GREAT BRAVE SAVES

 Bobby Wick checks out okay

 
08/10/2007 6:22 PM ET - PHILADELPHIA -- With his mind at ease, Bob Wickman arrived at Citizens Bank Park early Friday evening and told Braves manager Bobby Cox that he's available to resume immediately his closing duties.

Because a canceled flight prevented him from making his scheduled visit to see doctors in Atlanta, Wickman visited a Philadelphia-area medical facility Friday afternoon and was relieved to find there isn't any structural damage in his right forearm. A CAT scan revealed that the discomfort he's felt over the past few weeks has been caused by some inflammation.

"It clears my mind," Wickman said. "I'm 38. You never know."

Despite battling the discomfort, Wickman has allowed just one run in the 9 1/3 innings he's pitched since the All-Star break. The only time he was unavailable during this span came on Thursday, when the Braves normally would have called upon him to help secure what became a nail-biting 7-6 win over the Mets.

For Friday's series opener against the Phillies, Cox said he'll definitely use Wickman if necessary. The veteran skipper will also be able to call upon Manny Acosta, who was recalled from Triple-A Richmond.

He won't, however, have Octavio Dotel, who landed on the 15-day DL with a a right shoulder strain.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After arm scare, Bobzilla proceeds directly to Save #19

After nearly a week off battling painful arm inflammation, it was back to business for Wick in an important division game against Philly. His unusual splits show a huge 7.78 ERA on the road compared to a 0.00 ERA at home. The odds were against him coming back against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.

Entering a 7-5 ninth inning in Philadelphia, Bob gave a up a leadoff double to Coste before inducing a fly-ball out from Helms. 

The dangerous Jimmy Rollins, being very capable of tying the game, grounded out sharply to short before Tadahito Iguchi bounced one to short to end the game.

Despite undeserved criticism from fans and multiple challenges to his role as the Braves closer, Bob Wickman just keeps coming back. The relentless veteran continues to prove he's the team's best bet as he anchors his bullpen for what is shaping up to be a wild ride to the NL  pennant. J. Ladd 8/11/07

Great Save #264

Bob and the Braves remain businesslike in the midst of the Barry Bonds Homerun Hoopla – Win first game 4-2

It seems quite ironic that Bonds would be 2 homers away from Hank Aaron’s record just as the Braves visit Frisco for a 4 game series. What Atlanta pitcher wants to have that stat on his resume?

Bobby Cox had the correct approach going in: “Win the game and the home run record be damned.” That’s the only way you can realistically approach such a situation. Still, you got to believe the Braves pitching staff will breathe a collective sigh of relief if the team flies out of the Bay Area having surrendered one homer or less to Bonds.

There was no such excitement in the opener on Monday night.

Brian McCann sparked the Braves offense with a three run double in the first, and the stingy John Smoltz held the Giants to just two runs while helping his own cause by bringing home the fourth run on a squeeze bunt in the 4th inning.

Bobby Wick, looking to be the rock-solid second half closer he becomes every year, easily closed this one out with an uneventful 1-2-3 ninth.

Luckily, the Wickster didn’t have to face Bonds on this night, so the onus of the long ball wasn’t on his mind. After Benjie Molina flied out to right on a 1-2 pitch, Fred Lewis struck out swinging on a Wickman slider that bounced in the dirt.

Old nemesis and good buddy Omar Vizquel strode to the plate next looking just to get on base. Although he’s had some past success against Bobzilla (5/16 – 3.13), tonight was not his night as he slapped a routine 1-2 grounder to 2nd base to end game one.

With one down and three to go, it’s so far so good for Bob and the Boys. With Baseball eager to end this Bonds home run debacle ASAP, the Braves hope to win the series, keep Barry in a homer drought and then get the hell out of Dodge on Thursday. J. Ladd 7/23/07

Great Saves 262 and 263

Bobby Wick shines on Independence Day – Back to back saves put the Wickster back on the winning track

For some reason, the month of June hasn’t been kind to Bob Wickman. 2007 has proven to be no different.

Bobby Cox seems to be a slow learner when it comes to using his closer. Pitching him 5 times in one week back at the end of April, twice in non-save situations, landed him on the DL for 15 days. Now again, on June 30, he brings Bob into a 6-2 game against Florida at the beginning of a tough 10 game road trip. And of course, history repeated itself as Bob struggled to close out the game. After giving 3 runs back to the Marlins, Tyler Yates had to relieve Bob to close out a game that he shouldn’t have been in. The next day’s game, naturally, was a 5-4 situation where Wick was needed. Miguel Olivo, who homered off of Bob the night before, zeroed in on the second pitch he threw and drove it out of the park to tie the game. The Braves went on to lose in extra innings.

So Bobby really needed to get his act together when the 5-2 save against the Dodgers came up in the ninth on July 4th. It was just what the doctor ordered-a save opportunity with a little wiggle room. The Big Guy used it, too. He gave up a hit and a walk before nailing down the final out.

You can always tell how good a save feels to Bobby by the tobbaky-flip after the last out. This one was an emphatic full right-handed swirl with a “yeah, dammit!” at the end. It was similar to the one in Cleveland after striking out Casey Blake to end that game with a one-run victory. That’s Bobzilla’s lovely parting gift. Nothing says, “Had a great time at your party” like flinging a slimy wad of tobacco snot on your opponent’s infield as you walk towards the victory line. Gotta be a great feeling-one that only a big-leaguer can fully enjoy.

Our hero was brimming with that old Wicky swagger the next day as he took the hill against those same Dodgers in an 8-6 contest for save #16. It was good to see Bob’s confidence on “full” as he threw a brilliant 4 pitches to nail this one down in record time. One called strike to Garciaparra, then a fly-out to right, a ground out to short and another fly ball out to right. The game was over before they could even get the last guy’s name (James Loney-Who?! whatever…) on the screen.

So as Wick’s roller coaster year continues, we have to be satisfied with his progress so far. With the early back injury and the missed time on the DL, things could be a lot worse for Bob and the Braves. They’re still right there in the division race at the All Star break, and Bob Wickman has a history of finishing strong coming down the stretch. J.L. 7-7-07

Great Save #259

Bobby Wick returns to the Jake

Wickster rebounds - Braves rally off of C.C. in the ninth for the win

CLEVELAND -- Coming off a demoralizing defeat and having just seen their most dominant reliever victimized by an eighth-inning homer, the Braves could have folded their tents. But as Braves manager Bobby Cox told his players at his regular pre-series meeting before Friday night's game at Jacobs Field, he never once got the sense that he was guiding a team that was willing to quit, despite all of the struggles that Atlanta has faced over the past month.

Less than 24 hours after watching Bob Wickman blow a two-run ninth-inning lead against the Twins, the Braves saw their closer return to his former park and finish off a potentially key 5-4 win over the Indians, who were foiled while giving C.C. Sabathia a chance to contribute a third straight nine-inning effort.

"Tonight, we made our comeback, and it was a great win against another great pitcher," said Cox, who saw his standout rookies, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunel Escobar, key a two-run ninth-inning comeback with doubles off Sabathia.

While snapping a three-game losing streak and winning for just the fourth time in their past 13 games, the Braves saw Buddy Carlyle's strong six-inning effort nearly foiled when Casey Blake began the bottom of the eighth with a homer off the usually stingy Rafael Soriano, who had allowed just one earned run in his past 21 appearances.

Soriano's hiccup brought back memories of Thursday night, when Wickman saw a 2-0 lead quickly turn into a 3-2 loss. But Saltalamacchia wasn't about to let the hangover of that loss prevent him from brightening his rising star. The 22-year-old top catching prospect, who was making his second career start at first base, began the ninth with a double off the left-field wall.

"Honestly, when I saw C.C. come back out, I had a feeling we were going to win," Saltalamacchia said. "In that situation, me personally, I think you've got to put your closer in and let him do the job."

Even after a Jhonny Peralta error and a Chris Woodward sacrifice bunt gave the Braves runners at second and third with just one out, Wedge stuck with Sabathia, whose night was truly ruined when Escobar delivered his game-winning two-run double to the left-center-field gap.

Entering the game, Sabathia hadn't allowed a run in his previous 18 innings. That scoreless streak was extended to 22 1/3 innings before Woodward snapped it with his fifth-inning RBI single. The Braves then began their game-tying two-run sixth with four straight singles against the big Indians starter, who was charged with five runs -- four earned -- and 12 hits in 8 1/3 innings.

