Man in the Stands

Braves have a leading question

In last Wednesday’s game against the New York Mets, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward caught a Jonathon Niese fastball to the face, fracturing his jaw in two places.

Heyward underwent surgery to stabilize his jaw on Thursday in Atlanta. Doctors inserted two metal plates into each jaw during the procedure, but didn’t have to wire his mouth shut. That’s the good news. The bad news for the team and its fans: the Braves leadoff man is out for at least four weeks, and possibly six, leaving questions about how Manager Fredi Gonzalez was going to handle the top line-up spot.

Since moving into the leadoff role, Heyward has had a complete turn-around. He’s hitting for a .341 average, which is 103 points higher than his average at the third spot. The lefty has scored 24 runs, hit five of his 13 home runs, and driven in 15 of his 37 RBIs in the number one slot.

Jordan Schafer replaced Heyward in the outfield and in the leadoff spot on Wednesday, as well as taking the first pitch of the game on Thursday in St. Louis.

Schafer is a viable candidate for taking the reins of the top of the line-up card. In the position already this season, he’s hitting for a solid .280 average with two home runs and five doubles. Also, Schafer has tallied five stolen bases when batting leadoff, tying shortstop Andrelton Simmons who batted in the spot for most of the season.

Schafer has been a role player for the team this season, mostly as a pinch runner or playing the outfield to give players a rest. He picked up most of his playing time this season when outfielders Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, and Heyward all ended up getting hurt, but soon the injury bug, too, caught up to him.

Simmons is also a good option to move back to the spot. When he was there previously, he was batting 61-for-275 with six home runs. Fans will have reservations about this move, however, because Simmons is hitting 60 points higher in his average out of the leadoff spot.

B.J. Upton has hit his best this season out of the number one spot, but has only had 55-at-bats there. Two of his eight home runs came when he was hitting at the top of the line-up. He has 11 stolen bases on the year with three as the leadoff batter.

My personal pick to be the next test at number one is Chris Johnson.

Johnson is the National League leading hitter with a .330 average. It would be the first time this season that Johnson would be hitting from the leadoff spot and he does lack the speed of a typical leadoff hitter. To me, the positives out-weigh the negatives of this move.

Typically, the leadoff batter is going to see fastballs and few breaking balls. With Johnson’s average, it makes him a perfect candidate. You want your leadoff man on base for your second and third hitters. In the Braves case, they have Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman hitting in those spots with power and great contact as well.

As a contact hitter with the power to hit home runs, Johnson would also do well in making teams pay for making mistakes to the pitcher’s spot.

I understand the speed aspect of the leadoff hitter, but I’d love to see CJ get a chance at it.

If you were Fredi Gonzalez, whose name would you pencil in at the top of the line-up card?

Braves overcome Natitude to extend streak

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The Braves (69-45) and the Nationals (54-59) had a pitchers’ duel on Tuesday night in a 2-1 Atlanta victory that saw benches clear and both teams warned by umpire Joe West in the fifth inning.

National’s outfielder Bryce Harper was struck by a pitch in the backside from Braves starter Julio Teheran (9-5) in the fifth inning after hitting a solo home run in his previous at-bat two innings earlier.

Harper took a step toward the mound with words for Teheran before making his way to first base. Braves catcher Brian McCann quickly came from behind the plate to get between the heated Harper and his pitcher.

West, the home plate umpire, took quick action in getting McCann steered away from Harper. Both benches and bullpens cleared, including Braves right-fielder Jason Heyward who came out of the game after his first at-bat with a strained neck.

After order was restored and both benches warned, play resumed to see an otherwise disappointing game.

Evan Gattis, who entered the game for Heyward, had a two-out single in the top of the fifth that scored, both, B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons. These, along with Harper’s homer, proved to be the only runs in the game.

Teheran only allowed four hits to Washington to match his four strikeouts in six innings of work. Craig Kimbrel came in for the save opportunity and gave Braves fans a bit of poetic justice by striking out Harper on a 99 MPH fastball to end the game.

