Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman, right, celebrates with Dan Uggla after hitting a home run in the second inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies in Atlanta Tuesday, July 5, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Braves win — again
Atlanta is 12-3 in its last 15 games, and we all know the Braves' success has been in its arms.
Let's look deeper at the strength and depth that this staff allows manager Fredi Gonzalez. Shall we? Of course we shall.
After he doubled in three runs to help his own cause in Tuesday's 5-3 win over Colorado, Braves starter Derek Lowe started to labor. Be it the summer heat or running the bases, Lowe was running on fumes midway through the sixth. If most managers are forced to go get their starter that early, there's some concern about the rest of the game — innings 7, 8 and 9 must be factored into managing the sixth inning.
That's not the case for Gonzalez, who has the eternal blessing of having full confidence in a seventh-inning guy (Eric O'Flaherty), more confidence in his eighth-inning guy (Everyday Jonny Venters) and a lights-out closer (Craig Kimbrel). With that knowledge of a loaded back-end of the bullpen, Gonzalez was able to play match-ups as early as the sixth inning Tuesday to get the Braves out of what turned out to be the last serious Colorado threat.
And Gonzalez's bullish bullpen did not disappoint. Lefty George Sherrill fanned the only batter he faced in the sixth and righty Cory Gearrin ended the inning with a strikeout. All totaled, the Braves bullpen recorded 11 outs — seven strikeouts — and was not charged with a run. Sidenote: Kimbrel's last two pitches hit 99 mph on the gun. There's something so comforting about a team's closer throwing right at 100 mph, you know?
Now, there has to be some growing concern about over-use of the Braves' strong relief corps. Venters leads the NL in appearances with 48; Kimbrel is second with 45 and O'Flaherty is tied for seventh with 42. A few complete games — or goodness forbid a couple of 13-run performances that let some of the other relievers eat some innings — in the near future would be well-received from the well-used and well-stocked bullpen.
Dan Uggla started Tuesday
Reportedly, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told struggling second baseman Dan Uggla that the season started on Tuesday. If that's the case, Uggla is on track for the greatest season in recent memory. He went 2-for-2 with a homer and a double and two walks. At this pace, well, his numbers would be awesome.
Truthfully — and we all know we're trying to be a gentler, kinder 5-at-10 especially in the direction of a certain Braves middle infielder who's name sounds like Stan Struggla — Uggla has been awful. You know this. We know this. Aunt Mavis in Ringgold who never misses a Braves telecast and calls the TFP sports editor every morning for the score of last night's game because she fell asleep before it was over knows this.
But let's wipe the slate clean. Uggla started his season Tuesday, and he's hitting 1.000 with an on-base percentage of 1.000 and a slugging percentage of 3.000. Plus, his homer was a crush job to left-center and his double was a liner to right-center. For a guy that was hitting about .170 heading into Tuesday night, that looked like a breakthrough and at the very least has to be considered progress.
Let's keep Uggla's stats for the rest of this month (through July 31 — because by then we'll know whether it was a fluke or truly a starting point and that's when football really heats up):
Uggla in 2011 (part deux): 2-for-2 (1.000), 1 HR, 1 RBI
Everybody together, "Let's go Uggla,"clap-clap-clap-clap. Kinder and gentler. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.
Oregon hoping to Duck trouble
There are always names that become linked through college football scandal. Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel. Pat Dye and Eric Ramsey. Reggie Bush and Reggie Bush's ego. It happens.
It also appears Chip Kelly and Willie Lyles will join that list now that the spin cycle from the Oregon Ducks football fan base has flipped the switch into mass hysteria. Unless you have been under a rock — or so nauseated by Monday's hot dog eating contest that you've been bed-ridden for the last 48 hours — Lyles has said he acted improperly in helping Oregon recruit running backs LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk.
Lyles — who SportTalk's Dr. B said more than two months ago was going to be big trouble for the Ducks (he's a doctor after all — Dr. B that is, not Lyles) — used to run a recruiting service and was paid $25,000 by Oregon for what appears to be less-than-stellar scouting information. Lyles said he made some mistakes and it is now clear to him that Oregon paid him for his access and influence with recruits, namely James and Seastrunk, two highly rated Texas speedsters.
It gets worse. Lyles said he had a working deal with Kelly, who originally denied knowing Willie Lyles. When asked by John Canzano, the outstanding columnist for the Oregonian, about his original claim that he did not know "Willie Lyles," Kelly told Canzano, "around here, we call him 'Will.' We've already distanced ourselves from him, trust me."
Is this the beginning of the end for Kelly, who led the Ducks to the BCS title game against Auburn? Hard to know right now. Kelly has enjoyed record-setting success at Oregon, but this certainly looks bad — and Kelly has been directly linked by Lyles. The NCAA has already interviewed Lyles and made one trip to Oregon. If Kelly has lied to the NCAA — or floated out that mumbo-jumbo that he did not know "Willie Lyles," but was well-aware of "Will Lyles" — then, well, the you and the 5-at-10 know how this will play out. Just ask Jim Tressel or Bruce Pearl.
This and that
— Want to know what has two thumbs and zero, Zero, ZERO interest in the Roger Clemens' steroids/perjury trial. The 5-at-10. It's not possible to care any less than we do about that thing. Go away Roger and take your buttocks and your stories and Brian McNamee with you.
— Derek Jeter is now four hits away from 3,000. The 5-at-10 is excited about this because after Derek Jeter and A-Rod, there may not be another guy get 3,000 hits for a long while — especially if Albert Pujols' injury is not properly healed.
— The NFL clock is ticking. Loudly. We have said from the start that this would be the week a deal would be reached. Let's hope so.
Former Braves slugger and current Braves' TV analyst Ron Gant was not at his best in Tuesday's win. He used the phrase "mentally thinking"(and if you think the 5-at-10 is not adopting that one, well, you're nuts) which is way more effective than physically thinking. When Braves catcher Brian McCann was struck with a foul tip in the ... place that made every man cringe ... Gant's insight was, shall we say, awkward — Gant assumed it caught McCann somewhere, anywhere other than the baby-maker which made the replay an unintended comedic all-star.
That said, Gant is normally tolerable and is getting better (he's better than Tom Glavine by about 200 percent) as far as former-players-turned-commentators go in the 5-at-10's view, but "mentally thinking," who are the worst former-players-turned-commentators? We'll be back around 2 p.m. with our list, and yes, Aaron Boone you may want to stick around to see how the voting turns out.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...