Needless to say, the weather is quite a bit shaky. Florida is sandwiched between a hurricane (Gustav) and a tropical storm (Hanna). But the game is still a go for this afternoon.
Mets: SS Jose Reyes, LF Nick Evans, 3B David Wright, CF Carlos Beltran, 1B Carlos Delgado, RF Fernando Tatis, 2B Damion Easley, C Robinson Cancel, P Pedro Martinez.
Marlins: SS Hanley Ramirez, LF Luis Gonzalez, 3B Jorge Cantu, 1B Mike Jacobs, 2B Dan Uggla, RF Jeremy Hermida, CF Cody Ross, C John Baker, P Scott Olsen.
No major changes to the lineup. With Kevin Gregg out of service for the indefinite future, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would pick and choose among the cast of relievers remaining to fill the closer's role, with Matt Lindstrom and Joe Nelson expected to see the bulk of the duty.
Mets: SS Jose Reyes, 2B Luis Castillo, 3B David Wright, 1B Carlos Delgado, CF Carlos Beltran, RF Ryan Church, LF Daniel Murphy, C Brian Schneider, P Mike Pelfrey.
Marlins: SS Hanley Ramirez, RF Jeremy Hermida, 3B Jorge Cantu, 1B Mike Jacobs, LF Josh Willingham, 2B Dan Uggla, CF Cody Ross, C John Baker, P Ricky Nolasco.
Struggling Marlins closer Kevin Gregg said he'll be sidelined indefinitely with left knee inflammatoin, which he blames for part of his recent problems. Gregg gave up a grand slam home run to Carlos Beltran in the ninth on Friday, giving him four losses in his past seven outings.
No announcement has been made about which reliever would assume the closer's role in Gregg's absence, though Matt Lindstrom would loom as a likely candidate.
Gregg, who leads the majors with nine blown saves, said the knee has bothered him for several weeks.
"Unfortunately, I think I made a bad decision of trying to play through some inflamation in my knee," Gregg told reporters after the clubhouse opened this afternoon. "We've got to back off it a little bit. It has been barking at me a little bit."
Gregg said he didn't know how much time he would have to miss. But, with rosters expanding on Monday, the Marlins have no need to place him on the disabled list.
Following his latest meltdown on Friday, Gregg said he was "killing" the team with his failure to close out wins.
Lindstrom said he has not been told anything about changing roles.
"If they want to use me in that role, I welcome it," Lindstrom said. "If that's what they decide to do, I'll be ready to go."
The Phillies/Cubs game was on every television in the Marlins and Mets clubhouses, and it is interesting to note that tonight's opponents at Dolphin Stadium were pulling for the same outcome -- a Cubs victory. Welcome to the pennant race.
Mets: SS Jose Reyes, 2B Luis Castillo, 3B David Wright, 1B Carlos Delgado, CF Carlos Beltran, RF Ryan Church, LF Daniel Murphy, C Brian Schneider, P Oliver Perez.
Marlins: SS Hanley Ramirez, C Paul Lo Duca, 1B Jorge Cantu, 3B Wes Helms, LF Josh Willingham, CF Cody Ross, 2B Dan Uggla, RF Jeremy Hermida, P Chris Volstad.
Big news tonight out of Zebulon, N.C.
No, the local Hardee's didn't close. Carolina Mudcats first baseman Gaby Sanchez, a former University of Miami star, was named Southern League MVP. Sanchez, a fourth-round pick for the Marlins in 2005, was total smoke at the plate this season, hitting .320 with a whopping 41 doubles and 88 RBI. Sanchez leads the Southern League in on-base percentage, ranks third in hits, and is second in extra-base hits.
Look for Sanchez to figure prominently in the Marlins' plans next spring, and don't be surprised if they call him up in September after the Mudcats wrap up their playoff campaign.
Here’s the moment of the day:: The Braves were taking BP Thursday afternoon and Fredi Gonzalez was meeting with the media in the dugout when Chipper Jones walked over to the Marlins dugout and shouted to Fredi: “What’s the odds on us trading for Josh Johnson? We’ll take Volstad, too.’’
Fredi just laughed, but everyone knows how good the Marlins young starters are. Johnson pitched a four-hit complete game against Chipper and the Braves Wednesday and Chris Volstad has one of the best young arms in the game.
It’s Florida’s final game in Atlanta, and the Marlins can pick up ½ a game on the Mets, who are idle, before meeting the Amazin’s Friday in the House that Joe Robbie Built. They also have a chance to gain ground on the Phillies, who face Ryan Dempster and the Cubs tonight in Chicago
Jeremy Hermida is back in the lineup after missing four starts in a row, but Luis Gonzalez is also starting. Gonzo is hitting second and playing left field.
Dan Uggla, who was dropped to seventh in the lineup on Wednesday, is still hitting seventh after a big night in which he doubled and homered.
CHIPPER JONES 3B
BRANDON JONES LF
How bad has the Marlins’ bullpen been on this road trip?
Relief pitchers are responsible for three of the four losses, and the pen has given up 12 runs in 16 innings (6.75 ERA). The pen has been hit hard (21 hits) and has been wild: 10 walks and a wild pitch that cost the Marlins a game in San Francisco.
The 10 walks include two bases loaded walks in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s meltdown against the Braves, one each by Arthur Rhodes and Joe Nelson.
And to think, the road trip started with Ricky Nolasco pitching a complete game.
