Monday, August 2, 2010

The Series Cynic: Braves limp home following painful road trip

Posted By on Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 12:17 PM


After Atlanta's worst nine-game stretch (3-6) since late April—when they lost nine consecutive games—there isn't too much for Braves fans to get excited about (making my job harder).

But here goes nothing.

Thanks to an extra-inning victory on Friday night and a Brad Lidge blown save on Saturday, Atlanta avoided a 2-7 road trip and what would be a microscopic division lead of just 0.5 games.

Despite that faint glimpse of good fortune, Braves All-Star second baseman Martin Prado might be headed to the disabled list following an ill-advised head first slide into home plate—fracturing a knuckle in his right pinky.

Additional bodily damage suffered by Braves players include: shortstop Alex Gonzalez' battle with gastritis—an inflammation of the lining of the stomach—and pitchers Kris Medlen and Jair Jurrjens' adventures in the batter's box which ended with both being plunked by opposing pitcher's fastballs.

Needless to say, it was a rather taxing road trip for Atlanta.

But as the old saying goes: there's no place like home—or in this case, Turner Field—where the Braves are 34-13.

Braves add two pieces

Just before Saturday afternoon's trade deadline, Atlanta finalized a five-player trade with the Kansas City Royals— acquiring a flame-throwing relief pitcher and a slightly larger version of Nate McLouth.

Georgia native and Milton High School grad, Kyle Farnsworth, 34, joins the Braves for the second time in his career and will bolster an already stellar bullpen with his upper-90s fastball and his love of super-stylish specs.

Listed at 6'1", centerfielder Rick Ankiel comes to Atlanta via Kansas City and, before that, St. Louis—where he began his professional career as a pitcher before completely forgetting how to throw a baseball—and although he's got the clear height advantage, Ankiel may not be a tremendous improvement over McLouth—last summer's big trade acquisition.

Ankiel, 31, hit 25 home runs in 2008 and patrols the outfield with limitless range and relative ease, but injuries and overall inconsistency have plagued the pitcher-turned-outfielder throughout his entire career.

Possessing more raw power than McLouth, Ankiel's career .249 batting average is a huge red flag—not to mention the fact that he missed nearly two months earlier this season with a quadriceps injury.

Ankiel is just a Band-Aid covering the gaping flesh wound that is the Braves' centerfield position—one that Bobby Cox and company have been trying to heal all season long.

Unfortunately, the addition of a middle-aged, one-year wonder such as Ankiel can't be considered a truly significant move except for the fact that his numbers are better than anyone else who has manned the CF spot in the Atlanta lineup this year.

Ankiel's Stats (92 AB):
.261, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB

All other Braves CF (556 AB):
.237, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 10 SB

Despite these numbers, Ankiel will likely be a platoon player that struggles to get on base consistently and produce runs. How's that for some good old-fashioned cynicism?

Want to ask newest Braves Rick Ankiel or Kyle Farnsworth a question? Well here's your chance. The Braves are back in town tonight to face the New York Mets and "The Cynic" will be in the clubhouse getting all of your questions answered. Just Tweet you comments/questions @SportsLoaf or Remember: only the most thought-provoking questions will be chosen so get creative, folks.

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