CHICAGO – If the Braves’ robust offensive totals weren’t surprising enough, then consider they have done it with subpar production from the player who’s been their best hitter the past several seasons.
The six-time All-Star catcher with the five Silver Slugger awards.
Brian McCann took a .237 average and .301 on-base percentage into Tuesday night’s game against Chicago, well below his career .286 average and .358 OBP entering the season. He was 8-for-47 (.170) with two homers and eight RBIs in his past 12 games, and half of those RBIs came on one swing last week against Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
“I feel all right, man,” McCann said. “I’ve had a couple of good games, couple of bad games, you know? I definitely could be doing a lot better, but I’m not getting discouraged on where I’m at, to be honest with you. My numbers aren’t there, but at the same time I don’t feel bad at the plate.”
His batting average was the lowest in the lineup by 27 points entering Tuesday’s game, when he hit in the cleanup spot (fourth) for the 21st time in 31 Braves games. McCann was 5-for-27 (.185) with runners in scoring position, and 1-for-14 in the late innings of close games.
Still, he had five homers, tied with Chipper Jones for second on the team, and his 17 RBIs were tied with Dan Uggla for third among the Braves.
McCann’s grand slam off Halladay on Wednesday was the highlight of a six-run inning that erased a 6-0 deficit in 15-13, 11-inning win. Since that that he had three hits and six strikeouts in 15 plate appearances before Wednesday. But McCann reiterated that he hasn’t felt out of sorts at the plate, not like he did during his long slump late last season after coming back from an oblique strain.
“I’ve had some ups and downs, really,” McCann said. “I don’t really know – I don’t feel bad at the plate. That’s all I really worry about. I’m not getting hits right now, but I feel good up there at the dish.”
And unlike last fall, other Braves hitters are more than picking up the slack while McCann has struggled to get in a groove. The Braves led the majors with 163 runs, were second in the National League with a .333 OBP, and tied with Milwaukee for third in the NL with 34 homers. Even during their 5-5 stretch before Tuesday, the Braves had still batted .280 and averaged 5-1/2 runs per game.
“We’ve got a good lineup, top to bottom,” McCann said. “We’ve got guys at the top that are setting the table. Michael Bourn is playing out of this world; it seems like he’s on base every at-bat. And what Freddie Freeman is doing right now – he’s carrying the ballclub. Chipper [Jones] is playing great. We’ve got guys that are swinging the bat, for sure.”
The Braves figure that McCann will soon enough. But it’s been a while since he had an extended stretch of torrid hitting like he has throughout his career. More than nine months, to be specific. Or since he went on the disabled list in late July for the oblique injury.
McCann hit .353 with 16 homers and a 1.014 OPS in his last 53 games before the injury. In 61 games since returning from the DL on Aug. 14, he’d batted .204 with 11 home runs and a .672 OPS before Tuesday.