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Braves beat 5/12

May 12, 2010 Comments off

Red-hot Glaus in a groove at the plate

MILWAUKEE — Troy Glaus insists he is not doing anything differently at the plate, even though the Braves first baseman has been as hot as anyone on the team offensively of late.

Glaus, who is batting .371 with two home runs, three doubles and 15 RBIs over his last 18 games, extended his hitting streak to eight games on Wednesday with an RBI single. Over the hit streak, Glaus is batting .375 (12-for-32).

Still, Glaus said he hasn’t changed a thing.

“It’s still the same swing I’ve had the last 15 years,” Glaus said. “Now I’m finding some holes and earlier I wasn’t. I’ve felt good all year, it’s just a matter of being productive. Lately, I’ve had opportunities with guys in scoring position, and I was able to come through.”

Glaus, who played just 14 games all of last year with the Cardinals after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, has been contributing defensively, as well.

His current streak of 26 straight errorless games at first base is the best on the team, dating back to April 15. In two games against the Brewers at Miller Park this week, Glaus has made a few spectacular plays on throws from across the diamond.

“He’s been incredible on scoops,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “I don’t know how he does it. He’s really taken to it. He’s a good target, too.”

Chipper expected to return to lineup on Friday

MILWAUKEE — Third baseman Chipper Jones was out of the Braves lineup for the second straight day on Wednesday, giving him a couple extra days to recover from a sore groin.

Jones, who originally tweaked the groin on Saturday in Philadelphia, has sat out three of the Braves last four games, while leaving in the sixth inning of the fourth on Monday.

With an off-day scheduled Thursday for the Braves, manager Bobby Cox expects two more days of rest to be ample time for Jones to recover and return for Friday’s series opener in Atlanta against the D-backs.

“We’re going to rest him today, and we got an off-day, so that’ll be three days in a row,” Cox said. “Hopefully he’ll be good. I would say he should be back Friday.”

Escobar to rehab with Triple-A Gwinnett

MILWAUKEE — Before he’s eligible to return to the Braves lineup on Saturday in Atlanta, shortstop Yunel Escobar will play a rehab assignment later this week.

Escobar, who has been out since April 30 with a left adductor strain, will suit up for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate before returning to the club.

“He’s going to play Friday in Gwinnett,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Then he can play for us on Saturday.”

Cox did not specify who would be sent down upon Escobar’s return, though Brandon Hicks — who was called up when Escobar went down — is the most likely candidate.

Braves remain confident in Kawakami

MILWAUKEE — Despite a difficult 0-6 start to the season, Braves manager Bobby Cox remains confident in right-hander Kenshin Kawakami, who is scheduled to start Friday’s series opener in Atlanta against the D-backs.

Kawakami, 34, has lost each of his first six starts this season, despite allowing just an average of 3.5 earned runs per start over a total of 33 innings pitched. He has failed to go five innings just once this season, while going a season-high 6 2/3 innings on Sunday in the Braves’ 5-3 loss to the Phillies.

Of the six, Kawakami’s best performance was his first, when he allowed three runs (two earned) on just five hits over six innings pitched on April 11 in San Francisco. Kawakami left with the Braves trailing by a run before the bullpen let the game slip away, 6-3.

Still, Cox remains positive about Kawakami’s performance.

“I just keep encouraging him,” Cox said. “In my mind, he’s thrown some really nice games.”

Heyward could wreak havoc on basepaths

MILWAUKEE — After reaching base with a single in the fourth inning of the Braves’ 11-3 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday, rookie right fielder Jason Heyward recorded his first career stolen base.

Heyward stole second without a throw from Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun, who opted to hold onto the ball rather than risk throwing it away.

When asked about Heyward’s running ability before Wednesday’s series finale, Braves manager Bobby Cox said he believed the 20-year-old had the potential to steal 20 or more in a season.

“Easily,” Cox said. “We just haven’t been able to run much. We’re always down. And they slide-step him and all that, too.”

If the Braves continue to swing the bats the way they did over the first two games at Miller Park, Heyward should see his stolen-base opportunities increase, especially with the way he’s been getting on base.

Heyward leads the Braves with a .423 on-base percentage, while batting .300 with eight home runs, 27 RBIs and a .611 slugging percentage.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves recap 5/12

May 12, 2010 Comments off

Braves finish road trip strong, sweep Crew

MILWAUKEE — It may not be quite what they were looking for when it started, but after losing four of six in Washington and Philadelphia, the Braves are happy to be going back to Atlanta with a winning road trip.

