The Atlanta Braves literally limped into the All-Star break on Sunday, losing their last game before the break 8-4 to the Reds to finish off a tough week that saw several key players go down with injury. On the optimistic side of things, the Braves do possess a 6 game lead in the NL East over the Nationals and hold the fifth best record in all of baseball.
The injury bug indeed bit the Braves hard in this last week, as the team had four key players come up lame as the All-Star break was nearly in sight, as first baseman (and Final Vote winner) Freddie Freeman (thumb), center fielder B.J. Upton (adductor muscle), left fielder Justin Upton (calf), and right fielder Jason Heyward (hamstring) all had to miss time. Of these four players, it appears that B.J.’s injury—which occurred on an attempt to field a ball that resulted in his knee planting into the ground—will be the most significant of these four, as it appears that he will be the only one of the four to land on the 15 day disabled list.
Another big loss for the Braves comes via center fielder Jordan Schafer, who found out on Friday that he had a stress fracture, which will cause him to miss an additional four weeks not long after he had overcome another injury. Playing very well in spot starts this year, Schafer (.312 average with 3 HRs and 15 RBIs) would have undoubtedly been the favorite to start during B.J.’s absence, and may have been able to unseat the $75 million strikeout machine man had he played well in that span of time. Instead, manager Fredi Gonzalez will have to turn somewhere else for a center fielder, which will most likely be Reed Johnson.
As if injuries weren’t a big enough concern for the team, Atlanta may also have to begin worrying about starting pitcher Kris Medlen, last year’s ace who currently holds a disappointing 6-9 record in the season. Medlen’s last two starts left little to be desired, as he gave up eleven combined runs in 9.1 innings in two losses that saw the twenty-seven year old’s ERA jump up more than half of a run (from 3.11 to 3.64). Although it’s definitely not realistic to start panicking due to two consecutive bad starts, it will be crucial for Medlen to improve and return to his 2012 form; otherwise, he could go the way of Jair Jurrjens.
In my last article about the Braves, I stated that they should breathe easy during this break as long as they posted a respectable 6-7 mark in their final four series against Miami, Philadelphia, Miami again, and Cincinnati, and that’s exactly the record they posted over that span despite all of the aforementioned injuries. The Braves’ goals over this four-day break should be simple: watch teammates Brian McCann and Craig Kimbrel show their talent in the All-Star game and otherwise rest up for the long haul.
Once the season resumes on Friday, Atlanta will have five whole series and another two games before a day off, facing off with the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals during that timeframe. Fortunately for the Braves, four of these six teams sit at .500 or below on the season, which should result in Atlanta being able to both A) not feel rushed in getting their stars back from injury and B) add their fair share of victories to pad their lead in the East.
Should the Braves be looking to play “Let’s Make a Deal” to help their chances in the National League? What position should they target? Leave a comment and let us hear your opinion