Results tagged ‘ Pennant Races ’

It ain’t over till it’s over…

Well it certainly has been an interesting week for the Atlanta Braves. A week full of highs, lows and everything in between.

A nine-game home-stand against NL East opponents began with a back-breaking 3-game sweep at the hands of the New York Mets that may well have sealed the Braves playoff fate… so it seemed at the time. Splitting the first two games of their series with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Braves pulled off an improbable seven run comeback in the final two innings of Wednesday’s contest to grab a 9-8 win.

What was different in that game than any other in the home-stand thus far?

The breaks. They finally went the Braves way… and then some.

A string of broken bat, bloop and infield singles fueled the rally that saw the powerful Braves line-up score seven runs without the benefit of a single homer. Matt Diaz provided the final blow, but what was equally amazing about the feat itself was the fact that it came against the Phillies top two relievers, Tom Gordon and Brett Myers.

The Braves can ill-afford another sweep in any series, and still have three games against both the Mets and Phillies before season’s end. Is that enough time and/or opportunity to make the race for the Division interesting? It may well be.

Other than the Mets and Phillies series, Atlanta’s only other game against a team with a .500 or better record is the Milwaukee Brewers (71-68) – who are fighting to win the NL Central with an nearly identical record as the Braves (71-69) coming into Thursday. Milwaukee is just 22-29 since the All-star break and have seen both the Chicago Cubs and defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals re-assert themselves in the race.

The Braves schedule includes this weekend’s series against the Washington Nationals (63-77) and one more trip to Miami to face the last place Marlins (60-80). Atlanta will conclude the season against the Houston Astros (62-78). Add that all up and you have teams that have combined to go 50 games under .500. So there is certainly a chance the Braves could put together some good baseball down the stretch.

Other notes:

Get well soon Edgar: Despite the solid play of Yunel Escobar at short over the past month, it is interesting to note that the Braves are just 14-17 without Edgar Renteria in the line-up. The veteran shortstop is still wary of just how his sprained ankle will respond and is not eager to rush back and re-injure himself for second time.

Wickman still out there: After being let go by the Atlanta Braves on August 24, former closer Bob Wickman has still not found a new home. When the Phillies arrived in town, the overall impression was that Philadelphia would pass on the 38-year old righty despite manager Charlie Manuel’s familiarity with Wickman from their days in Cleveland. However, after the stunning 9-8 loss they suffered to the Braves on Wednesday, they may just re-consider their late inning options.

Hudson honored as Braves Roberto Clemente award recipient: Not only is Tim Hudson enjoying more success on the field in 2007, but he has continued to work hard in his efforts off the field. For the second straight season, Hudson has been chosen as the team’s recipient of the Roberto Clemente award for his outstanding success on the field and his tireless efforts of community service. Hudson will be honored prior to Friday night’s game against Washington and will be one of 30 nominees to be considered for the national Clemente award.

Till next time,

G-Mc

Department of redundancy department…

September is just around the corner, which means there are pennants to be clinched and Wild Cards to be had in the hunt for not-so-red October.

The Braves have been battling to find the consistency needed to start winning games in bunches, while avoiding the prolonged losing streaks that have plagued them all season. Win three, lose three – Win two-out-of-three, lose two-out-of-three. Since starting the season 6-1, Atlanta has battled to string together a run that would make up ground in the battle for the NL East.

Mark Teixeira has proven to be every bit as good as advertised in his time with Atlanta. Though the Braves hold just a 10-10 record since acquiring the switch-hitting powerhouse. ‘Big Tex’ has scorched NL pitching, hitting .289 with nine homers and 26 RBI. Those nine homers give him the league lead for the month of August. Certainly a good first impression for his teammates and fans alike.

Losing Edgar Renteria was a blow to the team, perhaps larger than realized by the casual fan. Sure, Yunel Escobar is a wonderful option to have – and he has filled in admirably in Renteria’s stead. But the veteran presence and polished play of Renteria may be one of the most often overlooked aspects of the club over the past two season.

Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann ushered in the new generation of future stars, while Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones have joined John Smoltz as the long-time faces of the franchise. Even Teixeira’s arrival has generated more attention that the steadily underrated play of Renteria. Atlanta is dealing with a lack of depth coming off the bench, with Escobar forced into everyday play.

And, so here is where the redundancy part comes in:

It is not the offense or the thin corps of reserves that routinely plagues the Braves. Starting pitching after Smoltz and Tim Hudson has become a real problem. Chuck James has found himself on the 15-day DL, and it appears that Buddy Carlyle may be turning back into a pumpkin sooner than later. The fifth starters spot has been particularly troublesome. Lance Cormier and Jo-Jo Reyes (recently recalled from Richmond) don’t exactly strike fear in the heart of the opposition with a combined record of 0-5 and a 9.30 ERA.

There is still some time for Atlanta to search for another starter, but the market is pretty much barren. All other options must clear waivers for a deal to happen, which is when the general manager’s game of chess comes into play. David Wells was an option, before reportedly agreeing to a deal with the L.A. Dodgers on Thursday. There Braves face a clear dilemma.

Until the rotation solidifies and starts handing the bullpen a six inning performance, then the relievers are going to continue to be over-worked. Having the pen routinely pitch 4+ innings is the fast-track to having worn out arms losing some of their effectiveness down the stretch. Something has to give somewhere.

Atlanta has remained around five games in back of the New York Mets and within a game of the Wild-card leading Padres. That is cause for hope. But the club is going to have to string the wins together soon if they hope to stay in the race in September.

Till next time,

G-Mc

Calm before the storm…

There’s only 11 shopping days left…

And no, I’m not talking about Christmas here people. There are only 11 shopping days left until the non-waiver trade deadline! You can think of it as early Christmas shopping for teams who feel they may have a shot at reaching the playoffs and/or the World Series.

Unlike the past few years, and not to say that it won’t heat up, this market is pretty devoid of big names – especially pitchers. Most baseball beat-writers, bloggers, and other people with opinions that count seem point out that there just aren’t any big name starting pitchers out there. Jason Stark of ESPN wrote a great piece in his latest Rumblings and Grumblings yesterday. You can read that for yourself, but suffice it to say there just don’t seem to be any #2 type starters available.

Interestingly enough, with the Reds just leaving town after sweeping away the Braves in three straight, there were plenty of rumors flying around about these two squads coming to some sort of deal on one, or a number of players. Nothing too detailed though, but one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the Braves are hoping to win the East, while the Reds are trying to rebuild and reload around an already young talented core.

So the names floating around there for teams to take a shot at include primarily Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn and Jeff Conine – two of whom seem to interest the Braves as more than a passing fancy. Rest easy folks, Adam Dunn is not coming to Atlanta. Skip Caray summed it up best in the finale of the series on Wednesday – the typical Adam Dunn day: a walk, two strikeouts and a 2-run homer.

The name that seemed to harbor the most overall interest, both in our pre and post-game programming and around the park seemed to be Bronson Arroyo. While he had a terrible first half, Arroyo is coming off a career season and pitches in a band-box park. His outing against Atlanta had Bobby Cox calling him one of the class pitchers in all of baseball in his book. That’s a tall compliment, and it only makes one think that if the Braves like what they see and the price is right then a deal could be struck.

It’s believed that Liberty Media could allow the Braves to expand their payroll, so there will be a move made. The obvious bargaining chips are Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunnel Escobar in the top-shelf variety and more recently struggling starter Kyle Davies who was demoted to Richmond after Wednesday’s 15 inning loss to Cincinnati. Davies arm is solid, but the inability to put together back-to-back quality starts has left Atlanta purplexed and frustrated. He could definitely draw some interest in a package deal. And of course, the Braves rich farm system still holds quite a few jewels that could be the right pieces to complete a trade at or before the deadline.

And so we are left with the age old quandry of trading the future for the present, youth for experience, prospects for veterans. Stick around here the next couple weeks – I’ll be adding the rumors and breaking down the deals that affect the Braves in the NL East.

Till next time,

G-Mc