(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Milwaukee – So it’s Monday, Sept. 10 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and you know what that means? Andrelton Simmons is scheduled to rejoin the Braves lineup. All indications are the dynamic young shortstop from Curacao will be back in the lineup tonight for the series opener at Miller Park.
His bat has been a pretty good indicator of his readiness too. Simmons has hit .320 (8-for-25) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in six games during his minor league rehabilitation assignment. And this is a guy who hit only one home run all last season while playing in the Carolina League.
But this season Simmons had taken his offensive progression to new heights, reaching the major leagues at the end of May and then winning National league rookie of the month in June at a time when he was being counted on mostly for his defense.
Simmons hit .296 (34-for-115) with seven doubles, one triple, three home runs and 15 RBIs in 33 games for the Braves overall.
Last we saw Simmons in a game was July 8 in Philadelphia, a little more than two months ago, when he slid into second base head first, earning a hustle-double but also a fractured fifth metacarpal. Simmons actually stayed in the game in the bottom of the inning before coming out.
But he’s been chomping at the bit for much of the past two months, and I’m sure he’s beyond excited about tonight. His enthusiasm has been running high, just to get back playing in games. He had designs on winning a championship ring while he was down in Lynchburg, his third stop in three minor league levels during his rehab assignment (he played one game for Double-A Mississippi and one for Rome.)
Simmons helped the Hillcats complete a 2-1 series victory over Wilmington in the first round of the playoffs when he hit one of their two solo home runs in a 2-1 win on Friday. They split their first two games in the best-of-five Mills Cup series before he left the team on Sunday. Simmons DH’d on Sunday, most likely to protect his legs on his final day of rehab, and went 2-for-5 with two doubles and one RBI.
Simmons has been quite the road warrior this week, traveling from Mobile to Rome to Lynchburg to Winston-Salem to Milwaukee from one Sunday to the next. Good thing he’s 23 years old and has a lot of spring in his step! I’ll catch up with him this afternoon and post a note.
So the Braves open this three-game series against yet another team that’s pretty hot, considering its plight in the overall scheme of things. That’s what the Braves faced in the Padres, who’d won seven in a row when they played the Braves. Same thing with the Phillies, who’d won eight of 12, the Rockies, who’d won 10 of 14, and now the Brewers, who have won 15 of 20.
The Brewers very nearly swept the Cardinals in St. Louis over the weekend. They tied the game 4-4 in the ninth when Norichika Aoki hit a two-run home run with two outs off Cards closer Jason Motte, but the Cardinals rallied with a run in the bottom of the 10th.
That loss dropped the Brewers back to six games behind the Cardinals for the second wild card spot, tied with the Phillies and trailing the Dodgers and Pirates. It’d be tough but they still have some hope, and the Brewers have won 14 of their last 16 games at Miller Park, including their last six in a row.
Ryan Braun (sore wrist) and Corey Hart (sprained ankle) both had to leave Sunday’s game and are considered day-to-day.
The Brewers, who traded Zack Greinke at the deadline when things were spiraling for them, called up four of their prospects in September including the one pitching tonight Wily Peralta against Mike Minor. Peralta was considered the Brewers’ top pitching prospect to start the season. He’s made his first major league start Wednesday against the Marlins, and had a quality start, giving up three runs in six innings to record the win in an 8-5 victory.
On the aggressive
The Braves are 81-60 through 141 games. Through 141 games last year, the Braves were 82-59. So they are just one game off the pace they were on in early September, when things were still on the up-and-up. Judging by what Fredi Gonzalez has been doing of late, the Braves are not going to sit back and wait for things to happen for them (or to them) this September.
DOB did an astute job of explaining this in his game story from Sunday’s win in New York, but basically the way I see it, this time around Gonzalez has a) a better-rested bullpen b) he benched Dan Uggla for a three-game stretch, which seems to have rewarded Gonzalez in the long haul as Uggla came back out of the layoff on the attack.
C) He used Craig Kimbrel for a four-out save on Wednesday, then came back Sunday and pitched him in the ninth inning of a tie game on the road, because he saw breaking tradition a small price to pay to handle the key matchups of the game. D) He’s also used Martin Prado at shortstop in four of the past five games, looking for an offensive boost where Paul Janish hadn’t offered much in that regard.
So we’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store as we go but we’re learning to expect the unexpected.
Frick Award and more
Tallies from the first round of voting on the fan nomination for the Ford C. Frick award were released this morning and both the late great Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren were both among the 41 top vote-getters out of a possible 200 broadcasters.
Voting resumed today and will continue until 5 p.m. on Oct. 5. The top three vote-getters will appear on the ballot along with seven finalists chosen by the Hall of Fame committee. The winner will be chosen by a 21-member panel, including 15 former Frick award winners, and announced at the winter meetings. Fan votes from the first round don’t carry over to this round, so if you want to support Skip and Pete,go to www.facebook.com/baseballhall.
Major League Baseball will commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with on-field tributes on Tuesday, and players, coaches and umpires will wear American flag patches on the side of their caps for their games on Tuesday.
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Heyward RF
4. Jones 3B
5. Freeman 1B
6. Uggla 2B
7. McCann C
8. Simmons SS
9. Minor P