The Atlanta Braves own the fourth best record in all of baseball. Unfortunately for them, that’s only good enough for the wildcard lead in the National League, as divison mates Philadelphia, own baseball’s best record. With wins on Monday and Tuesday over Colorado at Turner Field, the Braves have now won 7 of their last 8, and 12 of their last 15.
Monday night, All-Star snub Tommy Hanson won his 10th game and his 5th consecutive start. In his 4 hit, 7 inning performance in which he allowed just one one, Hanson lowered his ERA to 2.52 while showing that his right shoulder is indeed healthy.
Rookie closer and like wise an All-Star snub himself Craig Kimbrel, saved both wins against Colorado. Kimbrel has now tied the all- time record for saves by a rookie before the All-Star break with 26. Jonathan Paplebon of Boston held that record alone. In addition, Kimbrel was named NL Rookie pitcher of the month for June. For the month, Kimbrel was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 8 saves.
Aside from All-Star catcher Brian McCann, the Braves hottest hitter has been rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman. Freeman has homered three times in the last two games giving him 12 on the season. In addition, Freeman has 5 homers and 12 RBIS in his last 11 games.
With All-Star Jair Jurrjens set to pitch his final game before the All-Star break Wednesday night at Turner field, he has a better than even chance of being the All-Star game starter. Meanwhile, two of Jurrjens All-Star teammates both pitch on Sunday, Philly southpaw Cole Hamels and Giants righthander Matt Cain. Might this open the door for one or both of Jurrjens’s Braves teammates to join him in Phoenix?
With Cain and Hamels both throwing on Sunday, it’s highly unlikely that they would be available to pitch, even an inning in the All-Star game on just one days rest. All-Star manager Bruce Bochy, the Giants skipper, might decide to rest Cain and instead choose someone who hasn’t pitched on Sunday or another reliever. Hanson is scheduled to pitch Saturday against the Phillies, while Kimbrel is certainly deserving of another look.
The fact that both pitchers were left off the All-Star game roster, opens the age old discussions of All-Star snubs and should each team be represented. Every year, deserving players are left off the All-Star teams. This is a result of not only every team having to be represented, but also the fans playing “the popularity game” and choosing their favorites to start, in place of more deserving players.
This year, the fans chose both the Yankees Derek Jeter and Josh Hamilton of Texas to start in the All-Star game. Both have missed time due to injury, and in Jeter’s case, his numbers (.257, 2 HR, 22 RBIs) are hardly All-Star worthy. Hamilton in only 49 games has 10 HR, 42 RBIs and is hitting .298.
Chipper Jones, chosen by the players for his 7th All-Star game, has said he plans on going and not taking the extra two days to rest his ailing right knee.
In other injury related news, left fielder Martin Prado is set to begin a rehab assignment. Prado could return after the All-Star break, which sets up an interesting dilemma for manager Fredi Gonzalez. In Prado’s absence, Nate McLouth has shifted over to left from his customary centerfield position. Jordan Schaefer has played a terrific center while supplying the Braves with some much needed speed in the leadoff spot. Although Schaefer is hitting only .224 with a not so great .288 OBP, the team is winning and his speed and defense have sparked the Braves during this run.
Look for the Braves to option Wilkin Ramirez back to AAA Gwinnett, while giving McLouth 3 or 4 starts a week in left and center. Prado can always spell Chipper at third and the outfield the Braves have gone with lately (McLouth, Schaefer and Heyward) would stay in tack. It’s a nice problem for Fredi Gonzalez to have trying to make 4 go into 3 spots in the outfield.