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (7-5) took the loss Tuesday despite a solid outing. Seven innings with five strikeouts and only six hits given up is a good day on the mound for any pitcher. He just lacked the run support from his offense and the two earned runs by Gattis were his only black eye.

The win pushed the Braves to 12-straight victories. The streak is the longest by a Braves team since a 15-game win streak that ended on May 2, 2000.

The Braves also added another come-from-behind win to total up to 37 on the season, which is a Major League leading stat.

Atlanta now leads the NL East by 14.5 games over the Nationals, the largest division lead in MLB.

Batting Title Update:

Since ending his multi-hit game streak at eight-straight on August 3, where he went 0-for-3 with two walks, Chris Johnson has been on a little bit of a slump.

The next night after the streak ended, Johnson seemed to be on his horse again with a 2-for-4, two-RBI game. He has been 0-for-4 with a strikeout in each of the two games this series with Washington, dropping his average back to .338 after being as high as .347.

Johnson still leads the National League with the injured Yadier Molina holding on to second from the disabled list.

Chris Johnson and the Braves will play for win #13 behind Kris Medlen (8-10) in the final game of the series with Washington and starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (13-6) on Wednesday. First pitch from Nationals Park in Washington will be at 7:05 ET.

Upton home run extends Braves streak to 11

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Justin Upton’s game-winning home run helped the Braves (68-45) overcome a strong game from Nationals (54-58) pitcher Stephen Strasburg to win their 11th straight contest on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (5-9) threw seven innings, giving up two earned runs on only five hits. He faced 28 batters, striking out nine of them.

Upton’s home run (20) off of Tyler Clippard (6-2) in the eighth inning proved to be the game winner. Clippard gave up another hit but only the one run in his single inning of work.

Upton was 3-for-4 on the night and scored another run off of a Freddie Freeman two-out single in the fifth.

Freeman also drove in the other run scored for the Braves on a single in the third inning. Jason Heyward scored on that play. Freeman was 3-for-4 on the night with the two RBIs.

Upton, Freeman, Heyward, and B.J. Upton were the only Braves to secure a hit in the contest.

Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and Chris Johnson, one game removed from a Braves record hitting streak, were all 0-fer in the game. Both McCann and B.J. had two strikeouts.

The story in the game will undoubtedly be pulled toward the Justin Upton go-ahead home run in the eighth. Some would argue that it should be the timely hitting by Freddie Freeman to drive in the two runs earlier in the game. For me, the story of the game is easily the pitching. More importantly, the Braves bullpen.

You can score as many runs as you want to, but, if your bullpen gives up more than you’re scoring, it won’t matter for much.

Mike Minor (11-5) started things off for the Braves on Monday, but picked up a no-decision. In his six innings of work, Minor gave up eight hits and two earned runs. He also issued three walks and had three strikeouts.

David Carpenter (3-0) picked up the win for Atlanta on 1-2/3 masterful innings. He was perfect in his time on the mound, with two strikeouts along the way.

Luis Avilan was on the bump for the final out of the eighth inning. Avilan walked up to the mound and tossed one (1) pitch for the out.

Usually, in a one-run game, Craig Kimbrel would enter the game to finish off the game and toss the last inning. After working all three nights in Philadelphia, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to give him a rest and give the ball to Jordan Walden for the save opportunity.

Walden picked up the save, his only of the season, on nine pitches. He gave up only one hit in the ninth to cap off the game.

Walden and Cory Gearrin are the only two pitchers outside of Kimbrel to have a save on their resume from the Braves 2013 season.

The game was the Braves 36th comeback win of the year, most in the Majors by any team.

We’re going streaking:

With the end of the Phillies series, the Braves were at 10-straight wins, which tied a streak from earlier this season. With the win on Monday night, 11-straight makes the longest win streak for Atlanta since winning 15-straight from April 16-May 2 in the 2000 season.

Through the 11 games, the Braves have outscored their opponents 69-27. Atlanta is hitting a solid .294 as a team throughout the streak, holding their opponents to a .211 average. The team has hit 13 home runs during the run as well.

