Results tagged ‘ Roy Halladay ’

Somebody other than Chipper will have to solve Halladay

Now that the Braves have squandered the chance to steal a series-opening victory with Brandon Beachy on the mound, they will return to Citizens Bank Park tonight hoping to take advantage of the recently most-vulnerable member of the Phillies Big Three.

Roy Halladay enters tonight’s start 3-2 with a 4.41 ERA over his past five starts.  It’s safe to say he hasn’t enjoyed the same recent success encountered by Monday night’s victor Cole Hamels  (5-0, 0.49 ERA in his past five starts) or Wednesday’s scheduled starter Roy Oswalt (5-0, 1.25 in his past six starts).

So there is some reason for optimism if you choose to overlook the fact that, well Halladay will be facing the Braves. 

In four career appearances (three starts) against the Braves, Halladay has gone 3-0 with an 0.63 ERA.  The two runs he surrendered in these games were compiled over the course of 11 years and both came courtesy of the solo home runs hit by Chipper Jones  —  July 20, 1999 @ Toronto, July 5, 2010 @ Philadelphia.

Jones’ first-inning homer during that post-Independence Day game played two months ago accounted for the one of the 10 hits Halladay has surrendered while posting complete-game victories in both of the two starts made against the Braves this year.

While pitching for the Blue Jays at Turner Field last year, Halladay fell victim to the National League game and had to be pinch hit for after limiting the Braves to five hits over seven scoreless innings. 

So over the course of the three starts Halladay has made against the Braves within these past two seasons, he has completed 25 innings, surrendered 15 hits and allowed just the one run.

Forget what I said about vulnerable.  The Braves can only hope that the big right-hander is due to prove mortal against them tonight, while opposing the latest Atlanta rookie to be thrown into the thick of a postseason chase. 

When Mike Minor takes the mound tonight to make his eighth career start, he’ll look like a grizzled veteran in comparison to Beachy, who made his 22nd career professional start while experiencing his Major League debut last night.

This is what prompted me to greet Tommy Hanson yesterday with, “What’s up old man?”

Hanson will be making the 53rd Major League start of his career during Wednesday’s series finale.  Beachy and Minor have combined for 55 starts at the professional level. 

Entering this series, the Braves
projected starters had totaled 174 professional starts.
Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels had totaled 376 Major League wins.

It seems like an obvious mismatch on paper.  But as we witnessed yet again last night, anything can happen on any given night. 

If Jason Heyward secures Shane Victorino’s slicing and knuckling fifth-inning fly ball, Beachy might have allowed just one run in an effective five-inning effort that might have set the stage for these teams to battle beyond the ninth inning.

But Heyward’s three-base error opened the door for the Phillies to tally a pair of unearned runs in the fifth and preserve Hamels’ strong eight-inning effort, which was aided by three double-play groundouts. 

Martin Prado accounted for two of those twin-killings while once again providing the appearance that his body is pretty well beat up as we near the end of the season.  There’s no doubt that his right pinky finger (fractured on July 30) is still bothering him.

But the All-Star second baseman has also provided reason to believe that his legs are fatiguing down the stretch.  He has recorded just eight hits in his past 33 at-bats and been held hitless in five of his past seven games.

Still you can never question the determination and attitude shown by Prado, who still stands as the club’s most valuable player this year. 

Now let’s get back to those double plays.  The most costly was undoubtedly the one that killed the second-inning that started so promising, with the Braves collecting three of the six hits that Hamels would allow. 

Matt Diaz followed Brian McCann’s RBI double with a single that put runners at the corners with nobody out.  Alex Gonzalez struck out before Melky Cabrera grounded into a double play.

Before going any further, I have to ask, was Melky even in the view of the television cameras when Diaz raced into left center-field to rob Placido Polanco with a sliding catch in the first inning?

Maybe the better question would be, “Why was Melky even back in the starting lineup for last night’s game?” 

Dating back to the start of the Cardinals series, I’ve felt the Braves would be best served to have Nate McLouth in the lineup on a daily basis. My thought is that he should play center against left-handed starters and move to left, while Rick Ankiel starts in center when the opponent starts a right-handed pitcher. 

