• Kris Medlen

    Braves family loses Tommy Hanson

    When news broke Monday that Tommy Hanson was in a coma in an Atlanta hospital after a friend found him not breathing, Braves Country became immediately concerned about the former Brave. The phrase ‘once a Brave, always a Brave’ has never meant as much as it does in times like this. News came Tuesday that Hanson, 29, had died.

    Hanson spent the 2009-2012 with the Atlanta Braves. After the first half of 2012, he was traded to the LA Angels of Anaheim.

    Hanson spent the 2009-2012 with the Atlanta Braves. After the first half of 2012, he was traded to the LA Angels of Anaheim.

    In 2009, Tommy Hanson burst on the big league scene after lighting up the minors with his unhittable fastball. His reputation preceded him. In 2008 while pitching for the Mississippi Braves, Tommy threw a no-hitter, earned a MiLBY for Class A Advanced Single Game Performance, was rewarded for a dominant season with a spot on the Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year, was the Arizona Fall League’s MVP and was named Braves Pitcher of the Year. It is no exaggeration to say the league was anxiously anticipating his debut.

    We often forget how promising Atlanta’s pitching staff was in the late 2000s. Jair Jurrjens, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Craig Kimbrel and Tommy Hanson were either on the roster or making their way through the minors to The Show. Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado were only a year or two away. The front office had acquired Tim Hudson, Eric O’Flaherty, Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe and Billy Wagner to round out the staff and offer veteran leadership to the up-and-coming arms. Of course, pitching rarely works out as planned. Kawakami was a bust, the Braves ate money to move Lowe, Medlen and Beachy required Tommy John and Tommy Hanson, well, Hanson saw the highest highs and lowest lows of the sport.

    Hanson did as everyone thought he would: He burst onto the scene in 2009 making his arrival noticed with a 3rd place running in the National League Rookie of the Year vote. That after having debuted in June! People forget that the Atlanta Braves brought Tommy in after cutting none other than Tom Glavine. They had a lot of hope for this young, 6’6″ red head from California. And he didn’t disappoint. His 2009 season is the kind pitchers’ dream of: 11-4, 2.89 ERA and 116 strikeouts (8.2 SO/9) in 127.2 innings pitched over 21 starts. But Tommy wasn’t just a line of stats to the Braves, he was a good clubhouse guy and a great teammate. You won’t find a former teammate that doesn’t say he was a joy to have around and one of the best guys to have on your side.

    In 2010, the Braves sent long-time manager Bobby Cox off in style. Their 91-71 record got them the Wild Card. Hanson’s 10-11 record on the season is hardly as telling of his season as his 3.33 ERA. He was a workhorse, going to the mound for 202-2/3 innings of work. Tommy was in or near the top 30 in both ERA and strikeouts that year. The Braves would go home after a mediocre loss to the Giants in the NLDS, but there was hope for a return to the postseason with such strong arms in the Braves’ system.

    The Braves did make it back to the postseason in the first ever National League Wild Card game, a game they lost. But Tommy Hanson didn’t pitch, his fellow Californian Kris Medlen did. And at this point, it was clear that something was very wrong with the righthander’s arm.

    By the end of 2012, even I, a fan of Tommy, was calling him “a shell of his former self.” In October of that year, I wrote:

    “Though it seemed injury was the likely culprit at the end of last season and again midway through the 2012 season, those who follow the Braves are fearful that Hanson’s drop in velocity and dominance is a sign that the Tommy of old will not be returning.”

    It was painful watching Tommy fall as quickly as he did. In 2009 he looked as if he had a long career in baseball and one that would, if not consistently at least flirt with dominance. At the end of 2011, Tommy dealt with a nagging injury that can reasonably be blamed for his late struggles.

    The trade that sent Hanson to the Angels for Jordan Walden was widely heralded as a wise trade and one that would be good for both players. Anaheim didn’t need Walden to close and the Braves hoped a change of scenery would return Tommy to the pitcher he was when he broke into the league. Tommy’s ERA had been growing, he had spent time on the disabled list with a back strain and he hadn’t looked himself. While it was hard for the team and their fans to part with Big Red, as he had come to be called, everyone was rooting for Tommy Hanson. It was impossible to not root for Tommy.

    Despite his struggles within the game, outside the game he remained a great friend and teammate. The outpouring of condolences to the Hanson family from members of the Braves, Angels and Rangers organizations are proof. Something former Brave Kris Medlen said in a text to Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution struck me:

    “I also feel bad for anyone who didn’t get a chance to know the man. He was the kindest, most loyal person I’ve ever met. He loved his family more than anything in the world, and his friends felt like family when around them. He was not ‘like’ a brother to me, he was my brother and I’m going to miss him so much.”

    Tommy Hanson joined his teammates in Hawaii for the weddingKimbrel's teammates pose in tribute to the Braves' closer

    Tommy Hanson joined his teammates in Hawaii for the wedding of former (and now current) Brave Peter Moylan.

    We as fans may not have known Tommy personally, but we got to see these young Braves come up alongside him and we got to appreciate just how close they all were.

    I was reminded of when Braves fans everywhere were posting pictures of themselves doing “The Kimbrel” and one of those pictures came from the players themselves. Attending Peter Moylan’s wedding in Hawaii, Tommy joined Medlen, Moylan and Kimbrel to show their support for the unusual stance of their teammate. It is a reminder of something we often forget about these players we watch for 162 games a season: They are first and foremost people. They have friends. They have family. And yes, sometimes their teammates become their family, but that isn’t a given. That Medlen calls Hanson a brother speaks to the kind of man he was.

    Baseball is just a game. This comes as a surprise to some, I know, but after the toughest game, the worst loss, the high of winning and even the end of the season, it’s just a game. There is life outside baseball. Both the game and life outside it aren’t always easy. Tommy knew this better than most. As Braves Country heals from this loss and moves on to another season, the last at Turner Field, it’s important not to forget this.

