Braves escape 8-game skid with minimal damage
As bad as it seemed, things could have been worse. If you had known there would be a stretch during which Michael Bourn would hit four home runs between Braves’ victories, you might have been preparing for something more like an 88-game losing streak.
Fortunately for the sanity of many, the losing streak extended to just eight games before being snapped on Tuesday. Given the Braves are three games above .500 and still within three games of the first-place Nationals in the National League East standings, let’s avoid using words like disastrous when describing what transpired over the past week.
Disastrous is learning you’ll spend most of the next two months without Roy Halladay after spending at least the first 2 1/2 months of the season without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Like with the nine-game skid endured long before the 2010 team made the playoffs, the Braves have plenty of time to amend all that went wrong recently.
Given that they had won 12 of their previous 18 games and had just taken two of three from the mighty Rays on the road, there was absolutely no reason to know the Braves would lose each of the eight games played from May 21-28. Of course at the time there was also no reason to know Chipper Jones’ bruised left leg would simply worsen, Brian McCann would battle a bad flu bug and Freddie Freeman’s would have to wait patiently for the specially-designed glasses that finally arrived today.
Had we known at the time that the Braves were essentially going to go an entire week with getting virtually no production from these three players, it might have been easier to prepare for the eight-game skid. Sure there were fans calling for manager Fredi Gonzalez to lose his job less than a week after the Braves had sat at the top of the division standings. That’s simply what occurs in the sports world, especially the one that now includes Twitter.
As a fan, it is your right to criticize Gonzalez’s choice to use Livan Hernandez during the sixth inning of a tie game on Sunday night. You can rip him all day long for lineup construction, bullpen management and other strategic issues all day long. But it was ridiculous to suggest he should be accountable for the fact that the Braves were not winning while three of their primary offensive contributors were not in the lineup.
The best managers of all-time are going to have a tough time winning while dealing with the consequences of the ailments that afflicted Jones, McCann and Freeman. Along with their absence, Gonzalez also found himself working with a short bench as McCann, Freeman and David Ross have all recently spent time dealing with issues that do not require a trip to the disabled list.
When Ross strained his right groin during Friday night’s game, Gonzalez had to feel like the walls were falling in around him. This forced McCann to play seven innings that night and zap his energy to the point he was too weak to play the final two games of this past weekend’s Nationals series.
But it feels like the Braves’ fortunes have changed over the past 24 hours. Jose Constanza has arrived to provide some depth. McCann has played the past two days without problem and a specially-crafted set of glasses from Oakley arrived for Freeman this morning. After enduring a week when it seemed like everything went wrong, things are suddenly looking up for Gonzalez’s team.
Instead of judging Gonzalez based on what happened over the past week, judge him based on how the team responds coming out of this rough stretch.
ODDS AND ENDS: Freeman will lobby to play in tonight’s series finale against the Cardinals. But it might take a day or two for him to get used to the glasses. Either way, it seems like a safe bet to assume he will at least be back in time for Friday night’s series opener against the Nationals in D.C. He will also have a chance on Friday to try two different sets a of glasses that are currently being constructed by Under Armour.
While showing his limited range and botching a fifth-inning single that was ruled a single, Tyler Pastornicky showed why many believe Andrelton Simmons could soon be Atlanta’s starting shortstop. This is not necessarily a move that will be made this week. But I certainly won’t be surprised if it is made within a week or two.
Bourn matched a career high with his fifth home run on Tuesday night. He has hit four in his past 32 at-bats and each of the five in his past 72 at-bats. Before beginning this span of 72 at-bats, he had homered once in every 184 at-bats of his career. While you might have enjoyed this recent power surge, don’t kid yourself. Scott Boras has enjoyed it even more.