Man in the Stands

Archive for the tag “Freddie Freeman”

Braves have a leading question

In last Wednesday’s game against the New York Mets, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward caught a Jonathon Niese fastball to the face, fracturing his jaw in two places.

Heyward underwent surgery to stabilize his jaw on Thursday in Atlanta. Doctors inserted two metal plates into each jaw during the procedure, but didn’t have to wire his mouth shut. That’s the good news. The bad news for the team and its fans: the Braves leadoff man is out for at least four weeks, and possibly six, leaving questions about how Manager Fredi Gonzalez was going to handle the top line-up spot.

Since moving into the leadoff role, Heyward has had a complete turn-around. He’s hitting for a .341 average, which is 103 points higher than his average at the third spot. The lefty has scored 24 runs, hit five of his 13 home runs, and driven in 15 of his 37 RBIs in the number one slot.

Jordan Schafer replaced Heyward in the outfield and in the leadoff spot on Wednesday, as well as taking the first pitch of the game on Thursday in St. Louis.

Schafer is a viable candidate for taking the reins of the top of the line-up card. In the position already this season, he’s hitting for a solid .280 average with two home runs and five doubles. Also, Schafer has tallied five stolen bases when batting leadoff, tying shortstop Andrelton Simmons who batted in the spot for most of the season.

Schafer has been a role player for the team this season, mostly as a pinch runner or playing the outfield to give players a rest. He picked up most of his playing time this season when outfielders Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, and Heyward all ended up getting hurt, but soon the injury bug, too, caught up to him.

Simmons is also a good option to move back to the spot. When he was there previously, he was batting 61-for-275 with six home runs. Fans will have reservations about this move, however, because Simmons is hitting 60 points higher in his average out of the leadoff spot.

B.J. Upton has hit his best this season out of the number one spot, but has only had 55-at-bats there. Two of his eight home runs came when he was hitting at the top of the line-up. He has 11 stolen bases on the year with three as the leadoff batter.

My personal pick to be the next test at number one is Chris Johnson.

Johnson is the National League leading hitter with a .330 average. It would be the first time this season that Johnson would be hitting from the leadoff spot and he does lack the speed of a typical leadoff hitter. To me, the positives out-weigh the negatives of this move.

Typically, the leadoff batter is going to see fastballs and few breaking balls. With Johnson’s average, it makes him a perfect candidate. You want your leadoff man on base for your second and third hitters. In the Braves case, they have Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman hitting in those spots with power and great contact as well.

As a contact hitter with the power to hit home runs, Johnson would also do well in making teams pay for making mistakes to the pitcher’s spot.

I understand the speed aspect of the leadoff hitter, but I’d love to see CJ get a chance at it.

If you were Fredi Gonzalez, whose name would you pencil in at the top of the line-up card?

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Upton home run extends Braves streak to 11

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Justin Upton’s game-winning home run helped the Braves (68-45) overcome a strong game from Nationals (54-58) pitcher Stephen Strasburg to win their 11th straight contest on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (5-9) threw seven innings, giving up two earned runs on only five hits. He faced 28 batters, striking out nine of them.

Upton’s home run (20) off of Tyler Clippard (6-2) in the eighth inning proved to be the game winner. Clippard gave up another hit but only the one run in his single inning of work.

Upton was 3-for-4 on the night and scored another run off of a Freddie Freeman two-out single in the fifth.

Freeman also drove in the other run scored for the Braves on a single in the third inning. Jason Heyward scored on that play. Freeman was 3-for-4 on the night with the two RBIs.

Upton, Freeman, Heyward, and B.J. Upton were the only Braves to secure a hit in the contest.

Brian McCann, Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and Chris Johnson, one game removed from a Braves record hitting streak, were all 0-fer in the game. Both McCann and B.J. had two strikeouts.

The story in the game will undoubtedly be pulled toward the Justin Upton go-ahead home run in the eighth. Some would argue that it should be the timely hitting by Freddie Freeman to drive in the two runs earlier in the game. For me, the story of the game is easily the pitching. More importantly, the Braves bullpen.

You can score as many runs as you want to, but, if your bullpen gives up more than you’re scoring, it won’t matter for much.

Mike Minor (11-5) started things off for the Braves on Monday, but picked up a no-decision. In his six innings of work, Minor gave up eight hits and two earned runs. He also issued three walks and had three strikeouts.