    Personally, I will never forget Tommy’s brilliant first half in 2011 and how disappointing it was to not have him named to the All Star team. That summer his finest start came against Houston. He entered that game with 2 games already where he’d recorded 10 strikeouts. That didn’t stop him from topping his best. He went 7 innings with 14 strikeouts and 1 earned run. It was one of those games when you knew this kid was special. Not only was his pitching unbelievable, his spirit was contagious. All 6’6″ of him stood on that mound and in that dugout, his flaming red hair and brilliant smile on display, and showed us that there was truly something special about Tommy Hanson.

    May Tommy rest in peace and be forever in our hearts.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves sign Santana, Medlen a likely Tommy John candidate

    Braves, GM, Frank Wren

    Braves GM, Frank Wren

    When starting pitcher Kris Medlen left the mound Sunday, the Frank Wren knew they the Braves were in trouble. With the departure of veteran Tim Hudson to free agency, growing concerns about the health of Brandon Beachy, and a rotation rounded out with the inexperience of youth (Teheran, Wood, Hale), it was clear the Braves would need to make a move if they hoped to contend in the National League East.

    Not taking much time at all, general manager Frank Wren moved quickly to get free agent Ervin Santana in for a physical. Santana, who had been rumored to be in talks with various teams including the Blue Jays and Mariners, was intrigued by the idea of pitching in the National League. It didn’t take long at all for the Braves to reach a deal. He flew from Arizona to Florida Tuesday, took his physical last night and signed with the club this morning.

    The 1-year deal for Santana is worth $14.1 million. The Braves will lose the 26th slot in the MLB draft, which was worth $1,839,400 in 2013. If the Braves don’t re-sign Santana after the season, they’ll have the opportunity to gain a draft pick

    Santana, 31, had a rebound season with the Kansas City Royals in 2013 after a tough go in 2012 with his long-time club the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Santana posted a 9-10 record with a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 32 starts (211 innings pitched). Over a 9-year career, he has a career 4.19 ERA, a winning 105-90 record, has had 5 seasons of 200+ innings and has pitched 14 complete games. His experience on the mound will be important to a young staff that features only 1 other veteran–Freddy Garcia (until, presumably Gavin Floyd returns from Tommy John surgery and joins the club).

    The flip side of the Santana signing is the terrible news about clubhouse and fan favorite Kris Medlen. In this morning’s press conference, the Braves announced both the signing of Ervin Santana and the unfortunate news that Kris Medlen’s MRI revealed “involvement” of the elbow ligament that had previously been repaired. It seems a forgone conclusion at this point that Medlen is headed for his 2nd Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. It will be his 2nd elbow surgery in 4 years.

    On top of the Medlen news, the Braves have been watching Brandon Beachy closely. He left his last spring training game early with soreness in his throwing arm. It was announced that he would miss his next spring start to rest that arm. Like Medlen, Beachy has a replaced ligament in his pitching elbow and returned for a short time last season from that surgery before needing an arthroscopic clean-out of his elbow shortly after. Beachy arrived at camp supposedly healthy, but his velocity has been way down (averaging 86-87 mph).

    Also worth noting is that Mike Minor has been dealing with shoulder soreness recently. Camp for him got off to a slow start as he was unable to workout due to pain from a procedure on his urethra over the winter. A rotation that was likely to feature some combination of Medlen, Beachy, Minor, Teheran, Wood/Hale and possibly veteran Garcia will now feature Santana and Teheran for certain and hopefully some combination of Beachy, Minor, Wood/Hale and Garcia to round it out.

    Frank Wren has had his work cut out for him this winter and never more than in the past 4 days. The old adage ‘when you think you have enough pitching, get more’ is once again confirmed.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves magic number holds at 4, Nats up next

    Atlanta went into the 3-game set against the struggling San Diego Padres with high hopes of dropping their magic number to within division-clinching distance before the series in D.C. began Monday. However, best laid plans never seem to pan out in these situations. The Braves suffered 2 losses at the hands of the Padres and came away from the series with their magic number of 4 not budging. The next stop for the Braves is a 3-game set in the nation’s capital where they hope to crush the Nationals’ playoff hopes and clinch the division.

    freddie

    Freeman has lifted his batting average to .314 with 160 hits, 21 homers and 99 RBIs.

    In Freddie Freeman’s last 7 games, he has contributed 13 hits (2 doubles, 2 homers) and 3 RBIs. He is currently 1 RBI away from having 100 on the season. Friday, Freeman entered the Padres series with 20 homers on the season. It is the newly 24-year-old Freeman now has 3 consecutive seasons with 20 or more home runs.

    On Friday the 13th, a 2-run blast for Brian McCann marked the catcher’s sixth consecutive 20 or more home run season. Also Friday night, Justin Upton launched his 25th homer on the first pitch he saw in the 4th inning.

    The story of the Padres series was truly the Braves’ starting pitching. Over a 7-game stretch, the Braves will have used 7 different starting pitchers. While the start of Kameron Loe was a disaster for Atlanta, the Braves got more than they expected from veteran Freddy Garcia against the Marlins and rookie David Hale in the Padres series.

    David Hale’s had a great Major League debut, despite the team giving up the 3-0 lead he left the game with. His line: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 87 pitches/56 strikes. Hale’s 9 strikeouts in his MLB debut, including the strikeout of Wil Venable to start the game, far exceeded his season-high of 6 strikeouts, achieved 4 times, at Triple-A Gwinnett. Hale’s 9 strikeouts tied a franchise mark for strikeouts in a Major League debut–it was last achieved by Kenshin Kawakami in 2009. Of course, Atlanta has high hopes for Hale, hopes that don’t include anything resembling what Kawakami went through when he signed with the team. While some questioned why he wasn’t allowed to continue, it was the right move for a young arm that hadn’t started a game in 11 days.

    Kris Medlen pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings on Saturday. He allowed 4 hits, 2 walks and struck out 5. It was the 7th consecutive start for Medlen in which he has pitched into the 7th inning and the 3rd start this season that he made it into the 8th inning. Medlen has recorded the win in his last 4 starts, bringing his season record to a winning 14-12. Over the last 4 games dating back to August 29th, Medlen has given up only 3 runs, 23 hits and struck out 26 hitters in 27 2/3 innings. His ERA in those 4 games was 0.98.

