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Entries from Empyreal Environs tagged with “Braves”

Brave New World

The division-leading Atlanta Braves succumbed to the Red Sox on their home turf. Turner Field won’t house the Braves for very much longer. The team will leave the venue when their lease expires in 2016. The club is following the money trail outside of Atlanta and Fulton County into the tony outlying neighborhoods in Cobb County. Atlanta was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthplace and thanks to him the area is no longer segregated by law. But in fact the disparity between mostly white Cobb and predominantly black Fulton counties are still demarcated by race and class. Ray Henry’s article sums up the situation succinctly: To support its argument for leaving, the Braves released a map based on ticket sales data that showed its fans were clustered in an arc north of downtown Atlanta that ran through the suburbs. That information also shows fans tended to purchase single-game tickets at the highest rates in places that were several times as rich as neighborhoods closest to the stadium and much whiter. Of the communities with the ten highest sales rates, all but one were north of the current stadium and had median household incomes ranging from roughly $61,000 to $100,000. Those communities...

Jair of Hearts

And who do you think you are? Runnin’ ’round leaving scars Collecting your jar of hearts And tearing love apart You’re gonna catch a cold From the ice inside your soul So don’t come back for me Who do you think you are?Christina Perri, “Jar of Hearts” Nothing like feeling slighted to relight the competitive fire. Jair Jurrjens roared back from his return trip to the minor leagues with a 7⅔ inning, three-hit gem. Only the young pair of Will Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava managed to score off the resurgent starter with their doubles in the eighth. Boston’s five-game winning streak was snapped with a man who should have been a sports legend but may end up a laughingstock. Roger Clemens, feeling emboldened by his recent acquittal in his perjury trial celebrated with a trip to the Monster seats. He was surrounded not by his family but by security. Surprisingly he didn’t first visit Rogers Centre, where he revitalized himself in his twilight years, Yankee Stadium, where he won two World Series, nor Minute Maid Park, where he had a reunion stint with Andy Pettitte. I can imagine that Clemens is planning is to tour his former teams’ stadia and...


Game 75: June 28, 2009 Red Sox1L: Brad Penny (6-3)46-29, 1 game losing streak Braves2W: Tommy Hanson (4-0)H: Eric O’Flaherty (7)H: Peter Moylan (11)H: Rafael Soriano (6)S: Mike Gonzalez (9)35-40, 1 game winning streak Highlights: Mmmbop, ba duba dop. Please tell me this is Hanson’s mound music. He was 10 when the song hit number one. The Little Leaguers that took over the NESN studio wouldn’t remember this tune. Tom Caron asked a couple of the tykes who their favorite players were. Not surprisingly, one stripling named Dustin Pedroia. Because of the second baseman’s spunk, his glove, his bat, his accolades? Nope. Because Dustin rhymes with Justin, his own name. Tommy Hanson took a page out of Brad Penny’s book and pitched impressively despite flu-like symptoms. If Hanson maintains this pace he could be named the Rookie of the Year. That Boston lost to an outstanding first-year player and not just AAAA cannon fodder removes some of the sting of this loss. He may have been sick, but so was his stuff.Clay Buchholz’s voodoo doll seemed to work at first. Brad Penny clutched his wrist after a pitch, prompting Paul Lessard and Terry Francona to rush to his side. But...


Game 74: June 27, 2009 Red Sox1W: Tim Wakefield (10-3)46-28, 2 game winning streak Braves0L: Javier Vazquez (5-7)34-40, 4 game losing streak Highlights: In the aftermath of the 2004 ALCS, the Yankees sought to prune away those players who failed them so miserably. Amongst the casualties was Vazquez, who has pitched 200 or more innings in every seasons since 2004 and has accumulated over 200 strikeouts in his past two seasons. To top it off, the Yankees traded Javier Vazquez to Arizona for Randy Johnson and then flipped Johnson back to the Diamondbacks in 2007 for Steven Jackson, Alberto Gonzalez, Ross Ohlendorf, and Luis Vizcaino. Last year Jackson and Ohlendorf were packaged for the Xavier Nady deadline deal, which was a coup for the club at the time. A few days later the Red Sox would end up with the best Pirates outfielder (apologies to the followers of Nate McLouth who worship at his shrine).Neither Jason Bay or McLouth were in the lineup yesterday. Bay was given the day off while McLouth is day-to-day with a hamstring strain. It’s late June and Terry Francona is already planning for the postseason by resting key players here and there.Mark Kotsay played in...


