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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:35 am    Post subject: one but the key is weve got to keep the right guys on the fi Reply with quote

ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has been waiting for his offence to wake up. Its too soon to declare that Atlantas bats have returned to respectability, but at least the Braves are taking the necessary steps. Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton homered to help Mike Minor win his second consecutive start, and Atlanta beat the Milwaukee Brewers 9-3 Monday night. "We started swinging the bats really, really well," Gonzalez said. "Not only the home runs, but there were some two-out singles, there were some base on balls, there was a lot of baserunning. It was nice to see." Pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit also went deep for Atlanta in a matchup of first-place teams. The Braves, who had lost 12 of 18, never trailed in winning their second straight game. Atlanta began the night with the fewest runs in the majors. But the Braves banged out a season-high 15 hits and improved to 18-5 when hitting a home run. Minor (2-2) gave up two runs and five hits with five strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander, lifted with a 4-2 lead, appreciated the run support. "Were still in first place, and everybodys talking about how bad we were playing," Minor said. "It was good to have that cushion when we won a lot of games, but we have too good of players to be worried about it." Ryan Braun and Khris Davis homered for the Brewers, who have lost three straight. Braun also threw out a runner at the plate from right field. Wily Peralta (4-3) allowed nine hits, a season-high four walks and three runs -- two earned -- with five strikeouts in five innings. The right-hander began the night 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts this month, but he couldnt overcome poor command of his pitches. "Thats the first time, but thats going to happen during the season," Peralta said. "You try to do your best and keep the team in the ballgame." Freeman led off the third with his ninth homer to make it 3-0. Davis lost his glove over the left-field fence on Freemans opposite-field shot. A fan picked up the glove off a ledge between the fence and the seats and tossed it back to Davis after Freeman rounded the bases. The Braves broke open a one-run game in the eighth, scoring five times off reliever Wei-Chung Wang to make it 9-3. Doumit hit a solo shot, Uptons 11th homer was a two-run drive, and Atlanta got RBI singles from Andrelton Simmons and Ramiro Pena. After Wang needed 40 pitches to get two outs, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke brought in first baseman Lyle Overbay off the bench to pitch. The 37-year-old Overbay pitched for the first time in his 14-year major league career, retiring Doumit on a popup. Doumit, who was teammates with Overbay in Pittsburgh, got a good laugh out of the at-bat. "That kids got nasty stuff," Doumit said with a smile. "Hes got a bright future ahead of him. Im going to keep my eye on him." Zach Duke, who relieved Peralta to begin the sixth, gave up a leadoff single to Minor and a single to Jason Heyward before Upton reached safely when catcher Martin Maldonado was called for interference. Rob Wooten relieved with one out and gave up Evan Gattis sacrifice fly that made it 4-2. David Hale relieved Minor with a runner at second base and ended the threat when Carlos Gomez grounded out. Brauns seventh homer, an opposite-field shot to right off David Carpenter, cut the margin to 4-3 in the eighth. Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the first when Heyward led off with a single, stole second and scored on Maldonados passed ball and throwing error to third. The Braves went ahead 2-0 in the second on Penas RBI single. Davis fifth homer, a two-run shot in the fifth, cut it to 3-2. NOTES: The Braves have won 10 of their last 12 against Milwaukee at Turner Field. ... Gomez went 1 for 3 in his first game since last Tuesday. He served a three-game suspension last week for his role in a bench-clearing dustup April 20 at Pittsburgh and missed two weekend games at the Chicago Cubs with back stiffness and a stomach virus. ... Heyward, who began the game hitting .186 in his last 43 at-bats, went 3 for 4 with two stolen bases. ... Brauns outfield assist ended the Atlanta fourth as Heyward, trying to score from second on Freemans single to right, was tagged out at the plate. James Hanna Jersey . Still, its a start. Josh Baileys goal with 1:40 left capped a furious third-period rally, and the Islanders edged the Penguins 4-3 on Friday night. Troy Aikman Jersey . And on Sunday against the Houston Astros they were pleased to see his work finally pay off with his first win since May 24. PETERSBURG, Fla. Anthony Brown Jersey . It was a day that saw England slump off a World Cup field once again battered and bruised. This time there was no red card to wonder about, no goalkeeping error or individual mistake. They were thoroughly beaten by something they have nothing of genuine world class ability. Ryan Switzer Jersey . City has reached new heights under manager Manuel Pellegrini as they transition from big spending/immediate impact to perennial contender. Yaya Toures seeming discontent Tuesday may complicate that, as does the little issue of Financial Fair Play.DUNEDIN, Florida Blue Jays manager John Gibbons knows theres a lot at stake this season. Coming off a