Conrad relishes chance to contribute
Backup fifth player in history to hit two pinch slams in same year
MIAMI -- Brooks Conrad joined an elite fraternity Saturday night when he clubbed a grand slam in the top of the eighth inning, the highlight of an eight-run rally in the Braves' 10-5 win against the Marlins.
It was the second time this season that Conrad has hit a pinch-hit grand slam -- the other one was May 20 against the Reds. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Conrad is only the fifth player in Major League history to hit two pinch-hit grand slams in the same season.
Conrad joins Davey Johnson of the Phillies, Mike Ivie of the Giants, Darryl Strawberry of the Yankees and Ben Broussard of the Indians as the only players to accomplish the feat.
"That's pretty cool. I didn't know that at all," Conrad said Sunday when informed of his entry into the record books. "You dream of it, but you never really know if it'll happen. It's pretty special."
Braves manager Bobby Cox penciled Conrad into the lineup Sunday at third base to give Chipper Jones a day off. Ironically, Conrad came to the plate for his first at-bat with the bases loaded in the top of the first inning. He looked at a called third strike to end the Braves' at-bat, but not before Atlanta put a run on the board on an RBI single by Brian McCann.
Conrad, who has three pinch-hit homers this season, and he hit a game-winning pinch-hit three-run homer in his first plate appearance in an Atlanta uniform last season. He seems to embrace his role coming off the bench and occasionally getting a start.
"Any time you have a chance to come in and help your team win a game is awesome," Conrad said. "Nothing really gets old in baseball in the big leagues. It's just a role you have. You never know when that time's going to be, so you go through every day thinking that you're going to get a chance to help the team. We've had some good success off the bench this year, and it's been a big part of the team."
Braves interested in Marlins' Ross
MIAMI -- A win Sunday to take the three-game series against the Marlins would be double-good news for the National League East-leading Braves.
First and foremost, a victory would mean the Braves would maintain at least a six-game lead in the NL East standings. It also could open the door, at least in theory, for the possibility of obtaining Marlins center fielder Cody Ross, who has been mentioned in potential trade discussions involving the Braves as Saturday's non-waiver Trade Deadline rapidly approaches.
If there's one glaring chink in the Braves' armor, it's the offensive production of center fielder Nate McLouth, who continues to struggle at the plate. Entering Sunday's rubber game of the Braves-Marlins series, McLouth has a paltry .169 batting average with three home runs and 14 RBIs. McLouth had a seven-game stretch in mid-May where he hit .375 with four doubles, but since then, he is 6-for-63 (.095) in 22 games.
Jordan Schafer, not long ago the organization's top prospect who earned the starting center-fielder job in Spring Training last year before an injury derailed him, has struggled in the Minor Leagues this season, and on Friday was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A.
The perception is that the Marlins might be active in coming days if they fall any further behind the Braves in the NL East standings and Wild Card race, and a loss Sunday would put Florida 10 games behind Atlanta with a challenging West Coast road trip next on the schedule. Beginning Monday, the Marlins play at San Francisco, the NL Wild Card leader, and at NL West-leading San Diego.
Ross, whom Braves scouts have been watching closely the past week, entered Sunday with a .273 batting average and .404 slugging percentage with eight homers and 47 RBIs for the Marlins this season. The asking price, however, could be a little too high. The Dodgers, Phillies, Red Sox and Yankees also have been mentioned as interested in obtaining Ross.
Braves catcher Brian McCann has been red-hot at the plate this month. Since July 3, McCann has a .339 batting average with four home runs and 17 RBIs, entering Sunday. He had a hit in Saturday night's 10-5 win against the Marlins, and continued his torrid pace Sunday with an RBI single in the first inning. ... Entering Sunday's afternoon game at Sun Life Stadium, the Braves own the best daytime winning percentage (20-11, .645) in the National League, and third-best in the Majors.
Steve Dorsey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.