Opposing pitchers have walked the Braves 40 times compared to the Braves pitching staff giving out only 21 walks. Atlanta’s staff has also struckout the opponents batters 97 times out of 360 at-bats.

Extending the streak:

Tuesday night is game two of a three-game series between the two squads. The pitching match-up, Julio Teheran VS Gio Gonzalez, will be fun to watch.

Teheran (8-5), the Braves 22-year-old right-hander, has a 3.02 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 117 strikeouts this season.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Teheran has pitched 18 innings and amassed a 4.50 ERA against the Nationals in three games in 2013.

Pitching against Washington this year, Teheran is 0-1. In his three starts, he’s given up 23 hits, nine earned runs, and the Nats are hitting a nice .329 off of him.

Teheran has tossed only six innings at Nationals Park this season. In that time he has picked up a 6.00 ERA and given up a four earned runs with a home run in only six hits.

As for Gonzalez (7-4), he has faced the Braves three times this season as well with an 0-2 record.

In his 16 innings against Atlanta, the Braves are hitting .270 off of him with 13 earned runs, including three home runs. Gonzalez has a 7.31 ERA against a team who have been hot as of late.

When pitching at home, Gonzalez has a 3.07 ERA with a 4-2 record in 11 games. In those games, he’s thrown over 67 innings and given up 23 earned runs and issued 26 walks. He’s also held opponents to a .232 average.

The Braves will chase their 12th-straight victory against the Nationals in Washington on Tuesday night against Gonzalez. First pitch from Nationals Park will be at 7:05 ET.

Johnson, Braves continue streak

Atlanta third-baseman Chris Johnson picked up two hits against the Phillies to tie a Braves record in a 6-4 road win.

Johnson hit a solo home run in the fifth inning to put the Braves up 5-2 for his first hit of the night. The record-tying double came in the seventh inning off of Phillies reliever Jacob Diekman.

To be on any kind of record list in the Atlanta Braves organization is one thing. To tie Braves legend and Home Run King* Hank Aaron is another.

You read that right. With one swing of the bat in the seventh inning, 28-year-old Chris Johnson tied Hammerin’ Hank’s eight consecutive multi-hit game streak. Aaron completed the feat in 1959 and is the last Braves player to do so.

As for the game, the win brought the Braves up to eight-straight in their streak as well.

Brian McCann also hit a fifth inning home run, good for two RBIs. Joey Terdoslavich and Justin Upton added RBIs in the inning as well.

All six runs were earned and credited to Phillies right-hander Ethan Martin (0-1). Martin was called up on Thursday afternoon to his MLB debut in place of the injured Cliff Lee.

Martin was born in Athens, Ga, but attended Stephens County High School in Toccoa, Ga.

Martin’s official line in his debut: 4.1 inn, 8 hits, 6 earned, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts.

Kris Medlen improved to 8-10 with a lackluster start. He gave up six hits in his six innings of work. All four of the Phillies runs were earned and credited to Medlen. He did strikeout eight in his time on the mound.

Craig Kimbrel threw a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts for his 32nd save of the season.

Pitchers David Carpenter and Jordan Walden both threw perfect innings in the seventh and eighth, respectively. Carpenter struckout the side and Walden picked up two K’s in his inning of work as well.

*Still disputed among some sports talk circles, but, come on, we’re in Atlanta for crying out loud!

The winning streak:

The Braves’ winning streak could easily be attributed to the offensive firepower that has shown itself in the last eight games. During the streak, Atlanta has outscored its opponents 57-20 and outhit them 94-56.

If your team has scored more runs than your opponents have hits over the same span of time, you’re doing something right. Right now, the Braves are on a ball smashing streak and nobody wants to see it come to an end, except maybe the Phillies… and the Nationals… and the Mets… and the Marlins.

The streak has spanned across a three-game series against the Cardinals, who came into Atlanta riding a four-game winning streak, a four-game series against the Rockies and the opening of a three-game road series against the Phillies.

