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Emotions come into play for Gonzalez

Emotions come into play for Gonzalez

ATLANTA -- Calling Braves closer Mike Gonzalez a bundle of energy on the mound is probably a severe understatement. The 31-year-old takes the mound with the exuberance of Little Leaguer every time he's called upon, no matter who the opponent is.

It should come as no surprise then that Gonzalez, who spent the first four seasons of his big league career with the Pirates, was more pumped up than usual the first time he faced his former team after joining the Braves.

"I was a little amped and happy to see my boys," Gonzalez said of his first appearance against the Pirates. "After the first time I got out there against them, I just thought of them as the opposing team."

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As the Braves prepare for Game 2 of their four-game series against the Pirates on Tuesday, talk has centered on newly acquired Nate McLouth's first meeting against his former teammates. Gonzalez understands the hype, but he says emotions play a big part in his pitching no matter who he's pitching against.

Gonzalez is known for his rocking motion before beginning his windup and his demonstrative nature after recording big outs, all of which are part of his intense personality on the mound. Sometimes, his emotions get him in trouble.

"It's something you have to work," Gonzalez said. "I get to the point where I'm so pumped up sometimes, I can't throw strikes. You have to be able to tone things down. But when you get everything under control, the emotions and the command, you can't be hit. That's why you're the closer."

That emotion came into play on Sunday in the ninth inning of the Braves' comeback win over the Brewers. After watching his offense complete an inspired eighth-inning rally, Gonzalez was even more fired up than usual.

Gonzalez walked the first hitter he faced before inducing a double play to get out of trouble. He hit another batter before striking out Craig Counsell to secure the win and earn his eighth save of the year in 11 opportunities.

"That happens to me when I get too emotional," Gonzalez said. "I try to throw too hard and I'm too strung up. Like [Sunday], for example, I hadn't had a save situation in a couple of weeks. That first hitter, I was so amped up I had to turn it down a notch. I have to still be emotional and still be the guy I am, but understand than I still need to be under control."

Although Gonzalez is undoubtedly the Braves' closer, Braves manager Bobby Cox continues to use him in the eighth inning as well when matchups present themselves. On Monday, the Pirates had two left-handed hitters due up in the eighth in a tied game. Instead of waiting until the ninth, Cox used Gonzalez in the eighth.

He responded by pitching a scoreless inning and registered a strikeout. His velocity has climbed back into the mid-90s, and he says he is getting close to feeling as good as he did before his 2007 Tommy John surgery.

"I'm getting a little closer to two years every day," Gonzalez said in reference to the two-year anniversary of his surgery. "Every guy that's had Tommy John says that once two years comes around, you'll be back to normal. I'm looking forward to going out there and being myself again."

Pitching matchup
ATL: RHP Derek Lowe (6-3, 3.40 ERA)
Lowe earned a no-decision on Wednesday against the Cubs despite pitching at least seven innings for the fourth straight game. The big right-hander allowed two runs on five hits and retired 11 of the last 13 hitters he faced. Wednesday was the third time this season Lowe allowed three earned runs or fewer and was unable to earn a victory. He has enjoyed much success against the Pirates in his career, winning all six games he has started against Pittsburgh and posting a 2.72 ERA.

PIT: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (5-5, 4.85 ERA)
Despite being handed four first-inning runs, Ohlendorf wasn't able to earn the win in his last start. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings as he gave up five earned runs on nine hits against the Mets. The no-decision kept Ohlendorf winless in his last three starts. The right-hander is facing the Braves for the first time in his career. He's 2-3 with a 5.12 ERA on the road this season, giving up 31 hits in 31 2/3 innings.

Tidbits
Triple-A outfielder Brandon Jones had an MRI on his left knee on Monday. Triple-A outfielder Jordan Schafer felt a pain in his left wrist while swinging on Friday. He had it checked out on Monday. Results of both of those tests will be available Tuesday. ... Tim Hudson threw a side session before Monday's game against the Pirates. ... After allowing a homer during each of his first five career starts, Kenshin Kawakami has surrendered just one in his past seven starts.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• PTV

On radio
• 640 WGST, Project 9-6-1 , Viva 105.7 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 5-3, 2.84) vs. Pirates (Jeff Karstens, 2-3, 5.30), 7 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Braves (Javier Vazquez, 4-5, 3.54) vs. Pirates (Paul Maholm, 4-2, 3.94), 1 p.m. ET
• Friday: Braves (Tommy Hanson, 0-0, 9.00) at Orioles (Jason Berken, 1-2, 7.04), 7:05 p.m. ET

Adam Rosenberg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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