HOUSTON — The Braves’ co-closer option appears to be gaining traction. Jonny Venters recorded his second save in four days, striking out two in the ninth and extending his scoreless innings streak to an eye-popping 22.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez rested closer Craig Kimbrel on Sunday after Kimbrel threw 30 pitches in a two-hit, one-run 10th inning Saturday.
Gonzalez said in spring training that he planned to use both pitchers to closer games, according to matchups and who was better rested. But he had scrapped the plan and gone with Kimbrel as the full-time closer until Thursday at Florida. Venters got the save opportunity that night, after Kimbrel had blown a two-run lead in the ninth inning on Wednesday.
Kimbrel’s 18 saves are the most ever by a rookie before the All-Star break, but Venters has been the best and most consistent reliever not just for the Braves, but in the entire National League.
He has allowed 10 hits and seven walks with 24 strikeouts in 22 scoreless innings over his past 19 appearances to reduce his majors-best ERA to a microscopic 0.44.
Since giving up a run in his second game, Venters has surrendered just one more run in his past 35 appearances, posting an 0.23 ERA since April 4 while allowing 18 hits and 11 walks with 43 strikeouts in 38-2/3 innings.
Chipper Jones was out of the lineup to rest Sunday, after going 5-for-10 with a homer, two doubles and three RBIs in the first two games of the series.
The 39-year-old third baseman had two diving defensive plays and two doubles Saturday, hustling to take an extra base for a 10th-inning double that put him in scoring position for Eric Hinske to drive in the final run.
Gonzalez said he wants to be careful and make sure that Jones gets enough rest, in hopes of avoiding an absence of any significant length for the veteran switch-hitter, who is playing with a small cartilage tear in his right knee.
Jones had reconstructive surgery on his left knee in August to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament….
Rookie left-hander Mike Minor will stay with the Braves to start Thursday against the New York Mets. Minor has made two fill-in starts for Brandon Beachy, who is recovering from an oblique strain and could rejoin the rotation in two weeks, if not sooner….
Rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts Sunday, after batting .361 in his previous 20 games without striking out more than twice.