The Braves traded for shortstop Paul Janish strictly because of his strong defense, so they wouldn’t lose much in that area while rookie standout Andrelton Simmons recovered from a broken hand.
Janish has given them what they anticipated in the field, but provided more than expected lately with his bat. He had three hits in Friday’s 4-3 win against the Dodgers, including a pair of key singles when the Braves tied the score in the eighth inning and won in the 11th.
The night before, he had two hits, two RBIs and a flashy defensive play in the ninth that helped Kris Medlen finish off a shutout against the Padres.
“I appreciate him,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “The hits, those are great … but I appreciate the hell out of him defensively. The stuff he can do. The relay to cut the runner out at the plate with two outs [in the fourth inning Friday]. Nice game on his part, and I know him and Walk [hitting coach Greg Walker] have worked hard to get a swing where he’s not an out. And he’s not by any means. And like we always say, he’s not here to win a batting title, he’s here to help us win on defense. And he’s done that. Whatever we get offensively out of him is a plus.”
He’s only hit .227 with a .303 on-base percentage and six RBIs in 32 games for the Braves, but Janish has a .273 average with 12 hits in his past 12 games.
“I haven’t been swinging the bat as bad as maybe it looks like,” said Janish, 29, who was playing for the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate before coming to Atlanta in a July 14 trade for minor league pitcher Todd Redmond. “I’ve been hitting the ball hard at people and whatnot, and having decent at-bats and just not getting the results.
“On a night like [Friday], when we really couldn’t get much going offensively, to be able to come up with some key hits at key times, that’s obviously a good thing.”
After going 18-for-95 (.189) in his first 28 games with the Braves, he’s 7-for-15 (.467) in the past four, including three multi-hit games.
“He was humongous [Friday],” said Braves catcher David Ross, who singled with two out in the 11th, before Janish singled to put runners on the corners and set up Juan Francisco’s game-ending pinch-hit single.
“You know [Janish] hits the ball good if I can go from first to third,” Ross cracked. “He made some great plays defensively. And I feel like Janish is in every at-bat. I know the numbers don’t show it, but he makes a lot of contact. He rarely strikes out and he hits the ball hard. Early on he had a lot of tough luck, and [his hits Friday] found some grass.”
Gonzalez said Saturday that a mid-September return for Simmons is more likely than early September. The rookie will stay behind when the Braves go on their 10-game trip that starts Monday, and continue to work with a Braves physical therapist and hand specialist to regain the strength and flexibility before he can begin a rehab assignment.
In the meantime, the Braves are pleased with the work Janish has done as a fill-in. He’s not the hitting threat that Simmons was proving to be, nor is he going to make as many spectacular plays as the kid from Curacao. But he’s been more than adequate for a team that has the majors’ best record (29-11) going back to July 3.
“I know he’s been swinging it pretty good,” Gonzalez said. “And not just getting hits, but big hits in important moments. When you look back, those are the type of players that are winners, championship-type players…. And he makes every play defensively. He helps make our pitchers pitch counts [stay lower]. He makes all the routine plays.
“And I’ve come to appreciate him. When you talk baseball with him, he’s sharp. He knows the game. In some situatiuons where we have to pinch-hit for him, it’s a one-run game and we have Hinske and Francisco to double pinch-hit for him and the pitcher’s spot, and he knows the game, he’s not going to be [upset]. Soon as that situation comes up, I look at him and he [nods]. You don’t have to explain it to him.”
• For the home folks: He said this week would play as many of the remaining home games as he could, but Chipper Jones is doing more than just being in the lineup. Talk about giving the home fans something to remember, check out these numbers: In his past 26 games at Turner Field (since June 26), Chipper has hit .389 (37-for-95) with 13 doubles, seven homers, 21 RBIs, .454 OBP and a .747 slugging percentage (1.201 OPS).
That stretch includes 11 multi-hit games, a two-homer game (on Friday, when he got his 2,700th hit) and a five-hit, four-RBI game.
• Tonight’s matchup: It’s Ben Sheets, making the seventh start of his comeback, against Dodgers righty Aaron Harang.
Sheets went 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA and .200 opponents’ average in his first three starts, with 13 hits, 15 strikeouts and five walks in 18 innings. In three starts since then he’s 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA and .325 opponents’ average, with 26 hits, 13 strikeouts and three walks in 20 innings.
Harang is 1-3 with a 4.53 ERA in 10 career starts against the Braves, including 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA and five homers allowed in four starts against them since the beginning of the 2010 season. He got no decision and allowed six hits, three runs and four walks in six innings of a Dodgers loss to the Braves on April 24.
Harang is 3-2 with 3.95 ERA and solid .208 opp average in seven starts since July 4.
Brian McCann is 12-for-23 with two homers against Harang, but McCann is not in the lineup tonight. Check the story I’ll be filing separately in just a bit for more on that situation. Fortunately for the Braves, Mac’s backup, David Ross, is 4-for-9 with three homers against Harang (yes, that’s a combined 16-for-32 with five homers by the Braves catchers against Harang).
Also, Chipper is 7-for-18 with two homers against him, and Dan Uggla is 9-for-26 with two homers.
• Let’s close this with a tune from one of the most underrated songwriters alive, with a great voice to boot. William Elliott Whitmore’s got the goods. Here’s ’s “Field Song,” which you should hear by clicking here.
“FIELD SONG” by William Elliott Whitmore
Write this down, and don’t forget
That the best of times aint happened yet
The gilded age has long been done
And so many lost when the west was won
Let’s go to the field were gonna do some work
Spend our day digging in the dirt
We’ll hope for rain to follow the plow
And this piece of ground is a homestead now
This little piece of ground is a homestead now
Three square meals and a living wage
Reminds me of the good ol’ days
Before the manifest destiny of the factory farms
When those cut throats came and burned down the barn
Underneath the black locust tree
There’s a shady place that waits for me
To rest my bones and to rest my mind
I’m gonna rest right here when I die
Write this down and don’t forget
That the best of times aint happened yet …
– by David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog