Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann returns from the disabled list Monday in Cincinnati Please Credit Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Braves Stop The Slide Head for Cincinnati

Braves 9-4 win on Sunday ended a four game losing streak and more importantly they had a five run inning without a home run. Skipper Fredi Gonzalez thinks (hopes) it’s a sign the offense is starting to click as he told reporters after the game.

“I thought our approach at the plate was outstanding, it really was. We had some deep counts, guys going 3-0 and 3-1 and 3-2, drawing bases on balls and getting some timely hitting. Freeman, and Reed Johnson drove in a couple also. The last couple of games, our offense is picking up. We’ve seen good at-bats, getting deep in counts, good swings at balls that are in the strike zone.”

Indeed Freddie Freeman looked to be back in the groove with a couple of opposite field hits that resulted in RBI. The first one, while not an official error, was due to outfielder ineptitude but the second was classic Freeman taking an outside pitch into the left center field gap for a double. Justin Upton also drove in a run with an opposite field hit in the five run third. Dan Uggla continued to awaken from his slumber with a triple in the second inning into right. That was the Braves first triple of the season making them the last team to get a triple this year.  Reed Johnson stayed hot going two for four with three RBI. Meanwhile our formerly stingy bullpen again faltered and after walking in a run Eric O’Flaherty struck out Marlin Byrd to end their rally.  Anthony Varvaro pitched a quick ninth to end it. This was however against a Mets team not at their best in the field or on the mound.  The Reds will require a higher level of play.

On The Road Again

Tomorrow the Braves start a ten day road trip with three games in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark and that hasn’t been a welcoming environment. Since it opened in 2003 the Braves have played the Reds a total of 68 times winning 30 and losing 38. In Cincinnati however the Braves are 14-25 and 5-11 since 2009. That was a different lineup than this power laden crew for whom the launching pad also known as the Great American Small Park could be a lot of fun. To have that fun tomorrow they’ll have to master Bronson Arroyo, something that bodes well for the continued revival of Dan Uggla who is 6-18 with two homers  and doubles against him.  Freeman  – three for seven with a homer and double – and Chris Johnson – four for ten with three doubles – also enjoy seeing Arroyo on the mound, as does All Star catcher Brian McCann who plays hos first game of the season Monday night. McCann is 9-18 with four homers, five walks with only one K when facing the right hander.  The rest of the lineup either hasn’t faced Arroyo or hasn’t done particularly well against him. Justin Upton is 6-26 (.231) without a walk and nine strikeouts. Two of those hits have been homers however and if the Braves can get runners on in front of him he might well turn that around.

The Braves send out Paul Maholm (3-3, 3.08 ERA) who’s faced the Reds often. He’s  3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his last  five starts against the Reds and 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 20 career starts but 1-3 with a 4.37 at Great American. He’s 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA in the last 12 starts against the Reds and 1-1 in his last six starts at In Cincinnati allowing 10 runs in 33 innings for a 3.46 ERA and a 1.242 WHIP.

That’s A Wrap.

This road trip will be a test for the Braves who must be a little tired of sleeping in hotels so much this early in the year. After the Reds they fly to San Francisco for four games them to Arizona for three.  The Giants in particular will be an interesting test as their rotation is in good form and the bats are hot as they just swept the Dodgers in a three game set. I’m heading to Phoenix for the return of Justin Upton and the Braves first chance to say high to Martin Prado since the trade.  If you’re going to be at the games let me know and we can say hi.

The return of BMac to the lineup means a great deal more than many fans realize. When healthy he’s a lot more than a power hitter, he hits with power to all fields and calls a solid game behind the plate. The Braves sidestepped a tough decision because Jason Heyward is on the disabled list. Soon they’ll have to figure out what to do with Evan Gattis.  BMac will want to play every day. Gattis needs at bats to be useful and then there’s Gerald Laird. Laird had a rough start and lost the starting job to Gattis yet he’s put up a .333/.419/.407/.827 line and is on a two year deal.  Someone has to go in a couple of weeks, who that will be is still to be determined.

Tags: Atlanta Braves

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