Tagged: Cardinals

Time Is The Braves MVP Right Now

The most dangerous thing in the Braves clubhouse right now is not Brian McCann. It’s not Dan Uggla and it’s not Chipper Jones. The most dangerous thing in the Braves clubhouse is TIME.. Right now I almost feel as if I’m watching a very long version of an NBA game. One team is down only 10pts but there’s only 3 minutes left in the game. Pressure is mounting.

That’s the situation that the Braves have put the St. Louis Cardinals in. With only 13 games left on their schedule (12 remaining for Atlanta) the Cardinals are going to have to play near perfect baseball to make up the 4.5 game deficit. Now I’m not saying 4.5 games is an insurmountable deficit by any means but time is running out, it’s not the middle of July here.

The Cardinals take there hopes and dreams of making the playoffs on the road this weekend as they visit Philadelphia. One interesting thing to note; the Phillies have TBD for all 3 starters in this series. I wonder why that is? Are they planning on taking their foot off the gas just a little bit? Will they throw young guys to get them some late season experience since they are already a lock for the playoffs?

If this is the case then it would not be a good thing for Atlanta. I was hoping that Philadelphia wouldn’t ease up quite yet and that they would really take it to the Cardinals as if the series meant something at least. This may or may not be the case, if Philadelphia eases up then the Cardinals might have a chance to at least split the series. Not something the Braves wanted to here.

Atlanta of course will be going full strength as they inch closer to their magic number. They will throw Lowe, Hudson and Beachy at the Mets this weekend hoping for another 2/3 series victory.

The Braves don’t have to play perfectly down the stretch but they can’t falter to the point where they are getting swept in multiple series. They need to win baseball games and just cross days off the calender. I think the last series with Florida was a big one for this club. They saw 3 games get crossed off the schedule and although they didn’t gain any separation from the red birds, they also didn’t lose any ground and at this point in the season, it’s just as good.

The Braves control the shot clock right now. Just play smart down the stretch. Win at least half the games and they are a lock for the playoffs. Mets always play the Braves tough but I’m confident they can win 2/3 which will be more then enough.

With any luck the Braves will have gained at LEAST 1 full game in  the N.L Wild Card Standings by Monday morning. Then we can reevaluate the situation from there.

Where are all those people who said the Braves would choke and miss the playoffs? Are they still around? Just curious.

Never panic too fast, that’s the lesson we can learn from this. The Braves won 2 big games against the Fish and are now sitting pretty in the N.L Wild Card.

By: Bob McVinua

 

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Braves inch closer to playoffs..

At this point I’m not even sure what I should be saying as a Braves blogger. Should I stay positive and ride the train of “they’ll be fine” or do I sit here and say “Oh man the sky is falling in Atlanta”. I guess I just don’t see the point in being overly negative. Will being negative and bashing the team’s poor play really change anything? Probably not. All it will do is get me more riled up then I already am.

This team is not playing good baseball right now. Why? It’s really tough to say at this point. There are slumping players and poor pitching performances occurring more and more often. That could be it but I mean this team has over come all of those things this season. Is this the first time the offense has slumped? Is this the first time the pitching has faltered? Not at all.

However this is the first time that this team has not been able to figure out how to win games. Bad pitching or bad offense this team has always been able to figure out ways to win. It’s that simple. Right now this team appears to be in a free fall. You know the saying “when it rains, it pours?”. Well that’s the Braves right now. They are on sort of horrible slide right now and they just can’t seem to turn it around.

Will switching the order around help? It’s possible but I mean I’ve never heard of a World Series caliber team who switched their line up every single night. I think players need some consistency. These guys never know who’s playing, where they’ll be playing or in what spot in the order they’ll be hitting in.

As we search for answers I think that we will find ourselves beating a dead horse. I could write 40 more paragraphs telling you that the Braves aren’t playing good baseball. But the only way they can fix this thing is to start winning games. YES! It’s that simple. String together a few wins. Right now they are going to the ball park expecting to lose and hoping to win. Let me say that again. They are going to the ball park expecting to lose and hoping to win. You can’t have that type of attitude in professional sports.

I think the critical stretch for the Braves comes this weekend against the Mets. Braves will be playing a weaker division team at home, while the Cardinals will have to travel to Philadelphia for a 4 game set.

