Simmons surprises Braves at the plate
Manager Fredi Gonzalez wants this team to be known for its pitching, and part of that hinges on good defense. That's the reason rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is back at Triple-A Gwinnett, replaced by even more of a rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who made the jump from Double-A Mississippi.
The only reason Simmons was there was to settle down on offense after putting too much pressure on himself in spring training to make the team. It doesn't hurt that that also delayed his arbitration clock.
There was never a question that Simmons' defense was major league ready in March. That's what the pitching needs behind it, particularly right-handed starter Tim Hudson and left-handed reliever Jonny Venters, who rely on ground balls for their outs.
It's no coincidence that Hudson finally pitched a complete game shutout the first time he started with Simmons behind him, Tuesday against the Marlins in Miami. It's also no coincidence that Venters retired the only two Marlins he faced in the seventh inning Wednesday after having given up at least one hit in each of his previous 10 appearances.
Yes, Venters got the outs on a strikeout and fly ball, not with grounders, but pitchers pitch better when they have confidence that they'll be backed up with good defense.
And that's all that Simmons is supposed to be doing, really. He committed only four errors in 235 chances at Mississippi before he was called up. But he's batting .333 (6-for-18) in less than a week in the majors, including driving in three runs on Tuesday.
Thursday, left-hander Mike Minor tried to keep his place in the rotation by keeping up with Hudson and right-hander Randall Delgado, who was sharp Wednesday, retiring the first 12 Marlins he faced and topping it off by driving in the game-winning run.
Minor's last turn was skipped when last Friday's game against the Nationals was rained out. Having infielders boot ground balls has not been his problem. It's been the walks and the National League-leading 13 home runs he's given up in his previous starts.
Miner gave up another one in the five innings he pitched, but he kept the Braves in the game, and they went on to beat the Marlins, 8-2. A spectacular Simmons snare, twist and throw for a double play saved Venters and the lead in the bottom of the seventh.
--INF/OF Martin Prado, who's been playing third base in the absence of Chipper Jones, drove in three runs in Thursday's 8-2 victory over the Marlins. He had his 23rd multi-hit game of the season and has driven in 25 runs.
--1B Freddie Freeman's left index finger isn't broken, but he is expected to miss a day or two after being knocked out of Wednesday's game in the top of the fourth inning when he was hit on his left hand by a thrown ball going into second base on a double play. Freeman had to wait until Thursday morning to have his hand X-rayed because there is no X-ray machine in the Marlins' new ball park. He was replaced at first base in Thursday's lineup by INF/OF Eric Hinske.
--OF Matt Diaz started in left field against the Marlins on Thursday, facing LHP Mark Buehrle. That meant that the pitcher -- LHP Mike Minor, in this case -- was back to hitting ninth in the order. Manager Fredi Gonzalez's righty-lefty match-up didn't work out that well, though, as Diaz was 0-for-2 against Buerhle.
--RHP Randall Delgado's game-winning RBI Wednesday night came on a hanging slider. He's hitting .263 (5-for-19) this season, and is being needled for that by RHP Tim Hudson, who was the SEC Player of the Year in 1997 and was selected to the All-SEC team as a pitcher and an outfielder, batting .396 with 18 home runs and 95 RBI.
--RF Jason Heyward hadn't had a multi-hit game since May 11 before Tuesday's three-hit game. But consistency being the issue with him that it is, he followed that with an 0-for-4 Wednesday and a 2-for-4 on Thursday. Those two hits were home runs.
--1B Freddie Freeman (sore left index finger) left the June 6 game, and he didn't play June 7. X-rays were negative, and he is day-to-day.
--3B Chipper Jones (bruised left calf) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 24. He had his bruise -- officially a hematoma -- drained May 26. He resumed baseball activity June 5 but was still sore.
--RHP Peter Moylan (right shoulder surgery in October 2011) was long-tossing as of mid-May. He threw his first bullpen session May 23.
--RHP Arodys Vizcaino (Tommy John surgery in March 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26. He is expected to miss the entire season.
--LHP Robert Fish (left elbow tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's great to be young." -- RHP Tim Hudson, on rookie RHP Randall Delgado, who got the game-winning hit in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over the Marlins and had a career-high seven strikeouts.