"We've played great against two outstanding pitchers back-to-back," Cox said. "We had [Johan] Santana beat [Thursday] night and let it get away."

 Wickman, who was traded by the Indians to the Braves last July, shook off the effects of the bad luck he'd encountered in Minnesota on Thursday. With runners on first and second in the ninth, he ended things with a strikeout of Blake.

"It was fairly strange," said Blake, of facing his former teammate. I faced him in spring training and it was fun. This wasn't too much fun. "I should have known how he was going to pitch me. He won."

 

Great Save #257

Greatest Ballplayer Ever engineers a rain soaked masterpiece for save #10

Even Bobby couldn’t hide his glee over this one, and couldn't help but laugh all the way to the clubhouse. This is what it’s all about-being healthy and having fun. And winning.

After a 26 minute rain delay and an almost empty Turner field, in the first game of a double header with a 2 run lead, why not improvise a little?

As Bob enters the ninth with a 3-1 lead over the Marlins, Joe Borchard helps him out with a fly out to left on the first pitch.

After Alfredo Amezaga singles and takes second on indifference, Dan Uggla gets an unwanted 4-minute gardening lesson after the count goes to 2-1. Bobby brings out the guys with the clay bricks, sand, rakes and tamper to beautify his landing area and mess with Uggla’s head a little. Three pitches later, he’s a strikeout victim on a 3-2 high fastball.

The Master works the count to 1-2 on Hanley Ramirez, but senses Amezaga behind him at second possibly stealing signs. Time for the patented “Wickman Intentional Balk?” Naw, been there; done that. Wick takes time and brings Saltalamacchia to the mound and calls his next three pitches with his glove over his goatee.

Low and outside-no swing. Low and outside again-Ramirez doesn’t bite.

The Maestro brings down the house with a magnificent sweeping curveball that appears to head for Ramirez’s noggin, then drops over the plate as the clueless batter backs away a bit and then freezes. Called strike three. Game over.

                              

 A thing of beauty that only a grizzled veteran with pinpoint accuracy could pull off.  A true work of art that die hard baseball fans cherish watching-the underrated genius in his element. And all the while, you can sense that Bob Wickman is having the time of his life. J.Ladd 6/5/07

Great Save #254

5-24-07: The latest pitching match up between John Smoltz and friend Tom Glavine of the Mets would end with a historic save for Bob Wickman.

Pitching in his first save opportunity since coming off the DL from a back injury, Bobby’s first converted save in the month of May would cement John Smoltz in Cooperstown as the first ballplayer ever to record 200 wins and 150 saves.

The Wickster’s save record at Turner field was a perfect 14/14 with a stellar 0.35 ERA. But as usual, nothing would come easy in this monstrously important game between the Braves and their arch-rivals, the Mutts. Number 28 would have to summon the beast within to secure this piece of history. With Atlanta leading 2-0, enter the dragon…

The ninth started out with Carlos Delgado leading off, who was 0-6 lifetime against Bob but always dangerous. Looking just to reach base, Delgado slapped a low 1-2 pitch to the opposite field for a single.

…did anyone just hear a growling sound?…

Next up is the equally dangerous Shawn Green, who would be swinging for the fences with a guy on. After our hero fires 2 quick strikes, Green hits what should be a routine 0-2 grounder to 2nd. Bobbled by second baseman Kelly Johnson! E4 – Everyone safe! Not again!

…what the?!-Is that an earthquake? The whole place just shook…

After Ruben Gotay bunted the runners over to 2nd and 3rd, the 48 (or something like that) year old Julio Franco gets his chance to spoil the night for the good guys. He promptly skies a check swing bouncer off home plate. Wick flies off the mound to the right side. He settles, grabs it and smartly underpaws it to Thorman at first. One run scores.

…what’s with the lightning flashes?! Not a cloud in the sky…

One run in, man on third with 2 outs. This is it -Do or die with Jose Reyes to the plate and the pressure at a fever pitch. First pitch is a 90 MPH bulls eye. The second one high. Here comes the 1-1…Popped a mile in the air! Renteria frantically waves everyone off at short. He settles under it and squeezes the final out!

