Tag Archive | "Atlanta Braves"

NL Wild Card Race Heating Up


The wild card race in the NL is heating up with just 3 games to go. Atlanta has played horribly over the past month, while St. Louis has really turned things on and put a lot of pressure on the Braves.

The Braves are fighting hard to stay in the lead for the NL Wild Card, but if the current trend continues, they will be on the outside looking in. They end the year against the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies. However, out in St. Louis the Cardinals look like they will make the playoffs despite playing from behind. Why?

The Cardinals face off with the team with the worst record in baseball, the Houston Astros.

But don’t count the Astros as simply a push over. A few weeks ago they took 2-out-of-3 from Philly, and they have nothing to lose. That is always something to be considered. A team whose season ended long ago would love nothing better than to keep a rival out of the playoffs.

A look at the pitching match ups for the Phillies/Braves match up:

Game 1: Cliff Lee vs Randall Delgado

The Phillies have one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching the first game of the series in Cliff Lee. Lee is 16-8 and sporting a 2.38 ERA for the year. He is an ace on a team full of aces.

Randell Delgado has never pitched a bigger game in his career, and this will only be his 7th start in the Majors. But his first 6 have been good. He is coming off his career win against Florida, a game in which he went 5 shutout innings. He has pitched well, but he is young and doesn’t go deep into games.

Game 2: Roy Oswalt vs Derek Lowe

Roy Oswalt isn’t the 20 game winner of the past, but he is still a very good pitcher. His record sits at 8-10 with an ERA of 3.86. Two of his last 3 starts though he has gotten pounded by two of the worst teams in baseball (Washington and Houston). He sandwiched those bad outings with good starts against St. Louis and Atlanta.

Derek Lowe has been atrocious this year. His 9-16 record is the worst is his worst since 2010 when he went 5-10 for Boston. He has lost 4 games in a row and in only one of those did he have a “quality start”. He hasn’t pitched well of late at all.

Game 3: Cole Hamels vs Tim Hudson

Cole Hamels has been great this year. His 14-9 record might not look that impressive, but his 2.75 ERA and 0.98 WHIP sure do. He has had some good outings in the past weeks but mix in have been some not so good outings as well.

Tim Hudson has been the ace of the Braves staff again this year. So far he is 16-10 with a 3.23 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14. He has won 2 straight but the 2 before that weren’t so good and 1 was against Philly. But expect him to pitch a huge game on the final day of the season. You can bet it will matter in the end.

Prediction: This is hard because I really am a Braves homer. I freely admit they are my favorite team. But looking at this objectively, I think it could easily go 2-1 in favor of either squad. The Braves have a lot to play for and I think Chipper and the boys will be up for the challenge.

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Thoughts on September MLB Races


There are some good races heating up in the last bit of the season. While several teams have sewed up playoff spots, there are some really good races left.

Perhaps the best race is the AL West. The Rangers head into today action with only a 3.5 game lead over the LA Angels. This is going to be a great race, especially since the two teams meet to end the year with a 3 game set.

So who is going to win the West? My call is going to be the Rangers for one main reason – offense.

The Rangers may not have the 3 big horses that LA has, but they have the better offense and enough pitching to get the job done. The Rangers are getting some great seasons out of players like Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and despite what a lot of people are saying Ian Kinsler.

While the Rangers don’t have the front 3 in the rotation like the Angels do, they have a deeper starting staff and a better bullpen. This might be the difference in the race.

The only other races are for the wild cards. In the AL, Boston is battling Tampa Bay and LA for the wild card as well as the Yankees for the AL East Title.

Boston is only 3.5 games back of NY for the AL East with neither team playing well of late. If they can’t catch the Yankees, they are sitting in the wild card spot, but have two teams breathing down their necks.

Tampa Bay is only 4 games back and LA 5 games back in the wild card race. Both have picked up a lot of ground on Boston over the past 10 games.

The NL Wild Card race is heating up as well with St. Louis coming on of late trailing Atlanta by only 3.5 games. The Cardinals have picked up 4 games on the Braves in the past 10 as Atlanta has really struggled of late.

So who will come out on top?

AL East – I think NY will hold onto the top spot and win the division.

AL Wild Card – Boston will hold off Tampa Bay to get into the playoffs.

AL West – Texas

NL Wild Card – This is the hardest one to call. I am hoping the Braves can hold off the Cards, but I am a little worried about how they have played of late. However, I am going to go with the homer call and say the Braves.

