St. Louis – With the Braves getting continued dismal production from leadoff hitters, Yunel Escobar was moved to the top of the order for Monday night’s series opener at St. Louis.
Braves leadoff hitters were a majors-worst 7-for-77 (.091) with a .165 on-base percentage and .143 slugging percentage, worse statistically than the team’s No. 9 hitters (.121/.190/.207).
“We’ve tried just about everybody but him, might as well,” manager Bobby Cox said of the Escobar move. “He’s had some good at-bats lately.”
Escobar has slumped like so many other Braves lately, batting .167 with one extra-base hit, two RBI and a .271 on-base percentage in his past 13 games before Monday.
The Braves were desperate to find a spark from someone in the No. 1 spot, however, and had tried every other obvious candidate except team batting leader Martin Prado, who Cox wants to keep in the No. 2 spot ahead of Chipper Jones.
Escobar had good numbers (.309 average, .371 OBP) in 320 career at-bats in the leadoff position, but last had more than 11 at-bats in the role in 2008. He hit .285 with a .358 OBP in 158 at-bats from the leadoff spot in ‘08 and a robust .351 with a .400 OBP and 17 extra-base hits in 151 at-bats in 2007.
He flied out deep, just in front of the right-field wall, to start Monday night’s game.
Entering Monday, Braves Matt Diaz (.130) and Nate McLouth (.167) had the two lowest leadoff on-base percentages in the National League, and Melky Cabrera (.212) was the fifth-lowest.
Diaz went 3-for-5 batting leadoff on April 18 against Colorado, and Braves leadoff hitters were 4-for-72 (.055) in the other 17 games before Monday.