The Bobzilla roar blends in with the cheers of 34,000  fans as the Monster of the Mound fires his spent chaw across the infield in jubilant relief. Save #7 was a long time coming, but couldn’t have been scripted any better as the Big Guy gets a grateful hug from Smoltzie on a baseball night for the ages. J.Ladd

Great Save #250

Bobby Wick is perfect in Easter Sunday save

4-8-07: With the first week of the regular season now complete, the Braves have already proven that their pitching staff is much improved and that their offense is more than capable of producing late-inning rallies, similar to the one that carried them to 3-2 comeback victory over the Mets at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon.

"Easter Sunday, the final round of The Masters and a nice win versus the Mets -- it doesn't get any better than that," Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur said after delivering the game-winning RBI double off Mets reliever Aaron Heilman in the eighth inning of the series finale.

Actually, this season couldn't have started much better for the Braves. They began by sweeping a three-game set in Philadelphia and now have the confidence that comes from taking two of three from the Mets, who many believe have what it takes to defend the NL East crown that they finally took away from Atlanta last year.

On the way to their first 5-1 record since their World Series championship season in 1995, the Braves have tallied three victories in which they've plated the winning run in the eighth inning or later. Their latest act of resiliency was sparked by the leadoff double Chipper Jones delivered in Sunday's eighth inning off Heilman.

Two batters later, the dependable Brian McCann delivered a game-tying RBI double the opposite way into left field. It's certainly not uncommon to see McCann go the other way, but when Francoeur followed by directing a Heilman changeup down the right-field line for what would be the game-winner, there was reason for Braves fans to feel both jubilation and surprise.

Francoeur's double provided Bob Wickman the opportunity to notch his 250th career save with a perfect ninth inning that fittingly capped a strong performance by the Braves' pitching staff. While the eighth-inning doubles were necessary and key, Braves manager Bobby Cox says this victory was a product of the strong start supplied by Kyle Davies, who limited the Mets to two earned runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings.

Last year, the Braves were 8-67 when trailing after seven innings. This year, they are 3-1, yet another indication that last year's late-inning follies are now officially a thing of the past.

"We had some timely hits at the end," McCann said. "But our pitching is why we're 5-1."

 

Great Save #230

Great save #230 came on July 24th with Bob Wickman, much to the dismay of heartbroken Indians fans, in an Atlanta Braves Uniform.

  It ended almost like it began. Only this time, Adam LaRoche's two-homer performance would give Tim Hudson a lead that wouldn't have to be regained with one of those see-saw, stress-filled, extra-inning conclusions.

Of course, that can be attributed to the arrival of Bob Wickman, who wasn't present back on July 14, when the Braves began this successful road trip with a wacky 11-inning win over the Padres.

After Ken Ray and Tyler Yates nearly wasted Hudson's strong effort and LaRoche's powerful display at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night, Wickman ended the madness with a perfect ninth that capped a 10-8 win over the Phillies. His first save with his new team allowed the Braves to head home with the satisfaction gained from winning seven of nine on this trip.

But there would be no more late-inning letdowns similar to the multiple ones Jorge Sosa displayed. Wickman was there to ensure the plane ride back to Atlanta would be a jubilant one.

As much as losing Bob hurts all his friends up here in Cleveland, there’s never been any doubt that he made the right decision. Bob is not the type to stay where he’s not wanted, and the Tribe brass made it clear that they wanted to turn him in for a refund. His last two months here would have been filled with one miserable loss after another, and he’s still too great a ballplayer to sit and watch his career end with a moping team of underachievers that lost heart in May. They’re not worthy of him.  My hope is that when they’re sitting at home in October, Bobby is pitching in the World Series. Maybe it will dawn on them then that their lousy play helped put him there.

He had nothing left to accomplish here. Bob was loyal to the end and gave everything he had to the city and the Indians, but when they made it clear they didn’t want him anymore, he pursued his chance to see “what might have been.” Now the people of Atlanta, and possibly the whole nation will get to see why Bob Wickman is the greatest ballplayer I’ve ever known.

That's my rant of the week. J. Ladd  7/25/06

    Great Save #239

  Bob’s ERA might not be perfect anymore, but his save total is

Bobby Wick entered the August 30th game at Turner Field as close to perfect as a pitcher could be. In 14 appearances since joining Atlanta, he had surrendered no earned runs and had converted 9 of 9 save opportunities. He still hasn’t played in a game that the Braves lost.

