Braves salvage game against Padres but need more

Martin Prado's sixth-inning homer turned out to be the winning run against the Padres. (AP photo)

Martin Prado's sixth-inning homer turned out to be winning run against the Padres. (AP photo)

(Updated: 10:45 p.m.)

Maybe the analogy Fredi Gonzalez chose was a little dated, but the context still translates clearly in 2011.

“You look at the back of the bubble-gum cards and you see the [career] numbers by these guys and you think, ‘It can still happen,’” the Braves’ manager said Wednesday night.

Back in the day, I didn’t have the patience to wait. So my seven Matty Alou baseball cards — I chewed a lot of bad gum, hoping to land a Willie Davis or a Bill Freehan, always getting an Alou brother — ended up clicking in my bicycle spokes if he was hitting .258 in May.

The Braves don’t have that option. (With the cards maybe, but not the players. They’re under contract.)

Right now, they are an average team. After dropping the first two games of the San Diego series, they salvaged one against the Padres on Wednesday night, winning 4-3 behind the strong pitching of Tommy Hanson and the bullpen and a great game-ending catch by Jordan Schafer. But a 3-3 homestand and a 12-11 record since May 7 won’t stir the masses.

“Good [way] to finish after the first two nights,” Gonzalez said. “Good start to June.”

These small victories are welcome. Nobody expected mediocrity. Nobody expected losing consecutive home games to the Padres, who hit town with the second-worst record in the National League (22-31).

Dan Uggla's night: 0-for-4 (including this broken bat groundout) and his average has dropped to .175. (AP photo)

Dan Uggla's night: 0-for-4 (including this broken bat groundout) and his average has dropped to .175. (AP photo)

Is it panic time yet? Hardly. General manager Frank Wren isn’t going to make any trades, at least not for a while. It’s early. Also, it doesn’t make sense to swing a deal when the team has players on the disabled list (unless they’re viewed as long-term injuries). Also, even with Philadelphia off to a good start, the Braves are only 3½ games out of first place.

To put it another way, the Braves have 105 games left and their magic (elimination) number in the East Division is 103.

The question is: When does concern turn into some sort of action? The Braves can deal from a position of strength — pitching — whether that involves a veteran or a prospect. But they would like to get a better read on Jason Heyward’s health, Schafer’s viability as a permanent center fielder and leadoff hitter, and Dan Uggla’s general vital signs before making a decision.

It isn’t all bad. Brian McCann (.309) had two more hits. Rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman, after hitting .220 in his first 39 games, is 24-for-62 (.387) in his last 16 (he had two run-scoring hits against the Padres in his first two at-bats). Martin Prado, whose solo homer gave the Braves a 4-2 lead in the sixth, is still good anywhere he plays or hits in the lineup.

But nobody knows when Uggla (.175) will remember that he’s not supposed to stink or when Heyward believes his shoulder will be strong enough to play.

That is why Chipper Jones is still playing. He probably shouldn’t be. He’ll tell you that his right knee feels fine and his sore groin (used to be hamstring) is healthy enough. But the reality is, he probably is just delaying the inevitable. He’ll need arthroscopic surgery at some point for torn cartilage, and he should be healing on the disabled list.

Gonzalez said Jones probably would be more receptive to days off if the remainder of the roster was healthy and functioning normally. Jones will acknowledge this only to a certain degree.

“I think I’d still be playing,” he said.

Then this: “It’s not the best time [to be out]. The best option for me was to try the [cortisone] shot to see if it works, and to this point it has. [But] you lose your top three hitters in your batting order [including Nate McLouth and Heyward], it might be too big of a hole.”

Folllowing the win, Freeman said, “Obviously runs are coming a little difficult right now, But with the way Tommy pitched and our bullpen, four was enough tonight. But we don’t want to put that much pressure on [our pitchers].”

The Braves hope at some point the offense wakes up. But the calendar just turned to June, and discomfort is growing.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

97 comments Add your comment

IceColdATLien

June 1st, 2011
10:09 pm

I hear you, Jeff. I’m not content either.