Thanks to great pitching, excellent defense and some clutch hitting, the Braves ran away with a 9-2 victory over the Brewers on Wednesday at Miller Park

With the win, the Braves completed their first road series sweep of the season, outscoring the Brewers, 28-7, over three games. Atlanta’s only previous road series victory came April 12-15 when they took two of three in San Diego.

The Braves last swept the Brewers in a three-game series from July 30-Aug. 1, 2002, in Atlanta, with their last sweep in Milwaukee coming June 1-3, 1998.

“We had a great road trip,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “You need to have confidence, get a little swagger back. It helps a lot knowing that you can get rallies, get runs in, make pitches. We’ve played really well. Our defense has been terrific.”

Right-hander Derek Lowe (5-3) delivered the Braves’ third consecutive quality start in the series, pitching six strong innings while allowing just two runs on six hits.

Lowe, who had been touched up for a season-high 11 hits in his last outing in Philadelphia, did not allow a hit through the first four innings, while facing just one over the minimum.

According to Lowe, a mentality change allowed him to shut down the Brewers, who had been swinging the bats as well as anyone in baseball entering the series.

“I think there comes a game where you have to assess your game,” Lowe said. “The whole ‘I’m going to throw every pitch away’ game gets kind of predictable and old. … The Philly game really just opened my eyes.”

Lowe used both sides of the plate effectively against the Brewers, striking out two while only walking a pair. He also said he used more changeups in the game than he had all year.

His counterpart, Brewers righty Yovani Gallardo, delivered a strong pitching performance of his own, keeping the game tight through six innings.

Gallardo threw his fifth quality start of the season, going six innings while allowing two runs on five hits. He also walked three and struck out six as Gallardo settled for a no-decision.

“He pitched good. You look at the way he’s been pitching and it’s phenomenal,” Lowe said of Gallardo. “It’s a 2-2 game there going into the seventh inning.”

When asked before Wednesday’s game what his team needed to do to be successful against Gallardo, Cox answered honestly, saying he didn’t know. His best game plan was to “make him make mistakes,” and “if he makes a mistake, hit it.”

So when Gallardo’s day was done after six innings, Cox and the Braves were happy to see the Brewers relievers.

“He’s good. You don’t care if you don’t face him or not, that’s for sure,” Cox said of Gallardo. “If you can miss him you’re better off.”

With Gallardo out, the Braves lit up the Brewers’ bullpen for the second straight game, scoring seven runs on seven hits and two walks over the final three innings. In the final two games of the series, Milwaukee’s relievers allowed 15 runs on 16 hits in six innings, compared to its starters, who gave up just five runs on 12 hits in 12 innings.

After scoring their first two runs of the game on two-out RBIs by first baseman Troy Glaus and left fielder Eric Hinske, the Braves struck twice more with two outs again in the seventh. Right fielder Jason Heyward delivered a two-out double down the right-field line, plating pinch-hitter Matt Diaz for what proved to be the eventual game-winning run.

Heyward finished 1-for-3 on the night with a pair of walks, a stolen base, an RBI and three runs scored.

“Jason makes our team immediately better, and I think he’d make every team in the big leagues immediately better,” said Diaz.

An inning later, the Braves began to pour it on the Brewers as third baseman Brooks Conrad delivered the knockout punch with a two-run blast, making it 6-2 with his second eighth-inning homer in as many games.

Conrad, who started a second consecutive game in place of Chipper Jones and finished 2-for-5 with a career-high four RBIs, was just happy to contribute as much as he did in the sweep.

“It feels great,” Conrad said. “You’ve just got to stay ready for when your time comes. Any time you get a chance to get in there and help the team win, it’s a great feeling. So, I just had fun with it, and it turned out great. I had fun.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves beat 5/11

May 11, 2010 Comments off

Hanson continues to draw comparisons

MILWAUKEE — After delivering one of the best performances of his young career the night before, Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson received high praise from his manager before Tuesday’s game.

Hanson pitched eight scoreless innings while striking out eight in the Braves’ 8-2 victory over the Brewers on Monday night at Miller Park. It was the third time in Hanson’s career he’s pitched eight innings and the second of those three in which he did not allow a run.