Entering the ninth with a 5-2 lead against the Giants, the Wickster began his no-nonsense, throw strikes approach with Eliezer Alfonzo, who promptly smashed the first offering into the center field seats. It was the first Wickman earned run with his new team.

Oh well, no biggie. Had to happen sooner or later. Time for Bobzilla to bear down and win this game.

The speedy Randy Winn made things interesting with a high chop off the plate that seemed to take forever to come down to catcher Brian McCann. This set up a bang-bang play at first in which McCann fired a BB to gun down Winn by a micro-step.

After Steve Finley lined out to center, Bob’s pesky old friend Omar Vizquel greeted him with 0-2 slap shot single to left. Shea Hillenbrand, representing the tying run at the plate, sent a patented “ Wickman induced slow-roller” to shortstop Edgar Renteria for the third out.

It was save 10 of 10 for our hero with Atlanta, his 14th consecutive save and his 25th of the season. Since there’s no such thing as perfection in baseball, we’ll have to settle for the next best thing: Bob Wickman. J.Ladd 8-31-06

Hey, he's human!

  After failing to convert in the first game, Bobby Wick redeems himself in the nightcap to pick up his 27th save


The Atlanta Journ
al-Constitution
Published on: 09
/03/06

Philadelphia — After withstanding a three-homer barrage by Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and rallying for a lead with a four-run ninth inning, the Braves felt certain they had a needed win in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader, the second twinbill of a grueling weekend for the teams.

But in a Braves season sprinkled with disappointment and improbability, wouldn't you know it was time for Bob Wickman's first blown save in more than two months.

The Phillies scored two in the bottom of the ninth to pull out an 8-7 win in the opening game, but the Braves scored two runs in the 11th inning of the nightcap for a 3-1 win and second doubleheader split in as many days at Citizens Bank Park.

"That was an emotional rollercoaster, and unfortunately we ended up on the downside of the rollercoaster," Braves left fielder Matt Diaz said after the first game, when his three-run homer in the ninth gave the Braves a 7-6 lead. "It's a microcosm of our season."

That said, it only seemed appropriate that the nightcap went to extra innings, the Braves coming away with a win after Scott Thorman's leadoff pinch-hit double began an 11th-inning rally. Pinch runner Tony Pena scored when Pete Orr laid down a sacrifice bunt that catcher Carlos Ruiz threw wildly past third base.

Orr scored on a wild pitch before the inning was over, then Wickman made amends by converting his 27th save of the season and 12th in 13 opportunities with the Braves. The only blown one had come a few hours earlier.

Howard's 4-for-4, three-homer game gave him a .375 average with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs in a remarkable 37-game stretch, but Braves starter Lance Cormier kept him in the ballpark in the nightcap, when Cormier allowed only three hits and one run in seven innings.

Hudson gave up six runs in seven innings, but the Braves rallied from a 6-1 deficit on Todd Pratt's two-run homer in the eighth and four runs in the ninth. It was the second time in two days they took a lead on a ninth-inning homer. 

In the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, Adam LaRoche's two-run homer in the ninth gave them a lead that Wickman protected for a 4-3 win, before the Phillies blitzed the Braves for 20 hits in a 16-4 nightcap rout.

The Braves thought they were poised for a possible momentum-shifting win in Sunday's first game after the homer by Diaz, who had also singled and scored on Pratt's homer in the eighth.

Enter Wickman, who'd converted 15 consecutive save opportunities with Cleveland and Atlanta since July 1.

The burly veteran had allowed only one run in his past 20 appearances before Sunday's opening game, when the Phillies got things started with an innocent-looking chopper by Chris Coste up the first base line.

LaRoche fielded it and the first baseman decided to tag Coste himself, unsure if Wickman was going to get over in time to cover first base. Coste dodged to the outside to avoid the tag for a single.

After a sacrifice bunt, Wickman walked pinch-hitter Randall Simon, the first walk he's issued since July 3.

Jimmy Rollins followed with a tying RBI single, and Shane Victorino followed that immediately with a single to right field that drove in the winning run.

The Braves closer wasn't available to the media between games, when their clubhouse was closed.

"Wickman's been unbelievable," Diaz said. "He's one of the top three, four or five guys in the league you want out there. He's a veteran you know will bounce back. He might reel off 15 in a row again. Everyone knows what he's capable of doing."