This stretch is crucial for 2 reasons. One the match up for the Braves is much better. I’d much rather play the Mets at home who are putting a AAA line up out on the field every night then go to Philadelphia to face the Phillies great pitching staff. Look at what the Phillies did to the Brewers. That should say it all. We have a very favorable match up where we can win 2/3. I doubt the Cardinals will win more then 1 game in their series.

The second reason this weekend is big is because the Cardinals will make up some ground on the schedule. Where will that “half” game that’s lingering in the standings go? Will the lead bounce up to a 5 or down to 4? Or where ever it may be at the time. I’d love to have that half game turn into a full game with a Cardinals lose this weekend.

I think we need to win the next 2 in Florida and then see where were at. Mike Minor is on the hill tonight. Hopefully he’ll give us a solid effort. That’s all we can hope for.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

Braves Fans Beginning To Panic?

This is a rarity for me as a writer. I never write my blog entries the night before I post them. Yet here I am at 12:20 at night sitting in front of my computer screen writing an article for Chop Talk. It’s a Saturday night and I can’t even think about anything else because of the Braves loss tonight. The point of my articles are to always try and put a positive spin on things when it comes to Braves baseball. You can go anywhere on the internet and read negative articles about everything from sports to politics. But what good does that really do us? When has being negative ever helped any situation?

One of the best quotes I’ve ever read was this: “Life is not about what happens to you but how you react to it”. Your reaction can make bad situation worse or it can make it better. At the end of the day this is just sports and we all know that. But at the same time it’s a passion of ours. We are die hard Atlanta Braves fans and we want what’s best for our team and we get frustrated when things don’t go the way we had hoped.

This is when the team needs us the most. This is when fans need to stand up in adversity and show that they will support their team through thick and thin. I’m sure none of my readers feel this way but I’ve been on several Braves sites tonight and saw tons of comments referencing the Braves missing the playoffs. Saying that this was going to be a horrible choke from the Atlanta Braves. I realize that the Wild Card lead has slipped from 8.5 games down to 5.5 games and I’m well aware of the fact that the Braves aren’t playing great baseball right now.

But at the end of the day they’re 5.5 games up in the Wild Card race with a little over 2 weeks to go in the season. That’s really not a horrible spot to be in. If someone told us that the Braves would be where they are today back in April we all would have been thrilled. Look at all the teams that are completely out of it, which by now is the vast majority of both leagues. Teams like the Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Dodgers, Padres, Cubs, Blue Jays, etc are all out of it. So many other teams are as well.

And it’s not like we’re the only team that’s getting a scare right now. I’m sure Texas isn’t too happy with their lead in the A.L West which has almost completely evaporated. Or how about the big bad Red Sox who hold a smaller Wild Card lead then the Braves. I’m sure that they aren’t feeling so great about themselves either. Were not the only team that’s experiencing a late season slide is all I’m saying.

The Braves have one more game against the Cardinals. Tim Hudson is pitching and right now he’s probably the best guy we have so I’m feeling fairly confident. If we can win tomorrow then we leave St. Louis with a 6.5 game lead in the Wild Card and will only have 15 games left to play. That’s not such a bad deal. It would basically come down to us playing .500 baseball the rest of the way.

The Braves will be opposed by the Marlins and Mets this week, both series will be played at home. I’m sure this team is dying to get back to Atlanta so they can settle in and start playing good baseball again. I’ll say the Braves win 4 of 6 from the Marlins and Mets. Who could argue with that prediction?

The Cardinals will make a trip to Philadelphia at the end of this week for a 4 game set. That could potentially be a 4 game sweep but I’ll predict that Philadelphia will take 3 of 4 which would still help the Braves tremendously. So in that respect I think were in decent shape. We will all have to swallow our pride and root for the Phillies next weekend as it’s in the best interest of the club.

Baseball is a tough game. It’s so different then all the other sports because of the length of the season. In the first half the Braves pitching was so dominant and that almost seems like a different year to me. Jurrjens is hurt and so is Hanson. Lowe is horrible and that leaves a ton of pressure on Tim Hudson to carry this staff. The young guys have pitched well though.