disastrous 2013 year, relative to expectations perhaps the most disappointing in franchise history, the club could be dealing with significant upheaval if theres continued, sustained underperformance. Gibbons sat down with before Thursdays Grapefruit League game against Houston to talk about his team, in which he espouses confidence. To listen to the interview, click here. John, as we sit here, two weeks from tonight you guys will be flying to Montreal for the final two exhibition games of the spring. GIBBONS: Cant wait. Old stomping grounds for you, right? An ex-Met, did you have some fun in Montreal in your day? GIBBONS: Yeah, you know I wasnt up with the Mets long but I made a few road trips to Montreal. I loved it. I really did. Its a neat city. Its a little different than what were used to or what Im used to but we always had a good time there. Good people. I enjoyed hopping on that subway, riding it to the stadium there so I have some good memories of that place. Parlez-vous Francais? GIBBONS: Poquito. Oh thats not French, okay. You learn a lot of Spanish around here. Ill put it that way. Yeah, theres no question about that in your clubhouse. So were three, three and a half weeks in since all the regulars got here. The tone of camp, at least from my point of view, John, is different from last years and there were a lot of mitigating factors with the WBC and whatnot last season. How do you feel camp has gone so far and where do you see your team at today? GIBBONS: I agree with you. I think theres a lot more focus and thats not just coming from the coaching end of it. I think the players are a lot more focused. Last year there was a lot of distraction. A lot of new faces were brought in and the high expectations, much more media coverage so the players were getting dragged in a lot of different directions. We had some celebrities on here. We brought in Dickey coming off a Cy Young. Of course Reyes and those guys coming in and everybody was tugging at all different angles so there were some distractions that way. Good distractions but nevertheless distractions and then of course some guys went off to the WBC and things like that. Its been a much nicer, simpler camp, a lot more low key and weve been able to get some great work in. As you head into the regular season I think there are some questions about certain positions around the club. The starting rotation, especially the back end, has been a hot topic of conversation. More broadly speaking, the American League East, I think we both agree is always strong but has gotten better. Do you feel you have the quality of starting pitching that matches the quantity of the depth that youll have at Buffalo and in the lower minor leagues. GIBBONS: I think we do. Not a whole lot of change this year other than Navarro. You know, Alex was working all winter trying to bring in a pitcher or two, difference makers. We werent able to do that. It wasnt for a lack of effort. The money, the years, all sorts of things, their desire to go other places hampered that a little bit. There were a couple of trade opportunities but they wanted everybody and their brother top prospects in the minor leagues. After the trades with Florida and the Mets we gave up a lot of our top prospects so, I mean, theres no way you can deplete your whole minor league system to get guys who maybe arent difference makers. We sat tight there. The main reason behind that is we like what we have here. Theres much more depth, like you just alluded to, that we didnt have last year. If somebody falters or if theres an injury weve got some guys, some fallback plans that we think are pretty good that should make a huge difference. As of right now were still looking for that fifth starter. Weve got some guys that are pitching very good. Theres been some good competition down here. Right now, were probably only looking at one spot. J.A. Happ, now, hes been a little bit banged up with his back so at this point, on this day, hes a little bit of a question mark. Hopefully hes going to throw in the next couple of days in a minor league game. If hes fine that should solve some problems there. You know, theres some guys in here that we think are going to have some good big league careers. Now its just are they going to get that opportunity? They may get it as we break camp as we start the season this year. It may come a month in. It may come in two months. Who knows? Weve got some players here who we think are capable of winning in the American League East. Theres some great competitors and well see where it all ends up. Do you anticipate Drew Hutchison breaking camp with the team? GIBBONS: Well, Im not going to say hes on the team right now but Ill tell you what, hes pitched as well, if not better, than anybody in camp and another thing he has going for him, you know hes really bounced back from that injury, but hes pitched in Toronto before and was pitching very well before he had the injury. Hes got a little experience under his belt. Hes definitely been a standout. Hes always been thought of highly in the organization. Its just basically a matter of time when hes ready again and it sure seems like, you look at it now, he should be ready to go. Do you believe in the phrase, "Its early?" Especially after last year maybe you dont but getting out of the gate strong, John, aside from having more wins than losses, just setting the right tone I think would be important for you guys this year.dddddddddddd GIBBONS: It was early three weeks ago. Its not so early anymore, a couple