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Opening Day Memories


Opening Day is romantic, rejuvenating, sentimental, fun, and exciting all rolled in one and to me it should be a national holiday. Baseball is a reminder that spring is here and things are starting a new. For many teams it is the only time of year that many teams have a glimmer of hope.

When I was back in the States working I would use a vacation day to take the day off and either attend a game or sit at home and watch baseball all day long. But with all the good memories come some not so great ones as well.

First, let me take a look at some of the better memories.

I can remember several times waking up early in the morning to catch the first pitch of the season coming from somewhere overseas like Japan. In 2008, the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox started the season out in Japan and I was up at 3am (or whatever time it was in the US) to watch those games. Some may call me crazy or say that I am hardcore, but I love it.

Several times I was able to attend Opening Day at the Ballpark in Arlington (dubbed the “Temple” by the guys from Sports Radio 1310 in Dallas). Each time I made it the weather was gorgeous, the fans were lively, and the games were great no matter who won. I love seeing pomp and circumstance around the first game. The pagentry of seeing the anthem being sung by a star sometimes (saw Jessica Simpson sing it before I knew who she was), seeing the giant flag out on the field and either jets/bombers flying over the stadium or the bald eagle flying to home plate. With it all wrapped up in one, it makes for such a great experience.

If I couldn’t make it to a game, my routine would be gathering some “baseball” food such as hot dogs, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and a cold beverage to sit down on the couch and watch as many games as possible. ESPN always did a great job of showing multiple games throughout the day. Then the Holy Grail came along in MLB Extra Innings which used to (don’t know if they still do it) give a free preview for a week.

Missing the first pitch of the season is not something I like to do, but sometimes it happens. This year I just arrived back in South Korea and was a little jet lagged still from the 30 hour trip out here. The first game of the year started about 2am here locally, and I was simply unable to stay up and watch it. It was a little frustrating, but it just wasn’t going to happen. It looks like I will miss the Rangers first game as well on Friday because I don’t have internet in my apartment yet. Again, it is a little frustrating but once things get rolling here again I will be able to watch a lot of baseball since the night games back home come on here in the morning before I go to work.

I seem to have little luck in watching my favorite team play on Opening Day, the Atlanta Braves. This year was jet-lag. Last year I was again in South Korea, but I was up and ready to watch the game only to have MLB.tv not work. That was VERY frustrating. I was up early in the morning and the game was not being shown due to technical difficulties. But this wasn’t the only time I had issues. In 2009, I got the chance to go to Atlanta to see the opening game. I couldn’t have been more excited. For the previous 20+ years I had rooted for the Braves good or bad, but it was always from afar. Being able to attend the festivities was going to be amazing for me. The only problem was nobody told mother nature how excited I was.

The game went into a rain delay as it stormed quite hard. The game was halted and my friend and I went home to watch the game on TV only to have the game to go into extra innings. The Braves did win, I did have a good time, but it wasn’t what I had expected for my first Opening Day in Atlanta. I hope to go back one day to see it once again.

Overall, Opening Day is one of the best days for me, but it really is only the beginning of my favorite part of the year – baseball season. After today there is another 182 days of what I like to refer to as “summer greatness”. Then it gets even better with all the greatness that comes with the fall season and the Fall Classic.

So no matter who you root for, today is a day to renew your love of the game, have faith in your team, and have a little hope that your team will see the light of day in October.

I’d love to hear any stories you have of Opening Day’s from the past.

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Congratulations San Francisco Giants – World Series Champs!


It was a great year for me and baseball. I got to see a lot of baseball in Korea, the Braves made the playoffs in Bobby’s last year, and the Rangers finally won a postseason series making it to the World Series.  I can’t wait for next year already. I am anxious to see what happens in the off season.  Where will Cliff Lee and all the big name free agents wind up? I think some interesting things will happen.

With all of that said, Congratulations must go out to the Giants and their fans.  They have waited a long time for this, and they deserve it. They were the better team in each round and that is why they are taking home the trophy.

I think things are looking bright for the Braves and Rangers, and that is why I am very excited for next year. Once again I don’t think I will be in the States during the season, but I will watch a lot from here in Korea. I simply love this game and everything that goes along with it whether that is the wins or the bitter defeats.

With that said I will call it a day. I will be back to talk more about the Series and the year that has passed now. But I also want to look toward the future as any baseball fan does.

‘Till Then

TBJM

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Playoff Predictions


With a month left in the season, it is nice to still see there are some races left for division titles. In 4 of the 6 divisions, the lead is 3.5 games or less. With so much baseball to be played a lot could happen. I am going to attempt now to predict what will happen by the end of the season as I take a look at each division.

