(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
Washington – Well, Braves close out this wall-to-wall series today with Jair Jurrjens taking on Ross Detwiler. After such a great start to this series for the Braves, overcoming a nine-run deficit Friday night to match their biggest comeback in franchise history, and watching Ben Sheets pitch another six shutout innings in the first game yesterday, the Braves would have to feel it was a loss to walk out of here with a split in the series.
It won’t be easy facing their second lefty in a row, losing to John Lannan in the night cap last night and
The Braves are 11-6 in July. They’ve gone 8-4 against right-handers, but only 2-3 against left-handers. Their lineup stalled after about the second inning last night against Lannan, and they failed to get a hit after the third inning.
Asked Chipper Jones last night what it is about them vs. Lannan and he mentioned: “Well we’re left-handed, you know? Couple of our right-handed sticks are struggling a little bit right now.”
Dan Uggla’s slump has been well documented. After going 0-for-6 in the two games yesterday with four strikeouts, he is now 15-for-121 in his last 37 games – since his four-hit, two-homer game June 6 in Miami. Best news for him these days is that the Braves are headed back to Miami tomorrow, for the start of a three game series. So maybe facing his old team will get him going again.
But right-hander Martin Prado has cooled a little too. He’s 3-for-14 in this series, which is news for the versatile No. 2 hitter who’s having such a good season. And newcomer Paul Janish is 5-for-25 (.200) since joining the Braves. The left-handed bats like Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman are the ones who’ve been carrying the lineup.
Entering today’s game the Braves are 15-20 against left-handed starters on the season – 6-12 at home and 9-8 on the road. The Braves will need to turn that around today if they want to leave having gained some ground in the standings.
Jurrjens will try to rebound from his last outing, when he gave up a season-high eight runs in only 3 1/3 innings against the Giants. It was a step back from the work Jurrjens had been doing since his return from the minors, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in his first four starts back.
I think we saw Monday that Jurrjens doesn’t have a whole lot of room for error these days. He had that play where he didn’t get his foot to the base covering first and gave up an infield hit to Angel Pagan. Another base hit by Hector Sanchez and the Giants were on their way to a six-run inning. The Braves need to play some crisp defense behind him today, and he’ll have to improve on his command to get back on the right track.
Shortstop Ian Desmond is out the lineup today for the Nationals because his oblique is acting up again.
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. Paul Janish SS
9. Jair Jurrjens P
Chipper said he’ll probably take one game off in Miami, likely Wednesday. Then with the off day Thursday he’ll have back to back days to rest his knees before the Phillies come to town this weekend.
The Braves plan to make a roster move after the game today, giving up the extra arm in the bullpen needed for this series (four games in three days) and bringing up another bat from Triple-A Gwinnett in place of the injured (thumb) Matt Diaz.
They could use a right-handed bat to replace him, but my guess is it’ll be the lefty outfielder Jose Constanza, who just had a 22-game hitting streak snapped Saturday. First baseman Ernesto Mejia has been putting up big numbers in July too – had six homers in 16 games while hitting .344 – but he’s not on the 40-man roster.
When asked this morning whether it would be a right-handed bat, manager Fredi Gonzalez smiled and said he asks for righties and gets lefties. Yep, the Braves are pretty left-handed in general. They could trade for another bench bat, but until they know the full extent of Diaz’s thumb problem and whether he’ll have to have surgery, they could go with Constanza in the short term.
Constanza’s streak was the longest streak in the International League since 2007. It ended Saturday but he came off the bench to go 1-for-3, and still has a 27-game streak for reaching base. He’s hitting .321 on the season. He hit .391 (38-for-96) with four doubles, seven RBIs and 17 runs scored over the hit streak.
With Jonny Venters back from the disabled list, candidates to go back down to Triple-A are Luis Avilan and Anthony Varvaro.
McCann’s hitting streak ended the hard way last night with a strikeout in a pinch hit at-bat. But his 11-gamer has been awfully impressive. He hit home runs in seven of those games, bringing his season total to 16. It all dates back to the Cubs series after he had a get-back-to-basics hitting session with his brother Brad McCann.
“I feel like I needed to go a couple steps back to go a couple steps forward,” McCann said. “I’m sitting there at .200, I really had to re-evaluate what I was doing and what I was trying to do. I always say when I broke into this league I understood what I was trying to accomplish. I understood my swing as well as anybody, and I kind of fell out of that the last couple years and it was a wakeup call for sure. Sitting there at .220 in June is a wakeup call for me.”
Matchups for Marlins series:
Monday: LHP Mike Minor (5-6, 5.69) vs. RHP Josh Johnson (5-7, 4.35), Tuesday: RHP Tim Hudson (8-4, 3.70) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (9-9, 3.29), Wednesday: RHP Tommy Hanson (10-5, 4.50) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco. The Braves won’t have to face Giancarlo Stantion, who’s still on the disabled list following arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month.