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Atlanta Braves news and links: The long, painful road trip is over

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The Braves are finally back in Atlanta, and they definitely need some home cooking after their most recent road trip was just one long comedy of errors.

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BRAVES NEWS

Cubs rough up Wisler as Braves complete winless road trip

Well, the good news is that the Braves are finally coming home and don't have to play another road game until September 3rd (or, if you're a cynic, this weekend at Turner Field against the Yankees). The bad news is that the Braves are returning home without picking up a single win on their most recent road trip, as the Cubs completed a four-game sweep of our Braves with a 9-3 victory on Sunday. Matt Wisler continued to struggle, and this time he didn't even make it out of the second inning before exiting the game, and by then, it was 7-0 Cubs. The Braves did manage to put up three runs on Sunday, but once again, it was much-too-little, much-too-late for Atlanta.

Olivera ready to get rolling for the Braves

The highly-anticipated Major League debut of Hector Olivera could be happening very soon, as there are rumors that Olivera could be called up to the big league team either today or sometime this week. Either way, it could be happening very soon, and Olivera is chomping at the bit to get started for the Braves.

Markakis has bittersweet feelings towards individual and team performance

Nick Markakis has done well to return from a neck ailment that caused him to have surgery in the offseason. He's had a decent first season as a Brave (hitting .296/.365/.374 with 106 wRC+ and a fWAR of 1.1), and Markakis himself is pretty happy with his individual performance. Naturally, he's a bit concerned about the team's struggles, but he figures that things should get better in the future.

"Personally, yes," said Markakis, who was batting .298 with a .368 OBP before Saturday. "Team-wise, we’d like to be better. I’m just trying to go up there, have good at-bats, try to be aggressive, and when they make a mistake over the plate, try not to miss it. That’s the name of the game, especially at this level. You may only get one pitch (to hit) all game, and you’ve got to make the most of it."

He has only two homers and a .376 slugging percentage for a modest .744 OPS – better than the last of his nine seasons with Baltimore, but 45 points below his career OPS. The Braves and Markakis are confident, however, that he’ll increase the slugging percentage and home runs after a normal offseason, since he didn’t get to lift weights or work out at all last winter until spring training began. He averaged 15.6 homers with Baltimore and had at least 10 every season.

Pierzynski will stay in baseball after retirement, one way or another

Another guy who's been having a good season in the midst of the team's struggles is A.J. Pierzynski. The journeyman catcher is continuing to produce at a solid level this year (he's actually 10th in all of baseball in fWAR among catchers. Seriously!), but it's clear that he's reaching the end of his playing career. That's not to say that he'll be done with baseball once he retires, as he figures that he'll either be a coach/manager or a TV analyst once he hangs up the catcher's gear for good. If his role as a mentor on the Braves is any indication, he'll probably be a good fit for either role.

But Pierzynski isn't thinking about retiring yet. He's on his fourth team since the Sox forced him to leave as a free agent after 2012, and he still enjoys his job. Though general manager John Hart signed him to be a backup and mentor to young catcher Christian Bethancourt, Pierzynski wound up getting the bulk of the playing time and Bethancourt is back in the minors.

"They had an idea of what was going to happen, but kind of a monkey wrench got thrown in there," he said. "But it has been really fun. I've enjoyed it a lot, even with a lot of young guys here, trying to teach them. They listen and they learn. It's pretty cool."

The rise of the '91 Braves is a thing of the past

The 1991 Atlanta Braves are arguably more beloved in the city and among the Braves fanbase as a whole than the 1995 team that actually won the Commissioner's Trophy. That's mostly because of the fact that the '91 squad seemingly came out of nowhere and shot up from the cellar to the penthouse in just one season. With that being said, had the internet been around back then, the prospects that helped that team reach the top would've received plenty of ballyhoo, and the success of that particular team may have been less of a surprise. Still a pleasant surprise, but nothing like the shock and phenomenon it was in 1991.

Check out the minor league recap and our piece on potential September callups

MLB NEWS

Astros pick up fourth walk-off win in eight games

How 'bout them Astros?! They just keep on finding ways to win in walk-off fashion, and this time the walk-off hero for Houston was Jason Castro. The Astros catcher put a dinger into the Crawford Boxes, and the AL West leaders won yet another game in dramatic fashion. They're now four games on top of the West, and when they keep on winning games like this, it really seems like we're dealing with a team of destiny here -- as far as the division is concerned.

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Miguel Cabrera is having a sneakily amazing season

Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera is having another great season for the Tigers. While this might seem ho-hum (this is a perennial MVP candidate that we're talking about, here), ol' Miggy is actually on track to have a historically good season at the plate. Check these numbers out from Bless You Boys:

At some point, opposing pitchers are going to make the decision to give Cabrera nothing to hit. The question is, will the added bonus of walking more than he already is offset the BABIP regression he'll likely see? A 200 wRC+ is the signal of a historic offensive season, as evidenced by this list of hitters who have broken 200 since 1970.

  • Barry Bonds: 4 times
  • Jeff Bagwell: 1994
  • Frank Thomas: 1994
  • Mark McGwire: 1998
As it stands, Cabrera has a very real shot at breaking into this group (as does Bryce Harper, who has a 197 wRC+ over in the National League). That would make the 2015 season yet another crown jewel in a Hall of Fame-worthy career for the greatest hitter of his era.