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Acuna homers in third straight for Gwinnett

Acuna homers in third straight for Gwinnett

If there was any doubt about whether Forrest Whitley was ready for the Double-A level, the teenage right-hander laid it to rest on Thursday by tossing six scoreless innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts in his debut for Corpus Christi.

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Book-Ender: Inciarte finishes road trip in style

Book-Ender: Inciarte finishes road trip in style

Ender Inciarte has not suddenly evolved into some kind of legitimate power threat. But as the Braves’ National League Gold Glove center fielder has matured offensively, he has enhanced his fly ball percentage and displayed his home run trot much more frequently than ever envisioned.

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Braves smash 4 homers, score 10 to earn split

Braves smash 4 homers, score 10 to earn split

Ender Inciarte homered twice and the Braves launched four solo shots off Rockies rookie starter Jeff Hoffman in a 10-4 victory at Coors Field. The result pushed the Rockies into a tie with the D-backs for the top National League Wild Card spot.

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Rockies Eleventy Billion, Barves 2

Rockies Eleventy Billion, Barves 2

What’s there to say? Threat Level: Barves.

Mike Foltynewicz didn’t have it. At one point, 16 of 22 hitters were started off with a first pitch strike. He got several 0-2 counts. He just couldn’t finish them off. The Rockies have some good hitters. They continued to prove that against Luke Jackson, and while Max Fried had a couple good innings, he gave up a home run of his own to Trevor Story.

Inexplicably, however, Rex Brothers was able to strike out the side in his only inning of work, probably because the Rockies hitters had mercy on us. But good to see him get some good work in in garbage duty.

Not that it would have mattered, but the hitters turned in a bad night too. They scratched out a couple runs started by Offensive Spark Plug Max Fried‘s walk. But it’s pretty easy to see why the offense struggles, even in Coors Field, when the lineup’s OPSes flow thusly: .736, .751, 1.046, .757, .835, .611, .550, .598. We’re missing Matt Kemp, sure, and the bottom two are Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, who are being allowed to cut their teeth at the big league level, but it’s hard to have high expectations for this offense.

It’s getting to be a long, hot summer.



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Braves fall victim to Rockies' potent bats

Braves fall victim to Rockies' potent bats

After scoring three or fewer runs in eight straight games, the Rockies jumped all over opposing starter Mike Foltynewicz for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings and beat the Braves, 17-2. Every Rockies’ starting position player scored, Trevor Story homered twice and drove in a career-high six runs, DJ LeMahieu tallied four hits and four runs, and Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds each had four RBIs.

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Folty's frustration continues at Coors Field

Folty's frustration continues at Coors Field

Mike Foltynewicz’s recent frustration was extended Wednesday night as he was damaged early and often during a 17-2 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. The Braves’ right-hander matched a career high by allowing eight earned runs over just 3 1/3 innings. This marked the third time in four starts he exited before the start of the fifth inning.

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Let’s admit Brandon Phillips has been a revelation at third base

Let’s admit Brandon Phillips has been a revelation at third base

 

DENVER – Brandon Phillips hasn’t been a serviceable third baseman since he was asked at the beginning of the month to move to that position, which he had played for one game in Double-A in 2001 and never since. He’s not been serviceable; he’s been far more than that.

Brandon Phillips remains at good hitter at age 36, and this month he’s shown he’s made a seamless transition to third base after a career as a four-time Gold Glove second baseman. (Getty Images)

In fact, everyone I’ve talked to about it seems to be in agreement that he’s been a damn good defensive third baseman for these past 12 Braves games since making the move he wasn’t thrilled about making, but had little choice in the matter once the Braves decided to call up second-base prospect Ozzie Albies. It was either play third base or don’t play, since the Braves made it clear to Phillips that they wanted to, needed to and were going to get a good look at Albies.

So Phillips, a 36-year-old former four-time Gold Glove-winning, three-time All-Star second baseman thought about it briefly, told manager Brian Snitker he’d do it, and worked out at third base before batting practice the next day (Aug. 2) before starting that night’s game at a position he’d not played in a game of any kind in 16 years. And he handled the position flawlessly from the jump, because Phillips might be relatively old by baseball standards, but the dude – Dat Dude – is still in great shape despite some aches and pains, and more important because he retains some seriously strong skills and sharp reflexes.

What Brandon himself thinks about the initial move to third base and subsequent results isn’t clear, as he’s thus far declined to discuss anything third-base related. And that’s certainly his prerogative. If his pride was initially hurt or he was just ticked off at being asked to move, who can blame him? Even if it was made clear by the Braves – at least to us, and through us to the public – the Braves said all along after trading for Phillips just before spring training that when Albies was ready, he would not be blocked by Phillips. And even though Phillips surpassed most expectations this season at the plate, when the Braves decided it was time to look at Albies the rest of the season to plan for next season, they did it.

That doesn’t mean Phillips, who was raised in metro Atlanta (Stone Mountain) and has really enjoyed playing at home in front of friends and family this season, had to agree or like the decision to have Albies supplant him.

But he made the move, and he’s excelled at third base. In fact, I’ll say publicly what I mentioned to someone in the press box last night: At this stage of his career, I think Phillips is a better third baseman than second baseman. Really.

And if Phillips thinks about it, which I’m sure he probably has now that it’s been a couple of weeks since the move, him playing third base and showing he can play it well is the best thing that could’ve happened to him going forward if he wants to continue playing, which he does. I mean, think about it: How many teams would be looking to sign a 36-year-old free agent who plays second base and second base alone? And who’s had some nagging injuries and isn’t the top-of-the-charts defender he once was at the position?

Not many teams, if any, would’ve been interested in signing him to anything more than perhaps a one-year, low-salary deal, if a guaranteed deal at all.

