Three Cuts: Braves blanked; La Stella debuts with two hits
MAY 28, 2014 11:45p ET
1. The Braves' offensive woes are starting to overwhelm the other facets of team production
Including Wednesday's lackluster showing, the Braves (three straight defeats) have scored just three runs or less 29 times this season -- a baffling figure for a first-place club with pennant aspirations.
It also marked Atlanta's seventh road tilt of zero or one run. In that context, the Braves' 10-12 away record looks pretty good (even if it isn't).
There isn't much to celebrate from a monthly perspective, either:
Of the last 30 days, no Brave collected 30 hits or posted a batting average north of .280. And outside of Freddie Freeman (15 runs from April 28-May 27) and Justin Upton (30-day tally: six HRs, 17 RBI, 12 runs) ... we can only find serenity with Jason Heyward's on-base percentage -- .359.
On Wednesday, the Braves (28-24, 1st place in NL East) produced nine hits against the Red Sox ... but it was more of the "scattered" variety:
**In the 6th, Justin Upton was left stranded after a moon-shot double stayed in the park -- thanks to a prohibitive inward breeze and chilly temperatures (47 degrees at first pitch).
**An inning later, Atlanta loaded the bases for Freeman. But he couldn't make the most of a 3-1 count, eventually grounding out to end the frame.
**The Braves collected two hits apiece in the fifth and seventh innings ... with rookie Tommy La Stella (more on him later) being the common denominator -- two hits.
**And last but not least, Atlanta went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position -- a far cry from Boston's 5-of-14 success with RISP. In fact, when combining the Tuesday/Wednesday efforts, the Braves were a woeful 1 for 13 in the RISP department.
2. Tommy La Stella didn't have to travel very far to live out his major-league dream
As luck would have it, the International Leagues's Gwinnett Braves (Triple-A) were already in Pawtucket, R.I. for the week (four-game set), meaning that La Stella (one HR, 23 RBI, 18 runs, .293 batting, .384 on-base percentage) only had to drive 45 miles to join the big-league Braves in Boston late Tuesday night/early Wednesday.
The convenient travel itinerary allowed for La Stella, 25, to bat 8th in the Braves' lineup, buttressed between third baseman Chris Johnson (1 for 4) and shortstop Ramiro Pena (two hits). However, the blah weather meant neither the Red Sox nor Braves had the luxury of on-field batting or fielding practice.
The lack of fielding warmups might have hindered La Stella in the third inning, when he and B.J. Upton didn't communicate well on a pop fly to shallow center. (Off the double, Xander Bogaerts would score three batters later, boosting Boston's lead to 2-0.)
Overall, though, La Stella fared well at second base, helping turn two double plays, knocking down a red-hot line drive from David Ortiz (the Braves were in a defensive shift) and tossing out Grady Sizemore at the plate in the 6th -- with the infield in tight.
There were no lulls at the plate. After a routine groundout for his inaugural MLB at-bat, LaStella then laced a pair of singles on his next two trips -- the first coming off a sluggish John Lackey curve ... and the second from a low-and-away fastball (Lackey again).
To accommodate for La Stella's promotion, Tyler Pastornicky was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. But his stay in the minors might be relatively brief, if the Braves plan to move Dan Uggla in the coming weeks.
To not move Uggla, from a writer's perspective, would seem to be the definition of "awkward" in the Braves clubhouse, even if everyone protested otherwise. After all, Uggla is a once-prolific, highly compensated veteran who has undergone massive struggles in recent years.
(Since Opening Day 2013, Uggla has a .178 batting average.)
As for La Stella, it makes sense for him to draw another start on Thursday, and perhaps through the weekend (against the Marlins). That would accentuate the time-tested strategy with prospects:
There's no point in riding the bench in the majors, when you can still be raking in the minors.
3. So much for Gavin Floyd going his entire career without losing to the Red Sox (7-0 heading into Wednesday)
It would have been a nice sight 30 years from now:
Floyd's grandchildren looking up the hologram version of Baseball-Reference.com and seeing their grandfather never falling to the fabled Red Sox (23-29) -- at Fenway Park or wherever.
But that's not how things shook out on Wednesday, with Floyd (2.37 seasonal ERA) surrendering just one earned run over five decent innings, but getting no run support from the Braves.
On the bright side, Floyd has yet to allow more than three earned runs as a Braves pitcher; and his lifetime ERA against the Red Sox (now 3.10) ... actually dropped 11 points on this night.