I have total confidence in the Atlanta Braves. Despite the naysayers, doomsayers, bandwagon fans, and yes, the Braves’ real propensity to LOB and K a lot, I always believe they have the juice to win against any team and come back when the chips are down. That said, if you had told me prior to the series that they were going to sweep the NL West’s Division leading Arizona Diamondbacks, I would have smiled and simply said, “Well, I hope so.” In other words, I believed we could win the series, but to sweep the Snakes was a wonderful surprise.
It all started on Friday evening in Atlanta, with a well deserved tip o’ the cap to Chipper Jones, as the Braves retired his number in a pre-game ceremony. It was also alumni weekend, and there were many former Braves at the TED, as well as a few former Braves on the roster of the visiting Diamondbacks. There was humor, memories, great interviews, and the best of all – clutch hitting and sharp pitching by the Atlanta Braves.
Julio Teheran took the mound in game 1, facing off against former Brave, Randall Delgado. Teheran gets better with each outing, and is fast becoming the most reliable pitcher for Atlanta. He started the sweep for the Braves by going just six innings (taken out only due to a strategic switch), giving up no runs and just 4 hits, while striking out 10 batters and walking just 1. His command seemed to be spot on in game 1, fooling hitters with slippery sliders, spot on fastballs, and confusing change-ups. He looked fantastic.
Tim Hudson has struggled this year, uncharacteristically I might add, and struggled again in game 2 of the series. Tim’s ERA has blown up to 4.50 while going winless in his past 10 starts, and you can certainly understand why he would be itching to go long enough to get the win in game 2. Because of his struggles though, Fredi Gonzalez made the decision to pull him after A.J. Pollock got a hit on Hudson’s 100th pitch. Tim went on record that he wasn’t happy about being pulled, and said:
I would have liked the opportunity to have a decision. A hundred pitches, to me is not really a magic number to take you out of the game. You work real hard the whole game. There’s one pitch that a guy puts a good swing on, on a pitch away and ties the game up. Apparently you need 16 years in the big leagues to get that chance.
Fredi Gonzalez was not upset with Tim for voicing his frustrations, except to add a word of caution about airing dirty laundry. When asked about it, Fredi said:
You don’t want stuff like that out open in the press, but Huddy’s a hell of a competitor. He’s one of the guys that in a battle, in a big game, you want him on the mound. So I’m fine with that.
Over the three game set, the Atlanta Braves turned their offense up a considerable notch over previous days, delivering a total of 32 hits. Without heaping praise on any one Brave (and it’s taking all my willpower not to do that), let me just look a touch closer at the specifics of those 32 hits. Of the 32, the Braves hit 5 homers, a triple, 8 doubles, and were patient, walking a total of 18 times! One way or the other, simply put, that’s gettin’ it done!
Okay, I tried really hard to resist the urge to heap praise on any one Brave, but I can’t help myself! At the very least you should know that in this series it didn’t appear much like there are any players that are in a slump. Jason Heyward has had his ups-and-downs this year, but he doubled in both the first two games of the set. Dan Uggla has obviously been struggling this year, but Dan tripled in game 1, doubled in game 2, and homered in game 3. New contacts starting to work? B.J. Upton has also struggled mightily, but continues to show some signs of an upswing. In game 1, B.J. doubled twice, and although he produced little in games 2 and 3, is still showing signs of improvement. Finally, it’s fair to say that Brian McCann has not quite been the usual Silver Slugger, but he doubled in games 2 and 3, and also homered in game 3. Whew! I left out a great many highlights of all the Braves did this weekend, but I hope I covered the rakes that stand out in your mind.
Earlier, I mentioned great plays, and memories, and interviews, but I also mentioned humor. I mentioned this in a previous post, but if you haven’t seen former Brave Martin Prado‘s humorous jab at Chipper Jones, you’re missing out on one of the most hilarious moments I’ve seen all year. You can still see the video on Braves.com in the video section, or just click HERE.
The Braves will have a much-needed day off tomorrow, and then will play the struggling Miami Marlins, who have been playing good baseball of late, winning 7 of their last 10. It’s never easy playing the Fish, so let’s hope some of that “Chipper Magic” in the air this weekend will carry over, and the Braves will stay on the same tear.