Perhaps Uribe can help Braves end futility vs. Dodgers

The Braves traded for Juan Uribe, an immensely popular Dodgers player who hit the decisive homer to beat them in the 2013 division series. (AP photo)
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The Braves traded for Juan Uribe, an immensely popular Dodgers player who hit the decisive homer to beat them in the 2013 division series. (AP photo)



LOS ANGELES – When the Dodgers beat the Braves three games to one in their 2013 Division Series, it triggered a reversal in the recent fortunes of the teams in their head-to-head meetings. The Braves, who won eight of 12 games against the Dodgers in a period through the end of the 2013 season, have lost 11 of 13 since then, entering tonight’s series finale at Dodger Stadium.

The Braves traded for Juan Uribe, an extremely popular Dodgers player who hit the decisive homer to beat them in the 2013 division series. (AP photo)

The Braves traded for Juan Uribe, an immensely popular Dodgers player who hit the decisive homer to beat them in the 2013 division series. (AP photo)

They’ve lost seven in a row at Dodger Stadium, including the division series, and have dropped eight of nine regular-season games against the Dodgers over two seasons.

So, if the Braves haven’t been able to stop the momentum any other way, maybe trading for Juan Uribe, the guy who delivered the decisive blow in that 2013 playoff series, will do the trick. You surely recall Uribe hit the two-run homer off David Carpenter in the eighth inning of Game 4, as Kimbrel watched from the bullpen.

That’s obviously not why the Braves made the six-player trade that brings Uribe and hard-throwing reliever Chris Withrow to Atlanta in exchange for infielder Albert Callaspo, left-handers Eric Stults and Ian Thomas, and righty Juan Jaime. But hey, if it helps stop this Dodger dominance of the Braves, it’s one fringe benefit they’d sure appreciate.

I mean, if the Braves are fortunate enough to face the Dodgers in a postseason series, say next year for instance, they’d certainly not want to go into that matchup with this kind of thing hanging over them, right?

As for why they made the trade – since a lot of folks keep asking me – it was done from the Braves’ perspective because they were able to add a piece they believe makes them better now, with Uribe a better player than Callaspo, and a piece that could help them a lot in the future in Withrow, who is nearly a year into his recovering from Tommy John surgery and should be at full strength for the 2016 season.

And in the process, they gave up only Callaspo and three pitchers they didn’t see as integral parts of their current or future team.

As for why the Dodgers made the trade, that one I’m not really clear on. I mean, if they believe Stults gives them cheap depth for their rotation, OK. After all, they did see him pitch some good games when he was with the Padres the past couple of seasons.

But still, if they have to go with Stults for more than an emergency start or two, with their $250 million payroll (or whatever it is at this point), then something went terribly awry. To me, it looks like John Hart gave the Dodgers a lot of entirely expendable pieces, including the $3 million and $2 million salaries of Callaspo and Stults – who wasn’t here long enough for half the folks to spell his name right – and got back a reliever comparable to Jordan Walden and a player (Uribe) who hit .311 in more than 400 plate appearances last season and is known as a clubhouse leader, a guy with a great sense of humor, immensely popular with teammates and fans alike.

The effect on payroll is minimal, with Uribe making $6.5 million, a little more than the combined total of what the Braves shed.

Withrow, 26, topped out at 98 mph with his fastball before surgery. He could pitch at Triple-A Gwinnett at some point in the second half of this season, but the Braves are are planning on him to be in their major league bullpen in 2016. He had a 2.73 ERA in 46 relief appearances for the Dodgers during the past two seasons, with 71 strikeouts and 31 walks in 56 innings.

He won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season and is under contractual control through 2019.

Uribe’s playing time was reduced this season and the Dodgers wanted to open his roster spot for younger players. A career .257 hitter with 179 homers in 15 seasons, he was batting .247 with a .287 OBP, one homer and a .596 OPS in 87 plate appearances this season.

Uribe went 14-for-44 (.318) with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak from April 15 through May 5, but 3-for-20 with no extra-base hits and one RBIs in his last 10 games for the Dodgers before being kept out the past two nights as trade rumors swirled. He was 2-for-4 as a pinch-hitter this season, and doubled in his only pinch-hit appearance in 2014, when he was more of a lineup regular.

The right-handed hitting Uribe hit .311 with 23 doubles, nine homers, 54 RBIs and a .777 OPS in 2014, and had better numbers against right-handed pitchers than vs. lefties. He hit .317 with eight homers, .340 OBP, .450 slugging percentage in 300 at-bats against righties, and .291 (25-for-86) with one homer, a .326 OBP and .407 slugging against lefties.

During the 2011-2013 seasons, Uribe hit .255/.310/.373 in 593 at-bats against right-handers and .189/.256/.326 in 227 ABs vs. lefties.

His reverse splits would justify a third-base platoon with Chris Johnson, who has been one of the league’s top hitters against lefties over the past two seasons while struggling against right-handers. That’s how Uribe is expected to be used, at least while both players are on the roster (the Braves have been trying to trade Johnson since the beginning of the offseason).

Also in 2014, Uribe hit .341 (63-for-185) with runners on base and .324 (35-for-108) with runners in scoring position.

Bad two nights: The Braves were outscored 14-3 in the first two games of this three-game series, reliever Nick Masset getting pounded for three homers and four runs in the eighth inning of Monday’s 6-3 loss, and Julio Teheran getting whacked around for 10 hits and eight runs in only 4 1/3 innings of Tuesday’s 8-0 rout, when Clayton Kershaw pitched like the ace he is, and Teheran was alarming bad again.

