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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 5/11

May 11, 2010 Comments off

Hinske, Glaus fuel Braves’ rout

MILWAUKEE — Entering this series, the Braves’ offense was anemic while the Brewers were rolling, leading the Majors in runs scored. But it sure hasn’t looked that way over the past two nights at Miller Park.After riding a six-run sixth inning to victory the night before, the Braves plated 11 runs on a season-high 16 hits Tuesday as they routed the Brewers, 11-3.

While the series-opening victory featured a pair of big hits, the entire Atlanta lineup got into the act to defeat Milwaukee for a second consecutive night. Every starter, including starting pitcher Tim Hudson, hit safely at least once, while six batters had two hits.

“It was a good night,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Everybody had good at-bats.”

Hudson (3-1) allowed just one run while scattering six hits over six innings. He also walked six, tying a career high.

Fortunately for Hudson and the Braves, the defense behind him played well, turning a pair of double plays and stranding runners in scoring position in each of Hudson’s final five innings. On a night when he didn’t have his best stuff, Hudson was more than pleased with the outcome.

“It was a battle out there,” Hudson said. “It was one of those nights where there wasn’t a whole lot working. I was able to go out there and gut it out. It wasn’t exactly how I drew it up, but nights like tonight — for me — are more satisfying than the nights when I go out there with great stuff and it’s easy. It wasn’t easy tonight.”

Much like the first game of the series against the Brewers, the Braves were slow to start offensively, plating just two runs through the first five innings. It was enough to give them a 2-1 lead, however, and by the end of the night, the slow start didn’t matter.

Miwaukee starter Dave Bush (1-3) kept Atlanta in check through six innings. Bush allowed just three runs on seven hits, while walking three and striking out three for his fourth quality start of the season and his first at home for the Brewers.

Once Bush exited the game, however, the Braves’ bats came alive for eight runs over the final three innings.

After catcher Brian McCann made it 4-1 in the seventh with the third of three straight singles, left fielder Eric Hinske broke things open with a two-run double to left. Hinske, a Wisconsin native, went 2-for-2 with two doubles and three RBIs, plus two walks.

With 20 friends and family members looking on, it made Hinske’s second career trip to Miller Park that much more special.

“It’s cool,” Hinske said of performing well in his home state. “I grew up going to County Stadium, watching [Paul] Molitor, [Robin] Yount and [Jim] Gantner. It’s a special place for me. I think about my grandpa, my dad and my brother coming down when I was a kid. It was a special night for me, for sure.” Along with Hinske’s strong night, first baseman Troy Glaus extended his hitting streak to seven games with a solo homer to left field leading off the sixth inning. Over his past 16 games, Glaus is batting .362 with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

Rookie right fielder Jason Heyward returned to the lineup with no noticeable limitations at the plate, in the field or on the basepaths.

In fact, Heyward notched his first career stolen base in the second inning and finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, three runs scored and two walks. After reaching base four times in six plate appearances, Heyward improved his on-base percentage to .423, leading the team.

“Jason had a good night,” Cox said. “We’ll keep him up in the front of the order because his on-base percentage is off the charts right now.”

The return of Heyward, who has been the most consistent threat in their lineup this season, can only help the Braves’ offense, which had been struggling mightily entering the series.

Having scored among the fewest runs in the league before arriving in Milwaukee, the Braves hope the 19-run outburst over the past two nights will be just what they need to get back on track and make up some ground on the first-place Phillies.

“You don’t have much time in this game,” Hinske said. “You start getting double digits back, and that’s a long way back. We know it’s now, the time is now. We’ve got to do something to turn it around, and I think these last two games are a good indicator of what is hopefully to come. This is momentum for us. This is ‘feel good.’ We all kind of like take a deep breath and, ‘OK, we’re fine.'”

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.