Three Cuts: Simmons' blast not enough as Mets get to Medlen

BY foxsports • July 23, 2013

Taking three cuts after the Braves' 4-1 loss to the Mets on Tuesday at Citi Field.

Andrelton Simmons took the second pitch of the game from Carlos Torres and delivered his 10th home run of the year and his third leadoff blast -- and expectedly, Tweets touting the Braves' record when the go deep at least once followed.

But that mark isn't what it once was.

Atlanta was 44-9 on June 30 in those games, but with Tuesday's loss, the Braves are 4-7 in the last 11 games with a homer, including losses in four of the last six.

The problem? Some of the blame lies with not enough offense as they've averaged 3.2 runs per game in those defeats. But it's also a matter of the starting pitchers putting the Braves in a position where those runs just aren't enough.

While the rotation remains among the top five in the majors with a 3.66 ERA, in those last four losses with a homer, the starters have an ERA of 10.19. It's a stretch that includes a pair of shaky performance from Julio Teheran (five earned in 5 1/3 on July 14 vs. Cincinnati) and Paul Maholm (seven runs in three innings against the White Sox on July 20).

But it's Kris Medlen that has struggled the most.

Medlen (6-10) yielded four runs in 5 1/3 innings Tuesday and that comes after he gave up form runs in four innings July 12 against the Reds and he also allowed six runs in 5 1/3 on July 7 against the Phillies -- another loss with an Atlanta homer.

It's a run that could be critical for Medlen, given that with Brandon Beachy' impending return from Tommy John surgery there is talk that Medlen could return to the bullpen.

With Paul Maholm on the 15-day disabled list Alex Wood is starting in his place Thursday, and while Fredi Gonzalez hasn't disclosed who will take Maholm's next two starts, Beachy could fill in there. That could buy Medlen time and allow him at least another start to regain the rhythm that made him so dominant last season, but Tuesday wasn't the kind of performance that tilts things in Medlen's favor.

Last winter 'The BIll James Handbook' projected Simmons at 10 home runs for the season, an understandably low estimate given that he had hit just three in 182 plate appearances last season in Atlanta and six in 1,042 PAs before he joined the Braves.

But with that leadoff shot, Simmons has already reached the illustrious James' expectations and is fourth among all shortstops, trailing only the Orioles' J.J. Hardy (17), the Nationals' Ian Desmond (15) and the Brewers' Jean Segura (11).

With five more homers, Simmons will equal Denis Menke (1966), Jeff Blauser (1993), Rafael Furcal (2003) and Alex Gonzalez (2011) for the most homers by a Braves shortstop in the last 50 years.

Given that the Braves have hit 119 home runs -- fourth-most in the majors -- as a whole, it's the kind of production that can get lost in the shuffle, but Simmons' power has been a pleasant surprise.

Against the rest of the majors, Ike Davis is hitting .150. But when it comes to the Braves, that average is a blistering .300.

He added to those frustrations for the Braves Tuesday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI double in part of the Mets' three-run sixth inning.

In his last four games against Atlanta, Davis is 6-for-16 (.375) with two doubles and form RBI. That includes going 3-for-8 so far in this series.

He's had moderate success against Wednesday's starter, Tim Hudson, going 1-for-3 in their long meeting of '13, but Hudson has held him to a .250 average overall.