Braves Try To Prevent Sunday Sweep

 

The Dodgers try to complete a sweep of the Braves at home today with their ace and potential CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw on the mound. So, what’s Fredi Gonzalez’ plan to prevent the sweep? I have no idea and perhaps he doesn’t care as long as he can answer some issues before the playoffs begin.

The Braves have an 7.5 game lead over the Cardinals and an 8.5 game lead over the Giants in the wildcard and have been out of the division race for a long time. Gonzalez goal is getting key players back on track and as healthy as possible before the first post season series. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Skipper has a few problems requiring attention; to whit:

  • Jason Heyward is a shadow of his 2010 self,
  • Freddie Freeman’s quad is screaming so loudly when he runs I can hear it in Texas,
  • two of his top five starters are injured and he has no idea when they will be back,
  • now that we have a genuine leadoff hitter Martin Prado seems to have forgotten how to be a two hole hitter,
  • Brian McCann is channeling Dan Uggla’s first half batting average,
  • the bullpen coughed up a five run lead on Friday for only the second time this year,
  • the lineup has looked impotent against starters and bullpens that  are just average

Today’s lineup reflects some of that.

  1. Bourn CF
  2. Prado 1B
  3. Diaz RF
  4. Uggla 2B
  5. Ross C
  6. Gonzalez SS
  7. Wilson 3B
  8. Constanza LF
  9. Delgado P

Prado had six innings at first base last year but last started there in 2009. Today’s start may indicate that Freeman’s quad is bad enough the Skipper is looking for alternatives at first that aren’t named left handed or Eric Hinske. Hinske is a great bench player but a below average first baseman. Prado played a very good at first in 2009 and I think he’s much more comfortable in the infield than in left field.

The call up of Antoan Richardson from Mississippi gives us a fast defensive outfield replacement and seems to support the idea that Prado will see more infield time and Matt Diaz will get more starts.  Diaz will hit lefties but his defense is subpar while Richardson is a solid defender. If Gwinnett gets eliminated from their wildcard run perhaps we’ll see Stefan Gartrell (OF) and Mauro Gomez (1B) called up as well, both have shown a good power stroke this year and might bring new life to the bench and lineup.

Today is a scheduled day off for Chipper Jones and McCann so don’t read anything into that. Chipper’s rest day gives us a look at Jack Wilson, albeit at third base instead of shortstop where I and others wanted him to get some time. This is probably due to Prado being needed at first base with the big Dodger lefty on the hill. I hope Wilson settle his hitting stroke quickly. He has one start at third base so I don’t expect him to be sterling but he should be dependable.

Before the playoffs

Jose Constanza needs to get his hitting stroke working again, he could be a powerful weapon and one-two base stealing and punch paired with Michael Bourn. I’d really like to see him hit second with Prado further down but that won’t happen this late in the season; perhaps next year.

Jason Heyward will get every opportunity to succeed. He showed last year he can be a star. Perhaps his playoff season will be a new start for him.

Brian McCann has to find that swing he thought he had back last week. Home runs will be few and far  between against top level pitching. Hitting with RISP will be the key for McCann and the rest of our core players.

Tommy Hanson has to pitch well again. He is likely the only one of our two injured starters that we’ll see again this year. A playoff rotation looks better with Hanson in it that without him.

Our hitters need to remember that a sacrifice fly or a ball hit the other way can result in runs scored. We seem to be an all or nothing team unless the opposition gives us extra outs like the Cubs and Nats.

That’s what we need to fix? Sounds simple enough, what else could go wrong?

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Tags: Brian Mccann Fredi Gonzalez Jason Heyward Jose Constanza Tommy Hanson

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