AL East
The lead for the Yankees is at 1.5 games over Tampa Bay. This has been a close race all year, and I don’t see that changing the last month of the season. Regardless of who wins the division, the other will win the wildcard unless one or both have a complete nosedive the last month of the season. Of course, that can happen (See 2007 Mets), but I don’t see it happening this year. What I do see happening is the Yankees holding onto a narrow victory for the division title, and Tampa Bay winning the Wild Card.

New York wins AL East
Tampa Bay wins Wild Card

AL Central
Minnesota has a 3.5 game lead over Chicago. Can Manny help reignite the White Sox to overtake the Twins? I don’t think so. I really don’t see Manny providing much down the stretch. He seems to be a pale image of his old self, which after what he did to the Red Sox, I am happy to see. Anyone who acts like he does I really don’t want to see succeed. I have the Twins winning in the Central by 3 games or so.

Minnesota wins AL Central

AL West
This division is about wrapped up. Texas leads Oakland by 10 games and even if Cliff Lee has to miss some time, the Rangers have too much for the West. The only question that remains in the West is how will the Rangers prepare themselves for the playoffs. Yes I know they could still collapse in the heat of Texas, but I see this happening about as much as I see the Red Sox overtaking Tampa Bay for the Wild Card. Its just not going to happen.

Texas wins AL West

NL West
San Diego leads San Francisco by 3 games. This one is a tough one to call since nobody thought the Padres would be in first, let alone so much of the season. I am actually going to say San Francisco comes back to take the division late in the season by a game or two. I think Lincecum and Cain will lead the Giants back to the playoffs. This will lead the Padres to battle it out for the wildcard.

San Francisco wins NL West

NL Central
This is another surprising division with the Reds up on the Cardinals by 8 games. I don’t see Cincinnati faltering down the stretch. The division might get a little closer, but I see the Reds winning by 4 or 5 games.

Cincinnati wins AL Central

NL East
This one is a tough one to call, especially since I am such a huge Braves fan. Call me a homer if you want but I am calling for the Braves to take the division in Bobby Cox’s last season. It will go down to the wire, but I like the Braves chances with their pitching staff. That is why I am calling for them to win the division and the Phillies to take the Wild Card. I just think Hudson, Hanson, and the staff will take them to the playoffs.

Atlanta wins NL East
Philadelphia wins Wild Card

NL Division Series
Atlanta vs San Francisco – Atlanta wins in 4
Philadelphia vs Cincinnati – Cincinnati wins in 4

AL Division Series
Texas vs Tampa Bay – Texas in 5
New York vs Minnesota – New York in 4

AL Championship Series
With Texas finally winning a playoff series, they must go to Yankee Stadium to face the evil empire. I think they match up fairly well but I am not sure they can get by the Yankees, so as much as I hate to I am picking the Yankees to win.

Yankees win in 6 games.

NL Championship Series
A series pitting upstart Cincinnati against Atlanta I think would be a good one. I really like the Braves pitching, but I think Cincinnati has the offense and enough pitching to take the series. I am going with the Reds in 7 games.

Cincinnati wins in 7 games.

World Series
I think this could be a good one, and while I am not calling for a repeat of 1990 when the Reds swept through the mighty A’s, I see the Reds finishing the miracle season atop the world. Reds in 6 games.

I am going out on a limb. How far out is a question of your loyalties in baseball I guess. I am saying the Reds win the World Series. Of course, I would love to see the Braves and Rangers in the series, but I am not sure that will happen.

World Series Champs – Cincinnati Reds

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Open Letter to Chipper Jones


Dear Mr. Jones,

I have been a fan of the Atlanta Braves and you since I can remember.  I grew up watching the Braves in the 80’s when winning seemed as distant as landing on Mars,  but I persevered and I hope you can too.  I was the laughing stock in school for wearing my Braves hat, but that all changed in 1991.  All of a sudden there were Atlanta fans everywhere, and  I will be a fan until the good Lord takes me from this Earth.  I live and die every October with the rise and fall of the Braves, but I have to say it has been a wonderful ride.

I am writing to tell you why I, as a huge Braves fan, hopes you can also persevere and make it back for one more season. I understand me waiting year to year for a World Series is much easier than you recovering from knee surgery to make it back to the grueling schedule of 162 games.  But please hear me out as to why not only I want you to come back next year, but why Braves fans needs you back for one more year.

