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Staying positive, Swanson collects pair of hits

Staying positive, Swanson collects pair of hits

As Dansby Swanson continues to reacquaint himself with the Major Leagues and make the adjustments necessary to prove he can be successful at the highest level, he draws upon the mental strength he receives through his daily practice of writing positive thoughts and reading motivational books.

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Where will the Braves finish

Where will the Braves finish

Since the Braves were 45-45 and playing .500 baseball, the insane rumblings of the fanbase were about how the Braves might be buyers at the trade deadline. That was and will always be the ravings of ignorant people about what the purpose of this team was this season. The job of the Braves this year was to be mildly entertaining enough so that people would want to show up to a new ballpark and drop their cash there while we waited another year to see the younger prospects get their turn. Nothing more.

We were never competing for anything, and now you’re getting a full dose of that reality as a fan. Instead of a 45-45 team, the Braves are now a 7-19 team with 46 games left to play. If they continue on that pace, they will win about 12-13 more games and finish at best with 65 wins. That would be the worst season we’ve had since the rebuild started two seasons ago. But do I care if they finish with 65 wins or 70 wins? No, because it’s all irrelevent. We know where the team is heading and that’s a youth movement. And if you didn’t know that by now, I’m sort of wondering what the true expectation was.

So year 3 will be in the books as another dud when we look at the finish. In about 3 weeks we’ll see even more of the young guys come up as 40 man rosters extend the bench. That’s when I think you’ll see more full time debuts of pitching prospects we’ve only heard about, and maybe some young field players like Acuna that we’ve yet to see.

Year 4 is the year I expect this team will really move back towards relevence. Do I think they’ll win? No. I think they’ll probably finish with wins in the 70s, but they’ll have a ton of on the job learning as the young prospects finally start to sink or swim. I don’t believe you really start to compete until Year 5 of a rebuild and I’ve said that before. It’s tough, but that’s where we live.

What I’m looking forward to at the end of the year is seeing all the September call-ups and I hope the Braves don’t waste the opportunity. September and Spring Training should be auditions for everybody under the age of 25 to make this team full time. I know certain positions like 1B and CF are locked up right now, but everything else in the field is going to be pretty wide open. The Braves may trade or release Nick Markakis if they have a better option in RF, and they are hoping Matt Kemp hits well enough that they would do a mid-season trade to take most of his salary away to another team to build up 2019 cash reserves for free agents.

But SS and 2B are still going to be a battle. 3B is a battle. Catcher is still a question. Most of the rotation for the pitching staff is up for grabs. I want to see these young kids fight for spots in September because that’s what makes the team worth watching now. We’re not competing for anything but the future, and W/L totals going forward don’t bother me at all if it includes some on the job training.


Full article @ Where will the Braves finish

Source: Braves By The Numbers by Ben the CPA

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Blackmon reminds Braves what happens to mistake pitches at Coors

Blackmon reminds Braves what happens to mistake pitches at Coors

DENVER – On Sunday in Denver, Rex Brothers was asked about the coming return to Coors Field, where he was once a successful Rockies closer, and what it took to be successful at the unique hitter-friendly ballpark with its mile-high altitude and vast outfield.

When Rex Brothers was a closer for the Rockies in 2013, he didn’t have many nights like the one he had Monday in his first game pitching at Coors Field for the visiting team. He gave up a leadoff triple in the eighth to start a three-run inning in what had been a scoreless game. (AP file photo)

“That’s a place where you’ve really got to execute,” Brothers said. “And if not you might see the touchdowns on the scoreboard. … That outfield is so big, doubles turn into triples, singles turn into doubles. That’s what I call the merry-go-round — whenever you see the dang merry-go-round take off you know there’s probably been some instance in an inning where a single’s turned into a double, a double’s turned into a triple, those sorts of things. It just gets going and it feels like it doesn’t stop.

“It’s a big yard, you definitely want to keep the ball on the ground, keep it on the infield as best you can.”

