Braves bats have recently slumbered at Turner Field
Had the Padres bullpen kept things relatively clean following Mat Latos’ exit on Tuesday night, it would have been a little easier for the Braves to simply tip their caps and accept the fact that they were on the wrong end of a one-run shutout loss.
During Latos’ seven scoreless innings, the Braves recorded two hits and moved just one baserunner (Matt Diaz in the sixth) into scoring position. During each of the next three innings that followed the 21-year-old hurler’s exit, they put a runner in scoring position with one out and still managed to register just one run.
While recording just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position during those three innings, the Braves prolonged a troubling trend that has factored heavily in the that they’ve produced a pedestrian 7-6 record in their past 13 home games. During this same span, which dates back to July 31, they’ve won seven of 10 road games.
Within their past 13 games at Turner Field, the Braves have compiled a .224 batting average and hit .223 (23-for-103) with runners in scoring position. During their past 10 road games, they’ve batted .297 and been successful at a .397 (33-for-87) clip with runners in scoring position.
This glaring discrepancy comes within a small sample size. But at the same time, it’s not as if the Braves possess the margin of error that will allow them to continue experience these kind of offensive struggles at Turner Field and still catch the Phillies or the Denver-based Rock-offs.
With a second consecutive extra-inning, walk-off victory last night, the Rockies moved 5 ½ games in front of both the Braves and Marlins, who are once again tied for third place in the National League Wild Card standings.
Even with all of Colorado’s recent success, it’s too early for the Braves to panic. While they’re spending the next two nights facing a couple of Padres starters not named Latos, the Rockies will be facing the greater challenge presented by the Dodgers, who have the luxury of serving as the opposition when Josh Fogg makes his first big league start of the season tonight.
If Fogg channels 2007 and once again becomes the “Dragon-Slayer” that he was down the stretch that year, then Denver can prepare for another Rocktober and Atlanta can only hope the Dodgers continue to slide or that the Phillies send Brad Lidge to the mound to protect ninth-inning leads on a nightly basis.
Obviously before the Braves can make a serious push toward the postseason, they’ll need to get healthy. With Ryan Church likely returning tonight and Nate McLouth confident that he’ll be ready when he’s eligible to come off the DL on Monday, they’re at least moving in the right direction.
While Martin Prado went hitless in six at-bats last night, it was at least encouraging to hear that he was able to complete a 12-inning game without dealing with any of the headaches or dizziness that had bothered him over the previous 10 days.
The Braves also welcomed Garret Anderson back to the lineup on Tuesday night and watched him gut through a 1-for-5 performance. Obviously outfield range isn’t one of Anderson’s assets. But last night, it was apparent that he was still dealing with some of the lower back discomfort that has kept Church sidelined the past three games.
A healthy Anderson wasn’t going to get the game-winner that David Eckstein placed in the left-center field gap. But had Church or McLouth been in center, instead of Omar Infante, I think there’s a chance we might have at least seen a 13th inning.
Speaking of health, Chipper Jones certainly has said that he’s feeling some of the aches and pains that develop toward the end of a season for a 37-year-old man. But it’s not as if his offensive struggles simply started over the course of the past nine games, during which he’s recorded one hit in 28 at-bats.
This nine-game stretch doesn’t seem as concerning when he you account for the fact that he’s walked seven times in his past 18 plate appearances – largely a product of the fact that the Marlins made it their mission not to let him hurt him this past weekend.
Plus in the six games that preceded this nine-game slide, Chipper recorded 13 hits, including a pair of homers, in 23 at-bats.
Concerns about Jones should focus on the fact that he’s hit just .241 with a .384 slugging percentage during his past 62 games. Within this stretch, which dates back to June 10, he has seen his batting average drop from .335 to .281 and his slugging percentage drop from .565 to .462.
Making this stretch even more maddening for Jones is the fact that he’s struggled from both sides of the plate and whether at home or on the road.
Here are some of Jones’ splits during this 62-game stretch:
Vs. LHP .235 (18-for-91) batting average, .330 on-base percentage, .395 slugging percentage
Vs. RHP .244 (33-for-135) BA, .384 OBP, .378 SLG
Home: .239 (28-for-117) BA, .343 OBP, .385 SLG
Road: .242 (24-for-99) BA, .389 OBP, .384 SLG
Now that the Braves are returning to health, Jones might be given more opportunities to benefit from the rest provided by a day off. But at the same time, this wouldn’t guarantee an immediate revival. After straining his left oblique muscle on Aug. 7, he missed three games and didn’t return to the lineup until Aug. 11.
If Jones feels that he needs a day off, Braves manager Bobby Cox will likely be more apt to give him one during one of these final two games against the Padres.
With the Braves heading to Philadelphia this weekend knowing just how significant it would be to exit with a three-game sweep, they’ll need Jones in the lineup for each of those three games against the Phillies.