    Unfortunately, pitching just wasn’t enough for the Braves to get out of the Padres series with a win. This season, the Braves went 1-5 against San Diego. Perhaps the best player the Padres have, Chase Headley, had 3 homers in the 3-game set. His 2-run shot off Julio Teheran in the series finale put the game out of the reach for the dead Braves offense.

    Like so many other times this season, the Braves lost a series to a team that shouldn’t have been hard to beat. The Braves have dominated winning teams, teams that will likely be in the playoffs, but they have suffered sweeps and losses to teams like the Phillies, Padres, White Sox and Mets. It’s a bizarre phenomenon. It might bode well in the postseason, however, when the Braves face off against teams they have had success against all season.


    BRAVES HOPE TO PUT AWAY NATS AND SECURE SLOT IN POSTSEASON…

    Heading into Washington, D.C., the Braves are in perfect position to not only clinch the division, but put the rival Nats out of their misery for the season.The Braves enter the 3-game series with a record of 89-60, while the Nats have a record of 79-70. The Nats are 10 games back in the division and 4 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race. A series win would give the Braves the division win and would likely knock the Nats out of contention for the Wild Card spot.

    With the division berth approaching, both Tim Hudson and Jason Heyward will join the team on the trip to D.C.. Heyward, recovering from a fractured jaw, took batting practice while the Braves were at home and the hope is he may be able to face live pitching by the end of next week. J-Hey has been hitting with a special batting helmet that has an attachment to protect his injured jaw. He has said that he doesn’t bother him to be using the helmet and that he feels safe when he steps into the batter’s box.

    Jordan Walden joined the bullpen in the nick of time as the fractured finger Scott Downs has been dealing with has really made him a liability. The only player that the Braves are currently hoping to get back before the postseason is Paul Maholm who had a MRI that showed inflammation of his pitching elbow, but no structural damage. They hope he returns on or before September 20th. While the loss of Beachy and Maholm this late in the season would be crippling for other teams, the Braves have been lucky to have Freddy Garcia, Alex Wood and David Hale to rely on.

    To kick off the series, the Braves will send Minor (13-7, 3.15) vs. Haren (9-13, 5.02). Tuesday’s game will feature veteran Garcia (1-1, 1.32) vs. Roark (6-0, 1.30). The series finale will pit Wood (3-3, 3.45) vs. Ohlendorf (4-0, 3.15). The first game of the series will be featured nationally on MLB Network.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves take series from Mets, continue on course to playoffs

    The Braves put another series win under their belts as they make their way to the postseason. Their record stands at 85-54 and they hold a 14 game lead on the Washington Nationals in the National League East.

    Kameron Loe surrendered 11 hits & 5 ER in 4 1/3 inn Wed.

    Kameron Loe surrendered 11 hits & 5 ER in 4 1/3 inn Wed.

    Though the Braves took 2-of-3 from the Mets, they weren’t without a hiccup or two. The Braves dropped the series finale to the Mets after spot starter Kameron Loe struggled mightily against Mets’ offense and continued his trend of giving up far too many long balls. Loe, who has pitched for 3 MLB teams this season, has allowed 11 dingers in 22 big league innings. Unfortunately, that trend continued when Loe gave up 2 homers in the game. In 4 1/3 innings, Loe allowed 5 runs on a whopping 11 hits.

    Entering Kameron Loe’s start Wednesday, the Braves were 27-8 with 2.66 ERA in past 35 games, and 19-4 with a 2.53 ERA in their past 23 home games. Their starting pitching, minus a few anomalies in Wood’s last outing and as Maholm has returned, has been dominant in the last few weeks. The Braves have watched as confidence has allowed Minor and Teheran to develop into two of the best young pitchers in the game, Wood was barely edged out for NL Rookie and Pitcher of the Month by the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, and Kris Medlen has regained the command he displayed last year when he moved from the bullpen to the rotation and went on an otherworldly tear.

    More on Medlen: Kris Medlen had a solid outing in game 2 of the series. Medlen brought his season record to 12-12 and his ERA to 3.48. He went 7 strong innings, gave up 7 hits, allowed 1 run and struck out 9 batters.

    While the rotation is getting a great deal of ink as they dominate opposing hitters, it cannot go unmentioned just how amazing Craig Kimbrel has been this season. The closer was named August’s Delivery Man of the Month and a case could have been made for him being NL Pitcher of the Month. In August, Kimbrel was 1-0 with 12 saves and 19 Ks in 16 1/3 scoreless innings. Over that span he only allowed 2 batters a free pass on base, gave up only 8 hits and he converted each save opportunity he was given. This is the 3rd time in Kimbrel’s young career that he won this particular award, the previous 2 awards coming in August of 2011 and September of 2012.

    Of course, the entire series wasn’t defined by pitching. A few offensive highlights include Monday night’s Freddie Freeman Show. The dark horse MVP candidate matched a season high with 5 RBIs. In his career he has had 3 games in which he has batted in 5. Freeman appears to have taken the title of Mets’ Killer from Chipper Jones since the third baseman’s retirement. Freddie has hit .306/.377/.566 with 12 homers in 53 games (196 ABs) against the Mets.

    Another offensive highlight of the Mets’ series was the return of El Oso Blanco. After being sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett last week to get some consistent at-bats, the Braves welcomed back Evan Gattis Tuesday. While at Gwinnett, Evan Gattis had 6 hits including 3 doubles and a homer. He continued his hot hitting with 4 hits, including a double, homer and RBI in his 2 games back. In addition to his hitting, Gattis made his presence known on the base paths. In Wednesday’s game, Gattis had a stolen base erased by the official scorer, advancing instead on a wild pitch. In his big league career, he remains without a stolen base.