When the streak started, the Braves lead the Nationals and Philadelphia by eight games. The Mets were 10 games back and the Marlins were 18 games off-pace.

After beating Philadelphia Friday night, the Braves lead the Washington by 11.5 games, Philly and New York by 14.5, and Miami by an astounding 21 games.

Atlanta is also still the only team with a winning record in the National League East and one of only six in the entire NL. Washington is within 1.5 games of being at the .500 mark.

CJ 2.0:

Chipper Jones has the Twitter handle of @TheRealCJ10. Chris Johnson, who has taken over for Jones at third base, has quickly made a name for himself at the hot corner and has been deemed by some fans “CJ 2.0.”

In the last few months, Johnson’s batting average has continued to be as high as it was when he was splitting time with Juan Francisco in the lineup. Though, until just recently, it didn’t matter.

Johnson finally reached the number of at-bats to qualify for the batting title when the Cardinals came into Atlanta on July 26. After he crossed the threshold, his name popped up in the slot for the second-highest batting average in the National League behind one Yadier Molina.

Molina, the Cardinals catcher, was a firsthand witness as Johnson went 7-10 in the weekend series and took the number one spot on the list.

After going 9-19 in the four-game series with the Rockies and 2-4 Friday night against the Phillies, Johnson still sits atop the list with a .347 average.

It is throughout these eight games that Johnson has been able to tie a Braves franchise record eight straight multi-hit games.

With 52 games left, it’s hard to talk batting titles, but it’s oh so much fun!

Chris Johnson told MLB.com, in a recent article,

“We got two months of baseball left. If I start worrying about getting more hits that him (Molina), it’s just going to go downhill.”

The last Brave to win a batting title: Chipper Jones, 2008. Jones won it over Albert Pujols of the Cardinals with a .364 average. Jones was also a runner-up for the title in 2007 with a .337 average.

The similarities between the two are fun to look at. Is it coincidence that Jones was the last Atlanta player to win the award? Maybe. Is it coincidence that it happened to be over a Cardinals player? Yes. Is it coincidence that they both carry the same initials and play the same position for the same team? Only you can answer that one.

One thing that’s for sure: Chris Johnson is well on his way to earning, and living up to, the nickname CJ 2.0. Tying Hank Aaron for any kind of record in a Braves uniform while chasing a batting title is one hell of a way to start.

Braves: The Final 53

With the calendar flipping to August and the Colorado series coming to an end with an awesome offensive showing, the Braves are just 10 games away from being in the final quarter of the regular season.

We’ve seen first year Braves kill it, old Braves come back, a nickname become a legend, brothers collide, brothers tie and walk-off, fans unite to #VoteFreddie, a veteran pitcher go down for the count, and a part-time player become an everyday player and take aim at a batting title.

The first 109 games have been, believe it or not, fun. The final 53 games are looking to be just as good.

Now with the last two months coming to a head, fans wonder: “What team will we see down the stretch?”

That is a legitimate question to ask as a Braves fan. Myself, I grew up with the Braves being champions. I was born in ‘91 and so was the 14 consecutive division champion streak. When I was old enough to actually follow the team, the players, their stats, like, say, at the age 15 in 2006, it was the start of something almost upsetting.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Atlanta reached the postseason again, only to get beat by San Francisco in four games.

In the final 53 games of the 2010 season, Atlanta went 29-24. The team was strong. Offensively, the Braves outscored their opponents 243-214. It wasn’t good enough to take the division, but it was good enough to win the Wild Card by one game over San Diego.

Then 2011 rolls around. The Braves are seven games behind Philadelphia in the NL East but up three games for the Wild Card over Arizona, seven games over St. Louis. Going into the last three games of the season, the WC race is down to Atlanta and the Cardinals.

With a one-game lead, the Braves headed into a three-game home series with the NL East leading Phillies and the Cardinals headed to Houston to face the Astros. Atlanta needed just two home wins to clinch the Wild Card and go to the postseason.

