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David O'BrienDavid O'Brien

With Braves struggling mightily, some levity from Fredi

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Sometimes it’s best to try to lessen the tension level and put your guys at ease, rather than peel paint off the walls shouting at them about how things had better change in a hurry. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided that Sunday was a day for the former.

With his team mired in a five-game losing streak and batting .194 with 10 runs over their past six games, Gonzalez walked into the daily hitters’ meeting before Sunday’s series finale against the Giants and delivered a message.

“Sometimes you have meetings and guys expect you to rant and rave and throw stuff,” he said. “I popped in the hitters’ meeting today for a little bit and told the guys, ‘Hey, let’s whoop somebody’s ass today. Let’s go out there and score three, really put it to them!’ It kind of got a giggle.”

Even Andrelton Simmons  , the hardest hitter to strike out in the NL, struck out chasing a bad pitch Saturday.

Even Andrelton Simmons , the hardest hitter to strike out in the NL, struck out chasing a bad pitch Saturday.

He said he went on to tell them, more or less, “Hey guys, we’re better than what we’re showing. Let’s get back to discipline.”

Gonzalez said Braves hitters strike out on pitches way out of the strike zone three or four times in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Giants. Justin Upton, Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons all did it on third outs with at least one runner on base.

“Every hitter ,when they go in slumps they chase out of the strike zone, and yesterday I can think of situations where we chased balls higher than high, or down, and as soon as they left the pitcher’s hand they were balls,” Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to do too much, instead of taking the base on balls. We got seven  hits yesterday; it wasn’t like we only had two. We had some opportunities. But let’s get back to (discipline). This game is hard enough, let alone when you’re swinging at balls.”

The Braves were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position Saturday and 5-for-35 with RISP during the five-game skid. The Braves entered Sunday ranked 27th in the majors with a .214 average with runners in scoring position, and ranked 30th – dead last — with a .130 average in 100 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs.

They were 21 points lower than the next-worst average in that category, Houston’s .151, and 64 points lower than the National League’s second-worst, San Diego’s .194.

The Braves’ futility with RISP and two outs is even more glaring when you consider that Freddie Freeman is a majors-best 5-for-8 in that category. The rest of the team is 8-for-92 (.087) with 27 strikeouts

The Braves trailed 1-0 Saturday in the second inning when they put runners on first and second with none out. Chris Johnson grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. With a runner at third and two out, Dan Uggla walked and the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong pitched around Simmons on four-pitch walk to load bases for Julio Teheran, whose comebacker to the pitcher ended the inning.

In the third inning, Jason Heyward walked, stole second, then scored the tying run on B.J. Upton’s double. Freeman followed with a single and the Braves had runners on the corners with none out before Justin Upton struck out. Gattis then struck out on full-count pitch above the strike zone and Freeman, running on the pitch, was caught stealing for an inning-ending double play.

Gonzalez had Freeman running on the pitch to try to avoid a double play – pretty standard stuff — but the strategy backfired.

“That 3-2 pitch,” Gonzalez said afterward. “There I’m thinking just put the ball in play, I’m not thinking we’re going to double steal or do anything crazy. Just put the ball in play, give us another run. He swings at ball four. We had a couple of guys today swing at pitches way out of the strike zone. That’s something that we need to talk about.

“I don’t know if it’s pressing; I know everybody wants to do well. But usually when teams go in slumps or individuals slump, usually the first thing you look at is swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. And just thinking about three or four occasions today, we did that.

“We’ll look at it. I’m sure Walk (hitting coach Greg Walker) is as frustrated as we are.”

Chris Johnson said after Saturday’s loss: “Same story as (Friday) night. Had guys on; we left a lot of guys on, myself included. Can’t win a ballgame when you leave guys on base. We had a lot of opportunities. We’ve just got to keep grinding and try to get that big hit.”

Asked about the mood of the team, Johnson said, “Offensively, it’s a little frustration. A lot of us want to be that guy to get the big hit and get us going. We’ve been struggling.”

And as for all the focus being on their struggles with runners in scoring position, Johnson didn’t try to dismiss it.

“When you lose it’s probably because you’re not coming up with those big hits when guys are in scoring position, and that’s why we’re losing ballgames,” he said. “We had a lot of chances. Two hits – we get guys first and second, bases loaded, we get two hits and we beat them. We beat them by a couple of runs. But we’re not doing that right now, and that’s why we’re losing. It’s the offense’s fault mostly.”

The Braves also had a chance in the fifth inning, when Heyward hit a one-out double and B.J. Upton followed with a walk. Freeman broke his bat on a fly out to right field and Justin Upton struck out to end the inning.

“We’re giving ourselves plenty of opportunities to drive in runs; we just haven’t done it,” said Justin Upton, who struck out twice and also grounded into a double play after Freeman’s leadoff walk in the eighth. “We haven’t come up with that big hit. That can doom you sometimes, because when you’re facing good pitching, you get those runners out there, those are times that you have to score. You don’t know when you’re going to get more guys out there.”

Braves Sunday lineup

  1. Heyward RF
  2. BUpton CF
  3. Freeman 1B
  4. JUpton LF
  5. Gattis C
  6. Johnson 3B
  7. Uggla 2B
  8. Pena SS
  9. Wood P

 

 

 Etc.

The Braves entered Sunday with a 6-10 record and .203 batting average vs. the Giants since the start of the 2012 season, and have scored one or no runs in five of the past seven games between the teams…. Andrelton Simmons, who is out of the lineup Sunday for what Gonzalez termed a family matter, has the lowest strikeout-per-plate appearance at one ever 21.2 PAs, while Justin Upton has the NL’s highest rate at one every 3.2 PAs. Gonzalez said Simmons should be back in the lineup Monday and was available if needed Sunday…. JUpton was 9-for-20 with a homer against Giants Sunday starter Madison Bumgarner, while Dan Uggla is 1-for-18 with eight strikeouts against the lefty, and Chris Johnson is 3-for-14 with seven strikeouts against him…. Bumgarner came in with a 1.96 ERA  in three road starts.

• It’s not Sunday morning anymore, but here’s a great song about it by one of the finest, coolest bands that ever graced this mortal coil. Here the Velvet Underground play it here.

“SUNDAY MORNING” by Velvet Underground

Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call It’s nothing at all
Sunday morning and I’m falling

Velvet Underground

Velvet Underground

I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call It’s nothing at all
Watch out, the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call It’s nothing at all
Sunday morning
Sunday morning
Sunday morning

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