Braves can be frustrating

Published 7:21 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I am a die-hard Atlanta Braves baseball fan, but sometimes I get frustrated with my favorite team.

They are not playing that badly. As I write this column Tuesday morning, they are tied for second place with the Florida Marlins, just four games behind the first place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Eastern Division.

The Braves’ record is a respectable 32 wins and 28 losses.

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The pitching is not the problem. Right handers Jair Jurrjens, who was the national league pitcher of the month in May, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Derek Lowe, are all pitching well. The bullpen is solid, too, with fire balling left-hander Jonny Venters pitching the eighth inning and fireball right-hander Craig Kimbrel closing.

The problem has been clutch hitting. They are stranding a lot of base runners in scoring position and losing a lot of one-run games.

The two most consistent hitters in the lineup have been left fielder Martin Prado and catcher Brian McCann. They have both cashed in on numerous RBI opportunities.

Second baseman Dan Uggla, who signed a big free agent contract in the off season, has been struggling offensively, but he was always a slow starter when he was with the Florida Marlins, and I am confident he will come around and start hitting.

One person who has been very hot at the plate lately has been rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman. He has been making great contact and lining base hits to all fields.

Center fielder Jordan Schafer, who was called up when Nate McLouth had to go on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle, has brought something to the Braves lineup that it is sorely lacking in.

That something is speed. Before Schafer came up, the team was forced to play what is commonly known as station-to-station baseball.

They rarely attempted to steal a base and when they did, the runner was usually thrown out.

When McLouth comes back from the disabled list, I hope the team will also keep keep Schafer, who is also an outstanding defensive center fielder, on the roster.

The Braves offense has also been hurt the last couple of weeks by the absence of right fielder Jason Heyward, who had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder soreness.

Veteran third baseman Chipper Jones, one of the best switch hitters of all time and a sure-fire future Hall of Famer, has had many big hits in early season play.

While the Braves have struggled some offensively, their defensive play has been superb week in and week out.

If their great defense had not been there, they would probably be a lot further down in the standings than they are.

If the Braves keep pitching well and playing good defense, I am convinced their offense will come around.