    BRAVES VISIT NOT SO UNFLAPPABLE PHILLIES…

    The Braves will arrive in Philly as their once dominant division rivals are struggling. Between players past their prime and a slue of new guys playing positions that were once manned by big-name stars, the Phillies are in sad shape. Their defense has been more reminiscent of a little league team than a high-paid big league roster. And their offense has been just as inconsistent. For the Braves, who are rapidly nearing the magic number of games won that will send them to the playoffs, it will be a good time for them to arrive in Philadelphia.

    With September call-ups still making news across Major League Baseball, the latest call-up for the Braves will join the club for the upcoming series. Right-handed reliever David Hale has been recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. Hale went 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games for the Triple-A team. This will be his first appearance on a big league roster. The Braves also made a move in the opposite direction. They have traded catcher Matt Pagnozzi to the Houston Astros.

    As the Philly series opens, manager Fredi Gonzalez has said that outfielder Jordan Schafer should be ready to play Friday. Schafer was scratched from the lineup Wednesday with a quadriceps contusion that was created by him fouling a ball off his leg. Tuesday against New York, Schafer had 3 stolen bases in the first 4 innings of that game. Schafer has 11 steals in 18 games since returning from the disabled list with his foot/ankle inury. That matches the highest season total for any other Brave. B.J. Upton has 11 steals.

    Friday night’s series opener in Philly will feature Minor (13-5, 3.08) vs. Lee (11-6, 3.09). Game 2 will pit the rested Wood (3-3, 3.15) vs. Kendrick (10-12, 4.51). The series finale will feature Maholm (10-10, 4.41) vs. Hamels (6-13, 3.50). The Braves’ road trip will then continue in Miami.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Notes from Braves sweep of the Tribe

    The Braves swept the visiting Tribe at the Ted this week, bringing their total number of sweeps this season to 12. They now hold a record of 81-52 (.609), the best record in Major League Baseball, with a 13 game lead in the National League East.

    Here are a few notes from the Braves’ sweep of the Indians:

    Medlen on Thursday: 7 inn, 6 hits, 6 K's, 0 BB, 0 ER.

    Medlen on Thursday: 7 inn, 6 hits, 6 K’s, 0 BB, 0 ER.

    • With his 3-run home run in the series finale, Brian McCann has not recorded 19 homers on the season. He now has 4 HR and 18 RBI in situations where there are 2 outs and RISP this season.
    • In Kris Medlen‘s 5 August starts, he pitched 33 innings, gave up 11 earned runs, walked only 4 batters, struck out 28 and had a 3.00 ERA. The series finale got Kris Medlen his 4th win of the month, including the strange outing when he was needed in the ‘pen and recorded the win. In Thursday’s win, Medlen went 7 innings, giving up 6 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 6 and strikeouts on 96 pitches.
    • On Wednesday, Dan Uggla (2B) was activated from the 15-day DL after undergoing successful Lasik surgery to correct his vision. Todd Cunningham (OF) was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.
    • Atlanta is 16-3 with 2.21 ERA in their past 19 home games.
    • As a starter this season, Joey Terdoslavich (OF) is hitting .375 (12-for-32). As a bench bat, he is hitting a poor .192 (5-for-26).
    • Luis Avilan, one of the most dependable set-up men in the league, has allowed a run in 3 of his past 7 appearances. He had just 1 unearned run in his previous 35 appearances.
    • In Tuesday’s home opener, Elliot Johnson‘s first home at-bat with the Braves resulted in a 2-run triple. Before that 2-run triple, Elliot had 1 hit in his previous 39 ABs when facing American League pitchers.
    • Justin Upton left Thursday night’s game with a left hand contusion after being hit by a pitch at the plate. While the x-rays were negative, he is listed as day-to-day. Each of the Braves starting outfielders (Upton, Upton and Heyward) have sustained injuries this season, as have backup outfielders Schafer, Johnson and Gattis.
    • Craig Kimbrel continues to dominate opponents. In the series finale, he recorded his 43rd save of the season, 32 of those saves consecutive. Kimbrel’s ERA is now a ridiculous 0.97. Despite having what appears to be his best season yet, Kimbrel has 12.9 Ks per 9 innings, his lowest SO/9 rate of his young career. He is on pace to surpass his Rookie of the Year season high of 46 saves.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves avoid sweep, reset for visiting Tribe

    St. Louis and Atlanta have a recent history of rivalry dating back to the collapse in 2011 when the Braves lost the Wild Card to the Cardinals on the last night of the regular season. Added to that disappointment was the chaotic one-game Wild Card game of 2012 that hinged on a blown infield fly call. There is no love lost between these two teams. However, the Braves arrived in St. Louis with a team that didn’t like it could compete. Losing the series, 1 win to their 3, the Braves were more than happy to get on the plane back to the ATL where they have an off day before facing the Cleveland Indians for a 3-game series.

    Atlanta’s worst fears were realized in New York when Jason Heyward was nailed by a fastball that fractured the right side of his jaw in two places. After surgery in Atlanta, Heyward is set to miss the rest of the regular season. He will hopefully be in shape to return for the postseason, if the Braves make it. The question of if the Braves will make it to the playoffs seemed silly just 4 days ago, but their visit to St. Louis was an eye-opener. The 15 1/2 game lead the Braves had in the division is now 13 games. They were a lock for the NL East division win. Hopefully without Heyward they can hold on.

    There have been other injuries that have felt crippling for the Braves’ lineup. In addition to Heyward, the Braves still don’t have Dan Uggla and while in St. Louis, batting crown contender Chris Johnson injured his toe stepping on a base. Johnson missed the final game of the series with turf toe. Johnson’s bat has been the most consistent in the lineup and the Braves need him healthy quickly.

    One thing the Braves are looking forward to, somewhat surprisingly, is the return of Dan Uggla who recently had Lasik surgery to correct his vision. He will play in two rehab games Monday and Tuesday and then join the big club on Wednesday. Given that the Braves are playing with a lineup that resembles a split-squad spring training game, having Uggla’s bat back in the lineup might help the struggling offense. In his absence, the Braves have had immediate returns with Elliot Johnson who was acquired off waivers from the Kansas City Royals. He contribute 2 hits in his first game with the Braves, snapping an 0-for-31 drought.