Dan Uggla has turned his season around. Chipper is swinging the bat well. Freeman has emerged into a great player. So many things happen during the course of 162 games. And the thought of having to go through all that and still miss the playoffs is the worst feeling in the world. Baseball fans cheer their team on and get wrapped up in the games EVERY SINGLE night. Football fans deal with it once a week, there’s a huge difference.

I’m going to go on record and say that I firmly believe that the Braves will still make the post season. It’s not a guarantee and I know if they don’t I will be mocked for the entire off season but I’ll take that chance. Baseball is a funny game but the Braves just need to get back into the swing of things. Right now they’re playing a little too loose and their focus just doesn’t seem to be there. I think with the lead at only 5.5 games it will help wake them up a little bit.

Let’s get through tomorrow Braves fans and then head back home. This will all be a decent memory in a few days. Tomorrow’s game does have big implications. It’s the difference between a 3 game sweep and the Cardinals only gaining 1 game in the standings. Hudson needs to come up big and I think he will.

We’ll get through this. I’m just as frustrated as you guys are but deep down I believe things will turn out alright. This team has over come adversity this entire season. This is no different.

By: Bob McVinua

 

Kimbrel Falters But Braves Still Playoff Bound

I know last nights loss was a tough one to swallow. Always remember that I’m a die hard Braves fan just like you guys and the loss hurt me too. Last night the Braves took a 3-1 lead into the 9th inning and handed the ball over to their most trusted reliever. Kimbrel was on a very impressive scoreless innings streak when he entered the game last night and with 2 outs and a 3-1 lead still in tact it appeared that the streak might continue.

Well Albert Pujols had other ideas as a nailed a base hit that would score runs 2 and 3 for the Cardinals, tying the the ball game and leaving the Braves stunned. I know it’s natural to be upset with Kimbrel right now. The finger pointing always goes in the direction of the guy who didn’t do his job at the moment of the loss. That’s the laws of baseball and there’s no way around it. But as fans we need to remember all of the times that Kimbrel DID indeed shut the door. Besides his early struggles, Kimbrel has been lights out almost the entire year. Him and Venters have created one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball history. All of those things need to be remembered when get upset over a tough loss. Braves fans have been very spoiled when it comes to the back end of the bullpen, a lot of teams are not so fortunate.

I’m not here to make excuses for Craig Kimbrel because if he knew this article was being written I can guarantee he would tell me not to defend him. But I’m going to choose to be sensible now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it. This has been a very tough week for this Atlanta Braves ball club. They started the week in Philadelphia playing a big series and got swept. Then they were supposed to have a day off which then turned into a double header in New York. Going from a day off to a double header is a big difference. It was 2 extra plan ride that this team probably didn’t feel like taking after they got swept in Philadelphia. These guys must be exhausted. There’s no question about it. I think they played very well last night and they deserved to win that ball game, they just couldn’t shut the door. It happens to best of them. Even the great Mariano Rivera has blown some saves this year that I bet the Yankees wish they could have back. But at the end of the day, they know he’s Mariano Rivera and that he’s going to get it done 05% of the time if not more. That’s what the Braves have in Craig Kimbrel.

I’m not trying to down play the loss. One pitch by Kimbrel and one hit by Pujols changed the out look of the Wild Card standings by 2 full games. One swing, two games. That’s a lot. The lead could be 8.5 right now but instead it sits at 6.5. The Braves have less room for error but they are professionals and they have to deal with it.

Tony LaRussa was quoted as saying “I feel like we have to win this game” (quote regarding today’s game). To me that says it all. There’s less then 20 games left in the season and the Braves are sitting ona 6.5 game lead. Who’s the pressure really on here? Not us. Were not the one that has to make up 6.5 games in the standings with a little over 2 weeks left in the season. That’s not a spot I’d like to be in.

One positive is that the Cardinals travel to Philadelphia on Friday to start a 4 game set. That will be a very tough series for the Cardinals and could be a chance for the Braves to pad their wild card lead a little bit as they head into the final stretch of the season. Granted the Braves play the Phillies the last series of the year but it’s at home and with such a big lead it’s possible the Phillies won’t go all out to win those games as they won’t risk injury to critical players.

