Braves hoping to extend Reds’ woes
After watching the Braves claim Wednesday afternoon’s 11-inning win, I sat through heavy Pittsburgh traffic, flew back to Atlanta, talked to my wife for a little bit and still had time to watch at least nine innings of the 19-inning loss the Reds suffered in Philadelphia.
Things seemed to be going bad for the Braves Monday, when they were dealing with a rash of injuries (Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and Tim Hudson) and licking their wounds after winning just one of the first five games of a seven-game trip. Two wins and four days later, it’s safe to say their recent frustrations have been trumped by those felt by the Reds.
The Reds have batted just .222 with seven homers while winning just one of their previous nine games. Still they lead the National League with 57 homers and rank third with a .260 batting average. Without surprise most of their damage has been done at Great American (offensively-friendly) Ballpark.
During their 26 home games, the Reds have hit .282 with 34 homers and an .808 OPS. They have hit .239 with 23 homers and a .673 OPS in 25 road games.
Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Jair Jurrjens will attempt to extend the Reds’ recent offensive struggles this weekend. Hanson will take the mound tonight, when the Braves attempt to steal the first game against Mike Leake. Given the situation, I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that last sentence was a cheap shot. In the spirit of southern hospitality, we’ll go with low blow.
This has been a trying year for Leake, who was charged with attempting to shoplift six t-shirts from a downtown Cincinnatit department store last month. Since revealing he was attempting to make an improper exchange, he has pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge and entered a court-sponsored diversion program for first-time offenders.
Leake, who was taken with the eighth overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, has spent the past couple weeks as a first time Minor Leaguer. When he made Cincinnati’s Opening Day 2010 roster, he had never previously played at the professional level.
When the Reds sent Edinson Voquez back to the Minors earlier this week, they opened a rotation spot for Leake, who allowed 12 hits and eight earned runs in the 7 1/3 innings he threw for Triple-A Louisville over the past two weeks. The 23-year-old right-hander was 3-1 with a 5.77 ERA in the six starts he made for Cincinnati earlier this year.
Speaking of judicial matters, Lowe will take the mound Saturday night for the first time since DUI and reckless driving charges were dropped against him. He’ll be opposing former Red Sox teammate Bronson Arroyo, who allowed nine earned runs and 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies Monday night.
After battling a stiff back during that start in Philadelphia, Arroyo returned to Cincinnati this week to undergo an MRI exam that showed no structural damage.
Now you have a better understanding about why it’s easy to surmise the Braves’ recent problems pale in comparison to those experienced by the Reds. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that after playing Wednesday night’s 19-inning game, they received just four innings from starting pitcher Homer Bailey on Thursday afternoon. He injured his shoulder while swinging the bat.
The Reds bullpen has totaled 25 innings since Monday. The Braves have played at least 11 innings four times since May 17. Still during this eight game stretch, their relievers have totaled just 30 2/3 innings.
The Reds might have been able to win Wednesday night’s game in the 11th inning had Brandon Phillips not opted to converse with Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins as he took his lead off second base. He got picked off by J.C. Romero and later apologized via his Twitter account (@DatDudeBP).
Reds manager Dusty Baker seemed to provide a logical and comical response to the situation.
“There are certain guys who are social on purpose,” Baker said. “If you want to be social, keep your foot on the bag while being social.”
BENCH POWER: There will be power on the benches during this weekend’s series. Courtesy of Conrad’s game-winning blast Wednesday, the Braves have hit more pinch-hit homers (14) than any other Major League club since the start of 2010. The Reds rank second with 13 and the Phillies third with nine.
Eric Hinske and Reds backup outfielder Chris Heisey lead the Majors with five pinch-hit homers during this same span. Conrad ranks second with four.
Hinske (5), Conrad (4) and Brian McCann (2) have accounted for most of the pinch-hit homers hit by the Braves since the start of last year. Can you name the other three players who have accounted for the other three? (Answer below)
Honoring the military: In celebration of Memorial Day weekend, the Braves are offering free tickets to all active military personnel for each of the next four games played through Monday afternoon. After showing their ID at the Turner Field box office windows, the military members will receive a free Upper Box ticket. Their family members can buy additional tickets for half price.
ANSWER: Along with Hinske, Conrad and McCann, the other Braves to hit pinch-hit homers since the start of last year were Freddie Freeman, Matt Diaz and Diory Hernandez.