    The Braves acquired RHP Freddy Garcia from the Orioles for cash. Garcia had been pitching with Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate.

    The Braves acquired RHP Freddy Garcia from the Orioles for cash. Garcia had been pitching with Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate.

    In 10 starts with the Orioles, Garcia went 3-5 with a 5.77 ERA (53 innings). Once the Orioles decided Garcia didn’t fit into their young rotation, they sent him to Triple-A Norfolk where he went 8-3 in 13 starts with a respectable 2.84 ERA. Garcia’s trade was arranged by Baltimore’s GM Dan Duquette who realized Garcia would not have a starting job with the big club and appreciated the veteran starter’s career enough to part ways. The Braves could benefit from the 15-year veteran’s presence, especially in the postseason, given that the oldest member of the starting staff is the 31-year-old Paul Maholm who doesn’t have any postseason experience. The acquisition of Garcia came on the heels of news that Brandon Beachy would be returning to see Dr. James Andrews who performed his Tommy John surgery. Beachy has been placed on the 15-day DL.

    While there is plenty to be concerned about with the current state of the Braves, there are also highlights to note.

    In the series finale in St. Louis, Mike Minor took the mound on long rest in Beachy’s place and reminded us why he has been the most consistent starter in the rotation this season. Minor dominated the Cardinals over 7 innings, allowing only 6 hits and 1 run. He turned over the game to Luis Avilan in the 8th inning with a lead of 5-1. Also in the finale, Craig Kimbrel took the mound in an unusual 4-out save situation. Kimbrel notched his 31st consecutive save and 41st save of the season. Kimbrel joins John Smoltz as the Atlanta Brave with 3 seasons of 40 or more saves, but even more importantly, Kimbrel is now the only player in MLB history to have 40 or more saves in his first 3 consecutive seasons in the big leagues.

    The Braves loss of the series was a far cry from their sweeps of late, but in their win of the finale, they avoided matching their longest losing streaks of the 2013 season. The have had 4-game skids June 10-14 and April 24-28. Luckily, the Braves didn’t leave St. Louis the gift of a series sweep. Things could have been worse.

    BRAVES WELCOME THE TRIBE…

    Entering Sunday, the Braves rotation had a 2.59 ERA in August. That ERA ranks 2nd in the National League. Their collective 176 strikeouts are tied for 2nd for the month. With Freeman’s first-inning homer in game 3 in St. Louis and Simmons’ bomb in the finale, the Braves now have 23 home runs in the month of August, tied for 2nd in the NL.

    Of the players that have faced the Cleveland Indians the most in their career, Gerald Laird and Elliot Johnson have had terrible luck. Laird has hit .188 in 160 at-bats over his career against the Tribe and Johnson has hit .231 in 39 at-bats. Strangely enough, in his career in the AL, B.J. Upton never faced the Indians. The rest of the active roster has not faced the Cleveland Indians at all.

    The Braves will send Kris Medlen to the mound Thursday after a controversial ending to his last start. After being pulled in the 7th inning with the Cardinals ahead 2-1, Medlen spoke to reporters about the early exit and criticized manager Fredi Gonzalez’ decision. Medlen said after the game, “I don’t know what kind of mentality we’re trying to create for our starters., but I feel like I should be able to work out of some jams.” Medlen’s frustration stemmed from the fact that he had only thrown 78 pitches and was in his first jam of the game. After his comments went viral, Medlen apologized to Gonzalez Saturday and the two put the incident behind them. In Medlen’s last 6 starts, he a 4-2 record with a 3.60 ERA. His season has been impacted by lack of run support in similar ways to Mike Minor last season. Medlen has been given an average of 3.68 runs of support per start, but has had 10 starts when he has received 2 or fewer runs to back his effort. Medlen’s second half has not been as strong as his first half over all, but his last several starts have shown promise. A good start against Cleveland would continue the turn around of his second half.

    While the outfield appears to be cursed this season, the Braves have seen production from unlikely sources. As the Cleveland series gets underway, the Braves will need to continue to see production from Terdoslavich, Gattis and Schafer as they get starts in the outfield. When starting, Joey Terdoslavich is batting .355 (11-for-31). This has been an important development for the Braves as their injury-depleted outfield has relied heavily on the rookie. Schafer had a good series in St. Louis that showed signs of good things to come. Schafer has a triple and a double through the first two innings Sunday. He recorded those 2 hits as well as an RBI. Jordan entered Sunday 3-for-34 since he returned from the ankle/foot injury that put him on the disabled list. Evan Gattis had not been contributing since returning from the disabled list with the strained oblique. He is 20-for-100 with only 1 homer since his return. Prior to the injury, he went 41-for-156 with 14 homers. The Braves need all 3 backup outfielders to produce.

    When the Cleveland series gets underwary Tuesday, third baseman Chris Johnson hopes his sprained left big toe will not prevent him from being ready to play. Obviously, his bat will be important in the upcoming series and as the Braves make the final push.

    The Braves will get underway on Tuesday with Salazar (1-1, 3.52) vs. Wood (2-2, 2.50). Wednesday will pit ace Masterson (14-9, 3.50) vs. Maholm (9-10, 4.51). The season finale Thursday will feature Jimenez (9-8, 3.95) vs. Medlen (10-12, 3.74).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.

    Braves take heated series from Nats, reorder rotation for NYC

    With a series win against the rival Nationals under their belt, the Braves wrapped their home stand with an impressive 19-3 record in their past 22 games. In their last 20 meetings with the Nats, the Braves have come away the victors 16 times. Going into New York, the Braves have an overall record in 2013 of 76-48 (.613) with a 15 1/2 game lead in the National League East.

    Phil Gosselin (2B) joined the club and went 2-for-4 off Gio Gonzalez with a bunt single for his first big league hit.

    Phil Gosselin (2B) went 2-for-4 off Gio Gonzalez  on Sunday with a bunt single for his first big league hit.