Bravo

June 1st, 2011
10:09 pm

1st……good one Jeff!

Hillbilly D

June 1st, 2011
10:09 pm

The Braves are in pretty decent shape, all things considered. There’s a long way to go.

IceColdATLien

June 1st, 2011
10:13 pm

I don’t do “first”

Bravo

June 1st, 2011
10:15 pm

curside (sp?) slow internet

IceColdATLien

June 1st, 2011
10:15 pm

Uggla will come out of it for sure and I think Jordan might be the scrappy leadoff guy every postseason team needs. If those two things happen, it’ll have a ripple effect throughout the lineup and then we’ll be talking about when do we catch the Phils?

Henry D.

June 1st, 2011
10:16 pm

Uggla appears to be totally lost. Who knew it was the Braves staff that was throwing all those lollipops to him the last few years.

Oh by the way, FIRST!

Joe Tess Fish House

June 1st, 2011
10:17 pm

THe big problem is they hired a managar with a loosing record who then brings in Uggly who cant hit.They aslo put too much on Haywood but I told ever one last year he was a bust.

bravesfanforever

June 1st, 2011
10:19 pm

With all the problems we are having and only 3.5 out.Man if only we had hit just a little could be in or closer to first place.chipper is not bad playing hurt.Maybe Heyward can learn something and I think McClouth job is in jeporady.Also would somebody please contact the starship Enterprise and have them beam the real Uggla back to earth.

Gwinnett Braves Bible.com

June 1st, 2011
10:19 pm

First, and I agree with you Jeff. At this point, it’s insane not to ask the question of not when Uggla will hit, but will he hit this season.

You can look at his past stats all you want to, but he has never signed this kind of contract before, nor has he played for his childhood team.

He seems to be very weak mentally, and I’m wondering if we’re seeing another Nate Mclouth unfolding before us.

I hope I’m wrong, but there’s no bubble gum card with his current situation to say I am.

jojo

June 1st, 2011
10:35 pm

Jeff, totally agree with you. We don’t have power or the speed to compete.

Heisenberg

June 1st, 2011
10:41 pm

McOut does not count as far as loosing top 3 hitters in lineup. Schafer looks like an upgrade both offensively and defensively. Heyward started the season batting 6th. Which is about where he will hit when he returns as Schafer/Prado remain 1 & 2. If that is the reason for delayed getting Chippers’ knee scoped, it is lame.

The lineup can be adjusted for 2-3 weeks. Get the knee done NOW. How about for top 5:
Schafer
Prado
McCann
Uggla
Freeman

Yes Uggla hitting 4th. No need to put him 7 or lower. Tell him Danny boy “you are off to a slow start but it is time to earn to paycheck”.

Joe Bob

June 1st, 2011
10:42 pm

Poor Danny, makes so much money he can’t concentrate on baseball now for thinking what he’s going to do with it. Makes him dance in the batters’ box while humming Money, money, money. Please, somebody, get this guy some help. If Freddi keeps him in the lineup like he is, he’ll be on the funny farm soon.

Long Way Home Brave

June 1st, 2011
10:45 pm

We should of kept Frenchy, moved him to left and kept Prado at 2nd and we would be a lot better off

JD

June 1st, 2011
10:46 pm

Finally, a voice in the wilderness speaks up….

Harpie

June 1st, 2011
10:53 pm

Long Way Home Brave: Yeah, well who knew that “Frenchy” would get his head out of his ass and start listening to his coaches, so that he could start hitting again. He screwed the Braves royally ( no pun intended ) by being such a hard -headed know- it- all….

Long Way Home Brave

June 1st, 2011
10:55 pm

Im saying I would even rather have the “old frenchy” and prado at 2nd then pay struggla a kings ransom for a queen’s swing

JTugg

June 1st, 2011
10:56 pm

The Braves for the past 15 years or so have been lacking players with SPEED! Our team looks like the good ole boys out there! And we are slow as hell which is why we have a hard time manufacturing runs. Also why is that everytime we have a new player with good numbers come to ATL, they struggle at the plate and everytime a player leaves ATL he becomes an ALL-STAR???

