(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Philadelphia – We dedicate this blog to the table-setters.
Something Fredi Gonzalez mentioned yesterday got me wondering about Michael Bourn and Martin Prado, and if the Braves do indeed the best 1-2 hitters around this season.
The numbers make a good case. Entering play Saturday night, the Braves led the National League with a .304 batting average in the leadoff spot,
as did their .359 on-base percentage….and hey, so did their .446 slugging percentage, thanks to Bourn and his career-high seven homers already. And Bourn has been in the leadoff spot for all but one game this season (Tyler Pastornicky batted first once).
In the American League, only the Angels (.313 batting average, .367 on-base percentage, .481 slugging percentage) and Tigers (.306 batting average, .385 on-base percentage, .496 slugging percentage) are better in the leadoff spot. And that’s mainly Mr. Mike Trout with as assist from Erick Aybar batting first for the Angels and Austin Jackson for the Tigers. Pretty good company there.
As for the No. 2 spot, the Braves are second in the National League to the Cardinals in both batting average (.318 to 314) and on-base percentage (.398 to .369). The Braves are slugging .470 from the No. 2 hole, which is third best behind the Cardinals (.500) and the Diamondbacks (.491). Prado has started 73 games in the No. 2 hole, with four other players sharing the remaining nine games. For Arizona it’s been a lot of Aaron Hill, and for the Cardinals Jon Jay and Skip Schumaker.
Just among Braves this season, this team has been top heavy. Prado is first on the team with a .321 batting average and second in on-base at .381. Bourn is third on the team with a .305 batting average and third in on-base at .360. Your veteran third baseman Chipper Jones has used this 12-game hitting streak he’s on to raise his season batting average to .318 and he now leads the Braves with a .394 on-base percentage.
But we don’t need to recite all these numbers to know the effect of Bourn and Prado. Just ask Stephen Strasburg who walked both of them twice in the first three innings of the June 30 game he lost to them two weeks ago, bowing out early because of heat-related issues.
We do know the middle of the Braves order, the boppers, have been the most inconsistent this first half. Now it’s Dan Uggla scuffling. Brian McCann has had his share of troubles, though it looks like he’s showing some promise of a turnaround in the second half. Freddie Freeman and Jones have both been in and out of the lineup with some injuries.
But the tablesetters are getting it done.
Some other numbers to note: Brian McCann’s ninth career grand slam last night is the most all-time among Atlanta Braves, and it’s tied for second all-time in franchise history behind Hank Aaron (16), with Joe Adcock (9). By my math, Aaron hit seven of his grand slams as an Atlanta Brave, as did Javy Lopez. But with his two this year, McCann separated himself from them.
Jason Heyward’s 14th home run of the season, which he hit Thursday night against Matt Garza is a many as he hit all last season.
Bodacious is back
Shows you how superstitious Gonzalez is, or at least that he’s easy on his clothes….He was wearing a “I Rode Bodacious for nine” T-shirt last night, something he said he always does when Tim Hudson pitches. He retold the story of how the T-shirt was created, some of you might remember.
Gonzalez was the Braves third base coach in spring training of 2006 in Hudson’s second year after he was traded to the Braves. He was even a little nastier then at a younger age, when his velocity had a few more ticks, and Braves catchers used to have a hard time catching him – with his hard sinkers, sliders, cutters, splitters, you name it.
After watching a late-night TV show about a particularly ferocious bull named Bodacious, whom his owner eventually retired because only a few cowboys could ride him, an idea was born. Gonzalez made up T-shirts as a motivation for catchers who could catch Hudson for nine.
Todd Pratt was the first winner, catching Hudson for nine innings against the Mets at Shea Stadium. He was so proud he asked Bobby Cox if he could wear his T-shirt on the Braves charter that night, rather than the required sport coat or suit. Cox obliged.
Hudson didn’t go nine last night but he was nearly as impressive with his seven innings of shutout work against the Phillies, and doing it despite aggravating the ankle that’s been bothering him because of bone spurs. Hudson said it actually felt better last night overall than it has in a while, and he was pleased with his stuff despite the pain he had to bounce back from in the second inning. So now he’ll get a week’s rest before opening the second half against the Mets, and I’d imagine that’s just what his ankle could use.
Tommy Hanson is going up against Joe Blanton, who shut out the Braves the last time he faced them on May 3. The Braves have won five of Hanson’s past six starts, with the exception of his last time out on Monday when he was out-dueled by Jeff Samardzija. Spell that one 10 times fast. Yikes. Hanson is 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in six starts since that rough outing he had against St. Louis on May 28.
Heat is back up into the triple digits this afternoon. So much for escaping the heat by coming north, but at least we have FOX to thank for making it the night game.
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado LF
3. Jason Heyward RF
4. Chipper Jones 3B
5. Freddie Freeman 1B
6. Brian McCann C
7. Dan Uggla 2B
8. Andrelton Simmons SS
9. Tommy Hanson P