Game 73: June 26, 2009 Red Sox4W: Josh Beckett (9-3)45-28, 1 game winning streak Braves1L: Jair Jurrjens (5-6)34-39, 3 game losing streak Highlights: Every series against Braves brings announcers the opportunity to speak of the Atlanta dynasty of the 90s to the early aughts. In that same period the Florida Marlins won two World Series. I’d take two championships over being just good enough to fail in the NLDS or NLCS repeatedly. Josh Beckett didn’t just slap down the Braves (to the tune of 7 innings, 6 hits, no runs, no walks, and 6 strikeouts) but also Heidi Watney in the post-game interview.Watney asked a question to which Beckett replied, “You missed that question already, Heidi.” Is Jason Varitek still dating Watney? If so, Beckett better hope his catcher doesn’t cross him up the next time they share the field.Sorry, NESN, but putting a microphone on Nick Green is like following a certified public accountant on the job. Let Green’s bat and glove do the talking. In the seventh the shortstop chased down Diory Hernandez’s grounder and hurriedly set himself to relay to Mark Kotsay’s outstretched glove. Green worked the walk to lead off the next inning, moved to second...


Game 69: June 21, 2009 Braves5L: Jeff Bennett (2-4)32-36, 2 game losing streak Red Sox6BS: Ramon Ramirez (2)BS: Hideki Okajima (2)W: Jonathan Papelbon (1-1)42-27, 2 game winning streak Highlights: You could only tell it was the official first day of summer by looking at a calendar. The gusts in the park were so strong you could hear them buffeting the on-field microphones. Every fly ball was an adventure in the swirling winds. Luckily for the home team the wind didn’t push Brian McCann’s first-inning double over the right field wall. It curled along the curve in the wall long enough to plate to two runs.Dustin Pedroia figured out another way to get a hit in these conditions: he powered a liner to left for a leadoff double. Jair Jurrjens inelegantly attempted to field Kevin Youkilis’s squibber and instead of the ball came up with runners at the corners with one out.Jason Bay’s fly ball to right could have been a homer but blew back onto the field for a sacrifice fly. David Ortiz followed up with a blast to left-center that defiantly sailed against currents into the Monster seats.Ortiz singled to start the home half of fourth but it could...


Game 68: June 20, 2009 Braves0L: Derek Lowe (7-5)32-35, 1 game losing streak Red Sox3W: Josh Beckett (8-3)41-27, 1 game winning streak Highlights: Lowe, ensconced in the shroud of invulnerability for being on the 2004 roster, got standing ovations walking from the bullpen to the dugout before pitching and when he left the game in the seventh inning. A pitcher that didn’t experience such affection from the crowd, Daisuke Matsuzaka, was placed on the 15-day disabled list and catcher Dusty Brown was called up. If I were Josh Beckett, witnessing the adulation heaped upon Derek Lowe would annoy me. I might be so piqued as to retaliate with my first complete game shutout since April 10, 2005 and do so with just 94 pitches. The Braves lineup mustered a mere five singles and didn’t work a single base on balls.I was mildly surprised that Beckett only had three complete game shutouts in his career; his fragile former teammate A.J. Burnett has nine and 2002 rookie classmate Aaron Harang has six. In the three years since Beckett arrived in Boston he has transformed from blister-prone question mark to rock-solid stopper.Beckett didn’t fend off the Braves single-handedly. Jacoby Ellsbury came up with...