By the way, Masset now has a 10.71 ERA and .349 opponents’ average in 21 career appearances against the Dodgers, and Teheran is 0-4 with a 0-4 with an 8.46 ERA in four career starts vs. the Dodgers, including two games in that 2013 postseason series. Teheran has allowed 21 earned runs and 32 hits in 22 1/3 innings against them.

• Tonight’s matchup: Alex Wood will pitch in a game for the first time in 11 days, after the Braves lefty missed his last start due to a nasty stomach virus that struck the night before he was scheduled to pitch. He said he felt back at full strength the past couple of days, and that’s good considering he’ll be facing Dodgers co-ace Zack Greinke.

Greinke is 5-1 with a 1.48 ERA and .187 opponents’ average in nine starts, including a 0.95 ERA in his past four starts with one or no earned runs in each.

Against Greinke, A.J. Pierzynski is 21-for-52 (.404) with three home runs, Jonny Gomes is 3-for-10 with two homers, and Nick Markakis is 5-for-17 with one homer. No other Brave has more than one hit against Greinke, and Freddie Freeman is 1-for-9 with four strikeouts against him.

Greinke is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in four regular-season starts against the Braves, including 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA in two during the past two seasons. In those past two, the right-hander racked up 20 strikeouts with four walks in 15 innings while allowing nine hits and one run.

Greinke had 13 strikeouts in eight innings of a July 30 matchup with Wood last last season at Dodger Stadium, when neither figured in the decision in the 3-2 Dodgers win. Wood allowed one run and six hits in seven innings that night, with two walks and eight strikeouts.

Wood has no decisions and a 0.93 ERA in three games against the Dodgers, including two relief appearances  in 2013.

Against Wood, Jimmy Rollins is 0-for-14 with three strikeouts, and the only other Dodgers with more than four official at-bats against him are Justin Turner (1-for-6) and Adrian Gonzalez (0-for-5, two strikeouts).

Right-handed batters are hitting .174 against Greinke, with just two homers and a .191 OBP and .254 slugging percentage, while lefties have hit .210/.304/.333 against him.

Expect the Braves to be aggressive – he’s allowed a .303 average (10-for-33) on first pitches, and a puny .155 (17-for-110) after getting ahead in counts with first-pitch strikes.

Wood struggled for much of April but had made progress, going 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his last three starts before the virus sidelined him. He allowed seven hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings of a win at Miami in his last start on May 16.

“I’m pretty close to full health,” Wood said Tuesday afternoon. “I just got my full appetite back. I’m still on some medication that’s helping me some, but I’m getting there….

“It was just a stomach virus. I had to let it play out. I wasn’t taking any medication and I was still in a pretty bad place Saturday and Sunday. So Sunday before the game I went and picked up some medicine – some real medicine – finally, and that definitely helped. I was still not in a very good spot on Sunday. Each day has been a little bit better. I threw a bullpen yesterday and played catch today. By tomorrow night I should be ready to go.”

Wood said the erratic early season schedule, when starters got extra rest several times due to off days in the schedule and keeping the rotation in order, probably helped him get through this unusual break between starts.

“It kind of stunk (skipping a start) because me and Roger have been working really hard and I probably threw the best bullpen last week between starts that I’d thrown all spring and all season,” he said. “So I was excited from that standpoint to get back out there. I thought it started to click pretty good, especially after that bullpen. So you know, I had to wait a few extra days, but it’s always fun to throw here in L.A. Go out and get a W tomorrow.”

Plus, he said, “I’ve been throwing off the mound a lot the last two weeks. So it could have been good, to help me get my legs and arm back under me a little bit, from all the throwing we’ve been doing from working on a bunch of different stuff

 • Etc.

 Nick Markakis had three of the Braves’ five hits Tuesday, including a leadoff single in the fifth that ended Kershaw’s streak of 12 consecutive batters retired to start the game. In Markakis’ past 20 games, he’s hit .333 (26-for-78) with six doubles, seven RBIs, a .402 OBP and .410 slugging percentage….

The Braves hit .231 with 1 homer in their past 13 games (7-6). They scored three runs or fewer in nine of those games including each of the the past five.

• Here’s a great song from Nikki Lane, off her essential album Walk of Shame.

“GONE, GONE, GONE” by Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane

Nikki Lane

Nineteen years I’ve been here waiting
For something good to come my way
But there are no sign of my luck a’changing
Even though my dues are surely paid.

And if I leave this town i’ll be gone gone gone
And I won’t be back for far too long
No I won’t be found
I don’t wanna be found

Well today i found myself day dreaming
Thinking I’d like to be a pioneer
Maybe I’d head out west and find me something
Or maybe even disappear

And if I leave this town I’ll be gone gone gone
And I won’t be back for far too long
No I won’t be found , no i won’t be found

Don’t you worry, don’t worry about it
You get through I’ll tell you how
Write you a letter saying I’m doing fine
Promise I’ll be back sometime
But I won’t , I wont’ hang around ..

Hoo hoo….

And if I leave this town I’ll be gone gone gone
And I won’t be back for far too long
No I won’t be found , no I won’t be found
No I won’t be found
I don’ t wanna be found, I don’ t wanna be found.

 


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