I still like the Braves to make the playoffs. I think time and the schedule is on our side. We need to win 1 game in St. Louis. I’d certainly prefer to win more then that but I think that will get the job done. Winning just one in this series would set us up with a 6.5 game lead with 15 games left in the regular season. The Cardinals would play 16 remaining games as they are one off the pace, hence the .5 game.

Have faith Braves fans. I think we can do this. A big audition game for Derek Lowe tonight. He blew the chance to shine in Philadelphia but he could make up for it here. If he can’t put together a solid outing against St. Louis then I don’t know how Fredi Gonzalez will be able to put him in the playoff rotation. Sept Lowe is running out of time to show he still has the stuff to get the job done.

By: Bob McVinua

 

Braves Look To Cage Up The Cardinals

Alright. As promised we can get back to the most important topic in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. There’s a big game tonight against the Cardinals on the road in St. Louis. Although both teams are facing a good amount of pressure in this series I’d say that the majority of the pressure rests on the shoulders of the Cardinals. After all, were not chasing them. They are the team that’s 7.5 games out with 18 games left to play. In my opinion the Cardinals need to sweep this series to really challenge the Braves down the stretch and for the Braves I think 2 out of 3 should do the trick. Head to head meetings are where playoff spots are won or lost this late in the season. Yes the Cardinals face an up hill battle the rest of the way but they can certainly make life a lot easier if they could sweep this 3 game set.

For the Braves I think it’s all about taking 2 out of 3 and just making another statement. If this team wins the series then they will have gained 1 full game in the standings and more importantly knocked off 3 more games from their remaining schedule. For the Braves there’s no where to go. They aren’t going to win the division and the wild card team is always guaranteed the 4th seed in the post season and no chance at home field advantage. The Braves are in a spot where they just need to win games and focus on themselves. It doesn’t matter what the Phillies are doing. It doesn’t matter what the D-Backs or Brewers are doing. This team needs tunnel vision right now.

21 year old Randall Delgado will take the mound tonight for the Bravos and were hoping to see some good things from him. In his last start against the Giants he actually carried a no hitter into the late innings so we’ll be hoping for more of the same tonight. The Cardinals line up as a lot more offensive threats in it compared to the slumping Giants line up that Delgado faced last month. So it should certainly be a big test for the very talented young man.

Honestly this is the moment I’ve been anxious about for the past week or so. We need to avoid the sweep which would be a complete disaster. We can’t have a repeat of what happened in Philadelphia. A sweep would bring that 7.5 game lead down to just 4.5 and with 18 games left that could get a little dicey.

I am also noticing that Fredi Gonzalez is falling into a tough spot. One that might be corrected after this series. He’s on the fence between being in  place where he can rest players and prepare for the playoffs and a place where his playoff chances are being threatened. A very difficult place for a manager to be in. A team like the Phillies can start resting some guys and experimenting a little before the playoffs start. A team like the Cardinals knows that it’s all or nothing right now and that they have to do whatever it takes to make the playoffs.

Which spot is Fredi Gonzalez in? I think he’s caught right in the middle. If the Braves were to sweep this serious, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Then the Braves would hold a VERY comfortable 10.5 game lead and could then start to rest some players and figure out their playoff rotation.

Venters looks exhausted. I’ve never seen him with such control problems before and the last thing we want is to have him worn out and in affective for the post season. The bullpen is by far our biggest strength. The ability to shorten games could be the reason we make a run at the World Series. When you play the Atlanta Braves you’re playing a 6 inning game. That’s extremely intimidating and causes teams to press a lot harder in the earlier innings because they are afraid of not having the lead by the middle of the ball game.

By: Bob McVinua

Is Cruise Control Enough For The Braves?

So your driving down the high way as you embark on a long road trip. You see miles and miles of road ahead of you. You think to yourself what a long trip this is going to be and how you will surly be exhausted by the end you. You decide that you are not up for changing speeds constantly while you driving so you decide to put the car on cruise control and just relax for a little bit. Sure you won’t be able to pass many people or make any aggressive moves but the cruise control will help you rest up and get some of your stamina back. Sounds like a good plan right?