We’ll likely see Ankiel and McLouth in the same lineup tonight.  But when the Braves have faced a left-handed pitcher Cabrera has managed to keep finding his name in the lineup.

McLouth has hit just .135 against left-handers this year.  He’s been hitless in the four at-bats he’s totaled against them this month.  But hasn’t the rejuvenated success he has experienced this month (.324 batting average and three homers) at least earned him more of an opportunity to prove that he can also hit left-handers now?

Cabrera has batted .190 over the course of his past 20 games.  The switch-hitting outfielder  hit .268 against left-handers through the end of July, but has since batted just .152 (7-for-46) against them.

There are no guarantees that McLouth will suddenly prove successful against left-handers.  But it seems pretty safe to assume that he would provide better defense and prove to be at least as productive as Cabrera has been against southpaws. 

 

 

 

 
 

Times have changed since last visit to Philly

When Roy Halladay tossed his five-hit shutout against the Braves on April 21, he was the odds-on-favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award.  When the Braves left Philadelphia on May 9, they were five games below .500 (13-18) and six games behind a Phillies club that seemed destined to win a fourth consecutive NL East crown.

Oh, how times have changed. 

When Halladay takes the mound tonight, he’ll be aiming to halt his recent woes and close the gap on the first-place Braves, who are five games in front of the injury-depleted Phillies in the NL East race. 

The Phillies, who will be without Chase Utley until at least the latter part of August, have won just 14 of the 31 games they’ve played since coming to Atlanta on May 31 with a half-game lead over the Braves. 

Since tossing his perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, Halladay has gone 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .302 against him.  During his last outing, he recorded 10 strikeouts over eight innings and held the Reds scoreless through five innings. 

Then while allowing four runs in the next three innings, Halladay saw Joey Votto and Jay Bruce prolong his recent longball woes. Seven of the 10 homers surrendered by the Phillies right-hander have been hit during his past four starts.  He allowed just three in his first 13 starts of the season.

Troy Glaus, who is one of the four current Braves who has one career homer against Halladay, will rest his sore left knee again tonight.  But it appears he could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday. 

Nate McLouth will be re-examined within the next two days and if it appears he is no longer bothered by post-concussion symptoms, he could be cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment later this week. 

McLouth was able to complete batting practice outdoors without any problem the past couple of days.  Hopefully, this was a sign that he is recovering.  But it also could have been a product of the less-humid conditions that were in Atlanta this weekend. 

One of the reasons the Braves signed Willy Taveras to a Minor League deal was to provide some insurance in case McLouth isn’t able to return and prove to be more productive than he was before he suffered the concussion after colliding with Jason Heyward. 

But for now, Gregor Blanco is providing reason to believe he can serve as a dependable option in center field.  The speedy outfielder has always been able to cover a lot of ground.  But this year, he seems to be taking better routes and cutting down on the mental errors that he displayed in the past.

Oh yeah, Blanco also hit .450 in the six games he played last week.

Heading down to the clubhouse.  I’ll let you know if Omar Infante heads over to the Phillies dugout to give Charlie Manuel a big hug.   

Braves set to conclude a memorable May

Before looking at how the Braves have positioned themselves to move into first place within any of the next three days, I want to thank my father, uncle and each of you who have given us this opportunity to take time today to remember why we have been afforded the chance to enjoy the freedoms provided us here in the United States. 

Based on the way the Braves have played over the course of the past three weeks, there was growing reason to believe there could come a point where they would start seriously challenging Philadelphia’s National League East supremacy.  But two weeks ago, when they sat a season-high 6 1/2 games back, there certainly wasn’t much reason to think they could enter June as the division leaders. 

With the Phillies having scored a total of seven runs while losing six of their past eight games, their manager Charlie Manuel brings a staggered bunch into Turner Field this week.  Winners of 15 of their past 19 games, the Braves enter this afternoon’s series opener just a half-game back in the NL East race. 