But if teams believe he can play both second base and third base? Well, Phillips could get interest as a legit backup and a guy who could start at either of two positions for an extended period if a team had an injury.

Bench players need to play more than one position these days unless they really have a particular tool that makes them exceptional enough to spend a 25-man roster spot on despite the lack of defensive flexibility. If they’re a big-time power hitter, for instance, then some teams are willing to carry such a player for the home-run threat off the bench. But for a guy like Phillips, being able to play a couple of infield positions instead of just one might mean the difference in getting some degree of free-agent interest. Who knows, maybe even the Braves might want to consider keeping him. Crazier things have happened (like, for instance, asking a 36-year-old second baseman to move to third base in the middle of a season).

And if he can play third – which he’s shown he clearly can, and play it well – then teams will probably assume he can play a sound first base, too.

Phillips got a big welcome back when the Braves played this season at Cincinnati, where he spent 11 seasons before he was traded to Atlanta just before spring training. (AP photo)

As he showed again in Tuesday night’s game, Phillips can handle line drives as well as just about anyone; the reflexes appear undiminished. And where his range wasn’t what it once was at second base, that’s not really an issue at third, where fielding most of the balls he gets there is a matter of a quick first step to get to a grounder or lightning-fast reaction to snare a liner. It’s not called the hot corner for nothing, ya know?

As for his arm, it’s not going to get rated high on any scouting scale at this stage of his career, but Phillips has shown on several occasions that he’s got more than enough left to make the throws he needs to make from third base. As Snitker said last night after Phillips fielded a Trevor Story grounder and threw him out for the final out of the Braves’ 4-3 win over the Rockies, Phillips has a little more he can reach back and get when he needs to make a strong throw.

When the Braves called up Albies unexpectedly Aug. 1 and Snitker told us that day that he’d asked Phillips to play third base, my immediate reaction was, no way. Move makes no sense, and there’s no way Phillips would agree to do it, I thought.

I was wrong on both counts. Entirely wrong. And each game has been a reminder that Brandon Phillips is a ballplayer in every sense, a guy who had some great natural skills and instincts to play this game at a high level, and who honed those over decades to such a degree that moving across the diamond isn’t nearly as difficult for him as it would be for 99.9 percent of the folks on this planet.

Well done, Mr. Phillips.

• I would close this with one of BP’s walk-up songs, Fetty Wap’s “My Way,” but the lyrics, well, might be deemed unsuitable for the family newspaper, and I might get in trouble. So I’ll go with this rockin’ song from DBT about another Mr. Phillips, especially since this is the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death and Elvis and the other Sun Records guys are what this song’s about.

“CARL PERKINS’ CADILLAC” by Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

Life ain’t nothing but a blending up of all the ups and downs
Dammit Elvis, don’t you know
You made your Mama so proud
Before you ever made that record, before there ever was a Sun
Before you ever lost that Cadillac that Carl Perkins wonMr. Phillips found old Johnny Cash and he was high
High before he ever took those pills and he’s still too proud to die
Mr. Phillips never said anything behind nobody’s back
Like “Dammit Elvis, don’t he know, he ain’t no Johnny Cash”

If Mr. Phillips was the only man that Jerry Lee still would call sir
Then I guess Mr. Phillips did all of y’all about as good as you deserve
He did just what he said he was gonna do and the money came in sacks
New contracts and Carl Perkins’ Cadillac

I got friends in Nashville, or at least they’re folks I know
Nashville is where you go to see if what they said is so
Carl drove his brand new Cadillac to Nashville and he went downtown
This time they promised him a Grammy
He turned his Cadillac around

Mr. Phillips never blew enough hot air to need a little gold-plated paperweight
He promised him a Cadillac and put the wind in Carl’s face
He did just what he said he was gonna do and the money came in sacks
New contracts and Carl Perkins’ Cadillac

Dammit Elvis, I swear son I think it’s time you came around
Making money you can’t spend ain’t what being dead’s about
You gave me all but one good reason not to do all the things you did
Now Cadillacs are fiberglass, if you were me you’d call it quits

 



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Braves 4, Rockies 3

Braves 4, Rockies 3

The Braves gave up the same number of runs on Tuesday as they did on Monday, but this time the offense was able to squeak out a few of their own and emerge on top. Newcomb limited the Rockies to three runs over six innings at Coors Field, an accomplishment a pitcher would take any day. Each run was scored on a solo home run, though, so it could have gotten ugly quickly had the Rockies managed to get anyone on base before one of those long balls. Fortunately for the Braves, they didn’t, and the bullpen held them scoreless and gave the offense the opportunity to snatch the victory at the end.

Dansby had himself a game, and it was fun to see. He picked up a two-run double in the 2nd to give the Braves their first lead of the game, and added another base hit later on. His defense was solid too, and he looked like he was having fun. Good for him. May he keep it up for a long time.

Markakis homered in the 6th to tie the game at 3-all, where it remained until the Braves had two outs in the 8th inning when Tyler Flowers hit a grounder to third to end the inning. Only the sure-handed Nolan Arenado delivered a low throw that short hopped his first baseman, and the ball bounced away far enough to allow Brandon Phillips to cross the plate with the winning run. It was a gift that turned into a win. A win’s a win no matter how deserved. We’ll take it. Vizzy came on and nailed the save, striking out two along the way. It is nice to have a closer again.

I don’t have anything against the Rockies and know they are in the race for the wild card. I wouldn’t mind seeing them make the playoffs. But the Braves have lost so stinking much over the past month that I hope the Rockies put aside their playoff hunt for two more games. They can go on a 20-3 tear if they want after the Braves leave town, but I can’t help but hope they pick up a couple more losses before then.

Nationals delenda est.



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