of weeks left. Yeah, no question, a quick, fast start is very important to this ballclub. Easier said than done, of course, you know we play some pretty good teams early. I think what it would do is give us confidence and it may quell some of the naysayers out there because until we go out and prove something on the field that were better than we were last year and we actually do have the team that we think can win here, thats always going to be hanging over our heads. These guys, theyve been working hard, theyre very focused and now the key is to come out of the gates with everything clicking. Weve got to get good pitching. Hopefully those bats are going at the right time at the beginning of the season and something thats a constant, one thing you can always control, is the way you play defense and I think that will be much, much better this year. I wanted to touch on that with you because when we think of winning, youve got to score more runs than you allow and we typically always think of offense, just hit the ball out of the park or piece together runs. We dont always think of run prevention. Well cross our fingers for you guys that you have pretty good health here, and you have so far through camp and that that will carry through. But with Lawrie at third, Reyes and short and it looks like Ryan Goins at second base, as long as theyre all out there on the field at the same time, weve seen some pretty sweet double plays and some pretty nice plays made here, John. Youre going to be able to prevent more runs than you did, especially in the first half of last year. GIBBONS: We think so and we have to. You left out Melky Cabrera, who wasnt moving well at all last year and so that created a big hole out there in leftfield. With the guys you just mentioned, we think we have one of the better defenses in baseball, in our minds. As much as our starting pitching struggled last year, we didnt bail them out, we didnt help them out one bit, especially early in the season. A lot of those games, a play thats made here or there, might have got us out of an inning, a big inning and kept us in the game and we may have come back and won some of those. You look at it, you can go through any sport, if you dont play defense youre not going to win. Boston was a good defensive team last year and they won the World Series. Football, another sport I know well, the Seahawks last year, great defense, the best defense in the NFL. Theres no secret there. We think we have a good one but the key is weve got to keep the right guys on the field the majority of the season. The Red Sox, maybe they didnt have the best team on paper in the majors last year but they won the World Series and there was that grind it out aspect. When youve walked around the clubhouse, talked to your players or youve had them in here one on one, do you sense that there is an unquestioned willingness to grind it out this year? Kind of a win at all costs mentality? GIBBONS: Yes, I do. Weve got a lot of proud veterans out in that room. Some guys whove had some great careers, some guys on the upswing that are going to end up having real good major league careers but everybody was a little embarrassed, the way things went last year. One thing Ill say about this group last year, through all the different changes, all the guys coming and going, there never was a lack of effort. Thats rare when some seasons go south but our guys showed up to play everyday and I tip my hat to them and thats admirable and thats the way it should be but thats not always the way it ends up. They all know they have something to prove, that were a better team than the way we played last year and I sense that. They talk about that. To get to this level as an athlete, to get to the top at anything, youve got to have some pride. We have a lot of that in that room and I think, I dont want to say necessarily that were going to surprise some people because we think we have a good team on the field, we think we had a good team on the field last year it just didnt pan out, but if we play up to our capabilities we think weve got a chance to win this thing. Its an everyday game so youre always at the field and youre always thinking about, okay, what do I have to do to win today? But when you get away from the ballpark, do you think give any thought to your future and the fact that if it doesnt go well again this year, John, fairly or unfairly, itll be a hard sell to the fan base to continue with you as manager and the coaching staff? There could be changes here if it doesnt work out. GIBBONS: Oh yeah. Thats to be expected in the professional sports world. I can guarantee you one thing, I wont be here forever. Thats a fact. When that day comes, sooner or later, who knows? I dont give that much thought because I approach my job everyday to do the best job I can. I have a great responsibility to the organization whos given me an opportunity here and theres a lot that goes into that. Thats the reality of baseball. I have some fans out there but I also have a lot of detractors. When the dark clouds show up you start hearing more of those voices. If you get caught up in that kind of stuff itll paralyze you, you cant do your job so I take it all in stride everyday because I know I can do this job, I know I can run a baseball team, Ive got zero doubt in my mind about that. Things dont always work out but I think this year it will. We appreciate the time, John, and all the best this season. GIBBONS: Thank you, Scott. 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