The bullpen was already falling apart before the trip began. The pen had allowed 14 runs in the previous five games before the Marlins left South Florida. That’s 14 runs on 21 hits and 10 walks over 14 2/3 innings (8.63 ERA)
Entering Wednesday’s game against the Braves, the Marlins had gone 5-7 over their previous 12 games , and the pen was responsible for six of the seven losses. Kevin Gregg lost three games, Renyel Pinto lost two and Matt Lindstrom lost one. The bullpen’s ERA over that stretch was 7.64. The pen was hammered for 26 runs on 42 hits and 20 walks .over 30 2/3 innings.
It’s ironic that when the team broke camp last spring the two strongest parts of this Marlins’ club was its ability to score runs and its bullpen. Those are the two biggest reasons the team has been on a free-fall.
Call this the Mike Hampton lineup. That’s what Fredi Gonzalez called it. He changed some things to get Luis Gonzalez, a career .359 hitter against Hampton, and Paul Lo Duca, a. career .370 hitter against Hampton, in the lineup. Lo Duca, the Marlins’ only, prototypical No. 2 hitter, was put in the No. 2 spot, and Gonzo moved into the No. 3 spot. Jorge Cantu, who usually hits third, batted cleanup, and Dan Uggla was dropped from the fifth spot to the seventh spot. Cody Ross, who hit a home run and double to drive in three runs Tuesday, moved up to No. 6. Wes Helms played third and Cantu moved to first base as lefty Mike Jacobs took the night off against Hampton.
LO DUCA C
CHIPPER JONES 3B
BRANDON JONES LF
Atlanta has never felt like this. It’s almost surreal to come into this ballpark and this city and face this Braves team. Well, more like the team formally known as the Braves.
No Smoltz. No Glavine. Maddux has been gone for a while.
Chipper is still here, but he is the only scary bat in a lineup dotted with names that neither strikes fear nor familiarity. The Marlins have never had a three-game sweep in Atlanta. Not even the ’97 World Series champs, who marched through here on their way to the Series when the games were still being played at old Fulton County Stadium.
The 2003 Marlins were 4-6 here before winning it all, and before Tuesday, the Marlins were only 42-80 in Atlanta, including 2-4 this season. Only one Marlins team has ever had a winning record here, the ’97 team went 4-2 in Atlanta and beat the Braves 8 out of 12 that summer.
But if the Marlins ever needed a sweep it is now against the most vulnerable Braves team they have faced since Florida started playing in the big leagues in 1993.
The Braves don’t even win at home any more.
They started the season winning 27 of their first 40 at the House that Ted Built, but they entered Tuesday’s game only 7-18 in their last 25 home games.
And this crowd. It was anything but crowded. It’s a rainy Tuesday, so there wasn’t much of a walk-up, and the Braves began the day 15 ½ games out of first. There were a few thousand in attendance, the smallest crowd I’ve ever seen in Atlanta. The announced paid attendance was 17,539 – the second smallest of the season. But there weren’t close to 17 grand at the ballpark.
But these are the lean days; the days no one ever thought would come for the best franchise in baseball. How else to you describe 14 titles in a row?
John Smoltz said years ago that no one would realize what those Braves teams had done until they stop doing it.
“I don’t think people will appreciate just we have accomplished until it’s over,’’ Smoltz said
They can embrace it now.
Well, look out at those thousands of empty seats and at a lineup that ‘s pretty beatable and a Cy Youngless staff and a team that’s fighting for headlines (and losing) with the Georgia Bulldogs.
No, this doesn’t feel like Atlanta at all.
What’s it mean for the Marlins to have Renyel Pinto on the disabled list?
It’s going to give Pinto a chance to work out his problems with the Hammerheads in Single A Jupiter. Pinto went on the DL Tuesday with a strained hamstring, but he is set to pitch Wednesday. And since he is pitching immediately this appears more like a demotion than an injury.
You can’t blame the Marlins for sending Pinto down – if for no other reason than to make room for Doug Waechter, who came off the DL Tuesday and took Pinto’s spot on the roster.
Pinto has been abysmal of late.
He had a 2.96 ERA before the All-Star break, but a 10.95 ERA since, and he has hurt the Marlins’ bullpen all month. Pinto has an ERA of 25.07 in August (13 runs on 10 hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings in seven appearances), and he gave up 10 earned runs in his last four games, spanning just three innings (30.00 ERA).
He lost the last two games he appeared in with the game on the line, and has been free-falling for more than a month. Waechter (3-2, 3.51 ERA), who was on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Will be in the “swing role “in the sixth and seventh innings.
Pinto was one of only two left-handed relievers, but Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wouldn’t change the role of lefty Arthur Rhodes, who has been used as a left-handed specialist. Gonzalez said he would probably stay with Matt Lindstrom and Joe Nelson in the setup role along with Rhodes in the late innings.
One option could be left-handed starter Andrew Miller.
Miller, out with tendonitis in his left knee, will pitch two innings Wednesday in Jupiter, and pitch one inning Saturday before joining the team Monday when rosters are expanded. Gonzalez isn’t sure what to do with Miller. He could spot start him in order to give rookie Chris Volstad a break down the stretch. Volstad has already pitched 141 innings this season, including 50 with the Marlins. Or he could use Miller in the bullpen.
“He can be a weapon any time with that 96-97 mph coming out of his hand,’’ Gonzalez said.
Miller should be here by Monday, and when Pinto does come back the Marlins can use him in a mop-up role for the rest of the season, because the team will be able to add pitchesr to the bullpen.