Well meet the 2011 Atlanta Braves are experiencing their own little joy ride as they have put their season on cruise control. Let’s just hope that the season ends before their car runs out of gas. To me that’s the exact scenario that we find ourselves in as Braves fans. We are literally counting down the games until the end of the season. You all know how much I love the game of baseball and how much I enjoy watch games. No, not right now. I have a calender in my house that I’m using to count down the days until the regular season ends. I can’t wait for this madness to be over. The games are no longer enjoyable and are coming with the price tag of high anxiety and stress. Yes, maybe my love for the Braves is a little unhealthy but isn’t that what happens to us as fans?

If you picture yourself driving in that same car. You look down and your gas tank is almost on empty and you have no idea where the nearest gas station is. You decide to just ride it out and pray that you make it to your destination before you run out of gas. That’s all the Braves are doing right now. They appear to be hoping that the season ends while they still have at least a 1.0 game lead in the Wild Card.

Now this is where I will attempt to calm Tomahawk Nation. I think that’s why most people read my post anyways. They are looking for answers and they are looking for my thoughts on certain situations that occur. Well my thoughts are as follows.

Were no longer chasing anyone. All were doing is trying to keep ourselves a float. Nothing more and nothing less. The Phillies hold a 10.5 game lead in the division with 20 games left to play. The N.L East is over and done with. The Wild Card is our only hope of making the playoffs so we need to treat that opportunity like gold. No more chasing, which I think is a better mind set. We need to realize that we’re the team to beat in the WILD CARD. Other teams like St. Louis and San Fran are chasing us. We need to win ball games to try and reach our magic number.

The Braves hold a 6.5 game lead in the N.L Wild Card. I know that were complaining about it as our nerves are getting the better of us, myself included. I can’t even begin to think about how I’d feel if we blew this lead and missed the playoffs after a 162 game grind that sent us on emotional swings that resembled a roller coaster. However let’s consider this. The Boston Red Sox hold just a 7.0 game lead over Tampa Bay for the A.L Wild Card. Yes, the unstoppable World Series projected champions are really only a .5 game better off then our Braves right now. That should give us a little comfort as our lead is fairly healthy considering the amount of games left.

We could be the Angels right now. A very talented team that is desperately trying to chase down the Texas Rangers for possibly the final playoff spot in the A.L. At least we are in control of our own destiny. We don’t need anyone else to lose games, we just need to win games. The pressure is on the Cardinals right now. They can’t afford to lose any games.

Brandon Beachy was outstanding last night. For a young pitcher to go into such hostile territory this late in the season and pitch so well, to me that’s a great  sign. Beachy I believe has earned himself a spot in the playoff rotation no matter who is healthy. Hudson and Beachy deserve to be in there. Who else is in there is still up for grabs. I’m hoping it’s Hanson but his healthy is out of our control right now and we kind of have to see what happens.

Today is a great opportunity to turn things around. It’s a chance to collect 2 wins in just 1 day and after today we’ll only have 18 games left in the season with hopefully AT LEAST a 6.5 game lead over the Cardinals and hopefully it expands some. Could be a big confidence boost for this team.

The biggest series remaining for this club is not the series against Philadelphia. After the 2 games in New York we head to St. Louis for a CRUCIAL 3 game set. If we win 2/3 in that series then I believe the Wild Card will be ours. That’s truly what I believe needs to happen. People in Tomahawk Nation are also thinking the worst. Yes if the Cardinals sweep us then were going to be in big trouble down the stretch but what if we sweep them? If we sweep that series in St. Louis then the Wild Card will pretty much be wrapped up at that point. I think we need to make a statement in that series. If we can leave St. Louis with a 7 or 8 game lead in the Wild Card with 15 games left on the schedule I will feel pretty good about things.

The Braves have lost 5 of their last 6 games and our very fortunate that we didn’t get swept by the Dodgers as well. This team doesn’t have to 18-2 down the stretch to make the playoffs. But we also can’t afford to go 2-18 either. I think going 10-10 will be enough and that’s why you work so hard to build a lead like we have late in the season, it takes a little bit of the pressure off during the stretch run.

What I don’t recommend is that the Braves continue to play with this sleep look in their eyes. Half the time they look like they are completely out of it. I’m not sure why to be honest. I guess it’s just them being a little too comfortable and looking ahead to the playoffs? They certainly have taken their foot of the gas and they do need to up their intensity just a little bit.

