Opening the 3-game series with St. Louis at Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves had lost 7 straight games. The monkey on their back was heavy. They’d been swept for the third time in 2012 by the Washington Nationals.
The string of injuries, illness and terrible luck that began the 7-game skid continued into the St. Louis series when the Braves dropped the first game to the Cards. Freddie Freeman was again on the bench, frustrated by his ongoing vision problems and awaiting new sports glasses from Oakley and Under Armour.
In addition to the offensive struggles of the Braves in game one, Tommy Hanson had a rough outing. Hanson gave up 6 runs in 3 1/3 innings, 3 of those runs courtesy of 2 HRs. Hanson also walked 3 batters.
Game two of the St. Louis series began with the weight of an 8-game losing streak on the shoulders of the starting lineup and starter Randall Delgado. However, the game got underway and though the Cards out hit the Braves 2-1, the Braves were able to ride Dan Uggla’s 3-run blast to a much needed win. Michael Bourn brought pop, hitting his 5th home run of the season, and newly called up Jose Constanza introduced a spark with his speed that seemed to invigorate the entire team.
Young Randall Delgado had a positive outing, giving up only 3 runs in 5 1/3 innings. Delgado needed a quality start. The bullpen, with the exception of Jonny Venters who continues to cause concern with his inability to shut down hitters, kept the game within reach.
Game three of the series with St. Louis saw the return of Freddie Freeman who has been benched with eye issues. Freeman, who normally wears contacts, has been waiting for special sports glasses to arrive after trying a number of options. Freeman’s vision issues stem from his inability to make tears. His dry eyes made contacts impossible to wear and eventually led to him actually scratching his cornea. In his first at-bat with his new sports goggles, Freddie Freeman took Kyle Lohse deep. Freeman capped off the night with a 3-hit performance.
Tim Hudson was perfect through 4 innings, but struggled mightily in the 6th inning. Prior to the 6th inning, Huddy gave up only 2 hits. The bullpen picked Hudson up in a rather unconventional way. Venters pitched 1/3 of an inning to get the win. O’Flaherty and Durbin each notched a hold. And Craig Kimbrel got the save. Not the usual path to a win.
The Braves took two out of three from the Cardinals.
J.C. Boscan was called up while Brian McCann was battling the flu and David Ross went down with a groin injury. Boscan will stay with the big league club until Ross is ready to catch. The presumption is that when Ross is healthy enough to catch, Boscan will be sent down and a reliever, perhaps Cory Gearrin, will be called up to replace Kris Medlen in the ‘pen.
Boscan’s place on the roster was opened up by Chipper Jones’ stint on the DL with a leg contusion after taking a line drive off it in Tampa Bay. Chipper may come off the DL as early as June 8th after having fluid drained from his leg. This will present the question of who gets sent down upon his return.
Tyler Pastornicky was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett following the Braves’ Wednesday night win. Andrelton Simmons will join the big league club Friday in Pastornicky’s place. Simmons brings solid defense, something Pastornicky has struggled with, and might just be the spark the lineup needs to get back on track after their eight game skid. As Kent Covington notes, Simmons immediately steps in as the best defensive shortstop in the National League.
With the struggles of Mike Minor, the Braves sent reliever Kris Medlen to Gwinnett to get in a few starts so he can join the starting rotation. He will likely need three starts with Gwinnett before rejoining the club.
Medlen’s absence on the roster opened a spot that was taken by Jose Constanza who immediately brought a spark to the lineup with his obvious speed and what he calls his hot hands.
NATIONALS REMATCH IN THE CAPITAL CITY…
Friday: Minor (2-4, 6.98) vs. Strasburg (5-1, 2.64)
Saturday: Beachy (5-3, 1.77) vs. Gonzalez (7-1, 2.04)
Sunday: Hanson (5-4, 3.84) vs. Zimmermann (3-5, 2.80)
Though Mike Minor’s fate seems sealed, his rematch with Strasburg may be Minor’s last chance to show Fredi Gonzalez that he deserves a place in the rotation.
Beachy’s rematch with Gonzalez will be a good test for Beachy who didn’t pitch poorly against Gio in their last meeting, but didn’t get the win and didn’t go as deep into the game as he and the Braves would have liked. Starting pitchers have not put up as many innings as the team would like. Going forward, if the starters can go deeper into games, this will take stress off the bullpen and hopefully get the big three (O’Flaherty, Venters and Kimbrel) back on track.
The Nationals welcome the Braves to D.C. tomorrow night, getting underway at 7:05 (EST).
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.