    The story of the weekend appeared to be payback. In the last meeting of the Nationals and Braves, rookie Julio Teheran hit Bryce Harper and Harper barked at Teheran as he made his way down the baseline. Harper was then hit by 2 other Braves’ pitchers in the series. That bit of fireworks carried into this series when Stephen Strasburg either lost command or still wanted payback and hit Justin Upton in game 2. Whether he meant to or not, his command went out the window the next inning when he threw 3 wild pitches, 2 of them behind Andrelton Simmons, and was ejected by the home plate umpire. Both Strasburg and manager Davey Johnson were ejected. The game, of course, went 15 innings with the bench coach in charge and the bullpen entirely responsible.

    As the 3-game set with the Washington Nationals got underway, the Braves knew they were now without backup second baseman Tyler Pastornicky. Pastornicky was the interim second baseman while Dan Uggla had Lasik eye surgery to correct his vision. Pastornicky then collided with Jason Heyward in the shallow outfield and tore his ACL. It was announced that Pastornicky would be out until spring training of 2014. This left a hole for the Braves to fill and their two options were infielder Paul Janish and Phil Gosselin of Triple-A Gwinnett. They purchased the contract of Gosselin and will use him as a backup to Janish as well as a bench bat.

    Justin Upton hit 12 homers in the month of April, his first month with Atlanta. He then had a dry spell that lasted May, June and July. Once the calender turned to August, his bat heated up and he’s back to hitting majestic homers again. Upton now has 7 homers in the month of August, including the walk-off winning blast from game 1 of the series against Washington. He is hitting .350 in August with an on-base percentage of .443 and is slugging .767. In addition to his 7 homers, Justin has 4 doubles and 14 RBIs. This is a huge help to a depleted Braves’ roster that has watched a steady stream of players including Schafer, Reed Johnson, B.J. Upton, Tyler Pastornicky and Dan Uggla head to the DL.

    A 15-inning marathon in game 2 that began with a short outing from Mike Minor who went 1 2/3 innings, used up all of the Braves’ bullpen and still needed another arm. That arm ended up being starter Kris Medlen who was called on in the 13th inning and was responsible for the loss due to a home run hit off Medlen by Adam LaRoche. Medlen’s impromptu relief appearance shook things up for the Braves’ rotation. Medlen was originally scheduled to pitch on Tuesday in NYC, but he will be pushed back, giving the start to Brandon Beachy who will pitch on regular rest Tuesday. The remainder of the rotation was then reordered to give Wood the start Wednesday, Minor the start Thursday, Medlen the start Friday and then Teheran on Saturday. This will likely be the last time this order is used as Paul Maholm will be rejoining the club and is likely to return to the rotation. There is talk that Fredi Gonzalez will go with a 6-man rotation for the remainder of the regular season, allowing for the arms of Teheran and Medlen to get adequate rest and for Fredi to determine which of the starters are best suited for the 4-man rotation they will use in the postseason.

    The Braves will visit the Big Apple for an odd 2-game series against the Mets. Tuesday’s game, as was explained, will feature Beachy (2-0, 4.50) vs. Wheeler (5-2, 3.43). Wednesday’s game will pit Wood (2-2, 2.61) vs. Niese (5-6, 4.25).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.

    Sweep of Cards, trade for Downs, Beachy back & Rocks up next

    Atlanta traded Cory Rasmus (RHP) for Scott Downs (LHP). Downs is 2-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 43 appearances.

    Atlanta traded Cory Rasmus (RHP) for Scott Downs (LHP). Downs is 2-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 43 appearances.

    Fresh off a stunning sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, Braves’ fans learned Monday morning that the Braves had traded Cory Rasmus (RHP) to the Angels for Scott Downs (LHP). Downs joins a bullpen of untouchable relievers.

    In 27 innings, the Braves held the St. Louis Cardinals to 3 runs, 2 of them coming in Kris Medlen’s 6 innings of the series finale. This despite the Cards coming into Atlanta with the most runs, RBIs and the highest batting average, on-base percentage and OPS in the National League. The series showed just how much promise a future rotation with the young Teheran, Minor and Medlen poses. Adding in rehabbed Beachy and the Braves’ rotation easily becomes one of the best in baseball. With Wood currently in the rotation and Beachy joining it tomorrow, the average age of the Braves rotation is 24.4 years old.

    The Braves pitching dominance is not solely the product of the starting rotation. Atlanta’s bullpen is the best in the business with 1-2-3 punch of Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel from the 7th inning on. Craig Kimbrel recorded consecutive saves against the Cards, passing the 30 save mark. Kimbrel is just the second closer in franchise history to have 3 – 30 save seasons. Kimbrel’s 3 seasons with 30 saves happen to be consecutive and include his only 3 full seasons in the big leagues. Kimbrel joins Braves’ hall of famer and future inductee to Cooperstown John Smoltz in the category. Kimbrel isn’t the only reliever having an exceptional season. Luis Avilan has not allowed an earned run in 27 straight innings. In those 27 appearances, hitters have an .079 average against him and have struck out 16 times.

    Offensively, the Braves continue their all-or-nothing approach at the plate. There have been positive signs from the likes of Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons. Heyward hit .273 during the Cardinals’ series with 3 hits, 2 homers and 3 RBIs. The positive sign being that he didn’t strike out during the series. And he did this while hitting in the lead off spot. His defense, particularly in the unusual position of center field, has been nothing short of spectacular. Though Andrelton Simmons’ power detracts from his batting average and sets him up for a higher strikeout rate, he is currently the third hardest player to strike out in the NL. He averages 1 K every 12.8 plate appearances. As of this morning, Chris Johnson leads the National League in hitting. He is behind only reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera in all of baseball. With a .338 batting average (now having a qualifying number of at-bats), Johnson is ahead of Yadier Molina (.334) and Michael Cuddyer (.330). Johnson has 104 hits, 22 doubles, 6 homers and 34 RBIs.

    With a sweep of the Cardinals, the Braves’ record stands at 60-45. They have an 8 1/2 game lead over the Washington Nationals in the NL East.


