Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

McLouth expects to play on Wednesday

Having never previously experienced the excitement of a chase toward the postseason, Nate McLouth certainly isn’t going to allow a little lower back soreness to prevent him from being a part of the excitement he and his Braves teammates have recently created.  <p>

With a secure lead during Tuesday night’s 8-1 win over the Giants, Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to use some precaution by allowing McLouth to rest his back during the final three innings. 

But when reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum toes the rubber for the Giants on Wednesday night, McLouth plans to be the first Braves batter that he faces.  

“I’ll be in there,”  McLouth said. “I’ll be fine.”

McLouth said he felt a twinge in his back during his first-inning at-bat.  As he beat out a fifth-inning infield single, he showed enough discomfort to at least draw a quick visit from Braves manager Bobby Cox.

As he was receiving treatment in the trainer’s room, McLouth said he was thinking about how exciting the past couple of weeks have been.   With a 13-6 run, the Braves have put themselves in a position that the 27-year-old outfielder never experienced during his days with the Pirates.

“It’s been great the past couple of weeks,” McLouth said. “This is a feeling you want to continue.”

With Arizona’s win over Colorado on Tuesday night, the Braves moved to within three games of the lead in the National League Wild Card standings.  They’re tied with the Cubs and looking up at only the Giants and Rockies.

The Giants and Rockies will stage a three-game series against each other at Coors Field this weekend.   

“Right now, we’re playing all-around good baseball,” Brian McCann said. “We’re hitting great, pitching great and our defense has been unbelievable.   It seems like every night our middle infielders are making highlight plays and it’s rubbing off on everybody else.” 

While McCann supplied four RBIs during Tuesday night’s win, the top highlight was provided courtesy of the acrobatic double play turned by Yunel Escobar and Martin Prado.

“Prado made a great play and Esky the same thing,” McCann said. “They work on that during batting practice all the time.  When you put it to work during the game, it’s fun to watch.   I get the best seat in the house.  Both guys made an unbelievable play.” 

After diving to his right to rob Travis Ishikawa of a first-inning RBI single, Prado flipped to Escobar, who vaulted off the second base bag and made an accurate throw to first base that at least in umpire Tim Timmons’ view beat Ishikawa.

“Somebody said he was safe at first,” Prado said. “It was one of those plays where the umpire gives you that. It was a big play in that inning. I saw him coming to the bag and I just flipped it to the base. That’s the only thing I could do. It was  a reaction play. I just flipped it and he was there and he jumped and threw the ball.”

Prado said that Escobar routinely attempts to make these kinds of acrobatic turns during batting practice.

“Escobar is one of those guys in batting practice that wants to practice those kinds of plays,” Prado said. “That happens once in a while. It happened tonight and he was like ‘You see? I told you it would happen.’ We have a great friendship and he’s a great player. He makes us play harder every day.”

When asked where he would rank this turn among the other turns he’s completed during his young career, Escobar responded  “Numero Uno.”

Then with Jair Jurrjens serving as an interpreter, Escobar added, “You practice how you play.”
       
 

Medlen ready to conquer nerves?

Obviously the biggest question going into tonight’s game against the Giants centers around Kris Medlen and his ability to overcome whatever demons haunted him during the fourth inning of his big league debut last week. 
Because he pitched effectively during the first three innings of last Thursday’s game against the Rockies, I didn’t initially buy into the notion that it was solely nerves that caused him to miss the strike zone with 15 of his 18 fourth-inning pitches.
But I certainly can’t discount the likelihood that all of his nervous energy started working in a negative manner once he threw his first wayward pitch during that forgettable fourth inning.  
From what I have gathered from those who have had the opportunity to watch him rise through the Minor League ranks, Medlen is a pitcher who has always been able to utilize his energetic personality to his advantage.   At the same time, he’s occasionally experienced outings where he suddenly struggles with his control and then regains it a short time later.
The Braves can only hope that Medlen is able to channel his great sense of energy when he once again encounters the expected nerves that will be present tonight, when he faces the challenge of outdueling Tim Lincecum. 
Given that the Blue Jays were leading the Majors in a number of statistical categories, I’d argue that Medlen’s challenge against Lincecum is actually less significant than the one Kenshin Kawakami conquered during last week’s duel against Toronto ace Roy Halladay. 
Medlen likely isn’t going to match the dominance that Kawakami showed with his eight scoreless innings against the Blue Jays last week. 
In fact, fading away from the topic for just a second to admit that my timing was great last Friday afternoon, when I said the Braves will regret the Kawakami signing through the end of the 2011 season, I will say that Kawakami’s effort was the second-best provided by a Braves pitcher this year, trailing only the Opening Day dominance that Derek Lowe showed in Philadelphia. 
But (getting back to the original topic) Medlen says that he’s “super pumped” about tonight’s matchup and he expressed this with more than words.  In fact, once he got done moving his hands in countless directions while talking about tonight’s matchup, I walked away wondering if I was supposed to bunt or hit-and-run.
Francoeur provided opportunity:  When Garret Anderson and Brian McCann returned to the lineup, Jeff Francoeur wasn’t happy about the fact that he was primarily hitting seventh, where he says pitchers were less apt to pitch to him because he had Jordan Schafer and the pitcher’s spot sitting behind him. 
With Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar out of the lineup on Saturday, Francoeur moved up to the sixth spot and responded with a three-hit performance that included four solid at-bats. 
But with Jones, Escobar and Anderson out of Monday afternoon’s lineup, Francoeur didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to show his run-producing skills.   While going hitless in four at-bats, he didn’t advance any of the seven runners who were on base when he came to the plate. 
The frustration he felt while striking out with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth inning increased during the eighth inning, when he again recorded the first out with runners at first and second base. 
During the early weeks of this season, when it didn’t make much sense to evaluate batting averages, the reason to be encouraged about Francoeur stemmed from the fact that he had eight hits in his first 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position.  
But he has just five hits in his last 35 at-bats with runners in scoring position.   His three-run homer against Mike Hampton on May 1 accounted for the only extra-base hit and three of the nine RBIs he’s compiled during this span.
The Braves will continue to shop Francoeur with the hope of getting some substance in return.  But dealing him isn’t going to solve all of their offensive outfield woes. 
While the corner outfield positions aren’t providing any power, Jordan Schafer has essentially done nothing but spend the past seven weeks providing a solid glove.   In his past 39 games, Schafer has hit .173 with a .298 on-base percentage and 51 strikeouts. 
Schafer’s strikeout total ranks as the fourth-highest in the Majors and comes with the contribution of two homers, which were both provided during the season’s first three games.    Each of the three players with more strikeouts this year   —  Texas’s Chris Davis, Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena and Arizona’s Mark Reynolds  —   have all hit at least 10 homers. 
Looking at internal options, the Braves could give Brandon Jones a chance to play right field.  Jones is hitting .315 with Triple-A Gwinnett.  But he still hasn’t homered in 111 at-bats and from a defensive perspective, he would have to be considered a downgrade in comparison to Francoeur, who can still affect a game with his arm. 
As for the internal center field options, they are limited to Gregor Blanco, Brian Barton and Reid Gorecki  and none of these players provide the Braves much reason to be confident about their ability to fare much better than Schafer. 
But from a developmental standpoint, the Braves have to at least wonder if Schafer’s bright future will become clouded if he continues to provide consistent indication that he’s overmatched at the Major League level. 
Braves general manager Frank Wren has assembled a pitching staff that could take his team into October.  But he currently faces the great challenge of finding a way to minimize some of the same outfield concerns that were present last year.

 

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