Found July 20, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
A3
After making things interesting in the eighth inning, the Braves held on to beat the White Sox 5-4 in Comerica Park Friday night. Here are three observations from the game: 1. Brian McCann is setting himself up to make some serious money this offseason White Sox pitcher John Danks kept making mistake after mistake against McCann in the sixth inning, leaving off-speed pitches up in the zone, but kept narrowly escaping as the Braves catcher fouled them off. However, on the final pitch in an 11-pitch at-bat, the seven-time All-Star made Danks pay. When the misplaced changeup landed in the right field seats, McCann's 2013 home run total bumped up to 13 in 210 plate appearances -- not Evan Gattis power efficiency, but certainly respectable for a guy coming off his least productive (and injury-restrictive) season to date. To date, the 29-year-old is hitting .290.371.546, good enough for the highest WAR (2.2 entering Friday's game) on the roster. "On a guy like Danks, you have to let the ball travel. If you go out and get the ball, you're going to roll over like I did my first two at-bats," McCann said. "So that AB, I tried to tell myself let the ball get deep. I was covering away and he hung a changeup middle-in and I was able to put a good swing on it. He didn't want to put it there." From a player's perspective, the resurgence -- or, perhaps, the return to full health -- could not have come at a better time. McCann's impending free agency has always been one of the biggest decisions the Atlanta franchise was going to face after this season; now, with his production back up to All-Star levels, it's unknown whether that decision is made more or less difficult. Here's the thing: At a 12 million rate this season, McCann is the third-highest paid player on the roster (and certainly the most productive of the top three so far). With his present numbers, he's going to fetch at least that much money per year this time around, but likely more. Perhaps the most convenient comparison for McCann would be the extension Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina signed in March 2012 heading into his age 29 season: a five-year, 75 million deal that looks like quite a bargain at the moment, as he's developed into one of the game's most valuable catcher. There's no reason to believe that if McCann keeps at his current pace, he couldn't sign a four- or five-year deal worth 15 million per or higher, especially for an American League team looking to solidify its DH spot. Would the Braves bite at that rate? Could they get a hometown discount? With potential extensions coming up for many of the team's younger standouts, it's unclear how much financial wiggle room the organization has to work with here. Fifteen million is a hefty price tag, particularly with younger catchers waiting in the wings and no DH spot to fill. Either way, it's great for McCann -- and Braves, at least for this season. If McCann can continue to team up with Freddie Freeman to provide the much-needed stability through the middle of the lineup, the consistency that, at times, disappeared during the first half could help Atlanta cruise to the division title. "We're playing good baseball this whole season. We're getting consistent pitching and I think we're gonna swing the bats a lot better in the second half," McCann said. 2. After closing the first half strong, Tim Hudson could be poised for yet another strong July and August In his final five starts heading into the All-Star break, the 38-year-old veteran pitched very, very well: 32 23 innings pitched, 3.03 ERA, four quality starts. The Braves went 4-1 in those starts -- Hudson (sorta) improved his personal record from 4-6 to 6-7 -- as Hudson lowered his ERA from 4.41 to 4.02. At the break, he was the second-most valuable pitcher on the team in terms of WAR (1.4) behind only Mike Minor. He continued the trend Friday night against an old enigma, pitching 7 13 innings to reach .500 for the first time since June 6. Though he allowed 10 base runners (eight hits, two walks), his ground ball-inducing ways led to two double plays and he was able to limit the damage to four earned runs. That may not sound like a dominant performance -- and it's not -- but he held the White Sox scoreless in six innings, only running into trouble in the eighth before Luis Avilan entered the game. "I saw him commanding all of his pitches, really. A couple of the base hits that he gave up early were ground ball base hits," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "When he's doing that, you feel like at least the sinker is working." It was Hudson's first win against the White Sox since 2002 when he was a member of the Oakland Athletics. His 5.15 ERA versus the AL's Chicago franchise is his fifth-worst rate against any opponent. In the months of July and August, Hudson is now 78-23. He's en route toward more of the same. 3. Could Chris Johnson actually win the batting title? If that seems like a strange question to ask of a career .287 hitter, then perhaps you need to take a gander at the NL batting race. Johnson falls just shy of the qualifying amount of plate appearances (according to FanGraphs entering Friday), thanks to an early-season platoon situation with the since-departed Juan Francisco, but assuming he'll be the Braves' everyday third baseman from here on out he could very well make a run at the title. Lowering the qualifying mark to 200 plate appearances, Johnson ranked fifth in NL batting, trailing only Molina, Allen Craig, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer in the first half. His .330 average was just 11 points off the pace, too. Well, take another look. After his 3-for-4 night against the White Sox, Johnson's average is back up to .336 -- and no, it is not lost on me that batting average does not carry nearly as much weight as we like to assume, but as long as we are handing out MVP awards for merely reaching the Triple Crown, it's worth mentioning that a relatively unknown commodity could claim a league's top mark -- which, after Friday's games, matches Tulowitzki for the third-best mark. "He gives you good at-bats," Gonzalez said of Johnson's surprise production. "He gives you really, really good at-bats. This last one with a runner on-base in the ninth was a big one." It was Johnson's eighth game this season with three hits or more.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Could Braves Terdoslavich Be Trade Bait?