St. Louis took 2-of-3 from the Astros and the Braves were swept by the Phillies to lose the Wild Card spot by one game. The Cardinals went on to beat the Rangers in the World Series.

Last season, seemed like destiny. Chipper Jones’ 19-year career as a Brave was coming to an end and the Braves were making a push for the postseason once again.

With 53 games left, Atlanta was one-game ahead of the 2nd Wild Card team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and three games ahead of the Cardinals.

Down the stretch the Braves went into battle mode and came out with 31 wins and 22 losses. They had a run differential of +33 over their opponents in that time.

The MLB had a newly developed schedule that allowed for a second Wild Card team, which the Cardinals clinched over Pittsburgh. Because Atlanta had the better record, the two teams met at Turner Field.

The game now has been more infamous for a call rather than the result. The infield fly rule was questionably applied in the eighth inning, Braves fans showered the field with trash, and the rest of the game was played under protest by the home team.

The protest was later denied by the MLB front office and the Cardinals won the game 6-3 to advance to the NLDS. St. Louis beat the Nationals before losing to the, would be, World Series Champion Giants in the NLCS.

Here we are again, looking at what is forthcoming in the final 53 games of the 2013 season, and the picture is much different from the previous three years.

Atlanta is 12 games ahead of the Washington Nationals and is the only team above the .500 mark in the National League East.

Here are the final match-ups of the regular season and the results from the previous three seasons when playing the same teams in the last 53 games of the season:

  • Philadelphia (50-58): Braves have 13 games left in 2013 against the Phillies. The Phils have beaten up on Atlanta the last three seasons inside of the 53 game mark, winning 15-of-20 games and outscoring the Braves 105-66. This season the series is split with each team winning three games.
  • Washington (52-56): Nine games are left against the Nationals on the regular season docket. The two have split the 24 games played in the final stretch of the season from 2010-2012. The Braves are 7-3 in 2013 against D.C.’s team.
  • New York (48-58): The Mets and the Braves have played 25 games within the final 53 games in the last three seasons. Atlanta owns that series 18-7 with a +28 run differential. The clubs are even through the 14-game series this year.
  • St. Louis (63-44): Only seven games have been played between these two this late in any season since 2010. The Cardinals have taken five of those games. In 2013, St. Louis is on the schedule twice and the only series played so far belongs to Atlanta in a three-game sweep.
  • Miami (42-65): Atlanta is 6-3 against the Marlins this season and has control of the previous three season’s series’ as well with 17-of-24 wins.
  • Chicago (49-59): Only nine match-ups in the latter part of the season after 2010 have been played between the two. The Braves are one game up in that time and three games to none so far this year.
  • Cleveland (60-48): The last time the Braves played the Indians was in the 2007 season when Atlanta took two games of the three in Cleveland. The two teams have not yet met this season.
  • San Diego (50-59): Last year, the two teams met for seven games in the final 53 games of the Braves regular season. Atlanta won four of the games.
  • Milwaukee (46-62): Last season was also the only season of the past three that Atlanta met Milwaukee in the last stretch of the year. The Brewers outscored the Braves 17-3 and swept the series.

The Braves have an excellent chance of winning 35-to-40 of the last 53 games that they will play in the 2013 regular season.

They have 28 home games left and hold the best home record (38-15) in Major League Baseball. Six of those are against the Miami Marlins, which is 21 games back in the NL East, and seven are against Philadelphia. The Nationals, Indians, Mets, Padres and Brewers each have three games to play at Turner Field.

The shortest home-stand for the Braves will be the three game series with the Padres. No other time at the Ted is shorter than seven games, the length of their longest away trip.

Atlanta has to visit Philly and Washington for six games at each stop. The Braves will be in, both, St. Louis and Miami for four-game series’. Wrigley Field and Citi Field are also stops along the way.

Nothing about the left-over home schedule screams difficulty. The Indians are the only team that is coming into Atlanta with a record of .500 or better at this point. Maybe the hardest thing will be concentrating and staying focused with, what is currently, a double-digit lead in the division.