David Carpenter (3-0) picked up the win for Atlanta on 1-2/3 masterful innings. He was perfect in his time on the mound, with two strikeouts along the way.

Luis Avilan was on the bump for the final out of the eighth inning. Avilan walked up to the mound and tossed one (1) pitch for the out.

Usually, in a one-run game, Craig Kimbrel would enter the game to finish off the game and toss the last inning. After working all three nights in Philadelphia, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to give him a rest and give the ball to Jordan Walden for the save opportunity.

Walden picked up the save, his only of the season, on nine pitches. He gave up only one hit in the ninth to cap off the game.

Walden and Cory Gearrin are the only two pitchers outside of Kimbrel to have a save on their resume from the Braves 2013 season.

The game was the Braves 36th comeback win of the year, most in the Majors by any team.

We’re going streaking:

With the end of the Phillies series, the Braves were at 10-straight wins, which tied a streak from earlier this season. With the win on Monday night, 11-straight makes the longest win streak for Atlanta since winning 15-straight from April 16-May 2 in the 2000 season.

Through the 11 games, the Braves have outscored their opponents 69-27. Atlanta is hitting a solid .294 as a team throughout the streak, holding their opponents to a .211 average. The team has hit 13 home runs during the run as well.

Opposing pitchers have walked the Braves 40 times compared to the Braves pitching staff giving out only 21 walks. Atlanta’s staff has also struckout the opponents batters 97 times out of 360 at-bats.

Extending the streak:

Tuesday night is game two of a three-game series between the two squads. The pitching match-up, Julio Teheran VS Gio Gonzalez, will be fun to watch.

Teheran (8-5), the Braves 22-year-old right-hander, has a 3.02 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 117 strikeouts this season.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Teheran has pitched 18 innings and amassed a 4.50 ERA against the Nationals in three games in 2013.

Pitching against Washington this year, Teheran is 0-1. In his three starts, he’s given up 23 hits, nine earned runs, and the Nats are hitting a nice .329 off of him.

Teheran has tossed only six innings at Nationals Park this season. In that time he has picked up a 6.00 ERA and given up a four earned runs with a home run in only six hits.

As for Gonzalez (7-4), he has faced the Braves three times this season as well with an 0-2 record.

In his 16 innings against Atlanta, the Braves are hitting .270 off of him with 13 earned runs, including three home runs. Gonzalez has a 7.31 ERA against a team who have been hot as of late.

When pitching at home, Gonzalez has a 3.07 ERA with a 4-2 record in 11 games. In those games, he’s thrown over 67 innings and given up 23 earned runs and issued 26 walks. He’s also held opponents to a .232 average.

The Braves will chase their 12th-straight victory against the Nationals in Washington on Tuesday night against Gonzalez. First pitch from Nationals Park will be at 7:05 ET.

Braves sweep Colorado with relentless offense

Atlanta (64-45) finished off the four-game series with the Colorado Rockies (51-59) with an 11-2 victory on Thursday night.

The fourth installment was nothing short of what the rest of the series proved: There is still life in the bats of the Braves!

Justin Upton appears to be coming back to life after his drought since April. He clubbed 12 home runs in the opening month of the 2013 season. Since the end of April, Upton had hit four HRs until Thursday. Thursday, he added two more. He brought in five runs with those two swings of the bat, his only hits of the night.

Jason Heyward scored three runs and hit a home run in the game. Freddie Freeman added to the contest with two hits of his own and scored two runs.

Chris Johnson drove in two on three hits. Thursday was his seventh straight multi-hit game, bumping his average up to .346, which continues to be the National League best. Johnson trails only Miguel Cabrera, who continues to be out of the Tigers lineup with an abdomen injury, for the MLB best average by just .013.

Only two Braves starters came up without a hit in the game. Leftfielder Evan Gattis was 0-4 and only saw five (5!) pitches in the match-up. Dan Uggla also came up empty with a walk and a strikeout.

Pitcher Julio Teheran (8-5) picked up the win for Atlanta on a solid 5-inning start. Teheran gave up one earned run on five hits. He walked two and struck out 11.

Teheran also got into the party at the plate. He hit an RBI double in the second inning. Teheran also singled in the fourth and scored on the Jason Heyward home run.

Scott Downs, David Carpenter, Luis Avilan, and Anthony Varvaro all saw work from the sixth inning on.

As well as Johnson getting his seventh straight multi-hit game, the Braves picked up their seventh straight win.

