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Old 08-09-2004, 01:50 PM   #1
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Default Atlanta Isn't Willing Just Yet to Relinquish NL East Crown

Come on admit it. Most of you probably thought the Atlanta Braves didn't stand a chance of winning the N.L. East this year, especially after losing future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux to the Chicago Cubs, pitcher Jason Marquis to the St. Louis Cardinals, slugger Gary Sheffield to the New York Yankees, and catcher Javy Lopez to the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason.

Don't feel too bad, most baseball experts didn't expect the Braves to fair too well this year. I must be honest with you. I didn't think much of the Braves chances this season.

Of course, I realize there are still a little over 50 games left in the regular season, and anything could happen. The Braves seem to be pulling away from the rest of their adversaries in the N.L. East at this time.

The Philadelphia Phillies were preseason favorites to win the N.L. East this season, but they have really been playing poorly since the first of July. At the end of June they led the N.L. East along with the Florida Marlins over the Braves, the New York Mets and the Montreal Expos.

Florida has really been reeling lately. The 2003 World Series champions will be hard pressed to repeat as champions again. Especially, after losing MVP of the 2003 NLCS catcher Ivan Rodriquez to free agency.

At the end of all baseball action on August 8th, the Braves led the Phillies by five and a half games, and over the Marlins by eight games. Atlanta just finished a weekend series with Arizona by sweeping them in Arizona.

Atlanta's first-place record is currently 63-47. The Braves had a record of 20-6 for the month of July. They are 6-1 for August so far. They have really been playing great ball. Their pitching has been doing so well lately.

Closer John Smoltz is as efficient as ever. He has 27 saves out of 29 save opportunities. His ERA is 2.09.

The starting pitching has been very consistent. The Braves lead the majors with the lowest team ERA of 3.64. Russ Ortiz is the leader of the Braves pitching staff. Ortiz is 13-6.

John Thomson who was acquired from the Colorado Rockies during the offseason is pitching better and better. Thomson is 9-7.

The real surprise for this pitching staff has been Jaret Wright. He was regarded as a young budding star for the Cleveland Indians at one time, but they finally gave up on him due to injuries, but his career is starting to take off now. Wright is 10-5 with an ERA of 3.04 so far this season. He has thrown some really good games this season.

Pitcher Mike Hampton has been pitching a lot better lately. He has run his record to 7-8, but his ERA is pretty high at 4.91. Paul Bryd is the fifth starter. He is 4-3.

Starting pitcher Horacio Ramirez has been on the 60 day DL list, but should be back soon.

Juan Cruz is a very good reliever at 4-0 with an ERA of 2.82. Reliever Tom Martin was recently acquired from the LA Dodgers. Martin will help big time.

As for the Braves offense this season the acquisition of outfielder J.D.Drew from St. Louis was a Godsend. As a Cardinal Drew spent a lot of time on the DL, but has finally gotten healthy and is playing very well as his offensive numbers indicate. Drew leads the team in homeruns with 24 and in RBI's with 66. A left handed bat was really needed in this lineup.

Outfielder Andruw Jones is second in RBI's on the team with 62. Another big surprise for this team has been the play of catcher Johnny Estrada, who played in the shadow of Javy Lopez last season. He is batting .327.

Another pleasant surprise has been outfielder Eli Marrero who came over from St. Louis with Drew. Coming off the bench as needed he is batting .338 with seven homeruns and 29 RBI's.

Old-timer and first baseman Julio Franco has come up with some key hits so far this season. Rookie Adam LaRoche has struggled most of the season. But has good power and great potential.

Rafael Furcal the shortstop for the team, and second baseman Marcus Giles give the Braves a strong infield. While Giles was on the disabled list this season Nick Green played a lot at second. He played very well while Giles was down. Green is batting .274 with three homeruns and 25 runs driven in.

Rookie outfielder Charles Thomas shows a lot of promise, and power at times. Thomas is hitting .315 currently. He could really help Atlanta down the stretch.

The biggest disappointment on this team so far this season has been third baseman Chipper Jones. He has been in a terrible slump, but seems to be coming around now. He was at .227 a week or so ago, but is now hitting .244. Jones has 15 homeruns and 53 runs driven in.

Jones has driven in over 100 runs the past eight seasons, but he may fall short for 2004. Who knows? He may get hot as a firecracker, and really take off. The Braves and manager Bobby Cox sure hope so.

In closing, if the Braves continue to play as they have they will win the N.L. East. But if not, Philadelphia could stay in the hunt, and hopefully start playing better baseball, and win the division. They sure need to. I don't give Florida much of a chance, but you can't count them out just yet. As for the Mets and the Expos better luck next year.
Keith "baseball nut" Thronson
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Old 08-09-2004, 03:03 PM   #2
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Bama, this and your football previews....do you write them? Why are they so stylistically different than the rest of your posts?

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Old 08-09-2004, 07:27 PM   #3
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He is quite a writer, when he's on his subjects, isn't he?
The Braves success this season is a testament to Bobby Cox and his coaching staff (specifically Leo Mazzone). They have gotten good seasons out of their players and have made the right moves at the right times.
Bobby Cox is one of the best managers in baseball right now.
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Old 08-11-2004, 11:44 AM   #4
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Just practicing lol Thanks Catman.
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Old 08-13-2004, 09:56 PM   #5
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Bobby Cox da man. He is the center of all this. He could have the worst team in the MLB talent wise and still do good. Were up by 7 games going into tonight, I think were running away with it because the Phillies have some injury problems and their struggling anyway.
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Old 08-13-2004, 10:13 PM   #6
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The Phils are out of it Millwood is likely gone for the year, Burrell likely is as well, and who knows if and when Wagner comes back.

Man, J. T. Snow is just wearing the Phils out tonight.

Anyway, we get to see what the Braves are really made of the next 10 days after playing the Cards they travel to San Diego aned LA. Time to put up or shut up. They catch a break on Sunday as Carpenter has been scratched and they will probably get to face either Simontacchi, Haren or Eldred.
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Old 08-16-2004, 02:53 PM   #7
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Poor Phillies have the worst luck. Maybe next year.
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Old 08-19-2004, 02:03 AM   #8
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The Phillies need a managerial and coaching change plain and simple.

If you take out those very mediocre to poor first months when everybody was hurt and/or struggling, the Braves are a much different team. To me the team in July is more like the actual team than the team in April/May.

At this point I'd almost trust Mike Hampton with a playoff game start. Not Mr. Thompson though.

Here's hoping to Horacio Ramirez making it back in full strength in time for the playoffs this year.

And where did Jaret Wright come from? Hopefully he decides to stick around for a couple more years.
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