Braves lines before Labor Day

The Major League Braves WON, and completed the sweep of the Indians…

Beating a good team: While the struggles in St. Louis last weekend were troubling, it was good to see the Braves return home and beat up on another playoff-caliber team. Maybe “beat up on” is a bit overcooking it; the Braves managed just enough off of three very good Cleveland starters while their own starters dominated. The Atlanta starting pitchers’ combined line in this series: 18.2IP, 17H, 1R, 6BB, 12SO. Maybe “dominated” is overcooking it; the Atlanta starters all seemed to channel their inner Maddux to wile their way through each start. And all of this is a reminder of why the Braves are where they are this season — because of their pitching. While the Braves batters have a middle-of-the-league OPS+ of 98, their pitching staff has a league leading ERA+ of 123. The motto of the 90’s Braves was “pitching wins championships.” That motto is back.

Upton hit: Justin Upton was hit in the left hand by a Ubaldo Jimenez pitch last night and left the game. X-rays were clean for any break and the injury is called a contusion. Hand injuries worry me to no end. The hands are so important to a hitter, and there are so many small bones that can break in the hand, an injury there can linger for a long time. This was what derailed Jordan Schafer for a couple of years, when he injured his hand colliding with the outfield wall early in his rookie season. The hot start he got out to that year was erased because of the injury which lingered for a couple of months before he finally had surgery on it. If I recall, it took him two years or so to return from that injury, and really he is only just now realizing his potential. That’s probably a worst case scenario, so don’t think that’s what’s going to happen to Justin, but it’s certainly a cautionary tale. Evan Gattis had a hand injury last year that kept him out of most of the second half of the season, which is why he played winter ball. I want to say that Heyward had a hand injury that kept him on the shelf for a while the year before his rookie year. Let’s hope that Upton’s injury is just a contusion and not something more serious.

Call-ups: Mark Bowman speculates that Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham, and Freddy Garcia will get called up once rosters expand on Sunday. As I mentioned yesterday I’d like to see David Hale get called up, as I feel he’d offer more out of the pen and get the opportunity to get his feet wet in the Majors. And after Garcia’s first outing shellacking, I’d prefer Kameron Loe get called back up if we must have a veteran long man on the team. Garcia is scheduled to start for Gwinnett on Saturday, Loe on Friday, and the Braves may wait to see how those outings go before determining who gets called up. Hale is scheduled to start the final game of the season for Gwinnett on Monday, so he might get called up after that start (if all goes well).

Braves minor league scoresgattis-bobble

Gwinnett lost 7-6… Jose Constanza put on a slap hitting contest, as he bounced a ball high in the air in the infield for a couple of hits. He’s hitting .333 since he was sent down at the beginning of the month — 24 of 26 hits for singles, but you should know by now that’s what you get with Georgie. Reliever Mark Lamm didn’t help his call-up cause with 3 walks and 3 runs in less than an inning of work. It’s been a long and productive season for Lamm, but he might be tiring some as we near the end. I still think he’s a solid bullpen option in Atlanta next season.

Last night was Evan Gattis bobblehead night at Coolray Field, and if you’re an aficionado of the bobbling head as I am, then this is a great read. Also, a big thanks to the Gwinnett Braves for having so many bobblehead giveaways this season. I look forward to more next year.

Sip stumbles in critical series opener: Mississippi lost 4-3 as they open a series tied atop the division with a chance to advance to the playoffs. They fell behind early, but fought back to tie the game. Juan Jaime surrendered the winning run in the 7th on a double, and the M-Braves didn’t have any more offense left against a solid Suns bullpen. Tommy La Stella and Robby Hefflinger were each 2-for-4 in the game, but the rest of the team managed just 2 additional hits. Game 2 of the 5-game series tonight. If you’re in Jacksonville, get out to the ballpark and support a great M-Braves team.

Cats clinch playoff berth, then enter a parallel universe: The Hillcats clinched the Wild Card last night as their opponent in the division lost, thus cementing their spot in the playoffs. The Hillcats split a double-header, losing the first game 7-4. Elmer Reyes had a big game, going 2-for-3 with a 3-run HR. Game 2 took 12 innings, but the Cats got the win 3-2. Josh Elander smacked a game-tying HR in the 6th inning and went 2-for-4 in the game with a walk. Matt Weaver had an interesting game, going 1-for-4 with a HR… then the 12th inning got a little weird… Weaver came in to pitch the 12th, and posted a scoreless, hitless frame capped off by a strikeout. Meanwhile pitcher (and former infielder) Wilson Rivera took over in the outfield for Weaver in the 12th, and with runners on 1st and 2nd in the bottom of the 12th he hit a ground ball to first that looked to be a double-play, but the return throw to first was not in time allowing Matt Lipka to score the winning run from second. So Matt Weaver picked up his first professional win as a pitcher, while pitcher Wilson Rivera drove in the winning run. Apparently the plan is to convert Weaver to a pitcher next year, in much the same way that Rivera has made the conversion.

Outfielders Robby Hefflinger and David Rohm were named to the Carolina League post-season All-Star team.

Rome finished up their home season with a 5-3 loss, but the speed caucus was in full effect. Kyle Wren went 2-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base, while Jose Peraza went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and a CS. New Rome Braves pitchers Richie Tate and Tyler Brosius, recently promoted from Danville, held the opponents scoreless for the final 3.1 innings.

Reliever Shae Simmons was named to the Sally League post-season All-Star team. He is now pitching in Mississippi.

Site note: I’m out of town for Labor Day weekend, in the internetless mountains of North Carolina, visiting the folks. So no lines until Tuesday (more than likely). 

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