    BEACHY MAKES 2013 DEBUT AGAINST ROCKIES…

    Baseball can be all about timing. Some call it luck. For the Braves, Tim Hudson’s devastating, season-ending ankle injury could have been season-altering. However, the timing of Brandon Beachy’s rehab worked out perfectly for him to take the place of the veteran ace. Beachy had a slight setback at Triple-A Gwinnett some time ago, but has recovered completely from that setback as well as the Tommy John surgery that shelved him last year just before the all-star break. Beachy will make his 2013 season debut tonight against the visiting Colorado Rockies.

    The Braves face the Rockies at a time when the Rockies are trying to stay competitive in the NL West. With the surging Dodgers and the more consistent Diamondbacks, the Rockies find themselves 8 games back in the division. The Rockies hope to insert Carlos Gonzalez in their lineup while in Atlanta. CarGo has been dealing with a sprained right finger since before the all-star break, something that kept him out of the Home Run Derby. His bat and defense will certainly go a long way to keeping the Rockies in the hunt.

    Tonight Braves’ fans will be treated to De La Rosa (10-5, 2.97) vs. Beachy (–, -.–). The second game of the season will feature Nicasio (6-4, 4.40) vs. Wood (0-2, 3.42). Likely the pitching match-up to watch will be in game 3 with Chatwood (7-3, 2.48) vs. Minor (10-5, 2.89). The 4th and final game of the series will feature a pitcher TBD vs. Teheran (7-5, 3.07).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.

    Hudson injury dampens Mets series, Braves head home for Cards

    In what should have been a terrific series for the Braves to continue their dominance in the National League East, the Braves watched as veteran ace Tim Hudson pitched a gem that ended suddenly with a freak accident. To say that the Braves were shaken by the injury to Hudson would be an understatement given Hudson’s role as a veteran leader in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, the Braves will face the remainder of the season without the ace.

    Following the injury and the news that Tim’s right ankle, his push off foot, was fractured and would require surgery once swelling subsided, his wife Kim tweeted the following:

    The response not just of his teammates, but of Mets’ players including Eric Young, Jr. who actually stepped on Hudson’s leg as he hit the first base bag, was moving the night of the injury. Matching it was the reaction online of current and former players across baseball from teammates Freddie Freeman, Alex Wood to former players Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine and even Burt Blyleven. Baseball writers Jon Morosi, Buster Olney and Jayson Stark all commented on how valuable Hudson is in the clubhouse and how fierce he is as a competitor. In fact, friends, fans and teammates alike all referred to Tim Hudson as a great guy before mentioning his skill as a player.

    Prior to the bizarre incident on the first base bag, Hudson was pitching the best game of his 2013 season. In 7 2/3 innings, Hudson gave up 4 hits, 2 earned runs, walked 3 batters and struck out 9. With the season-ending surgery, he will have put together an 8-7 record with a 3.97 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and just shy of 100 strikeouts. Given some of the struggles he endured in the first half, Hudson finishes his injury-shortened season strong. He had a rocky June, going 0-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 6 starts, but had turned his season around in July where he went 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in 3 starts.

    One point worth noting is that this was Hudson’s final season under contract with the Braves. At his age, 38, and the extent of his injury, there is the possibility that he won’t be back in a Braves uniform, if a big league uniform at all. Braves fans everywhere are wishing that not to be the case and sincerely wishing Huddy a speedy recovery.

    Hudson was the story of the series, but here are a few notes on the series:

    • The Braves took 2-of-4 in New York, bringing their season record to 57-45. The Braves lost 4-of-7 on the road, pushing them to 25-30 on the road this season.
    • Alex Wood made a spot start for the injured Paul Maholm in the season finale, notching a no-decision after going 4 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits, 4 earned runs and striking out 5.
    • Shortstop Andrelton Simmons Simmons now has more homers with 11 than Freddie Freeman (10), Heyward (7) and B.J. Upton (8).
    • Dan Uggla hit his 21st home run of the season off Zach Wheeler. Uggla leads the club in homers.
    • After being helped out by an incredible defensive play by Jason Heyward preventing the tying run and perhaps the winning run in the 9th inning of the 2nd game of the series, Craig Kimbrel recorded his 28th save of 2013 (3rd most in the NL).
    • In the game that saw Tim Hudson go down, Evan Gattis hit his first home run since returning to the Braves lineup with an injured oblique. It was El Oso Blanco’s 15th home run of the season.

    BRAVES OPEN HOME STAND AGAINST CARDINALS…

    The Cardinals, fresh off a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies will arrive in Atlanta for a 3-game weekend series that kicks off the Braves’ home stand.

    Brandon Beachy was solid in his recent outing with the Gwinnett Braves.

    Brandon Beachy was solid in his recent outing with the Gwinnett Braves.

    After the series in New York, the question everybody is asking is what’s next for the rotation? It cannot be said frequently enough how important pitching depth in a big league system is.

    The night that Tim Hudson was injured, Brandon Beachy pitched at Triple-A Gwinnett. His numbers were exceptional, pitching 6 innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 earned run on 99 pitches. Prior to needing Tommy John surgery just shy of last year’s all-star break, Beachy held a league-leading 2.00 ERA in his 13 starts. Brandon Beachy will make his 2013 debut on Monday in the place of Hudson.

    If Alex Wood can start again in the place of Maholm while he remains on the disabled list, the Braves have enough arms with Beachy back. However, how well this rotation can pitch is another matter. Kris Medlen had more or less prepared himself for a trip back to the bullpen after his last three starts. Over his last 3 starts, Medlen went 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA. Paul Maholm had been inconsistent in his last several outings, putting up an 0-3 record with a 10.13 ERA in his last 3 stars. The best news was that Tim Hudson was turning around his season. That leaves Minor and Teheran who have been the most consistent pitchers in the rotation and perhaps two of the better pitchers in the league. The Braves’ rotation was in a good position among the NL. For that to continue, Maholm and Medlen must straighten out their issues and Beachy will need to be the Beachy of old. Atlanta’s front office will now be focusing on a starter prior to next week’s trade deadline, either instead of or coinciding with looking for a bullpen arm.