A day later, late Monday night, Brothers got his first chance to pitch at Coors Field since 2015, and his first time as an opposing pitcher. He did not keep the ball on the ground. The first batter he faced, Charlie Blackmon, hit a leadoff triple to start the eighth inning, the game-changing inning when the Rockies scored three times to turn a scoreless game into a 3-0 Braves loss.

“When I had the count in my favor I didn’t execute, it’s as simple as that,” said Brothers, who was ahead in the count and meant to throw Blackmon a slider low, but threw him a hanging pitch belt-high over the middle of the plate and, “At this level you see what happens.”

In Brothers’ impressive 2013 season, the best of his career, he had a miniscule 1.16 ERA, .574 opponents’ OPS and nine saves in 34 road appearances, and a similarly superb (given the Coors Field factor) 2.23 ERA, .654 opponents’ OPS and 10 saves in 38 home appearances. He didn’t give up a triple all season, home or road.

He didn’t leave many pitches up that season, particularly against hitters like the 2017 version of Charlie Blackmon.

Blackmon, a leadoff hitter who ranks third in the majors in batting average (.335) and slugging percentage (.615) – yes, he has a higher slugger percentage than both Bryce Harper (.614) and Aaron Judge (.608) – might as well have had that pitch put on a tee. He hit it to the left-center gap – those gaps where doubles turn to triples at Coors — for his majors-leading 14th triple, which is five more than anyone else in the majors.

Thirteen of his 14 triples have comes at Coors Field, which is as many as the combined total of the home triples for the next two on the major league leaders list – Billy Hamilton’s seven triples at Cincinnati and Nicholas Castellanos’ six triples at Detroit.

Blackmon, a North Gwinnett High School graduate who played at Georgia Tech and Young Harris College, has the power, speed and hitting ability to thrive at Coors Field, and this season he’s mastered it. He’s hitting .395 with an .814 slugging percentage and 1.279 OPS in 55 games at Coors Field compared to .285 with a .452 slugging percentage and .783 OPS in 61 road games.

A good hitter on the road, a formidable hitting machine at Coors Field. Blackmon is a leadoff hitter, but the only players who’ve hit more homers in their home ballparks this season are sluggers Aaron Judge (24), Giancarlo Stanton (21), Cody Bellinger (18) and Khris Davis (18).

Ender Inciarte was thrown out at the plate when he tried to turn a triple into an inside-the-park home run leading off the first inning of Monday’s 3-0 Braves loss at Colorado. (AP photo)

Brothers knew Blackmon was dangerous, having been Rockies teammates with him from 2011-15, though Blackmon wasn’t nearly the hitter then that he is now. Everyone knows how good Blackmon is now, and all pitchers who’ve worked at Coors Field know how dangerous it is to make mistakes in that ballpark, with those who’ve pitched for the Rockies even more familiar with the circumstances than others.

But every pitcher also makes mistakes, and those are more likely to be exploited at Coors Field than anywhere else except perhaps Cincinnati. Especially when those mistakes are made to hitters like Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez, who had a two-run single four batters later in the eighth inning off Braves reliever Jason Motte, coincidentally another former Rockies pitcher (though he only spent one season with them in 2016).

All three runs in the inning were charged to Brothers, who faced two batters after Blackmon, walking DJ LaMahieu intentionally to put runners on the corners before inducing a grounder from Gerardo Parra that skipped under the glove of shortstop Dansby Swanson and was initially ruled an error but later changed to a hit.

The eighth-inning came undone quickly on two Braves relievers, after Julio Teheran had pitched seven scoreless innings in one of his best and most encouraging performances in an overall disappointing season for the two-tie former All-Star.

Teheran allowed just four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings and 110 pitches, the last of those pitches used to work out of a tight spot in the seventh when, with two runners on base and none out, he struck out Pag Valaika, got major league RBI leader Nolan Arenado to pop out and struck out Alexi Amarista.

“You hate not to get that one for (Teheran),” Brothers said. “Props to him, he really pitched well and kept us right there where we needed to be to win it.”

The Braves haven’t won at Coors in more than three years, a staggering 11 consecutive losses at the downtown Denver ballpark and 15 losses against the Rockies in their last 17 games against them home and away.