Yaji [野次]

Game 67: June 19, 2009 Braves8W: Kenshin Kawakami (4-6)32-34, 1 game winning streak Red Sox2L: Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-5)40-27, 1 game losing streak Highlights: It was Bermuda Night at Fenway and in honor of the event Red Sox fans lost their affection for Matsuzaka in the Bermuda Triangle. My friends were at the game and told me that some unacceptable terms were hurled in the Red Sox starter’s direction. I liked to think that Boston fans might accept whole-heartedly accept an Asian player but this is almost Byung-Hyun Kim redux. Jon Lester has had starts this season as bad as Daisuke Matsuzaka’s last night but wasn’t booed. Perhaps Matsuzaka have to be a cancer survivor to earn the fans’ undying love, but I think it’s something more vile underlying the Fenway crowd’s jeers. Yaji [野次] is the Japanese word for heckle, boo, and jeer. The two characters in Kenshin Kawakami’s family name [川上] mean “stream” and “upper,” respectively, so his family lived upstream at some point. The two kanji in his given name [憲伸] symbolize “rule” or “constitution” and “develop” or “progress,” but instead of being a lawyer Kawakami became a professional baseball player. Kawakami played 11 years for the Chunichi...


Game 71: June 20, 2007 Red Sox 11 W: Julian Tavarez (5-4) 46-25, 2 game winning streak17-6-2 series record Braves 0 L: Buddy Carlyle (1-2) 38-35, 2 game losing streak13-7-4 series record Highlights: With Curt Schilling close to being placed on the 15-day disabled list, yet another Red Sox rotation member stepped it up to score another win. Oddly enough, I called Tavarez’s line to a friend before the game. He had just dropped Yoyo and I said he’d probably have a seven-inning three-hitter. Now if I could just win the lifetime season tickets from the Massachusetts State Lottery. In honor of the number of runs scored in this game, which happens to be Bill Mueller’s number with the Red Sox as well as my favorite number, here’s last night’s game by the numbers. One: Walks allowed by Julian Tavarez. Kelly Johnson received the free pass in the seventh. Two: Intentional walks by Earl “Buddy” Carlyle; Jason Varitek in the first and David Ortiz in the fourth. Three: Hits mustered by the home team. Willie Harris broke up a string of ten Braves in a row dismissed by Tavarez in the fourth. None were for extra bases. Four: Homers...


Game 70: June 19, 2007 Red Sox 4 W: Josh Beckett (10-1) 45-25, 1 game winning streak16-6-2 series record Braves 0 L: Tim Hudson (6-5) 38-34, 1 game losing streak13-6-4 series record Highlights: The Red Sox improved their record to 6-4 in shutout games. Curt Schilling left the team to get an MRI back in Boston (results were thankfully negative), but Beckett proved that his shoulders could carry the team until Schilling returns or Jon Lester is recalled. Dustin Pedroia went vertical to nab Scott Thorman’s extra base bid in the second. Coco Crisp out-highlighted center field counterpart Andruw Jones with an airborne snatch of Hudson’s liner in the fifth. Where are these doppelgängers of former Red Sox players produced? Is there a lab someplace where the Edgar Renterias of the world get baseball aptitude rejuvenation shots? Perhaps it happens in those places replete with clean rooms where dirty deeds play out. Behind the doors in those pristine halls the splicing of genes of aardvarks into artichokes to make for protein-rich vegetables that also devours deleterious insects happens just the down the corridor from where the conversion of Willie Harris from bench fodder to a serviceable major leaguer also...


Game 69: June 18, 2007 Red Sox 4 L: Curt Schilling (6-4) 44-25, 1 game losing streak16-6-2 series record Braves 9 W: Chuck James (6-6) 38-33, 1 game winning streak13-6-4 series record Highlights: Coco Crisp seemed to reap the benefit of his recent change in stance. Crisp went 4-for-4 and propelled two home runs, one in the second and another in the sixth. Historically Crisp has had more power from the right side, but the tinkering has helped him on both sides of the plate. The center fielder has hits in his last five games, just one shy of his season-high hitting streak. “Okay, Curt. Breathe deeply with me. Concentrate on just the feeling of the air filling your lungs.” Coco sat peacefully on a yoga mat with legs crossed. His eyes were closed and his face relaxed. Across from him lurched Curt Schilling, legs ungainly attempting to align themselves in the criss-crossed manner Coco so easily assumed. “Can’t. Get my. Legs like that,” he grunted. “Focus on your breathing,” the outfielder urged again, opening one eye to observe the awkward angles Curt’s body. “Time. Matters not. The past. Matters not. Live in the present.” At last the pitcher’s...