The Braves has seen some great players come along through its history.  The great Hammerin’ Hank, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and one Larry Wayne Jones.  But the Braves have never had one of their great players go out as a Brave on a high note.  Hank Aaron went on to play with Milwaukee again (but this time as a Brewer) at the end of his career. Eddie Mathews ended his career in Detroit after playing for Houston.  Dale Murphy was traded to Philadelphia and finished his playing days in Colorado.  Greg Maddux finished up his days with the Dodgers and Padres.  John Smoltz played with Boston and St. Louis, and while Tom Glavine officially finished his career with Atlanta, it wasn’t the farewell tour everyone had hoped it would be since it was marred with injuries.

The Braves have not had one of their own Hall of Fame worthy stars end a season healthy as an Atlanta Brave.  I can remember everyone being excited about this Jones kid the Braves drafted in 1990.  I recall the excitement of getting your rookie baseball cards and thinking one day this will be the guy to take us to the World Series.  Little did I know it would be so soon.  I have so many fond memories of you playing with Atlanta; and I, like millions of others, don’t want my last memory of you playing being of you hurting your knee.

The one thing I have learned over the years watching you play is that there is no quit in you.  I was glad to see you said you were coming back to spring training next year.  One of my favorite memories from baseball was watching Cal Ripken Jr. play his last game in Texas at the Ballpark in Arlington in 2001.  It was nice to see such a great player make a farewell tour of stadiums.  He was able to dictate his own terms of leaving the game, and like Cal did everything, he did it with grace and a flair unlike any other.  I just hope the fans all around the country get that same memory with you.

Sincerely,

Eric – A Braves fan in South Korea via Texas – The Baseball Journeyman

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Houston Fan Dubbed “The Bailer”


This is one of the funniest videos I have seen in some time. A fan at a Houston Astros game thinks about catching a foul ball.  Then at the last second he changes his mind and bails.  See for yourself what happens next.

The Bailer Video

And to top it off – a nice play by new Atlanta Brave Rick Ankiel in CF.

Ankiel Dive

Coming up later this week.  An interview with KBO blogger and Busan Haps magazine writer Matthew Dewoskin.

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June 1 Surprises


I was looking at the standings and box scores from June 1st and a few things stood out to me. I can’t really decide what is the most surprising out of all of this too, so I want your help. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

1. Teams in 1st place include Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, Texas and Tampa Bay
or
2. Troy Glaus’ stats .277/9/40/.452 vs. Ryan Howard .280/9/35/.454
or
3. Anything else that has really surprised you. There seem to be quite a few.

On a Braves related note, just how good can Jason Heyward be? He is already in the top 10 in RBI, slugging, OPS, and OBP. He is a star in the making and I am glad there is someone to take over for Chipper when he is gone. The Braves have been lacking that person ever since Chipper started his decline.

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Hello Win Column! Braves Score 7 in Ninth


Hello Win Column gives me the chance to talk about great come from behind wins, and there happened to be one on Thursday this week.

The game looked like it might be a pitchers duel with two up and coming superstars in the making.  Tommy Hanson of the Braves looked to rebound from a poor start against Arizona.  Coming into the game Hanson’s ERA was just under 3, and he was putting up solid numbers.  On the other side of the field was Mike Leake who came into the game with a 4-0 record and an ERA of just over 3.  Leake has not spent any time in the minors going from Arizona State straight to the big leagues after being the 8th overall pick last summer.

This was anything but a pitchers duel from the beginning.  Leake lived up to his end of it giving up only 1 earned run in 6 innings, but once again Hanson pitched poorly.

I put on the game late last night via MLB.com but quickly turned if off after Cincinnati went up 5-0 in the 2nd inning.  Unfortunately they weren’t done yet.  Hanson would give up 8 runs in 1.2 innings before giving way to the pen.

The Braves would put a few runs on the board, but after 8.5 innings the score stood at 9-3. Then came the bottom of the 9th.

The Reds pen had retired 11 straight heading into the 9th.  Then Glaus led off the inning with a soft single and the flood gates opened.  Eric Hinske followed with a solid single to right putting 2 men on with no outs.  Escobar loaded the bases on what should have been the 4th Reds error made by shortstop Orlando Cabrera.  Nate McLouth got the scoring going with a rocket single to right plating Glaus and Hinske making the score 9-5.  Dusty Baker had seen enough of Lincoln and went to the pen again to bring in Nick Masset.

