Found September 04, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
ATLANTA -- No Andrelton Simmons in the starting lineup. No Chris Johnson or Brian McCann, either. With the end of nine games in nine days at home and an off day Thursday, manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to rest a number of his regulars for Wednesday's season finale vs. the Mets -- that is until pinch-hit duty called for Simmons and Johnson in the ninth -- and used a pitcher in Kameron Loe, who last started in the majors in 2007. Atlanta would suffer a 5-2 loss, yet win the series 2-1 and claimed the regular-season set against New York 10-9. Still, this wasn't how a team with its sights on the National League's top seed in the postseason wanted to cap the home stand. "The Dodgers are playing well ... we want the No. 1 seed and we don't want to give up anything," said Elliot Johnson, who went 2-for-4 in starting in place of Chris Johnson at third base. "If they're going to keep on playing well we need to, play just as well if not better. We need to got ahead and continue to get the wins against teams we feel we're better than, even if we don't feel like we match up that day." Here are three observations from the Braves' loss. 1. Sluggish end to home stand It was just that kind of day for the Braves. With the Mets' Juan Lagares at first base in the third inning, second baseman Dan Uggla fielded Omar Quintanilla's dribbler and as he grabbed the ball out of his glove to start the routine double play, it fell out of his hand and to the dirt. He would have to settle for the out at first as Lagares advanced to second. A batter later, Uggla's miscue would turn into a New York run, thanks to another defensive setback. Pitcher Dillon Gee hit a high, arching fly ball to left-center and Evan Gattis, playing in left field, and center fielder B.J. Upton closed on it. But they both came to a stop as the ball fell in between them, allowing Lagares to score. "I think B.J. just took his eye off the ball a little bit and heard Gattis coming at him," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "We've still got to catch that ball." Offensively, Atlanta would have just one hit through the first four innings -- