Three Cuts: Walks-offs, luxuries of six-man rotation, Braves' catchers on pace for painful record
ATLANTA -- Brandon Phillips and the Braves have made a habit out of this.
A day after singling in the game-winning run in the ninth against the Marlins, the Braves' veteran second basemen repeated the feat Sunday, driving home Johan Camargo for a 5-4 victory.
That wild 48 hours made Phillips the first Atlanta player to deliver back-to-back walk-off wins since Ozzie Virgil on Sept. 18 and 19, 1988 and the Braves now have five such wins this season, tying them with the Phillies for the most in the National League. They also have 11 wins in their last at-bat, tied for the MLB lead.
It all gave the Braves their second straight series win, but continued late-inning magic was only part of the story in the week that was as Atlanta set the stage for a six-man rotation, Braves catchers keep getting plunked and Matt Adams is bucking the belief he can't hit lefties.
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1. A six-man rotation is reality ... but for how long?
Bartolo Colon will rejoin the Braves' rotation in the next few days (and without a rehab start, no less), a move that comes with it a juggling act for manager Brian Snitker.
Atlanta will be going -- at least for the time being -- to a six-man staff of Colon, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia and rookie Sean Newcomb, who has impressed through his first two starts.
It's a situation that is born out of necessity, necessity coming from two ends of the spectrum.
First, Newcomb has just been too strong to consider moving back down to Triple-A so far. The big left-hander followed his 6 1/3 innings with one unearned run (the longest for a Brave in a debut since 1978) against the Mets by allowing three run sin six innings vs. the Mets on Friday.
He's been a workhorse, throwing 96 and 106 pitches in his two outings, and hasn't been as walk-prone as he'd been at times in the minors when he walked 186 in 348 1/3 innings. So far, Newcomb has issued six free passes, with four in his last outing.
Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Colon does sport a 7.78 ERA that is the worst in the majors among starters with at least 50 innings pitched ... and he's due around $7 million left on his $12.5 million contract. His production and price tag make trading him difficult and cutting him loose even tougher to swallow.
The Braves ultimately have no more logical play than to see if Colon's disabled list stint -- which goes back to June 6 and didn't see him stop working out -- was the kind of break that can help him get back on track.
While Colon and Garcia are certainly factors in ushering in a six-man rotation, it's likely the time frame of how long it's used is tied more to Jaime Garcia than any other Braves pitcher.
He's, of course, the Atlanta starter that is likely generating the most interest on the trade market with his 3.59 ERA and a 56.5 ground-ball rate that's seventh-best in MLB.
If and when Garcia is dealt will probably see the Braves slide back into a normal rotation, but in the meantime, Atlanta has a bit of a luxury. Not only does it get a longer look at Newcomb to see if the 24-year-old is ready to be an full-time MLB starter, but the added rest bides them more time with Colon as he tries to get through the roughest stretch of his 20-year career.
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2. Braves catchers have to be wearing targets, right?
Atlanta's catching tandem of Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki lead the majors in on-base percentage (.391, and largely behind Flowers' .435), and they continue to lead the game in a stat that, frankly, is going to leave a mark.
To be fair, Jose Urena didn't just limit his plunking to Braves catchers, hitting three in the first four innings Sunday. But when he nailed Suzuki with a 97-mph, two-seam fastball in the second inning, it marked the 19th time that a Braves catcher has been hit by a pitch this season.
Not only is that the most in baseball -- by eight over the Angels -- it's 14 more than the next-closest NL team (the Brewers), but that total is already a franchise record after just 68 games.
Last season, Atlanta catchers set the previous mark with 15, but are currently on pace to be hit 45 times this year. Even if Flowers/Suzuki are shown some mercy by opponents and aren't hit at that rate, they're still a legitimate challenge the record of 32 set by the Pirates in 1997. Of note, that group also had 30 HPBs in '98, the second-most in history.
If there's a silver lining for Flowers, who set the Braves record with 11 last year and has already equaled that this season, is that he's not Jason Kendall. Amid those 1997 and '98 seasons, the Pittsburgh backstop was hit 62 times.
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3. Take heed: Matt Adams has figured out hitting lefties
Throughout his career, one of the biggest problem spots for Matt Adams has been in hitting lefties. During his breakout season of 2013, he hit .231 in 52 at-bats, but after a .190 average the following season in 130 cances, he's had limited opportunities to shake that stigma.
Adams had just 27 plate appearances vs. lefties in '15, 50 in '16, and before being dealt to the Braves on May 20, had just three at-bats against southpaws.
But in sliding into an everyday role with Atlanta in the wake of Freddie Freeman's wrist injury, Adams has thrived, especially of late.
He had one hit in his first seven ABs vs. lefties in a Braves uniform, but is 4 for 14 since with two home runs and five RBI, and in all has a .308 average since he landed in Atlanta.
Saturday, that was on display as Adams had two hits against the Marlins' Jeff Locke -- a double and a home run -- and also homered against the Reds' Amir Garrett on June 4.
He'll get a chance to build on that against the Giants, with Matt Moore scheduled to start Tuesday. Adams has never faced Moore, but the San Francisco lefty is has a .377/.465/.760 line with five home runs allowed against left-handed batters this season.