    Now for the pitching match ups against the St. Louis Cardinals. Friday’s game will feature Wainwright (13-5, 2.44) vs. Minor (9-5, 2.98) and will air on MLB Network. Saturday’s game, telecast on FOX, will feature Kelly (1-3, 3.88) vs. Teheran (7-5, 3.25). The series finale on Sunday will air on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball and will feature Miller (10-6, 2.77) vs. Medlen (6-10, 3.78).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.

    Braves hit snag against Fish, face middle-of-the-pack Phillies

    Likely All Star, Craig Kimbrel surrendered the go-ahead run to the Marlins in the final game of the series.

    Likely all star Craig Kimbrel surrendered the go-ahead run to the Marlins in the final game of the series.

    If there is anything more inexplicable than the feast or famine offense for the Braves, it is the way they can sweep one of the better teams in baseball and then drop the following series to presumably the worst team in baseball. That is precisely what happened in the 3-game series against the Miami Marlins this week as the Braves entered the series fresh off a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It wasn’t all on the offense, however. The bullpen faltered last night in a big way and we saw that rare event when the game ended and Craig Kimbrel left the mound without the save. Such is the game of baseball and in a season consisting of 162 games, the Braves are bound to lose their fair share.

    Game 1:

    W: Medlen (6-7) L: Jennings (0-1)

    While much is made of the Braves offensive struggles on nights when they don’t homer, the Braves managed a hit parade in game 1, their only win of the series, without going yard. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons each had triples, not a regular occurence for the 2013 Braves. Freeman, McCann and Johnson contributed doubles. And even pitcher Kris Medlen got in on the act, notching a single and double for his own cause.

    Kris Medlen pitched 6 innings of 3-run ball and then handed the game over to a flawless bullpen. Anthony Varvaro and Alex Wood each pitched 1 scoreless inning in relief.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Marlins 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3 11 2
    Braves 0 1 1 1 0 4 1 3 x 11 16 1

    Game 2:

    W: Nolasco (5-8) L: Minor (8-4) SV: Cishek (16)

    Each of Ricky Nolasco’s recent starts have been referred to likely his last in a Marlins’ uniform. Unfortunately for the Braves, Nolasco wasn’t traded before he pitched against them in Atlanta. The Braves were unable to get much going against Nolasco in the 7 innings he pitched and their rally in the 9th fell short, scoring only 1 run.

    Mike Minor was on his game until the 5th inning when the wheels fell off for him. Up until the 5th, Minor was cruising along just as he has in so many of his starts this season. For their part, the bullpen was hit and miss. Varvaro and Carpenter did their job, but Gearrin allowed 2 additional runs, putting the game out of reach for the Braves by the last chance in the 9th inning.

    Chris Johnson, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons each had multi-hit games and Brian McCann hit his 10th home run since his return from the DL. McCann has continued a torrid streak, returning to the offensive threat he had been prior to the 2012 season when he struggled mightily and then required shoulder surgery.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Marlins 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 2 0 6 9 1
    Braves 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 10 0

    Game 3:

    W: Ramos (3-2) L: Kimbrel (2-2) SV: Cishek (17)

    The Braves had a series win within their grasp when Craig Kimbrel went to the mound in the 9th to hold the Marlins at 3 runs, giving his club a chance to win the game in a walk-off in the bottom of the 9th. However, that wasn’t in the cards for the closer. Kimbrel allowed the run that won the game for the Marlins. Though, his offense didn’t bail him out in the bottom of the 9th with any runs on the board. This certainly isn’t a sight that the Braves are used to, but the young closer does have to fall to Earth every now and then. Kimbrel is a lock for the All Star Game at Citi Field. ASG participants will be named tomorrow on FOX at 6:30 (EST).

    Atlanta was 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the final game of the series, despite doubles by Jason Heyward and Brian McCann. Julio Teheran pitched 5 innings, giving up 3 runs and notching 7 strikeouts in 104 pitches.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
    Marlins 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 10 0
    Braves 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 7 0

    THIRD PLACE PHILLIES ARRIVE AT THE TED…

    The Philadelphia Phillies are quietly sitting in the middle of the pack in the NL East behind the Washington Nationals. Though they aren’t making much noise, the Phillies could be the spoiler in the NL East as we get closer to the playoffs. Though the Braves have a lead on the Nationals, once healthy, there is still the possibility that the Nationals will put pressure on the Braves for the NL East crown. They’ll each have to win games within the division to make that happen and the Braves know from the series with Miami that they have to work much harder at this.

    Heading into the series, the Braves have a few key pieces in their favor. Brian McCann is raking. In his last 8 games, McCann has 13 hits in 31 at-bats with 4 doubles, 3 homers and 11 RBI. In those 8 games he is batting .419 with a .486 on-base percentage and is slugging .839. In the month of June, first baseman Freddie Freeman was the Braves’ most consistent hitter. He hit for an average of .291 with 30 hits, 6 doubles, 4 homers and 19 RBIs. All of this bodes well facing a team that both hitters have done well against. Additionally, both Justin Upton and Dan Uggla have come alive of late and are contributing semi-consistently.

    Jordan Schafer was placed on the disabled list as his ankle contusion continues to heal. In his place, the Braves have called up prospect Joey Terdoslavich from Triple-A Gwinnett and will use his bat off the bench. Terdoslavich is the Braves no. 14 prospect. With a .318 batting average, 18 home runs and a .926 OPS in his 85 games at Triple-A this season, the switch-hitter will be a good addition to the bench until the Braves get Gattis and Schafer back from injury. The Braves lost Ramiro Pena for the entire season.

    The series opens tonight with veteran Hudson (4-7, 4.22) vs. Lee (9-2, 2.59). The middle game will pit Maholm (9-6, 3.69) vs. Kendrick (7-5, 3.59) and will be nationally broadcast on FOX. The final game of the series on Sunday will feature Medlen (6-7, 3.11) vs. Pettibone (4-3, 3.99).

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter@framethepitch.