ESPN.com – MLB – Recap – Braves at Expos – 04/17/2003
Do we have to leave Puerto Rico? The Braves finished off a sweep of the Expos, and moved to .500, in a wacky extra-inning game. Javy Lopez burst out of a slump with two homers and six RBI, including a grand slam in the tenth. He wasn’t alone in the homer parade. Andruw his his fifth of the season (the Braves are 5-0 when he goes deep), Marcus Giles his second, and Rafael Furcal his first.
Furcal is now riding a nine-game hitting streak, but more importantly for his leadoff duties he drew two walks. He had drawn only one all year before today’s game, and though he’s hitting .319 his OBP is only a minimally acceptable .347. Marcus didn’t walk, but had four hits — he’d only had to stretch one of his two doubles to hit for the cycle — and is hitting .333/.423/.467. Bobby may need to send him all the way to Greenville.
Pitching-wise… Russ Ortiz has to find better control of his pitches. He walked eight batters in only 5 1/3 innings; he threw 103 pitches, 52 of which were balls. He walked in two runs in the first inning, and left another free pass on the bases for Ray King, who allowed a three-run double to blow a lead.
The Braves rallied back to take another lead, but this time Roberto Hernandez allowed a two-run homer to tie the game. The other relievers — Gryboski, Holmes, Bong, and Hodges — all pitched well. Bong picked up his second win with a perfect ninth inning, striking out two. After Ortiz’s walkathon, the other pitchers allowed no walks and four hits.
The Braves now return home for three with the Phillies. It’s a big series this early, and the Braves are now one game behind Philadelphia and Montreal for first place. Mike Hampton is scheduled to go Saturday.
I bet Javy gets benched tomorrow…
Javy will get benched tomorrow, but just because Maddux is pitching.
Yeah, that was the joke.
Javy finally gets his stroke going and now he has to sit. I hate the personal catcher thing more and more all the time.
My ongoing crusade for Kevin Gryboski got a boost last night when Kevin was called on to clean up Ray King’s mess in the 6th. Montreal was up 6-4 and was threatening to blow the game open with men on first and third and one out and Vlad up. Bobby usually turns to Kevin in a situation like this when he needs a double play to save the game. No DP this time but Kevin got Vlad to strike out and Cabrera grounded out to Vinny to end the threat. The Braves got four runs in the next inning and Kevin was in line for the win until Roberto Hernandez got involved… Anyway, a good evening for Gryboski. Maybe the vultures will start circling Ray King for a change.
Finally, I can’t help but keep an eye on the Phillies box scores these days and I noticed the Marlins ran wild on Millwood last night going 5-5 in SBs. (Of course they also went hit-wild, and walk-wild off Kevin but that’s another story) Does anyone remember Kevin having trouble with stolen bases before or have the Marlins exposed something new?
Kevin was never particularly effective holding baserunners, but nothing like that. He may be working a little differently with his injury. Plus the Marlins run a lot anyway.
I dont like to make radical statements in April, but does anyone else think that Mike Hampton is the key to the Braves making the playoffs this year?
The lineup looks better then last year, but the bullpen before Smoltz is terrible. The Braves can overcome a bad bullpen if the starters pitch better and go 7 innings an outing. Maddux (when healthy), Ortiz can give us 7 consistently, Reynolds and Ramirez are good for 6, and if Hampton is healthy and pitching at or better then the league average, he can give us 7 innings as well. If the bullpen only needs to go 12 innings every five days instead of 18, I think the Braves have a much better chance to be successfull.
ONe more key:
If Marquis embraces his role as a reliever, i think he could be a dominant 8th inning guy. He needs to rely more on his fastball and maybe dump his slider. I look around the league and see failed fifth starters becoming solid closers (Gagne, Biddle, Williamson, Baez). I think Jason has better stuff then most of these guys and if he would relish the role, he could make the bullpen a lot better.
The personal catcher seems to me to have no justification at this point. What, we’re supposed to presume Maddux would have actually pitched _worse_ with Javy back there? I know Javy does need days off here and there, but a day after a game like that, and facing the main divisional rival, this is not the time to be running backup players out there.