Over the course of the previous four seasons, the Braves never even held a share of first place after May 15.   In fact during the 2006, 2008 and 2009 seasons, they never sat above second place this late in the season after April 12.

Now if Phil Niekro can get his arm loose and find some of his get his knuckleball to start dancing again this week, the Braves might really be able to prolong Philadelphia’s offensive woes this week.  

The Phillies have been shutout five times over the course of their past eight games and the only time they scored during any of the six losses that encompassed this span was when they tallied three ninth-inning runs after knuckleballer Tim Wakefield blanked them for eight innings on May 23.

Forty-eight hours after being handcuffed by Wakefield’s knuckler, the defending National League champs were blanked by the one delivered by R.A. Dickey.   This prompted Bobby Cox to playfully tell one of the members of his club’s media relations staff, “why don’t you throw Niekro in there as one of our probables for the Phillies series.”

“With that lineup, it’s just a matter of time before they bust loose,” Chipper Jones said. “Fortunately I like our pitching staff and I think our pitching staff can continue to hold them down.”    

With Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe set to take the mound this week, the Braves seemingly match up much better than the Phillies, who will not be sending Roy Halladay or Jamie Moyer to the mound during this week’s series. 

Like knuckleballers have been Philadelphia’s kryptonite, Moyer arguably had the same effect on the Braves when they endured their nine-game losing streak at the end of April.   The 47-year-old left-hander has allowed at least four earned runs in six of his first 10 starts this year.  But in two outings against Atlanta he has completed 15 innings without surrendering an earned run. 

Halladay marked the beginning of that nine-game losing streak and the next night Moyer prolonged it by throwing six scoreless innings at Turner Field.  Seven days later, the Braves had endured a nine-day stretch during which they had hit .223 and totaled 17 runs.

As miserable as that span seemed to be, the potent Phillies offense has actually been even worse recently.  During their past eight games, they have batted just .186 and tallied seven runs.

Within these eight games, the Phillies have missed Jimmy Rollins’ presence at the top of their lineup and seen Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth combine to hit .130 (11-for-84) with two extra-base hits  (a double and a triple). 

In the 16 games played since Martin Prado began handling the leadoff role on virtually an everyday basis, the Braves have hit .289 and scored 5.6 runs per game.  Whey exited Philadelphia on May 9, they had gone through the season’s first 31 games hitting .232 and scoring 3.9 runs per game. 

It appears this is a much different Braves club than the one that lost four of its first six games to the Phillies this year.   But if they are going to maximize the dividends created by the turnaround they have enjoyed this month, they need to make a statement this week at Turner Field. 

Exiting this series in first place would simply be a by-product of the more important opportunity to gain further confidence by claiming a series victory against these Phillies, who are currently vulnerable and always dangerous. 

NOTES:  If the Braves are able to claim a victory with Hanson on the mound this afternoon, they will have gone 20-8 in May.  In other words no matter what happens in this series opener, they will not lose more games during this 31-day stretch than they did during that forgettable nine-game stretch in April…Jason Heyward enters this series opener with an NL-best 1.017 OPS.  He’s legitimized his candidacy for an All-Star bid and also given reason to be an early MVP favorite…Prado leads the NL with a .325 batting average. Back when they were playing in the Minors, Brian McCann predicted Prado would win a batting title.  We’ll see if his words prove prophetic this year.

Will the starting rotation live up to expectations?

After suffering his Major League-high fifth loss on Tuesday night, the still-winless Kenshin Kawakami actually used the word pathetic (or that was at least what was interpreted) while describing how he has pitched this season.
 
If you agree that the tough-luck Kawakami has been “pathetic” this season, then how would you describe the path that Derek Lowe has traveled on the way to winning four of his first 6 decisions?
   
Lowe   4-2,  5.18 ERA   .264 BA .350 OBP  .774 OPS  33 IP, 33 hits and 17 BBs
Kawakami  0-5, 5.47 ERA  .298 BA .342 OBP .852 OPS   26 1/3 IP  31 hits and 8 BBs

Lowe has been opposed by six pitchers who have combined to go 10-12 with a 5.74 ERA this year.   The five pitchers who have served as Kawakami’s mound opposition have gone 18-3 with a 1.94 ERA.