Hanson utilized four pitches very effectively Monday night to neutralize the Brewers, including his curveball and slider. Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee, who went 1-for-3 against Hanson, was among those impressed by the young right-hander.

“He’s got command of his fastball and he’s got really good command of an above-average slider,” McGehee said after Monday’s game. “That makes for a pretty good combination.” When asked who he would compare Hanson to before Tuesday’s game, Braves manager Bobby Cox answered quickly, with little hesitation.

“Kind of a [John] Smoltz-type arm,” Cox said. “Smoltzy had the great breaking balls [and] Hanson’s got a great curve and slider, just like Smoltz. … You don’t see breaking balls like that very often.”

Smoltz, who pitched 21 years with the Braves, used three pitches — fastball, slider, split-finger — consistently while also mixing in an occasional curveball and changeup. While with the Braves, Smoltz won the NL Cy Young Award in 1996 and he was an eight-time All-Star.

When told of his manager’s comparison, Hanson was humbled and honored to hear it.

“That’s just a huge honor,” Hanson said. “They throw those names around and that’s just a little bit overwhelming for me. But it’s definitely a huge honor and something to feel good about.”

Chipper scratched with sore groin

MILWAUKEE — Just an hour before the scheduled start of Tuesday night’s game against the Brewers at Miller Park, third baseman Chipper Jones was scratched from the Braves’ lineup.

Originally slated to bat third in the order, Jones was set to follow right fielder Jason Heyward and ahead of catcher Brian McCann. Due to a sore groin, however, Jones was taken out of the lineup in favor of Brooks Conrad.

Jones sat out Sunday’s series finale in Philadelphia with the same injury and was pulled on Monday after legging out an infield single in the sixth inning of the Braves’ 8-2 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park.

“He started limping a little bit,” Cox said of Jones after Monday’s game. “The ball got by the catcher all the way and he couldn’t run. I don’t know if he can play [Tuesday] or not.” The move also shook up the Braves’ batting order, as center fielder Nate McClouth moved from eighth to first, and second baseman Martin Prado and Heyward each dropped a spot to second and third in the lineup, respectively.

Cox thrilled about honor for Glavine

MILWAUKEE — With the announcement that Tom Glavine’s No. 47 will be retired by the club, Braves manager Bobby Cox took a moment before Tuesday’s game to reflect on the left-hander’s 22-year career.

Glavine pitched the first 16 seasons for Atlanta with Cox at the helm. During that time, he won two National League Cy Young Awards, earned eight All-Star Game selections and was named MVP of the 1995 World Series.

One thing that Glavine didn’t get recognized for, though, was his durability. It didn’t go unnoticed by his manager, however.

“All those years he pitched, he never went on the disabled list until right at the very end. [He was a] great competitor,” Cox said. “He can pitch hurt. Sore shoulder, sore elbow, bad ankle, bad knee, bad ribs — you name it, he did it. It’s amazing.

Glavine pitched Game 2 and Game 6 in that 1995 World Series, earning the win each time. Game 6, which clinched the title for the Braves, was one of the best performances of Glavine’s career, helping him secure the MVP Award.

Over eight innings, Glavine did not allow a run and gave up just one hit in the Braves’ 1-0 victory.

Glavine would never be mistaken for one of the more overpowering pitchers in the game, but his consistency was key to his success and something that left an impression on Cox.

“He was like a machine most of the time,” Cox said. “Strike after strike — in, out — [he could] change speeds, [had a] great changeup, was a great fielder, great bunter, good hitter — you could always squeeze with him even with two strikes. He brought a lot to the ballpark.”

With all that in mind, Cox was happy to hear his longtime pitcher would have his number retired and be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame later this season.

“It’s going to be great,” Cox said. “He meant a lot to this organization.”

Cox understands move of Phillies-Jays

MILWAUKEE — Despite an apparent advantage over the rest of the division, Braves manager Bobby Cox wasn’t bothered by the decision to move the June 25-27 series between the Phillies and Blue Jays from Toronto to Philadelphia.

Due to a scheduling conflict with the G20 Summit on June 25-26, the two clubs, along with Major League Baseball, decided to move the series to the Phillies’ home ballpark. With the G20 scheduled at the Metro Convention Center, just feet away from Rogers Centre, massive security and congestion issues would have arisen on those dates.

