To help preview our upcoming series with the Atlanta Braves, I talked with Scott Coleman from Talking Chop, one of the top Braves blogs on the net, to talk about the teams recent struggles and suprise performances from unlikley sources.
TNB: The Philadelphia Phillies have caught fire and now find themselves in first place. What is the mood surrounding the Braves after they had been in the drivers seat for so long?
Talking Chop: After falling out of 1st place for the first time since May 30th, there were mixed reactions from the Braves and their fans. The players continued to stay positive (at least to the media, anyways. There's no way to tell what goes on behind closed doors and on the long flights.) and I've seen no indication that they're panicking. There's really no reason to either. We're still in the playoffs as of this point, and have 6 games remaining with Philly. Even if we fall a few games behind, we can make it up in the final week of the season.
As for the fans, there's always those who panic more than others, but at the end of the day, we're still a very good team and the fans know it. It's been frustrating watching this team play over the last month, but in the end, I think we'll end up in the playoffs.
TNB: Tim Hudson is having a career year. What does his presence and leadership do for the rest of the young guns on the staff such as Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens?
Talking Chop: "I feel safe when Tim Hudson is on the mound," is what a member of Talking Chop posted the other day, and it's so true that it's not even funny. The guy is our un-questioned Ace, and I can only imagine how much he brings to the clubhouse every day. As a guy who's been nominated multiple times for the Roberto Clemente award, I can only think of a very select group of guys who I'd rather have leading our team. Hudson has been great for us, and we'd be nowhere without him.
TNB: Explain the importance of Martin Prado and Omar Infante to this team, and what can we expect from them in the future?
Talking Chop: Martin Prado, for my money, is our MVP for 2010. Coming into the season, I figured Martin would have a solid first season as our starting 2nd baseman, but I never imagined he'd be this good. I know that the stats say he's been a little lucky this year and I know he never had quite this production in the Minor Leagues, but it's crazy when you see the improvements he's made at the plate in the few years he's been in Atlanta. In the future, I imagine he'll play either 2nd or 3rd. If Chipper Jones comes back, he'll be at 2nd in 2011. If he doesn't come back, I think there's a good chance he starts the season at 3rd.
The All-Star utility man Omar Infante can literally play anywhere on the field, and it seems as if he's a lock for a few singles every night. He doesn't really have much power, but he continually puts together a great at-bat. I really hope the Braves make Omar a utility man in 2011, but similar to Prado, it'll all depend on what happens with Chipper in the off-season.TNB: All season the Braves have been winning without a true "slugger" in their lineup and without a real base stealing threat. What has been the secret to their success?
Talking Chop: I really don't know, to be honest. This team has been so wild and un-predictable this year that most Braves fans just expect the unexpected and go with it. This weekend's series against the Cardinals was a perfect example. Friday, we tee-off on Chris Carpenter and look like an offensive juggernaut, getting big hit after big hit after big hit. Sunday night, we get shut down by Kyle Lohse. Yes, that Kyle Lohse. It's maddening. And as I said above, Braves fans are just going with what we get from this point. Our offense, despite being #2 in the NL in runs scored, has been jekyll-and-hyde all season and there's really no true way to describe our success.
TNB: Mike Minor has struggled in recent starts, likely due to fatigue from his first professional season. What are the Braves plans for him if they reach October?
Talking Chop: The only chance Minor has of pitching in October is out of the bullpen, and even then I don't think we'd pitch him unless there's a wild 17-inning game or something. The Braves are always careful with their young pitchers, and they won't treat Minor any different.
To read the counter-interview done by Talking Chop, in which William Yoder tackles some questions on the Nationals, click here