The toughest away stint will easily be the seven games between the four-game series with the Cardinals and the three-games against the Phillies. The Cardinals are the only team left to play on the road with a .500 or better record right now.

The Phillies match-up, looking at it right now, isn’t a tough one, but after battling with the Cardinals, it will be. Honestly, it might be the most important series to watch. It could tell us what kind of team we’re looking at for the postseason. Is it one who will fight series after series or one wear down after a tough series?

That’s the question that every team is asking, or will be soon, going into the last bit of the schedule. Only time will tell, and it starts with the final 53.

Braves sweep Colorado with relentless offense

Atlanta (64-45) finished off the four-game series with the Colorado Rockies (51-59) with an 11-2 victory on Thursday night.

The fourth installment was nothing short of what the rest of the series proved: There is still life in the bats of the Braves!

Justin Upton appears to be coming back to life after his drought since April. He clubbed 12 home runs in the opening month of the 2013 season. Since the end of April, Upton had hit four HRs until Thursday. Thursday, he added two more. He brought in five runs with those two swings of the bat, his only hits of the night.

Jason Heyward scored three runs and hit a home run in the game. Freddie Freeman added to the contest with two hits of his own and scored two runs.

Chris Johnson drove in two on three hits. Thursday was his seventh straight multi-hit game, bumping his average up to .346, which continues to be the National League best. Johnson trails only Miguel Cabrera, who continues to be out of the Tigers lineup with an abdomen injury, for the MLB best average by just .013.

Only two Braves starters came up without a hit in the game. Leftfielder Evan Gattis was 0-4 and only saw five (5!) pitches in the match-up. Dan Uggla also came up empty with a walk and a strikeout.

Pitcher Julio Teheran (8-5) picked up the win for Atlanta on a solid 5-inning start. Teheran gave up one earned run on five hits. He walked two and struck out 11.

Teheran also got into the party at the plate. He hit an RBI double in the second inning. Teheran also singled in the fourth and scored on the Jason Heyward home run.

Scott Downs, David Carpenter, Luis Avilan, and Anthony Varvaro all saw work from the sixth inning on.

As well as Johnson getting his seventh straight multi-hit game, the Braves picked up their seventh straight win.

The Rockies series showed what Braves fans hope is the aggressive offense that lasts through October! Atlanta outscored Colorado 40-13 over the four games and outhit them 55-36.

Since the seven-game streak has started (or most notably since Waffle House opened up at the Ted), the Braves have outscored their opponent 51-16.

Atlanta carries the momentum of the back-to-back sweeps into a weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies, which begins on Friday at Citizens Bank Park Stadium.

With Cliff Lee out, Philadelphia announced on Thursday afternoon that they will be calling up right-hander Ethan Martin and making a corresponding roster change before the game on Friday. Martin is a product of Stephens County High School in Toccoa, Ga.

He will be making his MLB debut against Kris Medlen (7-10), and his hometown Braves, at 7:05 ET.

Braves beat Rockies in offensive explosion

The Atlanta Braves exploded for six runs in the fourth inning on their way to an 11-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

After being down 3-1 in the second inning, it looked to be a long night for Alex Wood (1-2), who picked up his first win as a big leaguer.

The Braves (62-45) got one back off an RBI double from Justin Upton in the third to make it a one-run game before blowing it open the next inning.

Dan Uggla opened the bottom of the frame with a double to left field. Two batters later saw Wood ground out to second base, moving Uggla to third. Jason Heyward hit a 2-out single to score Uggla before Upton bounced a ground rule double over the right-field fence.

Freddie Freeman was next up and was intentionally walked to bring Evan Gattis, or EL OSO BLANCO, to the plate. Gattis scored Heyward and Upton with a single and moved Freeman to third and himself to second on the throw.

With runners on second and third, catcher Brian McCann stepped into the box to deliver a three-run home run to right field. McCann finished with just the one hit and the three RBIs.

