What exactly are the baseball gods waiting for? For Bobby Cox to scream, “Uncle?”
The question now isn’t just whether the Braves can drag themselves across the finish line of this regular season, the last spasm somehow getting them into the playoffs. It’s whether they’re going to bankrupt their HMO.
The clubhouse is a room of exploding body parts, and yet they endure. They are like Monty Python’s “Black Knight,” who had his two arms severed by King Arthur but responded, “‘It’s only a flesh wound. … I am invincible!”)
Are the Braves? They’ve received more than their share of flesh wounds. The latest came Tuesday, with the news that Martin Prado — who figured to be on the shelf for possibly the season any way with a hip pointer — suffered a torn oblique muscle.
Doctors have ordered Prado to not do too much more than sit on a couch for the next two months. So much for the post season, even if the Braves make it.
This is how the Braves responded to the news: They defeated the Florida Marlins 3-2.
Tim Hudson, pitching on three days rest for the injured Jair Jurrjens, allowed one run in six innings. Third baseman Brooks Conrad, who was starting for Prado, who had been filling in at third for Chipper Jones (torn ACL), was batting .236 when he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning. Then he hit an RBI triple to tie it at 1-1. Two batters later, Eric Hinske hit a pinch hit two-run homer.
They did it again. They still lead San Diego in the race for the National League wild card spot.
Cue the Black Knight, after losing both arms and both legs: “Come back here! I’ll bite your legs off!”
Prado has been the team’s most valuable player this season. He crumbled during his final at-bat Monday night against Florida, after injuring his hip earlier on a diving catch. Understand this about Martin Prado: He doesn’t crumble unless a Chevy falls on his head.
The wonder is that the Braves, even while clearly wearing down, haven’t crumbled with all of these injuries.
They have lost two No. 3 hitters (Jones and Prado). Their entire starting infield is not what it was projected to be. The plans of (right to left) Troy Glaus, Prado, Yunel Escobar and Jones turned into Derrek Lee, Omar Infante, Alex Gonzalez and Prado.
Six different players have started in left field.
Four different players have started in center.
Cox used his 105th different lineup Tuesday. That’s 1-0-5.
Reliever Takashi Saito (shoulder) hasn’t pitched in 11 days. He’s probably done. Jurrjens, who missed two months with a hamstring injury, also might be done with a knee injury. Reliever-turned-starter Kris Medlen had Tommy John surgery. Reliever Eric O’Flaherty: He’s dizzy and has blurred vision.
The team is being held together by duct tape.
Cox said it best Tuesday: “We’ve had a lot of patchwork. … We have a great bench. But now that bench is in the lineup.”
Hitters four through eight in the lineup entered with batting averages of .255, .255, .256, .239 and .232.
Hudson, going down the list of injuries in his head, said: “Two of our best starting pitchers are out. Our starting third baseman. Our starting second baseman. The bullpen. But nobody’s using that as an excuse. You just have to take what you have and go out there and try to win.”
Somehow, they did that again Tuesday. With only four games left on their schedule, maybe we should just stop assuming they’re going to hit a wall.