Even though he has been awarded more than a third of the 11 wins the Braves have recorded this season, should we say that Lowe been “slightly less-than-pathetic?”

Or should we simply look at the big picture and realize that the early-season offseason woes have overshadowed the possibility that this Atlanta rotation might not be as strong as we projected entering the season? 

Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson, who will combine to start the final two games of the current three-game series against the Nationals, have provided indication that they are capable of being the ace-like pitchers the Braves believed they would be.  

But entering Wednesday night’s game, the Braves starters ranked eighth in the National League with a 4.28 ERA and 13th with just 143 2/3 innings completed through the season’s first 26 games.   An Atlanta pitcher has completed seven innings just three times this season with Hanson, Hudson and Jair Jurrjens accounting for those outings.

In comparison, the Phillies have seen their starting pitchers complete at least seven innings nine times already.  Yes, Roy Halladay has accounted for six of these outings.  But with Cole Hamels going eight innings in two of his past four outings, can the Braves still confidently say that their starting rotation is better than that injury-depleted one that supports the lethal offense that exists in Philadelphia? 

While Joe Blanton made his return to the Phillies rotation on Monday, the Braves currently don’t know who will be starting the final two games of this weekend’s series in Philadelphia.   Jurrjens doesn’t believe his strained hamstring will allow him to pitch on Saturday and Kawakami is at least questionable for Sunday’s start because of the blister that formed on his right foot during Tuesday night’s fourth inning.

Less than a week removed from a nine-game losing streak the Braves now find themselves battling a lack of depth in the starting pitching department.  James Parr could make Saturday’s start.  But if he does can the Braves be confident that he would eat enough innings for them to not have to call upon either Kris Medlen or Jonny Venters, the relievers who could be asked to make a spot start on Saturday. 

The Braves knew they couldn’t complete an entire season with all of their starting pitchers healthy and at this point, they can at least take solace in the fact that neither Jurrjens or Kawakami will miss any significant time. 

But as fate would have it, the Braves find themselves battling this potential dilemma during a weekend that could provide them a chance to remain within striking distance of the Phillies. 

Still I guess things could certainly be worse for the Braves.  I mean it’s lot like they suffered a 43-point loss during the first game of a conference semifinal last night.  

Speaking of yesterday, a loyal Braves fan, James Reese, snapped this picture of Tom Glavine, Frank Wren and  Dr. Joe Chandler watching Class A Rome’s home game on Tuesday.

glavwren.jpg 

Just like with his previous trip to Rome, Glavine returned to Atlanta having not allowed a run. But this time, it appears that he will incur a different fate. 

As of 2:07 p.m. ET on Wednesday, there was no indication that the former hurler has since been told that he has been released from his duties as a broadcaster and special assistant to the president. 

Sorry Frank, it was too easy.

Wren and Glavine are spending some time in Rome this week evaluating some of the club’s young prospects and Jordan Schafer, who has gone 2-for-7 in his first two Minor League rehab games.  The young center fielder will continue to strengthen his surgically-repaired left hand before joining Triple-A Gwinnett’s roster.  

The big league Braves will have the benefit of sending Hanson to the mound tonight to oppose Luis Atilano, who has gone 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his first three career starts.   The Braves selected Atilano with their first pick (35th overall) in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft and then traded him to the Nationals on Aug. 31, 2006 for pinch-hitter Daryle Ward.

BRAVES LINEUP vs. Nats 5/5/2010

McLouth, 8
Prado, 4
Chipper, 5
McCann, 2
Glaus, 3
Heyward, 9
Diaz, 7
Infante, 6
Hanson, 1

Follow me on Twitter @mlbbowman

  

Braves to face Halladay Tuesday night

This upcoming week should be an interesting one for the Braves, who are scheduled to meet the Phillies and Yankees in a span of three days. 

Tuesday night’s matchup against the Phillies at Disney will give the Braves to get their first look at Roy Halladay in a Philadelphia uniform.  Halladay, who replaced fellow former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee in the Phillies rotation, will be opposed by Kenshin Kawakami.

As you likely remember Kawakami began showing his “big-game” capabilities when he tossed eight scoreless innings and led the Braves to a 1-0 win over Halladay and the Blue Jays last year.

It seems safe to assume this will be the first of many matchups against Halladay, who has made just this one regular season start against the Braves in his career. 

Thursday night’s game against the Yankees in Tampa will pit the Braves against another former Blue Jay.  But the storyline following the matchup against A.J. Burnett will certainly be trumped by Jair Jurrjens, who could make his Grapefruit League season debut that evening.

The Braves have not announced that Jurrjens will start.  But if his live batting practice sessions go well on Sunday and Tuesday, there’s a good chance that he’ll be making his exhibition season debut against the defending world champions. 

Filling Jurrjens’ rotation spot, Kris Medlen will start this afternoon’s game against the Astros. Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Troy Glaus didn’t make this cross-town trip to Kissimmee.  But Jason Heyward is once again in the lineup, batting third. 

Don Sutton and Jim Powell will be broadcasting today’s game which can be heard on MLB.com by clicking here.  If you’re in your car in Atlanta, turn the dial to 680 The Fan.    

Braves Lineup
McLouth 8
Prado 4
Heyward 9
Hinske 3
Escobar 6
Diaz 7
Infante 5
Ross 2
Mitch Jones DH

Braves not talking to Dodgers about Vazquez

If the Braves determine that they can’t move Derek Lowe, they will have to increase their efforts to move Javier Vazquez.  But contrary to a tweet posted by former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden, they aren’t currently talking to the Dodgers about Vazquez. 

As many of you have already pointed out in this forum, Vazquez’s contract includes a clause that prevents him from being traded to any of the teams from the West divisions of the American and National Leagues. 

In addition, early Friday afternoon a team source said that the Braves and Dodgers aren’t currently in the midst of any trade discussions. 

Before moving Vazquez and the $11.5 million that he is owed next year, the Braves will concentrate their efforts on moving Lowe and the $45 million that he is owed over the course of the next three years.

Earlier this week, I mentioned that the Yankees might have some interest in Lowe. But it now appears that they won’t attempt to land the 36-year-old sinkerballer, who went 15-10 with a 4.67 ERA for the Braves this past season. 

It now appears the more likely suitors for Lowe would be the Brewers or Angels, a pair of teams looking to add a veteran front-line starter.  

But the Angels will first wait to get a better understanding about how much it might take to bring John Lackey back to serve as their ace.   If the highly-sought right-hander signs elsewhere, they could gauge the possibility of trading for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay before turning their sights toward Lowe.

As for the Brewers, there has been some indication that they would be more interested in acquiring Vazquez. 

Looking back on Teixeira trade

Things are obviously much quieter along the Braves trade front than they were both of the past two years, when they were dealing with the acquisition and departure of Mark Teixeira.
 
Still with the Phillies still playing a lead role in the daily developments that surround Roy Halladay, these final days leading up to the trade deadline could prove to be interesting for the Braves and their fans.
 
Or if Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi does stick with his self-imposed deadline, this trade-deadline excitement might simply extend for another 24 hours.
 
If the Phillies were to land Halladay, there’s certainly reason to believe that a third consecutive National League East pennant will appear in Philadelphia.  But his acquisition seemingly would have more of an effect on the potential of a second consecutive world championship.
 
When MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki asked if the Phillies should continue their pursuit of Halladay, Cole Hamels responded:
 
“It depends on if you want to try to win the World Series the next two years because that’s what he’s going to be here for,” Hamels said. “Winning the World Series or at least attempting to win the World Series the next two years will please us, please the organization and please the fans. You can’t really complain about that. I think it would be a step in a good direction.”

It appears the Jays need a multi-player package that is headlined by both J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek.  The Phillies have balked at including both of these promising young pitchers.