Tonight, the Bravos turn to rookie Sean Newcomb, who really needs to avoid issuing walks – he had seven walks two starts ago but only one in his last start – if he hopes to succeed at a ballpark where free passes have been known start that merry-go-round that Brothers referenced.

“Exactly,” Newcomb said when a reporter mentioned the importance of avoiding walks at Coors Field. “Just because of how it plays here — obviously the home runs, but anything low in the gaps tends to carry a little further for extra bases. But at the end of the day I’ve just got to pitch my game. Like I said from the last outing, pound the zone, keep it down and just try to get contact, hopefully weak contact.”

Let’s close with one from the great Jimmie Dale Gilmore. This is a live version of “Another Coloreado” with Dave Alvin helping him out.

“ANOTHER COLORADO” by Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Down by the banks of the Colorado
My true love and I one night did lie
And we laughed and played and made fun
Of the entire world spinning ’round the sun
Down by the banks of the Colorado

Up from the banks of the Colorado
Nightwatchmen stood guard ’round the wagon yard
And I took a pillar for a sign
That the salt of the earth was surely mine
Up from the banks of the Colorado

There is another Colorado
Wise have told me, wise women too
That I may find sweet El Dorado
Down by the banks of one sweet Colorado

Down by the banks of the Colorado
The years flowed softly before my eyes
And the circus joined me in my quest
And stayed with me throughout my test
Down by the banks of the Colorado

There is another Colorado
Wise men have told me, wise women too
That I may find my sweet El Dorado
Down by the banks of one sweet Colorado

Full article @ Blackmon reminds Braves what happens to mistake pitches at Coors

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ

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Corregidor: Braves 0, Rockies 3

Corregidor: Braves 0, Rockies 3

Corregidor. This is a rock mountain in the channel leading from the South China Sea into Manila Bay. After the Magellan exploration, the Spanish returned to colonize the Philippines. They built the first fortresses on the rocky island. Even by 16th century cannon, that made it hard for a wooden ship to enter Manila Bay.

The first big trade thing that happened in Manila was that it was the “silver concentration point” for purchasing Eastern spices and such. The silver mined in Mexico (centered around Taxco) was shipped overland to a nice port on the Pacific (Acapulco) and then to Manila.

Our World War II reference is to the fall of the Philippines. The U. S. had succeeded Spain in control of the Philippines after the Spanish American War. An independence schedule had been adopted. And then, the Japanese struck.

The grand plan had been that, in case of war, the American forces would withdraw to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor (just south of the peninsula). Then, led by the “irresistible force” of U. S. battleships, a relief column would come. Well, the Pearl Harbor attack kind of proved that wouldn’t work. So, despite gun emplacements, barracks, hospitals, fuel, food and ammunition all below ground in protected tunnels, after a long hold out, the defense of Corregidor was surrendered.

What has that got to do with Monday’s baseball game? Well, the Braves have been reeling from hit after hit. And, they were able to defend effectively for a fairly long time. But then, what seemed to be inevitable (the collapse) came.

Julio Teheran was almost brilliant. This in the worst park for pitchers in MLB. To slow down homers, the fences are deep. Then, that means the outfielders have to cover the whole Pacific (which first the U. S. and then Japan found is quite difficult). Julio went 7 innings, got 8 K’s, gave up 4 hits and 3 walks, and gave up NO runs. But for the Braves of late 2017, all good things must come to an end.

As the first batter of the game, Ender Inciarte hit a ball into left field that was misplayed. So, he began his circuit of the bases. Ron Washington waved Ender on to the plate. But, the relay caught Ender as his 15.1 second sprint wasn’t fast enough. I remember a game a old Mile High where both Deion Sanders and Fred McGriff hit inside the park home runs. My memory (remember, this is 25 years ago) is that Deion’s time around the bases was 13.9 and Fred’s was 16 something. Ron, with no outs you hold the runner at third.

