• Exclusives

    Braves sweep Phils, back to the Ted for Mets

    Going into Philadelphia, the Braves knew that the rival Nationals had dropped 3 straight games and opened the door to put Atlanta back within a half game of the National League East lead. By the end of the 4-game weekend series, the Braves had a half game lead in the division. For a team that squandered the opportunity to retake the division lead when they visited the Nationals in D.C., the weekend series proved that this team can win when the pieces work together. The problem for the Braves has been that none of the pieces are ever hot at the same time and many of them have suffered injury.

    Bethancourt-1 (thumb-headshot)

    Bethancourt has hit .273 in 63 games at Gwinnett this season with 3 doubles, a triple, 3 homers and 32 RBIs.

    As the first game of the series got underway, the Braves watched Evan Gattis injure his right rhomboid muscle on a swing at the plate. The injury would sideline him for the rest of the series and may still see Gattis spend time on the disabled list. In his absence, Gerald Laird stepped in to catch and presumably could have caught both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader. However, the veteran backup catcher had only done this once in his big league career, years earlier. The Braves made the move to call up touted prospect Christian Bethancourt from Triple-A Gwinnett and threw him into the fire, catching the second game of the doubleheader Saturday. Bethancourt caught a good game and recorded his first MLB hit.

    Until a decision is made on Gattis and until he is healthy, Bethancourt will backup Laird and offer Fredi Gonzalez and Frank Wren the opportunity to see just what the slugging catcher has. In the 3 games Laird has caught in the absence of Gattis, he has hit .300 with 2 doubles and an RBI.

    A question that arose after the injury to Gattis is what exactly Ryan Doumit brings to the Braves. When signed he had been DHing with the Minnesota Twins and was sold as a catching/outfield bench bat. Unfortunately, Doumit hasn’t hit much at all. Though he did take the outfield in the second game of the doubleheader, it’s curious that he has not been an option for Fredi behind the plate. In 87 at-bats this season, Doumit has hit .218/.242/.345 with 2 doubles, 3 homers and 12 RBIs. His defensive flexibility is clearly questioned by the team or he would have been an option instead of Bethancourt.

    While the catching situation became an issue during the 4-game series, the pitching was anything but questionable. Stepping in to pitch the second game of the doubleheader, David Hale reminded us why he was 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA in his 4 starts in April before going to the ‘pen. He pitched 5 innings without the benefit of having been stretched out like Alex Wood was. In his 5 innings he allowed only 4 hits, 1 earned run and 3 while recording the win. With the loss of Gavin Floyd for the season, it is clear that if the team needs him to step into the rotation David Hale is a reliable option.

    BRAVES RETURN HOME TO FACE METS…

    Freddie Freeman has a .320 career average against the Mets with 19 doubles, 13 homers and 50 RBIs.  Against the Mets this season, Freddie has raked. In 6 games started in 2014 against the Mets, Freeman has put up a .423/.464/.692 line with 4 doubles, a homer and 7 RBIs. In his 15 plate appearances against Zack Wheeler he has a double, a homer and 6 RBIs (.545/.667/.909). After a bit of a slump in the first few weeks of June, Freddie is on fire once again. Since June 15, Freddie is hitting .371/.435/.597 with 6 doubles, a triple, 2 homers and 5 RBIs.

    The Braves await news from the team doctor as Evan Gattis undergoes an MRI on his ailing rhomboid muscle. If placed on the DL, the Braves can clearly cope with the loss. However, it could put the potential of an All Star Game invite in peril should one materialize.

    David Wright, captain of the visiting Mets, might miss time while in Atlanta due to shoulder soreness. He is listed as day-to-day. This may prove quite lucky for lefties Wood and Minor as Wright holds the league-best .403 batting average against lefties.

    In bullpen news, the Braves have released Kameron Loe. In his 12 appearances with Gwinnett this time around, Loe was 1-2 with an 8.83 ERA. Lefty Ian Thomas was placed on Gwinnett’s DL with shoulder tendinitis, making him unavailable should the Braves need bullpen help in the coming week. David Carpenter will rejoin the ‘pen on Wednesday after his rehab at Gwinnett. Carpenter saw his ERA balloon in a stretch of terrible luck through May and the first weeks of June, going from a 1.69 ERA on May 11th to a 4.23 ERA on June 16th when he was placed on the disabled list. His return will strengthen a ‘pen that has been relying heavily on arms that that of Anthony Varvaro.

    The Mets/Braves series gets underway tonight with Wheeler (3-8, 4.45) vs. Wood (6-6, 3.07). Tuesday’s game will feature Matsuzaka (3-2, 3.23) vs. Minor (2-5, 4.50). And the finale will pit deGrom (1-4, 3.62) against all-star hopeful Teheran (7-5, 2.34). The Braves will then have an off day before the Diamondbacks and returning Martin Prado come to town.

    Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.