Have no fear Braves fans. As it sits right now I can’t see the Braves missing the playoffs. 10-10 down the stretch will get the job done and then records are out the window. We have very little to play for other then the Wild Card because once you receive that 4th seed in the playoffs you can’t have home field advantage no matter how good your record is. So these loses really aren’t costing them anything unless they miss the playoffs all together, which I’m going to go on record saying this team gets in without too much of a problem.

Like I said before this team needs to win 2/3 from St. Louis and they’ll be alright. This team won’t get swept again for the rest of the season. Come on Braves fans let’s believe in the team that’s 82-60.

By: Bob McVinua

 

 

Are The Braves Too Relaxed Right Now?

2011 has been a great year for the Atlanta Braves. They have over come injuries, offensive struggles, pitching struggles and a manager change. With all of this being said the Braves are a very impressive 81-57. They have a 7.5 game lead in the Wild Card with 24 games left to play. You would think that’s a very good spot to be in and I would have to say I agree. Last year the Wild Card race went right down to the wire and it seems as if the Braves are going to avoid the late season drama, right?

A week or so ago I would have said yes. The Braves appeared as if they had the Wild Card in their back pocket. They were playing very good baseball and with time running out in the season it appeared as if no one really had a legit chance of catching them. Now as I sit here at my lap top I’m counting down the days until the season ends. For me the season can’t end soon enough because the Cardinals are just 7.5 games back of the Braves entering play today. They are still very much in this thing and the Giants are holding steady at 8.5 games out. Neither one of these teams are even close to being mathematically eliminated and there’s still plenty of time for an epic collapse on the part of Atlanta.

I’m not one to spread panic and I actually despise bloggers who write articles for the sheer purpose of getting everyone riled up. That’s not what I’m trying to do at all. All I’m saying is this race is NOT in the bag by any means and I’m concerned that the Braves are not taking this as seriously as they should be. I understand that they have a comfortable lead right now and it’s Sept not the middle of July. Time is running out in the season and time is the best friend of the Atlanta Braves right now. The Cardinals might run out of time to catch these Braves but I’m not willing to chance it.

Jurrjens has been struggling as of late. Hanson is on the Disabled List. You never know what you’re going to get from Derek Lowe. He’s shown some signs of improvement but nothing that makes me feel good inside when Fredi hands him the ball. Beachy and Minor have been stellar as of late but how much pressure can we put on these two guys down the stretch? Hudson is the ace of this staff and he continues to give us good outings.

The Dodgers came to town on Friday playing a great brand of baseball. This team might be out of the playoff race but they are still red hot and have absolutely nothing to lose. The Braves coughed up a 5-0 lead on Friday night and lost a heart breaker last night. They are currently behind 3-0 this afternoon with Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers. A comeback this afternoon is not impossible but appears unlikely as the Braves struggle to hit average lefties never mind Clayton Kershaw.

The upcoming week for this Braves team is HUGE. We have a 3 game set at Philadelphia to start the week. Then they are forced to travel to New York to play a double header because of Hurricane Irene. That sort of throws a monkey wrench into the week because instead of having an off day they are forced to play a double header instead.

Then to close out the week they have a 3 game set in St. Louis against the team that is most likely to catch them in the Wild Card race, if anyone does. Those 3 games against the Cardinals are obviously big games. A sweep in our favor would pretty much put the red birds out of contention. However a sweep in their favor would put them right in the thick of things as the season begins to come to a close.

We also have 3 games at home against Philadelphia that will likely be tough games UNLESS the Phillies decide to rest their starters as they will have nothing to play for. However I’m not counting on that as last year they went full force against us in the final series. There is no love lose between these two teams and I’m sure the Phillies would just love for us to miss the playoffs.

A lot of division games coming up. Outside of the Cardinals series there will be no more games played outside of our division. This means we have to beat teams like the Nationals and Marlins.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the Braves are doing a terrific job and I’d much rather be 7.5 games up in the standings then 7.5 games out like the Cardinals but I’d still like to see a little bit of urgency from this Braves team. It would be absolutely devastating if we missed the playoffs after having such a big lead in the Wild Card so late into the season.

Is anyone else just the least bit concerned? Or is it just me?

By: Bob McVinua