Michael Bourn has hardly been alone among Braves hitters who’ve slumped recently, but no other has had such a profound effect on the team’s overall offensive performance.
As Bourn goes, so goes the Braves offense. And lately, he and it have not gone well.
The speedy center fielder hit .177 (14-for-79) with one extra-base hit, five runs and a .495 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his past 22 games before Friday, when Bourn was out of the lineup for the fifth time this season and third time in the past 22 games.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez rested Bourn to give him consecutive days off – the Braves didn’t play Thursday – and get Reed Johnson in the lineup against Nationals starter Ross Detwiler. Johnson was 5-for-9 with a homer against the left-hander before Friday, while Bourn was 1-for-13.
Asked if fatigue might be affecting his recent performance, Bourn said, “I want to play in October. I don’t care if you’re tired; that don’t matter. But I understand [Gonzalez’s] method. I have no problem. I told him that, too. It can probably do me some good. We’ve got another [day off] when we go to Philadelphia [next week], and that can probably do me some good, too.”
How much has Bourn’s performance set the tone for the Braves? Consider that in the team’s 81 wins before Friday, he hit .320 (109-for-341) and scored 70 runs. In their 63 losses — Bourn had played in 62 — he had a .217 average (53-for-244) and 18 runs.
“I know with this offense, we roll when I do,” Bourn said. “I knew that from Day 1. We didn’t struggle bad at the beginning, but we struggled a little bit. Once I started going good, we starting winning…. Even Chipper [Jones] says it all the time. I know the responsibility that comes with [hitting leadoff]. And I put it on me. I know we didn’t score runs against the Brewers, and I struggled against the Brewers.”
The Braves scored just three runs in three games while getting swept at Milwaukee in a series that ended Wednesday. Bourn went 0-for-12 with no walks and struck out twice in each of the last two games against the Brewers, giving him 11 hitless games in his past 21 starts.
“I’ve struggled a little bit, but I don’t look for excuses,” he said. “It’s part of playing baseball…. I think [the day off] can do be some good. I just hope we win today, that’s it. I don’t care about the other stuff. Because we’re getting closer and closer to the playoffs, and I feel like our chemistry is different than last year. We play a little different, we act a little different. Even during the games, if we’re down our response is totally different. That’s what I like.”
Whether or not fatigue has affected him at the plate, Bourn’s defense has remained strong throughout his slump.
“I won’t carry my offense over to my defense,” he said. “I just tell myself that, man. I owe that to my pitchers and my teammates, first of all. I’m not going to take my offense over to my defense. It’s just something I don’t do.
“Of course I want to get a hit every time I go up there. But at times when things aren’t going right [at the plate], just don’t take that to the field. Because you can be out there thinking about it, trust me. And then the next thing you know a ball is coming your way. So then you look bad. I never want to do that.”
Simmons back in lineup
Rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons returned to the Braves lineup after missing one game with a minor ankle sprain. Simmons had no issues when he tested the ankle Friday afternoon during early running and fielding drills, then again during batting practice and pregame infield.