There wasn’t a lot of labor in the Braves Labor Day victory over the Mets but there were lots of fine performances and at least one injury of note. Freddie Freeman drove in five runs in the first two innings and while the Mets never quit trying to come back their pitching wasn’t up to the task. Jordan Schafer went 4 for 5 with three stolen bases matching his career best but also continued the string of key Braves injured when playing the Mets when he left the game with a lower back strain; he’s considered day-to-day. Andrelton Simmons went 2 for 5 with a run scored and three RBI from the eight hole. Justin Upton was 2 for 4 with three runs scored while brother B.J. Upton and the league’s leading hitter Chris Johnson both had 2 for 4 days as well. CJ was noticeably limping when he was removed for a pinch runner in the eighth; between his turf toe and a mild leg injury he’s been a remarkably resilient player while taking over the lead for the NL batting title. It wasn’t all wonderful however.
Paul Maholm actually threw more pitches than the Mets Daisuke Matsuzaka while both were in the game. The Mets offense was unable to capitalize on Maholm’s wildness like the Braves did Matsuzaka’s. Maholms last pitch was his 100th of the day and ended the fifth inning. Continuing in the doldrums was Dan Uggla who went 1 for 4 with a walk He failed to hit the ball with authority grounding weakly to third, looking really bad when striking out and popping up with one out and the bases loaded. Most worrying today was Schafer’s injury.
Schafer had just hit his stride in the leadoff position and while he lacks the power of Jason Heyward his .352 OBP has meant runners on base when the big guns come to the plate. He’s bee using his speed as a weapon too stealing almost at will – though he was erroneously called out in the last game against the Marlins – swiping three bases today raising his total to 20. With hi now out for a few days at least and Heyward unlikely to return before the post season if then, the Braves are back where they started without a leadoff man. Skipper Fredi Gonzalez could go back to Simmons in that spot or he could slot Elliot Johnson in there as he’s been playing a lot of outfield since he arrived. An outside chance is that someone like Todd Cunningham could come up from Gwinnett now that their season is over and slot into that role. Gonzalez has other concerns as well.
The Braves have decided to skip Julio Teheran’s next start on Wednesday slotting Kameron Loe into that role instead. The idea is to rest Teheran and limit his innings as he’s just 6 2/3 innings away from his career high of 168 last year. He will make his next start on September 10th against the Marlins. If Freddy Gonzalez had not been required to pitch on Sunday he would likely have made the start but Alex Wood’s ineffectiveness forced the Braves to call up Loe to do the job. Loe was not the most popular pitcher when he was called up earlier in the year when he allowed four hits, three runs and two walks in 1-2/3 innings against the Mets. He was immediately sent back to Gwinnett where he got his act together and posted an ERA of 2.91 in his next six starts. In his last four starts he allowed one run or less. He told the AJC;s David O’Brien:
“It’s a real privilege for me to come up here and help this team out, to be with a first-place team.. . . (the post season) is why we play.”
Loe was a reliever with the Brewers in 2011 posting 3.50 ERA in 72 appearances. In his final 22 games his ERA was 1.44 ERA with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 25 innings. He appeared twice in the post season against the Diamondbacks that year. In Game 3 he threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings then in game four he allowed 4 runs in 1/3 of an inning.
Meanwhile Jordan Walden’s groin was too sore to allow him to complete his side session and it could be more than a week before he’s available from the pen. Skipper Gonzalez told David O’Brien of the AJC:
“He threw a bullpen today, about five pitches, and it wasn’t good. So we’re still waiting. Hopefully he can bounce back in another week or so, five days. I’m not sure where we’re at as far as (time).”
Fortunately our schedule isn’t arduous but these teams aren’t going to lay down and home field advantage is critical to our post season hopes. The Braves are currently two games ahead of the Dodgers in the lost column but the Dodgers have played one less game they the Braves. Every game means something and the Braves must play to win all of them.
That’s A Wrap
The Braves haven’t announced any other call ups so far. Jose Constanza is already with the team and Evan Gattis who was tearing up AAA this weekend will obviously return. As I noted earlier I expect Todd Cunningham to return and I wouldn’t be shocked if veteran leftv reliever Joe Beimel, Wilfrin Obispo and / or Ryan Butcher added to the bullpen as well. Ernesto Mejia seems to have played well enough for a call up as has Alden Carrithers, time will tell if the rash if injuries encourages the Braves to be less stingy with their call ups this year. The M Braves are in the playoffs so I don’t envision any of those guys making an appearance. I hope Loe has a good game against the Mets on Wednesday and Teheran enjoys his time off. I’ll buy dinner for the physios if they can get Schafer healthy quickly too.