• Exclusives

    Braves cap winning homestand, Philly up next

    The Braves wrapped up an 8-2 homestand Sunday afternoon against the Astros. They held Houston to a ridiculous 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position, got behind veteran Tim Hudson for his 100th win as an Atlanta Brave and watched the magic continue for Chipper Jones (the homestand was kind to Chipper who had a .367 BA, 7 RBIs, and scored 8 runs). Anybody who has watched the team this year, against the cellar-dwelling Astros or the best teams in baseball, knows that there is truly something special about the 2012 Atlanta Braves.

    Tim Hudson earned his 100th win as a Braves on Friday

    Tim Hudson is not letting his veteran status stand between him and wins for his club. Taking the mound Friday night, unbeknownst to Huddy, he was pitching for his 100th win in an Atlanta Braves uniform. It wasn’t just any win, it was an impressive 7 1/3 innings without a surrendered earned run. In his last 6 games, Hudson has a 5-0 record and a 2.58 ERA. The 37-year-old has been Atlanta’s most consistent starter since he returned from back surgery early in the season.

    Craig Kimbrel is putting together a Cy Young-caliber sophomore season. Friday night he earned his 31st save, one save behind save leaders Fernando Rodney (Rays), Jim Johnson (Orioles) and Joel Hanrahan (Pirates). In Kimbrel’s 42 appearances this season, he has a 1.29 ERA, an 0.667 WHIP and a ridiculous 73 strikeouts. He has held opponents to a .120 batting average. While his teammates Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty have had their struggles out of the ‘pen, Kimbrel has been one of the most, if not the most, reliable closers in baseball.

    For a streaky team like the Braves, there have been a few consistencies that have been complete surprises. Unlike the consistent quality outings by Tim Hudson, the multi-tool contributions of Michael Bourn and the dominance of Craig Kimbrel, the Braves have looked to Chipper Jones, Paul Janish and David Ross for consistent offense. Yes, you read that correctly.

    Though Chipper Jones is one of the greatest switch-hitters to play the game, his production had dropped as he aged and as he battled numerous injuries. To see Chipper having this kind of season is (.320/.396/.516) a surprise to everyone. Each at-bat for Chipper is special because everyone watching knows it is getting closer to being his last, but it’s immensely important to the Braves because he has been clutch. His productivity has lifted the offense and made up for the first half struggles of slugger Brian McCann and season-long slump of Dan Uggla. There’s a reason Fredi Gonzalez recently said that Chipper may be the greatest baseball player he has ever seen.

    David Ross & fellow catcher Brian McCann have combined for 24 HR this year

    When the Braves picked up Paul Janish after the injury to rookie phenom Andrelton Simmons, they weren’t expecting much by way of offense from Janish. Janish has always been known for his glove. However, Janish continues to come through in big situations.  In the final game of the series with Houston, Janish came through with a 2-RBI hit with 2 outs. His .200 batting average may not show a hitter that is contributing to the team’s offense, but he is producing in key spots that have been highly important to his team’s success. With the news that Simmons may not be returning to the team until September and Jack Wilson’s continued problems recovering from a hand injury, too, Janish’s clutch hitting is timely and a welcome surprise.

    David Ross is the best backup catcher in baseball. Period. The Braves would be wise to sign him to an extended contract. It seems every time Ross is in the lineup to give Brian McCann a rest he comes through big. Sunday’s game was no exception when he hit a homerun off Bud Norris in the 6th inning. His 6th dinger of the season matches his home run mark for the 2011 season. Most teams expect some drop off when their backup catcher is in the game, but the Braves have come to expect some heroics at the plate and an absolute cannon behind it in their backup man.

    Chipper, Janish and Ross came through big time for the Braves against Houston. Line scores from each of the three games:

    Game 1:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Houston 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 8 0
    Atlanta 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 1 x 4 6 1

    W: Hudson (11-4) L: Galarraga (0-1) SV: Kimbrel (31)

    Game 2:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Houston 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 3 9 0
    Atlanta 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 4 0

    W: Harrell (9-7) L: Maholm (9-7) SV: Lopez (1)

    Game 3:

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Houston 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 8 0
    Atlanta 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 1 x 6 9 0

    W: Venters (4-3) L: Norris (5-9)


    Monday: Sheets (3-1, 1.46) vs. Worley (6-6, 3.63)

    Tuesday: Minor (6-7, 5.01) vs. Hamels (11-6, 3.34)

    Wednesday: Hudson (11-4, 3.45) vs. Kendrick (4-9, 4.45)

    As many Braves players have said, the Phillies had the Braves’ number for several seasons and now the tables have turned. With Philly unloading at the trade deadline, they traded Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence in a matter of days not to mention Jim Thome and Chad Qualls at the beginning of July, the Braves will be seeing new faces in new places. This isn’t the Phillies team that won five consecutive division titles. The Braves have yet another opportunity to get wins within the NL East this week.

    Mike Minor’s dominant July was spectacular in many ways, but something worth nothing is that Minor has been matched up against some of the best pitchers in baseball, especially the NL East. He has drawn match-ups against Stephen Strasburg, Josh Johnson, CC Sabathia, and other top tier pitchers. He will once again toe the rubber against a top pitcher in Cole Hamels Tuesday night.

    The Braves roll into Philly just as Braves killer Carlos Ruiz lands on the disabled list with ongoing plantar fasciitis in his left foot, an injury that makes doing his job all but impossible for the catcher. This is a welcome Phillies loss for the Braves who have had no luck getting Ruiz out. Ruiz has a career .282 average against the Braves and a .310 batting average against them in 2012 alone.

    Atlanta arrives in Philadephia with a record of 62-46. They are 16 games above .500.

    The Braves and Phillies get underway tonight at 7:05 (EST).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch" href="https://twitter.com/#!/framethepitch">@framethepitch.