Mike

June 1st, 2011
10:57 pm

Went to the game Monday. Flat, flat, flat. Is Alex Gonzales going to phone in the rest of the season?

JTugg

June 1st, 2011
10:57 pm

Dan Uggla is NOT a clean-up hitter! He is a 5th or 6th hitter at best! Move him away from the clean-up spot. Dude is a good hitter. He tortured the Braves when he was with the Marlins.

JTugg

June 1st, 2011
10:59 pm

Can anyone on the Braves team steal bases or score from 1st on a double?

Heisenberg

June 1st, 2011
11:01 pm

Alex G phoning it in? The guy is playing gold glove defense! Sure he can be a bit streaky at the plate, but SS is not up there on the list of things to be concerned about. The list:
Heyward
Uggla
Chippers knee
CF

Long Way Home Brave

June 1st, 2011
11:02 pm

CF is covered, Schaf is fine there. The other three are concerns

Heisenberg

June 1st, 2011
11:15 pm

There is a 5 year consistent track record on Uggla. Not a question of if but when.

LWHB, that is why CF is 4th on list and SS is not even on it. JS is fine unless Matt Kemp can be had.

Heisenberg

June 1st, 2011
11:16 pm

Would love to stay up and discuss but the pillow is calling.

Alphare

June 1st, 2011
11:18 pm

Braves pitching is so good, but their hitting is so bad, making them a mediocre team.

Zane Smiths Teeth

June 1st, 2011
11:18 pm

Time to get Medlin healthy enough to audition for another team. We need a bat.

JackDennis

June 1st, 2011
11:22 pm

Joe Tess Fish House 10:17 Stick to the cod. Leave baseball to those that know.

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
11:43 pm

Thanks IceCold … and I guess you can pass your “first” to Bravo. (Not sure if you get a tax deduction for that.)

Falcorave

June 1st, 2011
11:46 pm

is Jordan Schaefer the Jacoby Ellsbury trade we never made?

Falcorave

June 1st, 2011
11:48 pm

while Francouer is doing great over in Kansas City, may i remind everyone that he’s doing well in wait for it, Kansas City? the place is a where baseball careers taht already died go to collect their pension years. Francouer is literally playing with zero pressure, thus the solid batting line he is producing this season. If you put him into a playoff scenario, his average will halve, i can almost guarantee it. I am happy for him that he has success and could even be an all-star, but he’s Kansas City’s problem now, and Kansas City’s problem he should stay.

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
11:49 pm

Long Way Home Brave: Funny how many people all of a sudden want Francoeur back.

Jeff

June 1st, 2011
11:50 pm

The question was “When does concern turn into some sort of action?”
I say it’s whenever the bottom teams become sellers – probably around midseason.

Chalky

June 1st, 2011
11:58 pm

What bugs me is that even if Uggla gets super hot, he’ll still be looking up at .250. He and Parrish need to figure out why he keeps popping out so much. Then we wouldn’t need to always call attention to when he hits the ball hard but right at someone.

JSS

June 2nd, 2011
12:01 am

Uggla does not stink, but he joins a long list of Atlanta signees across myriad of franchises whose caught that “this town can drain your talent-itis!”

I hope for better next year… Keep on plugging there Uggla!

@ Jeff Schultz…
Check your Facebook in-box about 3:15PM on Sunday… You know what is heading your way ;-) Got a new smart phone just for the occasion!

RogueRunner

June 2nd, 2011
12:09 am

Let’s go Dan!

Matt the Brave

June 2nd, 2011
12:22 am

I think that one thing is being overlooked for Uggla. His defense seems to be MUCH better this year. Perhaps this is due to our new infield coach, Terry Pendleton? Seems that Sea Bass and SS is better, too.

