ATLANTA — The Braves have solidified their place on the short list of World Series contenders in 2013, but no other team on that list has encountered more misfortune in the process.
As Jason Heyward’s fractured jaw illustrated once more on Wednesday afternoon, Atlanta’s 77-49 record has not come without a price.
Sure, the Boston Red Sox have played without starter Clay Buchholz and lost a few relievers (Andrew Bailey, Andrew Miller, Joel Hanrahan). Yes, the Dodgers have made their incredible summer run without the everyday help of All-Star Matt Kemp and starter Josh Beckett — though, with Beckett posting an 0-5 record with a 5.19 ERA, perhaps that was a blessing in disguise.
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The Rangers (Colby Lewis, Nelson Cruz) and Cardinals (Rafael Furcal, Chris Carpenter, Jason Motte) will probably also like to toss their hat in the misfortune ring — as would the New York Yankees, who, if you still want to consider them as a World Series contender, have lost practically everyone at one point or another.
But Heyward’s injury — he is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which places his comeback right around the start of the playoffs — underlines the fact that no bona fide contender has overcome more in the training room.
Tim Hudson, who the team unanimously refers to as their ace, boasted a 8-7 record with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.8 WAR when he fractured his ankle at Citi Field in late July. Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, two of baseball’s best relievers from 2010 to 2012, underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Fellow reliever Christhian Martinez made just two appearances before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. Backup infielders Tyler Pastornicky (ACL) and Ramiro Pena (shoulder) also suffered injuries of the season-ending variety.
How’s that for a substantial list?
From the Opening Day lineup alone, only third baseman Chris Johnson has not spent some time on the disabled list.
Now, with Heyward out once again (he spent some time on the DL earlier in the year for after an appendectomy), the Braves have some questions to answer. How do you replace one of the hottest hitters in baseball? The Chopcast team — Zach Dillard, Cory McCartney and Jay Clemons — discuss the injury and possible solutions. Here are a few of the highlights:
— With Heyward producing at such a high rate in the second half, how much will the Braves miss his presence down the stretch?
— What does the injury mean for the Braves’ outfield? What about for the team’s leadoff spot? What should the Braves expect out of the likes of Jordan Schafer, Evan Gattis and Joey Terdoslavich moving forward?
— Does Heyward’s injury affect the race for the National League’s No. 1 seed toward the playoffs?