McCann nearing sixth straight All-Star selection in impressive fashion
Getting two trips to San Diego in one season is considered a true treat for any Major League club not in the National League West. This is undoubtedly the Senior Circuit’s best stop. Chicago ranks a close second.
It’s been two months since we last visited San Diego and it’s safe to say much has changed since the Braves took two of three from the Padres during April’s final week. With a series-ending win over the Padres on April 27, the Braves gained a .500 record (13-13) for the first time since April 8 and moved to within four games of the first-place Phillies in the NL East.
The Braves are still four games behind the Phillies, but they enter tonight’s series opener a season-high 10 games above .500. They also enter this three-game series with their All-Star catcher armed with the power stroke that he lacked the last time the Braves were in San Diego.
When backup catcher David Ross enjoyed a two-homer game against the Padres on April 26, he had plenty of fun at the expense of McCann, who had tallied just two extra-base hits in the 81 at-bats he had compiled to that point. He added one more — a double — the following day to at least have the satisfaction that he tallied more extra-base hits (3-2) than Ross during the season’s first month.
McCann struggled to find his power stroke for another two weeks. But while homering four times in his past five games and seven times in his past 48 at-bats, it’s safe to say McCann is once again proving why he is the game’s most intimidating catcher from an offensive perspective.
When McCann hit a two-out, ninth-inning pinch-hit homer and then a walk-off shot two innings later in a May 17 win over the Astros, he doubled his season homer total to four. At the same time, he realized the fruits of some suggestions his older brother, Brad, made while they were evaluating his swing.
“I’m lucky to have people in my family who understand the game of baseball,” McCann said.
The Braves are quite lucky that McCann has proven to be the most consistent element of an inconsistent offense. Dating back to May 17, he leads the team in batting average (.333), on-base percentage (.418), slugging percentage (.733) homers (11) and RBIs (23).
There isn’t another Braves player with more than four homers or 14 RBIs during this span. But more impressive is the fact that Matt Kemp (13) and Mark Teixeira (12) are the only Major Leaguers who have gone deep more than McCann during this stretch. Kemp has notched this total with 11 more at-bats than McCann and Texieira with 24 more at-bats.
McCann struggled to generate consistent power during the season’s six weeks and still he enters June’s final days at the top of most statistical categories among catchers. He leads all Major League catchers in batting average (.305) on-base percentage (.380) and homers (13). He ranks second in slugging percentage behind the Tigers’ Alex Avila, whose younger brother Alan is an intern in the Braves’ baseball operations department this summer.
The 27-year-old McCann is virtually assured to earn a sixth consecutive All-Star selection. Those wanting to ensure he gets his first start in the Midsummer Classic can cast their votes here until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Lowe vs. Stauffer: When Derek Lowe takes the mound tonight, he’ll be attempting to win for just the second time since the Braves were last in San Diego. Since going 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA in his first four starts of the season, the 38-year-old hurler has made 12 starts and gone 1-3 with a 4.96 ERA.
Tonight Lowe will attempt to halt his recent frustrations against an offense that has been as maddening as his own. The Padres have batted .242 and averaged 2.9 runs while winning just five of their past 16 games. Those numbers were improved as they scored five runs during each of their past three games, which included a pair of wins over the Red Sox.
Coming off their sweep of the Blue Jays, the Braves will be challenged tonight by Tim Stauffer, who has allowed one earned runs while working 22 innings in his past three starts. A lack of offensive support led him to win split the two decisions garnered during this span. The 29-year-old right-hander has made three previous starts against the Braves — one in 2005 and two in 2009.
Longest-tenured: The Braves obviously spent most of the past 15 years with the National League’s most-tenured manager. Nine months after Bobby Cox’s retirement, they already have the second-longest tenured manager within their division.
With Edwin Rodriguez and Jim Riggleman both turning in their resignations this week, Fredi Gonzalez is the NL East’s second-most tenured manager. He was hired by the Braves about six weeks before Terry Collins was named the Mets’ skipper and about six years after the Phillies gave Charlie Manuel his current role.