Chad Bettis was making his first Major League start after diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer (I remind you of this so you can have some added cringe to your day because by now, the plight of the Braves has gone on too long for an emotional reaction to a setback). Despite pedestrian minor league rehab numbers, he pretty well kept the Braves in check. 7 innings with no walks and 6 hits and 2 strikeouts, no runs. With Matt Kemp coming off the DL Friday (I guess if he doesn’t hurt himself getting in the whirlpool), we will find out if the saber crowd is wrong and one above average bat can “protect” and “inspire” an offense from 2 runs a game to 5 runs a game. And then, if that works, somebody will take Kemp off our hands and Braves can make a long term solution.

Our old friend Mike Dunn came on in relief and got the win. That came because Rex Brothers (whom I have to admit I thought would help us), gave up 2 hits and a walk without getting any outs. Then Jason Motte (who I ALSO thought could help us), allowed 2 of those to score to get 3 total home in one inning.

The moral of our story: When it is raining bombs and artillery shells, you can only hide in a Rockie cave for so long before you have to put up the white flag. Or, as some say in baseball, tip your cap.

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Thrilling inside-the-park bid becomes first out

Thrilling inside-the-park bid becomes first out

Approximately three hours later, as he digested Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field, Braves third base coach Ron Washington was still wondering if the result would have been different had he not waved Ender Inciarte toward the plate with the hope of beginning the game in electrifying fashion.

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Young players auditioning make these Braves dog days interesting

Young players auditioning make these Braves dog days interesting

DENVER – The Braves were a long shot to win a wild-card berth even after getting their record to a high-water mark of 45-45, but 18 losses in the next 24 games pretty much turned those chances from slim to none. Still, that doesn’t mean they have nothing to play for. Quite the contrary.

The Braves are getting an extended look at second-base prospect Ozzie Albies, who’s had a couple of three-run homers and some solid defensive plays in his first two weeks in the big leagues. (AP photo)

Falling out of the race probably made it easier for the Braves to make decisions to bring up prospects and give them regular playing time, as they’ve already done for nearly two weeks with second baseman Ozzie Albies and still could do now or in September with at least one other major prospect, outfielder Ronald Acuna.

And for prospects and/or rookies already up with the big-league club, the rest of the season provides an opportunity for them to show they are worthy of being penciled into the plans for next season, either in the lineup, on the bench, in the bullpen or in the starting rotation. It’s an audition of sorts.

“This is a very important time for front-office people to look down and see, okay, we can count on this guy for next year, we can count on that guy, etc.,” veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey said. “Everybody’s pitching for something. We may be out of it on paper a little bit, but everybody in here is pitching for something and that’s important.

“I’m not saying this is a tryout for next year but it’s certainly going to play into and impact the decisions that those guys make for what this club will look like in 2018. This was always looked at, it seems, as a bridge year for the years upcoming for these young guys to get up here. You’ve seen a little of that this year already, for what you have to look forward to, but there’s still a long way to go and it’s important for these young guys to do what people expect of them and to be professional, and to be around guys who are professional and learn what that looks like and how they can be consistent in the roles that they’re called up here to perform in.”

An atmosphere like the Braves have now can create competition and exciting performances, which is why this team might be more enjoyable to watch for the final 47 games of the season than a team that’s 11 games under .500 (52-63) would otherwise be expected to be. This is usually the dog days of a season and teams out of contention can appear to be going through the motions, playing out the schedule.

For many of the Braves, that shouldn’t be the case. Too much could be riding on performances, and surely they know it.

Ronald Acuna is only 19, but the dynamic top-rated Braves outfield prospect could be called up before the end of the season as the team gets a look at some players expected to compete for spots in 2018 spring training. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

The Braves are getting a look at a top left-handed prospect, Max Fried, who has a terrific curveball and figures to be a big part of their future rotation. But for now is getting big-league experience as a reliever, where the Braves can control his innings the rest of the season and work him into more pressured situations. Fried was called up a week ago and has made two appearances, allowing two hits and three walks (one intentional) with two strikeouts in three scoreless innings.

Fried allowed one walk and no hits with one strikeout in a scoreless inning against the Cardinals on Saturday in his second appearance.

