Braves strug­gling at home af­ter All-star break

The Standard Journal - - Sports - From Staff Re­ports

The At­lanta Braves are strug­gling fol­low­ing the All-Star break, drop­ping to sec­ond place be­hind the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als in the Na­tional League East.

The Braves look to re­cover as they get back on the road with the first place Los An­ge­les Dodgers on the west coast this week.

Fol­low­ing a two-game split with the Mi­ami Mar­lins, the Braves hosted the Padres to win three of four at home.

At­lanta fin­si­hed the week­end four game se­ries against the Padres at 58-48 af­ter a Mon­day win ahead of press time of 2-0.

Ervin San­tana threw a ca­reer high 11 strike­outs dur­ing the Mon­day af­ter­noon game in the shutout against the Padres.

Ac­cord­ing to the Braves’ web­site, the Braves are try­ing po­si­tion them­selves for another run at the pen­nant in the sea­son home stretch.

MLB. com’s Mike Bow­man re­ported the Braves have a few ar­eas they would like to im­prove be­fore head­ing into this sea­son’s stretch run.

Their dire need to mend their frac­tured start­ing ro­ta­tion dur­ing Spring Train­ing has left them with es­sen­tially no fi­nan­cial flex­i­bil­ity with Thurs­day’s Trade Dead­line ap­proach­ing. When Kris Medlen and Bran­don Beachy suf­fered sea­son- end­ing el­bow in­juries 24 hours apart in March, the Braves re­acted in an ag­gres­sive man­ner.

Though they had al­ready nearly maxed out their pay­roll, they opted to give $14.1 mil­lion to San­tana, who strug­gled early but has started to look more like a re­li­able starter again over the past month.

San­tana’s pres­ence has al­lowed the Braves to com­pen­sate for the losses of Medlen, Beachy and Gavin Floyd, who suf­fered his own sea­so­nend­ing el­bow in­jury in June. But even if their ro­ta­tion re­mains whole and ef­fec­tive the re­main­der of the sea­son, the Braves still have to won­der if they will be able to de­fend their Na­tional League East crown if

they do not im­prove their bench and bullpen.

The most likely moves the Braves could make be­fore Thurs­day’s 4 p.m. ET dead­line will in­volve ei­ther a left- handed re­liever or an ex­pe­ri­enced pinch-hit­ter. There is a chance the Braves could fill ei­ther of these two needs with­out be­ing hand­i­capped by their fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion.

With that be­ing said, Braves gen­eral man­ager Frank Wren has proven he is will­ing and ca­pa­ble of strik­ing a deal while work­ing with sim­i­lar re­stric­tions. When he needed a lead­off hit­ter and could not take on any more salary in 2011, he landed Michael Bourn from the Astros, who agreed to pay the re­main­der of the out­fielder’s salary that year in ex­change for a more at­trac­tive re­turn pack­age.

Red Sox left-han­der An­drew Miller and Cubs south­paw Wes­ley Wright are among the re­liev­ers who have been on the Braves’ radar. But there might also be some hes­i­tancy to shop in this mar­ket for a sec­ond straight year. Last year’s Trade Dead­line ac­qui­si­tion of Scott Downs ap­peared to be a solid and ef­fec­tive move. But Downs’ Septem­ber strug­gles led him to be left off the post­sea­son ros­ter.

Some mem­bers of the Braves’ or­ga­ni­za­tion be­lieve the club’s best op­tion to add a left-handed re­liever might come in the form of a re­ju­ve­nated and im­proved Luis Avi­lan, who was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett last week with the hope that he will re­gain the form he pos­sessed last year. But Avi­lan en­tered Sun­day hav­ing al­lowed ei­ther a hit or a walk to seven of the pre­vi­ous 10 bat­ters he had faced.

Fol­low­ing the up­com­ing se­ries with the Dodgers, the Braves are headed into a three-game se­ries at San Diego, fol­lowed by an off day on Mon­day, Au­gust 4 and a two-game se­ries against the Seat­tle Mariners.

They’ll re­turn home fol­low­ing a break on Aug. 7 for home stands against the Na­tion­als, Dodgers and Oak­land Ath­let­ics be­tween Aug. 8 through Aug. 17 be­fore hit­ting hte road again in Au­gust.

Braves fans have one thing to be thank­ful about as At­lanta cel­e­brates the ad­di­tion of pitch­ers Tom Glavine and Greg Mad­dux, along with man­ager Bobby Cox to the Base­ball Hall of Fame.

Mad­dux and Glavine are the first set of first­bal­lot pitch­ers to be elected to­gether since Wal­ter John­son and Christy Mathew­son were part of the in­au­gu­ral Class of 1936, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wag­ner. They are the first liv­ing pair of 300-win pitch­ers to be elected in the same year and only the third pair in Hall of Fame his­tory.

“It’s ob­vi­ously the big­gest honor you can give to a ballplayer,” said Mad­dux, the first in­ductee to speak. “To put me here in Coop­er­stown with all of my child­hood he­roes, it’s sort of hard to be­lieve I’m stand­ing here to­day. I never gave a thought to the Hall of Fame as I was go­ing through my ca­reer. My goal as a base­ball player was very sim­ple -- all I wanted to do was try and get bet­ter for my next start. And to think it all ended up here is pretty cool.”

The Braves are work­ing out Johny Ven­ters fol­low­ing his re­cov­ery from Tommy Johns surgery in May 2013.

Ac­cord­ing to, Ven­ters played catch from 120 feet on July 26. He’s sched­uled to throw bullpen ses­sion week of July 28.

David Tullis/ap

At­lanta Braves short­stop An­drel­ton Sim­mons, left, fields the in­field pop fly by San Diego Padres’ Yon­der Alonso for the out as sec­ond base­man Phil Gos­selin (15) backs Sim­mons up dur­ing the sec­ond in­ning of a base­ball game Mon­day, July 28, 2014, in...

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