All six of the runs scored in the inning came with two outs on the board. Even more surprising is that the team was able to manufacture runs in the game. Granted, it was only four of the 11, but, still, that is something that fans, and media alike, have criticized the Braves for.

Atlanta has relied heavily on the long ball this season.  As a matter of fact, the Braves are 52-17 when they have hit at least one homer in the game. When they haven’t hit a bomb, only 10-28. They lead the National League in home runs with 126, followed by Colorado’s 120.

Another surprise for the Braves’ offense on Tuesday was it’s latest Gwinnett call-up, Todd Cunningham. Cunningham was summoned from the Braves Triple-A affiliate after Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day DL with left Achilles tendinitis.

In his first Major League at-bat, Cunningham faced three pitches and sent the last to left field for a single.

Alex Wood, after a rocky start (no pun intended), threw a rookie-style gem for the home squad. He settled down after giving up three earned runs in 39 pitches over the first two innings of the ballgame. He threw only 60 pitches the next five innings to finish up at 7.0 innings, 6 hits, walk, and 7 strikeouts.

Anthony Varvaro came in for the final two innings, only giving up one hit and capping the game.

Freeman ended his night with four RBIs after hitting a solo shot in the first and a three-run blast in the seventh.

On the offensive front though, the story, for me, has to be Chris Johnson. Johnson was 7-10 against the Cardinals, scoring four runs in the series (three in one game!), and taking over Yadier Molina for the highest batting average in the National League.

Tuesday night, Johnson went 2-4 with a walk raising his average to .341, keeping his #1 spot in the NL and bringing him to 2nd in the Majors behind 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera (.359). His on-base percentage is up to .381 and he’s slugging .470. Tuesday was also his fifth straight multi-hit game and 34th of the season.

Another story that could be given a lot of attention from the baseball media is how well Jason Heyward has done from the leadoff spot and how well Andrelton Simmons has done since being moved out of it.

Heyward has gone 7-17, scored five runs, driven in four, and walked twice in the four games since making the move.

Simmons has been just as good. He has hit 8-17, scored a run, driven in five, and has not struck out. Simmons has only been struck out twice in the month of July (once VS Philadelphia and once VS Cincinnati) and neither have come after the All-Star break.

Since ending the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak, the Braves have started a five-game streak of their own.

(Special note: The Cardinals have since lost three games to the Pirates, who now lead the NL Central. St. Louis’ new streak is L6.)

Atlanta goes for its sixth-straight victory Wednesday in the third of a four-game series with the Rockies (51-57). Mike Minor (10-5) will battle right-hander Tyler Chatwood (7-3) starting with first pitch at 7:10 p.m. from Turner Field.

Braves showing promise for a playoff run

Zack:

If you haven’t already, go give Sean Breslin a read over at Breslanta.com. He has great opinions and stories about Atlanta sports and the city surrounding it!

Originally posted on Breslanta.com:

AP Photo/David Tulis

AP Photo/David Tulis


The Atlanta Braves are rolling with a 61-45 record through July 29, and we have every reason to believe they’re destined to win their division, sitting on an ever-growing 9-game lead over the second-place Washington Nationals.

But once they get to the postseason, a division championship means very little. It’s just a ticket to get into the big dance, where the competition is much tougher.

Every year, we wonder whether our Braves will size up with the best of the National League when we finally get to postseason play. Sadly, they usually don’t. However, in 2013, we have reason to believe they could see more success than usual when the playoffs begin.

Look no further than Atlanta’s record against playoff contenders at home.

(Also read: Big breakthrough for awful Braves gameday traffic?)

Realistically, the Braves have faced five such contenders at Turner Field — the Los…

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Braves top St. Louis, Receive good news

Mike Minor (10-5) was able to lead Atlanta to a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals to snap a four-game winning streak on Friday night at Turner Field.

Minor threw 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes in his 7.0 innings of work, giving up only four hits, including a 2nd inning home run to Yadier Molina, and striking out five batters along the way.