Following Jordan Schafer’s placement on the disalbled list, the Atlanta Braves’ rookie power-hitter, Joey Terdoslavich, was granted his freedom from the confines of AAA on July 4th.    With injuries shortening the depth of the 25-man roster, the Braves found themselves in dire need of a utility man off the bench.  Experience at both corner infield and outfield spots made the...

Beachy Strong In Latest Rehab Start

Atlanta Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy was solid Friday night in his rehab start for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves against the Indianapolis Indians. Beachy gave up one run on five hits in five innings.  He struck out three and displayed excellent control, walking only one.  The big right-hander threw 70 pitches, 46 of them were strikes. In Beachy’s last rehab start on July 14 for...

Chopcast: Playoff run begins as Braves return from break

ATLANTA -- All three of the Braves All-Stars -- Craig Kimbrel, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman -- have rejoined the team in Chicago to kick off the second half of the season, one in which the organization is poised to make its second-consecutive playoff appearance for the first time since the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Despite a first half defined, at times, by injuries and inconsistencies...

McCann’s 3-run homer keys Braves’ 6-4 win over White Sox

When a badly damaged shoulder hindered Brian McCann for most of a career-worst season in 2012, some folks suggested the veteran catcher’s best days were behind him, that he might not be a truly elite hitter again. Nobody is saying that now. McCann hit a tie-breaking, three-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning Friday, lifting the Braves to a 6-4 win against the Chicago...

Braves starter Maholm leaves with sprained wrist

Atlanta Braves starter Paul Maholm has been forced out in the fourth inning of his start against the Chicago White Sox because of sprained left wrist. Maholm's final pitch on Saturday was a foul ball hit by Alejandro De Aza down the left field line. After the pitch, Maholm asked for another baseball, but was awkwardly holding his pitching hand. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez...

Braves’ Justin Upton returns; Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward close

The Atlanta Braves got outfielder Justin Upton back in their lineup last night after he missed a few games due to a calf injury. While they were still without fellow regulars such as Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, the pair has progressed to the point where manager Fredi Gonzalez believes they’re all close to rejoining the team, according to Brian Hedger of MLB.com....

Braves' Paul Maholm leaves game with sprained wrist

Atlanta Braves left-handed pitched Paul Maholm left the mound in the 4th inning of Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox with a sprained left wrist. As reported by Brian Hedger of MLB.com, "Maholm, who'd been given a 4-0 lead, allowed seven earned runs on seven hits and two walks before calling for Braves athletic trainer Jeff Porter following two...

Freddie Freeman could rejoin Braves Friday

Just after being selected into the All-Star Game by fans, first baseman Freddie Freeman suffered a thumb injury that would ultimately keep him out of the contest. While he wasn't able to represent the National League earlier this week, he is hoping to rejoin the Atlanta Braves over the weekend. David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Freeman has...

Welcome Home — Here Come The Braves

Welcome home to the Cell and here come the Atlanta Braves Hope everyone had a good All-Star Break. Congratulations to Chris Sale on getting the win in the All Star game. Rumor has it that Jake Peavy has returned and will be the starter for the game on Saturday. John Danks is on the mound for the game today. That rumor about has been confirmed, with a press release from the...

Atlanta Braves: First Half Recap

Lost somewhere between 2 A.M. study sessions in my cramped dorm room and the hustle and bustle of my return home, I seem to have lost a grip on my duties here at Outside the Redzone. Alas, I am back, and will do my best to continue as such. To get back into the groove, [...]

Freeman Escapes Injury After Collision

Atlanta Braves first Freddie Freeman missed the All-Star game due to a jammed thumb and didn’t start Friday night to give the injury more time to heal.  But with the Braves up 5-4, he went into the game to replace Joey Terdoslavich as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. So the last thing Freeman probably needed was a collision at first base, right? Not only did Freeman...

McCann Smashes Braves Past White Sox

The Atlanta Braves started the 2nd half of the season with a win on Friday night.  It was a Brian McCann home run that paved the way for a 6-4 Braves win over the Chicago White Sox. Andrelton Simmons was the 1st Atlanta Brave to homer in the 2nd half of the 2013 season.  His 2-run shot in the 3rd inning put the Braves up 2-0. The Braves lead would not last long however.  The White...

Ay, Dios Mio! The Legend Of El Oso Blanco Hits The Screen!!!

((HT: Aaron Chewning his own self)) Aaron Chewning is at it again... This time, he tells the story of Atlanta Brave Evan Gattis... Strap in and enjoy... See...??? Told you...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.