winning the Wild Card and advancing to the 2007 World Series, the Rockies possessed a 63-61 record and sat 3 games back in the Wild Card standings.  

Obviously the variables differ from year-to-year and the Braves certainly aren’t guaranteed the luxury the Phillies gained while the Mets collapsed both of the past two Septembers.   But recent history proves that they are still very much alive with the hope they’ve created courtesy of the recent success that they’ve encountered.  

Red-hot Roachy:  When the Braves acquired Mark Teixeira before the 2007 trade deadline, many immediately compared it to the trade that brought a first baseman named Fred McGriff to Atlanta for the final two months of the 1993 season.

While hitting .289 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and a .711 slugging percentage through his first 20 games,  Teixeira provided the similar immediate impact that McGriff did while hitting .364 with seven homers, 15 RBIs and a .753 slugging percentage during his first 20 games in Atlanta.  

When Adam LaRoche was acquired before this year’s trade deadline, there wasn’t any reason to put pressure on him to produce these kinds of outrageous numbers.  But through his first 20 games back as Atlanta’s first baseman, Roachy has hit .406 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and a .739 slugging percentage.  

Based on this success, the Braves will certainly attempt to keep  LaRoche in Atlanta after he hits the free agent market this offseason.  But with Freddie Freeman just a year or two away from reaching the Majors, they aren’t likely to offer him more than a two-year deal.  

Speaking of Freeman, he’s been placed on the seven-day disabled list with a bruised left hand.   During his first 41 games with Double-A Mississippi, the 19-year-old first baseman has hit .248 with two homers and a .650 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).  

For those of you who looked at yesterday’s box score and also noticed that Jason Heyward didn’t play for Mississippi, he simply got a day to rest.   Through his first 43 games at the Double-A level, Heyward has hit .338 with seven homers and a 1.046 OPS.  

These numbers are even more impressive when you account that he’s hit just .162 with one homer and three RBIs in his past 10 games.   The fact that he’s hit .243 with four homers and an .847 OPS this month should simply be a reminder that even the greatest 20-year-old prospects are going to encounter some form of struggles as they make their march toward the big leagues.  

Medlen’s turnaround:
  While Brian McCann provided the necessary offense, Sunday afternoon’s game against the Marlins couldn’t have been won without the two scoreless innings provided by Kris Medlen.  His effort negated the fact that Derek Lowe was forced to exit after five innings and just 67 pitches   —  a combined product of ineffective mound work and a short bench.
 
In his 13 appearances since the All-Star break, Medlen has worked 19 1/3 innings, posted a 0.93 ERA and limited opponents to a .197 batting average and .250 on-base percentage.
 
This obviously isn’t the same kid who was a nervous wreck when he arrived in the Majors in May.  Much more relaxed, Medlen has proven to be a funny dude in the clubhouse and a talented pitcher, who is going to continue to have chances to provide major impacts as the Braves continue to march into the heat of the postseason races.

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