After giving up that homer to Molina in the top of the inning, Minor came up with a single to left to bring home Dan Uggla. Uggla, along with Chris Johnson and Minor, was a perfect 1-1 with runners in scoring position on the night.

Jason Heyward added to the two-run lead in the 5th inning with an opposite field home run off of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (13-6), his 8th of the season.

Minor’s gem is even bigger when you look at the six players coming into Friday’s contest hitting above the .300 mark. He was able to hold them to a combined 3-21 with one RBI (Molina’s HR).

Jordan Walden was able to come in and pitch a perfect 8th inning, throwing only seven pitches. Craig Kimbrel was able to pick-up his 29th save of the season on 17 pitches and two strikeouts.

Thanks to the Braves official Twitter…

Fans were able to get some pretty uplifting news tonight. Not long after game’s end, the @Braves handle tweeted an update on Tim Hudson. (Both are listed below)

Many fans knew that Huddy would be having his surgery today but didn’t know exactly what for other than a fractured ankle.

The fractured/broken bone was to be expected from any of those who saw the play. What is concerning is the ligament. Even though the team didn’t let fans know exactly what happened to the ligament, those things are tough to judge and fully recover.

Honestly, four months, even though it means he won’t see another game this season, is a happy and exciting thing to hear. It gives hope to fans that we will get him back as strong as ever next year and well in time for Spring Training!

If you’ve ever seen Tim in the dugout, whether on TV or when you’re at the game, you know he’s the biggest cheerleader on the team and a great team leader. The media in Atlanta has already reported that we can get used to seeing him in the dugout for the remainder of the season and that is great for the squad. His presence is a powerful thing for a team that has the largest division lead in baseball!

Follow me @ZackMyers11

Pitching troubling Atlanta

“The Braves suddenly have pitching woes” reads the first line of Jason Mastrodonato’s recent article for mlb.com.

As I read the sentence, I kind of laughed in my head and thought, “The Braves never have pitching troubles. We’re always deep in the ‘pen. Usually our pitching problems come down to too many of them.”

The more I thought about it, and re-read the sentence again, I realized, “Holy hell. He’s right.”

Hudson’s down, Beachy is likely to be rushed back, and, as we all know, there are two strong relievers out for the season.

The article, titled “Braves leaning on Minor to anchor rotation,” goes on to point out what the title says, the team is pretty much dependent on how well Mike Minor pitches. Some how this season, Minor has become the ace of the staff. With Huddy’s broken ankle, that has now been all but confirmed.

Braves Country will be holding tightly to the coattails of Minor and following him into the dark. His first task P.H.A. (Post-Huddy’s Ankle) is to take the mound Friday against a tough Cardinals line-up, which has six players hitting above .300, including Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Carlos Beltran.

As far as Brandon Beachy is concerned, he threw a rehab game with Gwinnett on Wednesday night. His line (6.0 innings, 2 H, 2 runs, 1 ER, 4 walks, 3 K) was nothing to brag about, but, out of his 86 pitches, he threw 51 strikes. That’s a promising outing. As a fan, I would still love to see him get at least one, if not two, more starts and see that he is not experiencing soreness or fatigue, but it sounds like we may see him Monday against the Rockies.

Watching Wood get beat around the yard like a playground soccer ball on Thursday didn’t leave much hope for his help this season and his relief, Kameron Loe, definitely did not leave Braves fan feeling any more comfortable.

With Minor and Teheran throwing well, there is some ease of the minds of Braves fans, but Maholm, Wood, and Medlen are making it tough to put the rotation “out of sight, out of mind.”

Medlen has given up 20 earned runs in his last 5 starts (2-3) and has not seen the end of the sixth inning in his last 3 starts (0-3). Granted, it is hard to focus and pitch well when your team isn’t putting up runs for you, but you still have a job to do. Kris just isn’t getting it done right now.

With the trade deadline coming up and the state of the starting rotation, you have to wonder what moves the Braves are looking to make. If you are Frank Wren, do you go after starting pitchers or do you have a focus elsewhere to pick up help for?

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