“I think his first outing he was a little amped up, which is to be expected,” veteran reliever Jim Johnson said. “Kind of was overthrowing a little bit. The other thing is, people don’t realize he has never pitched out of the bullpen; he was close to getting in the game early (Saturday) and then sat, and then ended up pitching in the eighth (inning). But there’s that transition from getting hot, getting ready, and then that complete crash (when you don’t get in the game), then have to get back up. It’s not easy to do, especially for a young guy. I thought he’s handled it well.”

Reliever Jose Ramirez isn’t a kid – he’s 27 – but this is his first full season in the majors and he’s made major strides and begun to come into his own as a setup man or possibly even a future closer for this or another team.

“Look at like the transformation that Jose’s gone through this season from last season,” Johnson said. “He’s not just a thrower anymore. Some of it’s trial by fire, these guys get put in situations where they kind of have to learn on the fly.”

Although Acuna’s not on the 40-man roster and doesn’t have to be added this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft – not enough time has passed since he first signed to require he be protected – and although the Braves could face a roster crunch in November when they have to add other prospects to the 40-man roster who are Rule 5-eligible, Acuna has been so good and so exciting at every level (now at Triple-A) that the Braves might bring him up this season.

Not just to give Acuna a taste of the big leagues before he competes for a job in spring training, but also to show their fans what awaits and what could be in the lineup next season. Hey, they’re trying to finish the season strong, trying to keep a good vibe going at SunTrust Park to capitalize on larger crowds they’ve gotten lately and to keep those folks coming back on a regular basis next season as season-ticket holders.

Don’t get me wrong — if Acuna didn’t seem ready or close to it, they wouldn’t bring up a 19-year-old who’s not yet on the 40-man roster just to appease fans. But he does appear ready, at least if you judge by performance against Triple-A players, most of whom are at least 3-4 years older than him and plenty who are 10 or more year older.

The Braves have a couple of rookies in their starting rotation currently, Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims, and they’ve taken their lumps as all rookies do. But they’re learning and team officials see plenty of reason to believe each is going to be better for the experience.

Sims is 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA in his first three big-league starts and gave up 10 hits and five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings Saturday at St. Louis, but even in that rough outing he showed something important when he struck out the last two batters of a three-run fourth inning with two runners on base. Things could have spiraled completely on him with Paul DeJong and Dexter Fowler due up and only one out, the large crowd making a lot of noise and looking for DeJong to blow the game open. But Sims struck both of them out. Damage control.

“You can always look for something positive with these young guys,” manager Brian Snitker said after that 6-5 loss Saturday. “I mean we’re experiencing a lot of things for the first time. The one thing that Lucas does is he never stops competing. He never stops competing, getting after it. He’s had a couple of big innings, and he’ll figure that out. The more we keep running him out there, the more he’ll figure it out.

“The only way to figure it out is to go out there, because you don’t just show up here and all of a sudden everything is golden and you never have to fight through any adversity. I mean, that’s the whole idea of running these kids out there. Young pitchers, until they experience all that and what it’s like, and know how to correct it and how to get better through it – the only thing we can do is give them experience. When you’re a competitive like he is and you take pride in it, he’ll figure it out.”

Rebuilding projects aren’t easy. This is part of the process if you’re going to go all the way through with them. And the next 6-7 weeks could offer plenty of exciting glimpses of the future in addition to the inevitable frustrations as inexperience guys find their way.

• I’ll close with this one from the late, great Merle Haggard.

“COLORADO” by Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard

There’s a place where mother nature’s got it all together
She knows just when to let wild flowers bloom
Some-how she always seems to know exactly what she’s doin’
And The Lord saw fit to furnish elbow room.Have you ever been down to Colorado
I spend a lot of time there in my mind.
And if God doesn’t live in Colorado
I’ll bet that’s where He spends most of his time.I’d love to be there watching early in the morning
The sun comes up and crowns the mountain king
If by chance you dare to be there high upon the mountain
I swear that you can hear the angels sing.

Have you ever been down to Colorado
I spend a lot of time there in my mind.
And if God doesn’t live in Colorado
I’ll bet that’s where He spends most of his time.

Full article @ Young players auditioning make these Braves dog days interesting

Source: Atlanta Braves blog by David O’Brien – ACJ

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