The Blue Jays will be the home team in Philadelphia, which means they will bat last and both teams will utilize the designated hitter. But with the game played at their ballpark and tickets being sold first to Phillies season-ticket holders, it essentially amounts to an extra three home games for the Braves’ rivals.

Still, Cox was not upset by the move due to the nature of the decision.

“They have to do it, they had no choice,” Cox said. “You can’t complain about anything like that.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves recap 5/10

May 10, 2010 Comments off

Prado’s career night helps Braves slam Crew

MILWAUKEE — As he watched his team take batting practice before Monday’s game, manager Bobby Cox couldn’t help but notice the way the ball jumped off the Braves’ bats at Miller Park. In the sixth inning, the Brewers noticed, too.

After struggling mightily of late offensively, the Braves broke out against the Brewers on Monday, riding a six-run sixth inning — which included two home runs — to an 8-2 victory at Miller Park.

With his team up, 1-0, entering the inning, first baseman Troy Glaus crushed a 2-2 fastball from Milwaukee lefty Doug Davis (1-4) deep to center field and out, snapping Atlanta’s homerless streak of 169 at-bats.

Seven batters and one pitching change later, second baseman Martin Prado drove an 0-1 fastball from left-handed reliever Manny Parra out to left for his first career grand slam, making it 7-0 in favor of the Braves.

“He had a huge night,” Cox said of Prado, who also drove in the Braves’ first run of the game and finished with a career-high five RBIs. “Prado’s ball would’ve been out anywhere. That’s for darn sure.”

Prado’s grand slam was the first of the season for the Braves and the first since catcher Brian McCann’s grand slam on July 25, 2008, off Brad Lidge in Philadelphia. The Braves had gone 253 games without a grand slam, which was the longest-active streak.

The Royals, at 136 games, now own the longest streak of games without a grand slam.

The Braves added a run in the ninth off reliever Claudio Vargas and their eight runs proved to be more than enough.

Right-hander Tommy Hanson (3-2) pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out eight. Hanson, whose eight innings matched a career high, kept the Brewers off-balance throughout the game, mixing up his pitches and locating well.

“It definitely feels good,” Hanson said. “I just want to go strike one, strike two as much as I can and go out there and be aggressive. It feels good to go deep into the game, and that’s what I want to do. So the couple times that I did do it, it feels good.”

Hanson was especially effective when pitching ahead of hitters, which he did against 17 of the 29 batters he faced.

Facing a Brewers lineup that led the Majors in runs scored entering the game, Hanson used four pitches — fastball, slider, curveball and changeup — to keep the home team off the board through eight innings.

Only four Brewers — Joe Inglett, Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee and Jim Edmonds — hit safely against Hanson, while none were better than 1-for-3 against him.

“I’m not exactly sure what his numbers were last year, but it’s not by accident,” said McGehee, referring to Hanson’s runner-up finish in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2009. “He’s got command of his fastball and he’s got really good command of an above-average slider. That makes for a pretty good combination.”

Glaus, who also singled and walked on the night, has hit safely in six straight games for the Braves. Over his past 15 games, Glaus is batting .358 with two doubles, a home run, 11 RBIs and 11 walks.

With two homers at Miller Park, the Braves increased their road home run total by 25 percent, from eight to 10. More important than the statistics, though, is the positive energy the team got from such a lopsided victory.

After such a difficult stretch of games, losing 13 of their past 18 games, the Braves hope Monday night’s big win could be the start of a more positive streak.

“We’ve been pretty positive the last two weeks, [but] it’s been tough,” Prado said. “I think we’re going to turn it around and start a winning streak. This kind of game is what we need to start something good.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Braves beat 5/10

May 10, 2010 Comments off

Powell visits old friend Uecker

MILWAUKEE — Before Braves broadcaster Jim Powell arrived at Miller Park on Monday, he visited an old friend, legendary Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker.

Powell, who worked with Uecker for 13 years in the Brewers’ radio booth, was encouraged by the health of his longtime friend, who had successful heart surgery just 10 days earlier. Uecker has been scheduled to return to the broadcast booth 10-12 weeks after his surgery on April 30.

“He looks really good, he sounds really good and he’s got the exact same sense of humor for which he’s well-known,” Powell said. “We had a great visit, and I feel like he’ll be back before people expect him to.”

