The Atlanta Braves, having scored five runs over the past two games, shook up their lineup for the series finale against the Washington Nationals . With their deficit in the National League East race now widened to seven games, Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez is sitting three all-stars to face left-hander Ross Detwiler on Wednesday.
The Braves are susceptible to left-handed pitchers this season. They are in the bottom third in the majors with a 21-25 record against southpaws. Left-handers are hitting .143 against Detwiler. (Right-handers, on the other hand, are hitting .267.) So it’s clear that Gonzalez is playing the matchups here.
Gonzalez said he wasn’t sending a message to his players. Catcher Brian McCann, not an all-star this season but the previous six seasons, was already planning one day off game in the series, he said. The other all-stars, Dan Uggla and Michael Bourn, were already told ahead of time they would have today off. That’s two of their top five home run hitters sitting on the bench.
Gonzalez did admit he wanted to give his lineup and players a fresh look for the series finale. Backup outfielder Reed Johnson, who hits the Nationals hard, is in the lineup and hitting second; he is 4 for 6 against Detwiler. Martin Prado is leading off; he is 9 for 16 against Detwiler. But Gonzalez doesn’t want to get in the habit of sitting his most proven players.
“You don’t want to play with that too much, with that fresh look,” he said. “You start doing that you start to get a little dangerous water, dangerous territory.”
The last time Dewiler faced the Braves on July 22 he stifled them, allowing only one earned run seven hits over seven innings. He faced Bourn, Uggla and McCann, and they went a combined 0 for 10 against him.
Only two left-handers are facing Detwiler on Wednesday night: Jason Heyward (2 for 8) and Freddie Freeman (2 for 11). Chipper Jones is a switch-hitter. Gonzalez is relying on light-hitting defenders, Tyler Pastoricky (.256) and Paul Janish (.218), at the bottom of his lineup.
“What can possibly happen?” Gonzalez said. “We don’t score any runs? We scored one yesterday. So we get shutout today. But I don’t see that happening.”
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