Masset promptly walked David Ross to load the bases.  NL hits leader Martin Prado then grounded into what should have been a double play, but Miguel Cairo bobbled the ball at third base allowing a run to score making it 9-6 with the bases still loaded.  Dusty Baker quickly pulled the plug on Masset and brought in his left specialist Arthur Rhodes.

Who does Rhodes have to face immediately? None other than the Braves new phenom Jason Heyward.  The 40 year-old Rhodes pitched well and struck out the 20 year-old Heyward.  With the pitchers spot coming up (the Braves had pulled Chipper Jones in an earlier double switch) 1 out and the bases loaded, Baker went to his closer Francisco Cordero.  Bobby Cox countered with pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad.

Conrad battled Cordero fouling off several pitches.  Then with the count 2-2, Conrad takes a Cordero fastball to the opposite field.  It looked like it would be a sacrifice fly.  Lance Nix made a play on the ball at the wall and the ball glanced off of his glove over the wall for a walk-off grand slam.  Even Conrad thought Nix caught the ball.  After he rounded first he threw his hands up over his head in frustration and turned around facing the dugout.  Only then, as his teammates were running out onto the field, did Conrad turn around to see he had a walk-off slam.

It was a great comeback win that put the Braves over .500 for the first time in awhile.  You hear it all the time that baseball is a game of inches.  Thursday’s game was one of those instances.  An inch or two to the right and Nix pulls that in for an out and the Braves are looking to score 3 more runs vs the Reds closer.

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Hello Win Column!


I have been looking into adding some regular posts and figured I would start with a segment I will call, Hello Win Column!  This will be a periodical look at the standings, power rankings, and other things such as great wins.

This week I thought I would take a look at the standings for the first 36 games (22.2% of the season).  So let’s go through division by division and see where the surprises and disappointments are.

AL East

I think here we have one of the biggest surprises so far.  The Tampa Bay Rays are not only in first place, but have the best record in baseball.  Now don’t get me wrong, in no way is them having a good record surprising.  I think everyone felt this team would contend, but I don’t think they thought this team would play this good so far.  The Yankees are right behind the Rays which is not surprising, but the order of the next two teams is.  Toronto, with hot hitting Vernon Wells, is in 3rd while Boston is struggling around .500 in 4th.  The Red Sox are scoring runs, but giving up more.  And with little fanfare the Orioles are in the basement of the East with the worst record in baseball.

AL Central

Before the season I felt this division was wide open.  So far it is a two team race that could come down to the wire.  Right now the Twins lead Detroit by 1.5 games.  This could stay like this for most of the year, but don’t count out Chicago getting back in the race later on in the season.  I wouldn’t put must stock into K.C. or Cleveland as they will vie for the cellar here.

AL West

Another wide open race to begin the year, it is shaping up to be a three team race.  It could be wide open come summer with all four teams looking to take the division, but I don’t see Seattle getting back in it.  Right now the Rangers lead the West by 2 over Oakland.  I look for the Rangers to win this division, but it should be a good race all year long.

NL East

Philly is the class of the division here.  I am not sure what is more surprising, Atlanta in last place or Washington in 2nd.  I don’t think the Braves will end up in the cellar, at least not with the Mets in the division.  Philly is clearly the head of the class here and should have no real issues winning the East.

NL Central

One of the bigger surprises in the NL is Cincinnati.  They trail the Cardinals by only .5 game.  In the long run I think the Cards will take the Central, but it will be a fun summer if the Reds can make it a race in the end.  They are young and exciting to watch.  Mike Leach is on his way to a great season.  I would say ROY if Jason Heyward wasn’t in the race as well.  No big surprise that the Astros, Cubs, Pirates, and Brewers aren’t in the race for now.  Unless there are some changes I don’t see any of them contending.

NL West

The biggest surprise in the NL to me is the Padres leading the West.  I think everyone thought that the Dodgers and Giants would compete for the division here. The Dodgers are on a winning streak, but have lost one of their better players to a broken finger in Andre Ethier.  In the end this division will be wide open.  Look for the Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, and Giants to all contend.  In the end I like the pitching of the Giants, but don’t count anyone out.

I look forward to the next month and a half to see where we are come All-Star break.  I do think we will see some changes in the division leaders by then.  It is shaping up to be a great summer of baseball.

For those of you who didn’t grow up listening to Ranger games, the title of this may not have much meaning.  Mark Holtz was the radio play-by-play announcer from 1982 to 1994, then he moved into the television booth until 1997.  After every Ranger win, Holtz would display his signature phrase, “Hello Win Column!”

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New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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