After joining the Braves’ broadcast team before the 2009 season, Powell has kept in close touch with the 75-year-old Uecker over the phone, and surprisingly enough, through text messaging.

In fact, Powell was among the few people who knew the surgery was coming before the official announcement on April 27 at Miller Park.

“We’ve stayed in pretty good contact,” Powell said. “So I knew what was going on with him, and like everybody else, I was really worried about him.”

Uecker’s positive energy and humor, for which he is well known, had a profound effect on Powell when the two met Monday.

“We’ve been texting since the day after, but today was the first day that I’ve spoken to him since the surgery,” Powell said. “To see him today up and around on his feet, with good color and in great spirits, certainly picked up my spirits.”

Uecker’s humor and positive outlook were among the things noted by those closest to him when the surgery was announced, especially the comedic way with which Uecker opened the press conference on that day.

When asked about his best memories from their time together, Powell shared similar thoughts.

“When you work with Bob, you come to the ballpark to have a good time,” Powell said. “He has a healthy perspective about the game and about life. For a young broadcaster like me, I learned a lot of great lessons from him. I learned you’ve got to take the game seriously, but not too seriously and just have a good time and enjoy yourself on the broadcast.”

Jurrjens aggravates left hamstring

MILWAUKEE — Right-hander Jair Jurrjens suffered a setback on Monday that will likely keep him out beyond Saturday, when he becomes eligible to be activated from the disabled list.

While running in the outfield at Miller Park before Monday’s game, Jurrjens felt something pop in his lower left hamstring. According to Jurrjens, it was not the same part of the hamstring as the original strain that put him on the disabled list and kept him out of his last scheduled start against the Phillies.

“It wasn’t even 100 percent sprinting, I was just trying to get back to normal strides,” Jurrjens said. “Before it happened, I was feeling good and just starting to put a little bit extra in it.”

Braves manager Bobby Cox said Jurrjens would stay with the team in Milwaukee before having an MRI upon returning to Atlanta.

Cox did not say who he expected to start for the team Saturday against the D-backs.

Jurrjens is one of a handful of Braves sidelined recently after the team went relatively injury-free through Spring Training and the beginning of the season. Shortstop Yunel Escobar remains on the disabled list and is eligible to return on Saturday as well.

Third baseman Chipper Jones returned to the Braves’ lineup Monday night against the Brewers and right fielder Jason Heyward is expected back for Tuesday’s matchup.

With so many teammates dealing with various injuries, Jurrjens is trying to remain positive despite the setback with his strained hamstring.

“I’ve got to just try to [keep] a smile on my face … even if inside of me I’m not so happy,” Jurrjens said. “Everybody has their own issue on this team and the team is not doing well. For me not to be smiling, I don’t think it’s going to help with anything.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Running gamer 4/2

April 2, 2010 Comments off

Today was my first day as an Associate Reporter (intern) with MLB.com. Below is the “running gamer” that I wrote and submitted after the top of the eighth inning. It was just for practice and did not go on the website. Enjoy.

After falling behind 2-0 early, the Milwaukee Brewers answered with three runs in the bottom of the second inning Friday to down the Detroit Tigers 3-2 at Miller Park.

In the first of two exhibition games between the two teams in Milwaukee, starting pitcher Doug Davis allowed leadoff home runs in each of the first two innings.

Rookie center fielder Austin Jackson connected on a 0-1 pitch for a solo home run to right in his first at bat in a big league park with the Tigers. Third baseman Brandon Inge followed suit in the second inning, knocking a 1-0 offering out to left, giving Detroit an early 2-0 lead.

Milwaukee answered quickly, plating three runs in the bottom of the inning. Casey McGehee got things started for the Brewers, drawing a walk after a Prince Fielder groundout. Catcher Gregg Zaun followed with the first of four straight singles for Milwaukee, a drive into the right field corner that moved McGehee to third.

Corey Hart drove in McGehee with a single and shortstop Alcides Escobar’s infield single off the glove of Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, loading the bases for Jody Gerut. Batting in the ninth spot as the Brewers’ designated hitter, Gerut delivered for Milwaukee with a two-run single up the middle.

Gerut’s single put the Brewers on top 3-2, a lead they would not relinquish. Detroit threatened late, loading the bases with one out in the eighth, but failed to score.