Game 43: May 20, 2007 Braves 3 L: Tim Hudson (5-2) 26-18, 1 game losing streak9-3-3 series record Red Sox 6 W: Kason Gabbard (1-0)H: Javier Lopez (4) 30-13, 1 game winning streak12-2-2 series record Highlights: The Red Sox are 1-0 wearing the alternate red jerseys and are 6-0 on Sundays. Gabbard displayed a formidable arsenal of pitches, striking out seven and reversing the tables on what so often happens to the Red Sox. Instead of Boston facing the conundrum of a young unknown lefty, the home team deployed a secret weapon of their own. Gabbard was optioned after the game and Manny Delcarmen was called up to shore up the bullpen for the impending series against the Yankees. Hideki Okajima in the eighth, Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth, and keep the faith. The baseball team owners approved the sale of the Atlanta Braves from Time Warner to Liberty Media Corporation on May 17. The deal was approved the night before to forestall an impending tax law change. With the change in ownership comes the promise that Hank Aaron will play a more prominent role in franchise operations. Perusing Liberty Media’s website doesn’t give much insight as to exactly...


Game 42: May 19, 2007 Braves 14 W: John Smoltz (6-2) 26-17, 1 game winning streak9-2-3 series record Red Sox 0 L: Devern Hansack (0-1) 29-13, 1 game losing streak11-2-2 series record Highlights(?): Kelly Johnson didn’t hit for the cycle; he fell a single short. Smoltz didn’t tally his 200th win; it was just his 199th. Hansack wasn’t injured when he was hit by Edgar Renteria’s comebacker in the fourth inning, whereas Yankee rookie starting pitcher Darrell Rasner succumbed to a batted ball in the first inning, breaking his right index finger which will leave him out of action for three months. Shrouded in mist and past triumphs the Red Sox could not dispel the specter of John Smoltz. Smoltz dismissed Red Sox batters seven times over seven innings, racking up his 2,833th strikeout to surpass Micky Lolich into 17th place on the all-time punchout list. The bearer of the pornstache permitted three hits and walked one in the shutout. Happy belated birthday, codger. Meanwhile, former teammate and pride of Billerica Tom Glavine summed his 295th win against the Yankees. Local boy did well and helped the Red Sox maintain a double-digit lead over the American League New York...

Dameoshi [駄目押し]

Game 41: May 19, 2007 Braves 3 L: Anthony Lerew (0-2) 25-17, 3 game losing streak9-2-3 series record Red Sox 13 W: Daisuke Matsuzaka (6-2) 29-12, 3 game winning streak11-2-2 series record Highlights: Matsuzaka came close to notching his second complete game with a sturdy line of eight innings, nine hits, three earned runs, no walks, and six strikeouts. Mike Lowell launched his sixth career grand slam in the fifth with the score 3-0, adding more than enough dameoshi, or insurance runs. Dame (pronounced with two syllables: dah-may) originates from the game of go and refers to placing a piece that won’t add to a player’s points but does keep that player’s position safe. Lowell has been excelling with a 10-game hitting streak, but he has yet to execute the hidden ball trick in a Red Sox uniform. Of the Red Sox player t-shirts on the remainder rack at the Souvenir Store, Edgar Renteria’s 3 or 16 are the most distant and dusty reminders of the shortstops sought after to plug the infield hole. Renteria’s brief stint as a Red Sox player in 2005 marked one of his worst years both hitting and fielding. Yesterday Renteria made his first...


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