But this certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually opt to pull the trigger.  As Braves president John Schuerholz reminded me last week, he and his aides experienced a number lively debates before ultimately appeasing the Rangers with the five prospects that it took to bring Teixeira to Atlanta
.
With the Halladay trade talk in focus, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan wrote a story looking back on the 2007 trade that made Teixeira a Brave.

As the years progress, you can twist and turn the analysis of trades in many different directions.  But at the end of the day, I don’t think you can truly bash a trade unless it’s one you bashed at the time it was completed.
 
My initial thoughts were that the Braves had given up too much for Teixeira.  But two years later, I actually find myself feeling that Schuerholz made a calculated gamble that was worth taking.
 
As has been pointed out countless times, with Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann in place, there was no room in Atlanta for Elvis Andrus and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.   This analysis has proven to be even stronger as Escobar continues to develop into one of the game’s top shortstops.
 
Matt Harrison might have been a nice Band-Aid last year, when the Braves rotation was wrecked by injuries.  But scouts and others who have had a chance to watch the soft-spoken left-hander on a regular basis don’t seem to be too high on his future.

Obviously the most consistent knock about the trade centers around the fact that the Braves included a 19-year-old right-hander, who had recorded 28 strikeouts and allowed 18 hits in 27 1/3 innings for their rookie level Danville club that year. 

Two years later, that 19-year-old is now the 21-year-old right-hander that the baseball world knows as  the flame-throwing Neftali Feliz.  Still even with a fastball that has reached 100 mph, Feliz’s future success at the big league level is clouded by the fact that he’s struggled to find consistent command with a secondary pitch. 

Feliz, who has been moved into a relief role with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate, and Andrus still have the potential be superstars at the Major League level. 

But even if they both reach this status, wasn’t it worth taking the gamble on the acquisition of a first baseman, who would hit .295 with 37 homers in the 157 games that you placed him in your lineup.

Forgettable anniversary:  Today marks the one-year anniversary of when Teixeira’s career in Atlanta essentially came to a close.  One year ago today, the Braves blew a five-run lead against the Phillies for a second consecutive day.

With those consecutive losses, Frank Wren faced the reality that his club wasn’t a postseason contender and had to find a club willing to exchange a Major League-ready first baseman for Teixeira.

It’s still hard to believe that the return the Braves gained from the Angels in exchange for Teixeira was limited to Casey Kotchman and Minor League reliever Stephen Marek.

But while hitting .328 with three homers and a .492 slugging percentage in his past 19 games, Kotchman has at least contributed to the offensive awakening the Braves have realized this month.   In the 104 games he’d previously played for the Braves, he’d hit .254 with four homers and a .349 slugging percentage.  

With Kelly Johnson back in the mix and at least showing some indication that he got himself right during his Minor League rehab assignment, Martin Prado’s versatility could prove to be even more important.  

During those days that the Braves are facing a top left-handed pitcher, Bobby Cox could choose to put Prado at first base and give Johnson the opportunity to prolong the success he’s found while facing southpaws during the past two seasons.
 
When asked who has been the most valuable offensive performer for the Braves this month, it’s easy to determine the distinction belongs to Yunel Escobar, who has produced a team-leading four homers, 19 RBIs, .461 on-base percentage and .662 slugging percentage.   His .369 batting average has been bettered only by the .370 mark that Matt Diaz has compiled in 11 fewer at-bats.
 
Chipper Jones (.294) and Nate McLouth (.259) are the only Braves regulars who haven’t hit at least .300 this month.   Still Jones’ 15 RBIs rank as the team’s third-highest total and McLouth is one of five players who have hit three homers.  The others being Jones, Brian McCann, Kotchman and Garret Anderson.  

Braves looking for a reliever

As recently as a week ago, I would have thought there was a chance that Javier Vazquez would me making his final start for the Braves tonight.   

But while winning 14 of their past 20 games and six of eight since the All-Star break, the Braves have at least suspended thoughts of selling Vazquez or Rafael Soriano before next week’s trade deadline.  

Barring an utter collapse during the six games that will precede next Friday’s deadline, the Braves will continue to search for a reliever and explore the limited opportunities to add a bat to their lineup.  

