Posts Tagged ‘World Champions

21
Apr
10

Braves stun Phils with improbable comeback win

Just call him Nate McClutch.

The Braves center fielder, who was hitting a mere .138 with just one RBI all season, sure picked a good time to break out of his slump.

McLouth hit a leadoff 10th-inning solo blast against Jose Contreras to cap Atlanta’s stunning comeback 4-3 win over division rival Philadelphia.

The Braves have now won five of their last six games and find themselves in a first-place tie with the Phillies atop the National League East standings.

For McLouth, his heroics couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

This is the first walk-off home run he’s recorded at any level of ball he’s played in, from Little League up to the Majors.

McLouth got a chance to be a hero in the 10th thanks to back-to-back two out homers from Troy Glaus and Jason Heyward in the bottom of the ninth.

The Braves may have enjoyed other improbable comeback wins in the past, but this stunning turnaround is one of the most unpredictable and character building victories in team history.

For 8 2/3 innings, Atlanta only managed four hits and was an out away from being shutout.

Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, who was sporting an ugly 17.47 ERA this season, put the Braves offense on the defensive.

This isn’t the first time struggling pitchers have faced the Braves lineup and left the game looking like Cy Young.

The difference now is that this team didn’t fold.

Kendrick handed the ball to Ryan Madson in the ninth, who is filling in for the injured Brad Lidge at closer, and suddenly the Braves found new life.

Madson walked Chipper Jones with one out and then retired Brian McCann, which brought Troy Glaus to the plate.

The Braves fans’ new whipping boy, who again was the target of the hometown faithful’s wrath after committing a costly error earlier in the game, couldn’t possibly come through with two outs—could he?

He did.

Glaus smashed a two-run blast, sending a jolt through Turner Field and giving the Braves a sliver of hope.

While still down a run, the Braves turned to their No. 6 hitter in the lineup to keep the game alive.

On a normal night, that would be Yunel Escobar.

But, not on this night.

No, on this night, Bobby Cox adhered to the ongoing chatter of moving rookie stud Jason Heyward up from the seventh spot in the lineup.

So, there he was, “Joltin’ Jason” as some are now calling him—with a chance to tie the game, again.

If you remember, Heyward was the hero in Sunday’s come-from-behind win over the Rockies with a two-out, bases loaded single in the ninth.

No way he does it again, does he?

He does.

Heyward’s shot heard ’round the world tied the game and made Cox look like a managerial genius again.

From there, pandemonium ensued.

Jason Heyward found himself in the middle of two unlikely heroes.

Who would have thought Troy Glaus and Nate McLouth would deliver late-inning home runs, when they’ve been the subject of boos and ridicule all season long?

And, with each passing day, the legend that is the “J-Hey Kid” grows even larger.

For two straight games, the 20-year-old sensation has helped usher the Braves to back-to-back comeback victories.

He leads all major league rookies in home runs (four) and RBIs (16) by a large margin.

But, Heyward’s impact on the Braves is not just all in the numbers.

The electricity that he’s brought to the table has lit a fire under the entire team and has them playing their most inspired and exciting baseball since, well, 1991.

Yes, the year the Braves went from worst-to-first in their division and came within one win of being crowned World Champions.

That year began the rich, glory days of excellence that Atlanta had then enjoyed for 14 consecutive seasons.

But, that competitiveness and winning attitude that has been missing since 2006, appears to finally be resurfacing.

As I said yesterday, the Phillies know all too well what a young, rising superstar can bring to the clubhouse.

What Howard did for the Phillies when he came on the scene in 2005 is what Heyward is doing for the Braves in 2010.

Howard began a new era of winning baseball in Philadelphia.

And, now it seems Heyward is bringing that mantra back to Atlanta.

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24
Apr
09

Happy Birthday Chipper!

Chipper Jones during batting practice in Philadelphia, PA.

Chipper Jones during batting practice in Philadelphia, PA.

Happy 37th Birthday Chipper Jones!

Wait, did I say 37? That must be a typo.

It feels like just yesterday that I was 11 years old enamored with the wide-eyed “rook,” high socks and all, manning third base for the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves.

Ah Champions of baseball! Chipper Jones was instantly an Atlanta sports hero and icon, helping to lead a franchise that had been to three previous, consecutive postseasons and two World Series’ to their first ever title in his first full season in the majors.

Fans weren’t surprised. Atlanta was buzzing about Chipper long before he made his Major League debut. The DeLand, Fla native was chosen with the 1st pick in the 1990 Amateur draft by the Bravos. Manager Bobby Cox was the General Manager at the time which was the beginning of a storied, now nineteen year relationship between the two.

The road to the bigs wasn’t easy for Atlanta’s golden boy. Chipper was drafted a shortstop but was moved to third base in the minors before making his Major League debut in September of 1993. Chipper was expected to compete for a job in the Braves outfield (as he was blocked by Terry Pendleton at third base and left fielder Ron Gant had suffered a broken leg in the off-season) but tore his ACL and as a result missed the entire year.

In 1995, it was finally Chipper’s time to shine. Jones finished runner-up to the Dodgers phenom pitcher Hideo Nomo in the Rookie of the Year balloting. He led all major league rookies in RBI and runs scored, among other categories. But most notable was his appearance in the World Series which finally found the Braves victorious. Atlanta defeated Cleveland in six games.

There was no sophomore slump for Chipper, as he proved in 1996 that he was the real deal. Jones helped lead the Braves back to the World Series. However, the Yankees dashed the Braves hopes of winning back-to-back championships, and in six games defeated Atlanta.

Chipper’s personal accolades continued to pour in. In 1999, he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He became the first player to ever hit over .300 with 40 or more homeruns (45) and doubles (41), drawing 100 or more walks (126), RBI (110), and runs scored (116) and stealing 20 or more bases (25). Chipper led the Braves back to the World Series that season but Atlanta was swept in four games by the Yankees.

Chipper will go down in history as one of the greatest switch hitters of all-time. He is behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray on the all-time switch hitter career home run list.

The lifetime Brave was also selected to six All-Star games, won the Silver Slugger at 3rd base twice, had eight consecutive 100 RBI seasons (1996-2003) and nabbed the 2008 National League batting title.

This past Spring Training, Chipper inked a three-year, 42-million dollar contract extension with Atlanta. Chipper’s dream of playing his entire career with the Braves now seems like it will become a reality.

Braves fans can now rejoice!

It has been almost two decades that I have watched Chipper sport the tomahawk across his chest. When I think of the Atlanta Braves, I think of Chipper Jones. The two go hand-in-hand. It’s all I’ve ever known as a fan and it’s all he’s ever known as a player.

As a person, he’s grown and evolved into a man that all of his fans, myself atop the list, should be proud of. Chipper’s human and he’s made mistakes. I don’t put him on a pedestal, but I do believe his imperfections and flaws make him a relatable hero, which has given me a personal rooting interest.

So today, I salute you Chipper Jones… for the iconic ballplayer you are and the honorable man that you’ve become. May this year bring you continued success, personally and professionally and good health, on and off the field.

And maybe, just maybe, if we are all lucky… may it bring you and Atlanta another World Championship!




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