The Rockies series showed what Braves fans hope is the aggressive offense that lasts through October! Atlanta outscored Colorado 40-13 over the four games and outhit them 55-36.

Since the seven-game streak has started (or most notably since Waffle House opened up at the Ted), the Braves have outscored their opponent 51-16.

Atlanta carries the momentum of the back-to-back sweeps into a weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies, which begins on Friday at Citizens Bank Park Stadium.

With Cliff Lee out, Philadelphia announced on Thursday afternoon that they will be calling up right-hander Ethan Martin and making a corresponding roster change before the game on Friday. Martin is a product of Stephens County High School in Toccoa, Ga.

He will be making his MLB debut against Kris Medlen (7-10), and his hometown Braves, at 7:05 ET.

Braves beat Rockies in offensive explosion

The Atlanta Braves exploded for six runs in the fourth inning on their way to an 11-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

After being down 3-1 in the second inning, it looked to be a long night for Alex Wood (1-2), who picked up his first win as a big leaguer.

The Braves (62-45) got one back off an RBI double from Justin Upton in the third to make it a one-run game before blowing it open the next inning.

Dan Uggla opened the bottom of the frame with a double to left field. Two batters later saw Wood ground out to second base, moving Uggla to third. Jason Heyward hit a 2-out single to score Uggla before Upton bounced a ground rule double over the right-field fence.

Freddie Freeman was next up and was intentionally walked to bring Evan Gattis, or EL OSO BLANCO, to the plate. Gattis scored Heyward and Upton with a single and moved Freeman to third and himself to second on the throw.

With runners on second and third, catcher Brian McCann stepped into the box to deliver a three-run home run to right field. McCann finished with just the one hit and the three RBIs.

All six of the runs scored in the inning came with two outs on the board. Even more surprising is that the team was able to manufacture runs in the game. Granted, it was only four of the 11, but, still, that is something that fans, and media alike, have criticized the Braves for.

Atlanta has relied heavily on the long ball this season.  As a matter of fact, the Braves are 52-17 when they have hit at least one homer in the game. When they haven’t hit a bomb, only 10-28. They lead the National League in home runs with 126, followed by Colorado’s 120.

Another surprise for the Braves’ offense on Tuesday was it’s latest Gwinnett call-up, Todd Cunningham. Cunningham was summoned from the Braves Triple-A affiliate after Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day DL with left Achilles tendinitis.

In his first Major League at-bat, Cunningham faced three pitches and sent the last to left field for a single.

Alex Wood, after a rocky start (no pun intended), threw a rookie-style gem for the home squad. He settled down after giving up three earned runs in 39 pitches over the first two innings of the ballgame. He threw only 60 pitches the next five innings to finish up at 7.0 innings, 6 hits, walk, and 7 strikeouts.

Anthony Varvaro came in for the final two innings, only giving up one hit and capping the game.

Freeman ended his night with four RBIs after hitting a solo shot in the first and a three-run blast in the seventh.

On the offensive front though, the story, for me, has to be Chris Johnson. Johnson was 7-10 against the Cardinals, scoring four runs in the series (three in one game!), and taking over Yadier Molina for the highest batting average in the National League.

Tuesday night, Johnson went 2-4 with a walk raising his average to .341, keeping his #1 spot in the NL and bringing him to 2nd in the Majors behind 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera (.359). His on-base percentage is up to .381 and he’s slugging .470. Tuesday was also his fifth straight multi-hit game and 34th of the season.

Another story that could be given a lot of attention from the baseball media is how well Jason Heyward has done from the leadoff spot and how well Andrelton Simmons has done since being moved out of it.

Heyward has gone 7-17, scored five runs, driven in four, and walked twice in the four games since making the move.

Simmons has been just as good. He has hit 8-17, scored a run, driven in five, and has not struck out. Simmons has only been struck out twice in the month of July (once VS Philadelphia and once VS Cincinnati) and neither have come after the All-Star break.

Since ending the Cardinals’ four-game winning streak, the Braves have started a five-game streak of their own.

(Special note: The Cardinals have since lost three games to the Pirates, who now lead the NL Central. St. Louis’ new streak is L6.)

Atlanta goes for its sixth-straight victory Wednesday in the third of a four-game series with the Rockies (51-57). Mike Minor (10-5) will battle right-hander Tyler Chatwood (7-3) starting with first pitch at 7:10 p.m. from Turner Field.

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