There’s no doubt that the Braves could benefit from gaining more power potential at first base and their outfield trio.   But while compiling the second most runs in the National League this month, they’ve at least learned that they may already have the pieces that are capable of supporting their strong starting rotation.  

If the Braves do something before the deadline, the best bet is that they’ll add a reliever.  But while looking at a group of available options that include Danys Baez, Takashi Saito, Ron Mahay and John Grabow, it’s apparent that there isn’t much available.  

Still while working with the handicap of not being able to add to their payroll, the Braves will continue to search for a reliever, whose presence could at least create a better opportunity for Peter Moylan and some of their other relievers to stay fresh for the stretch run.

Peter Moylan leads the National League with 53 appearances, Eric O’Flaherty ranks third with 50 and Mike Gonzalez has already garnered 49 appearances, which is five shy of his career-high total posted in 2006, when he missed September while nursing the elbow soreness that likely led to the Tommy John surgery that he underwent the following May.

Because Manny Acosta hasn’t provided full confidence that he can handle some of the late-inning pressure situations, the Braves may need to continue steadily inserting Kris Medlen into their regular bullpen mix.  They also could gain some depth within the next week, when Buddy Carlyle is activated from the disabled list.

Forget what occurred when the Giants scored their four unearned runs while Moylan was on the mound during Thursday’s loss.  If you want to place the blame somewhere, you may want to point it in the direction of Casey Kotchman, whose lackadaisical lob toward first base allowed a sacrifice bunt attempt to equate to an infield single.  

Adam LaRoche made a similar mistake during the 2006 season and was publicly chastised for a couple days.  But that’s neither here nor there.  This was just a longwinded way of pointing out that Moylan has proven to be better since he was given the opportunity to gain some rest during the All-Star break.  

During his four appearances since the break, he’s worked four innings, allowed just two unearned runs, limited opponent to a .200 batting average, recorded five strikeouts and issued no walks.  

While making eight appearances during an 11-day span leading up to the break (July 2-12), Moylan worked 6 2/3 innings, surrendered  11 hits, allowed five earned runs,  issued three walks and registered three strikeouts.

In order to provide Moylan the opportunity to consistently display the promising form he displayed before undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, the Braves could benefit from at least giving Bobby Cox another arm to call upon during late-inning situations.  

Halladay Watch hits Atlanta area:  The Roy Halladay watch will extend into Gwinnett County tonight, when a Blue Jays scout will watch Phillies pitching prospect Carlos Carrasco face the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves.
 
If the Blue Jays choose not to move Halladay, there’s at least some reason to believe the Braves might be able to get even more for Vazquez from a pitching-hungry club.
 
But as things stand now, it appears Vazquez’s future in Atlanta will be determined during the offseason, when the Braves decide whether they want to keep his $11.5 million cost or exercise  Tim Hudson’s  $12 million option. 
 
There doesn’t seem to be any way that they could keep both of them on next year’s payroll and even less reason to believe the Braves could make room for both by moving Kenshin Kawakami’s contract.

Who is that Wise guy?  If I’ve told this story before, I
apologize.  But with his tremendous catch to preserve Mark Buehrle’s
perfect game on Thursday afternoon, Dewayne Wise produced the reminder
of the first day that I saw him during Spring Training in 2004.  

As we were standing in the middle of the clubhouse just shooting the
breeze with Cox, Wise, a non-roster invitee who had previously been in
the Blue Jays system, approached his new manager to introduce
himself.  

And staying true to his ability to make all of his players feel like
they’re wanted and important, Cox responded with a firm handshake, a
smile and, “Hey I’ve heard a lot about you, it’s great to have you
here.”   

Then as Wise walked away, Cox asked, “Who was that?”

While none of the surrounding reporters knew him at that particular
moment , the entire baseball world certainly now knows about Wise, who
even drew some attention during President Barack Obama’s speech in
Chicago on Thursday.

Wise hit .228 with six homers in 56 games for the Braves in 2004.  His
regular role with Atlanta was diminished when Charles Thomas hit the
scene in late June and proceeded to enjoy his dream season.

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