(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Milwaukee – OK I’m going to throw some numbers out there, but you already know what they’re getting at: Michael Bourn isn’t hitting and you know this because the Braves offense isn’t scoring runs.
That’s how important Bourn is as the leadoff man is to the Braves offense. When he’s going, the Braves are scoring runs and when he’s not, they’re not. We’ve seen it all year both on the positive and negative side.
Bourn is 0-for-8 in the Brewers series and the Braves have lost both games, while scoring one run on a double play grounder by Andrelton Simmons.
Bourn has played in all but one of the Braves games this year and started all but three. In the 81 wins he has played in, Bourn is hitting .320 with a .403 on-base percentage, 16 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 45 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. In the 61 losses he has played in, Bourn is hitting .221 with a .269 on-base percentage, seven doubles, five triples, three home runs, 11 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases.
In 57 games since the All-Star break, Bourn is hitting .227 (51-for-224) with a .323 on-base percentage. The Braves as a team have hit .238 while averaging 4.2 runs in 58 games. Before the All-Star break, Bourn hit .311 with a .366 on-base percentage, and the Braves hit .259 and averaged 4.6 runs per game.
Bourn struck out once every 4.82 at-bats in the first half, and in the second half, he’s struck out once every 3.5 at-bats, including twice last night.
“We’ve got to get him going,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez acknowledged after last night’s game. “We’ve got to get him going and we will. He came in today and (hitting coach) Greg (Walker) saw a couple things that he wanted to work on and fix, but we need to get him going.”
In the process of talking to Chipper Jones last night about the Braves offensive struggles, he basically said the same thing in so many words.
“We know our offense starts at the top, and we’ve been struggling to get on base early in the innings to be able to put pressure on the defense,” Jones said. “And that’s the reason why we’ve been struggling offensively, I think.”
It’s a tough assignment to try to turn things around tonight against Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo who faces Braves left-hander Paul Maholm. Gallardo is 6-0 with a 3.04 ERA in his past eight starts and the Brewers have won all eight.
Maholm knows the Brewers well from all his years in the National League Central, and maybe too well. He won only once in his past 18 starts against them dating back to 2006, going 1-10 with a 5.37 ERA including losses in his past five decisions. He’s 3-10 with a 4.87 ERA against them in 21 games overall.
A lot rides on this game mentally for the Braves, who would love to salvage a win so they can finish the road trip 4-2 and take a little momentum home to Atlanta where they welcome in the Nationals this weekend.
The Cardinals have lost two in a row (and four out of five) so the Braves maintained a 5 ½ game lead in the wild card, but both the Brewers and Phillies are making a push now, and trail St. Louis by only four games. Both the Dodgers (one game back) and Pirates (2 ½ back) are having their issues.
Looking ahead to the weekend, pitching match-ups for the Braves vs. Nationals, who are now sans Stephen Strasburg. On Friday it’ll be Kris Medlen vs. Ross Detwiler, on Saturday, Tommy Hanson vs. Edwin Jackson, and on Sunday Mike Minor vs. Gio Gonzalez….
Major League Baseball released the 2013 schedule today. The Braves open and close the season at home against the Phillies, and they’ll travel to Kansas City for the first time in their history. Click here for a story about the schedule.
Tidbits: Bryce Harper had four hits in the game to become the first teenager to collect four hits in a game since Andruw Jones did it on Sept. 22, 1996 at age 19…
Happy Birthday to Freddie Freeman who’s 23 today.
Chipper in back pages of Sports Illustrated
Something you all are going to want to look out for this week. Sports Illustrated asked Chipper Jones to write the “Point After” in this week’s issue. It’s pretty poignant and you won’t want to miss. (Chipper is being honored tonight by the Brewers in his last game in Milwaukee before retirement, by the way.)
Here are a couple of excerpts from that article, including one when Chipper talked about meeting his boyhood (and his father’s) hero Mickey Mantle at a card show shortly before Mantle died.
“He was a god to me. Because he batted switch, I wanted to bat switch. Because he spent his whole career with one club, I wanted to spend my whole career with one club….There were grown men with tears in their eyes that day, meeting the Mick. I asked him, ‘Do you ever get tired of signing?’ He said he had a recurring dream where he gets to the pearly gates and the guy at the door says, “Mick, we’re gonna let you in, but we need you to sign these dozen balls first.” If you’re a ballplayer, people want a piece of you. Why? Because baseball is the grand American game, that’s why.”
And then Chipper closed it with something very personal.
“I’ve had a lot of failings, as a ballplayer, as a father, as a husband. I married at 20 the first time, too young, but I didn’t know that then. I’m getting divorced now from my second wife, and I will never, ever, get married again. But I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. I believe everything happens for a reason. My four kids, three with my second wife, are athletic, smart, fun, still young. I’ve been a part-time father. Now, come October, I’m going to be a full-time father, like my father was to me. I’m going to teach Shea to bat switch. He’s eight. It’s time. I’m saying goodbye without a tear in my eye. I gave it my all.”
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Heyward RF
4. Jones 3B
5. Freeman 1B
6. Uggla 2B
7. McCann C
8. Janish SS
9. Maholm P