I am guessing this will be a down year for Uggla no matter if he hits .350 the rest of the season. .175 at June is almost 2010 McClouth numbers. However, I still have faith that he will put it into another gear. Like to see him perhaps hit second one night with Chipper behind him to see if that might help.

Matt the Brave

June 2nd, 2011
12:22 am

Oh, and no Frenchy. He’s having a freak year. No reason to give up a couple of prospects for a one-year wonder that’ll tank in the 2nd half.

TruthSeeker

June 2nd, 2011
12:27 am

The only good news is that every other team in baseball has their own issues. This is a really mediocre year in the major leagues; no one in either league is pulling away from the pack.

I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Uggla hasn’t lost it. It seems impossible, but he wouldn’t be the first guy for it to happen to a relatively young age. We saw it with Andruw Jones, although Andruw did have a little more wear and tear on his body when his career fell off the cliff. Anyway, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Uggla snaps out of it, but I’m really concerned.

Pessimist

June 2nd, 2011
12:33 am

Frenchie is hitting .273 with an OBP of .322. While those are better than his career averages, I wouldn’t quite say he is flourishing in KC.

NorCal Brave

June 2nd, 2011
12:57 am

I’d gladly take whatever BA Uggla needs to get him to .250 for the year; it means he’d be producing big.
And Heisenberg is right about Chipper’s reason to postpone surgery; McClouth and Heyward weren’t making much difference at the top, Schafer and Prado are doing fine. Get it over with Chipper, we’ll need you for the stretch run we all hope we’re in the middle of.

Nicole4Eva

June 2nd, 2011
1:00 am

Enter your comments here

Nicole4Eva

June 2nd, 2011
1:08 am

Face it, Freddie just doesn’t fire these guys up like Bobby did….and why isn’t anyone putting some blame on this new hitting coach? Captain Coolbeard sure is flying under the radar…

HFIN

June 2nd, 2011
1:17 am

Braves WIN! Braves WIN! Braves WIN! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Dr. Warren

June 2nd, 2011
2:12 am

Let’s keep our perspective. It’s a long season. The Braves are tied for the 7th best record in baseball out of 30 teams. They are only 2 games out of the 3rd best record in baseball and a wildcard.

Cleveland
33 20 .623 -
Philadelphia
34 22 .607 .5
St. Louis
33 24 .579 2
NY Yankees
31 23 .574 2.5
Florida
31 23 .574 2.5
Arizona
31 25 .554 3.5
San Francisco
30 25 .545 4
Atlanta
31 26 .544 4

ValdostaDawg

June 2nd, 2011
3:10 am

Thank the Lord JJ and Co. are pitching the way they are because our offensive has been disgraceful. Hopefully when we get healthy and get all our bats back in the lineup, Uggla can use that protection to start producing. I know its a stretch, but something has to get this guy going.

TheAntiMe

June 2nd, 2011
3:49 am

I’m frustrated with Uggla too, but if you project his current number of 7 HRs out for the entire season, he still winds up hitting 21, which is the same number of HRs that Brian McCann hit last season to lead the Braves.

I am starting to wonder if it’s time to chip in for a plastic bubble for Jason Heyward as he seems to get hurt an awful lot. Hopefully, he will be back soon and can stay healthy to give the Braves the lift they need at the dish.

clay

June 2nd, 2011
4:09 am

i do think we need to make atleast one trade right now to get some speed, and give chipper some consistant rest. we dont need him until sep. anyway. He still has got that late game magic left. and thats all that matters at this point in his career.

clay

June 2nd, 2011
4:11 am

Its good that we are getting Jason this much rest and still able to compete because when he comes back , he needs to be that guy he was last year at the start of the year.

Stinger2

June 2nd, 2011
4:56 am

This Braves team is the most unpedictable one that I can remember on a game to game basis. The only consistent part is the good pitching…both starting and relief. The hitting must improve because pitching alone cannot win a division or even a wild card.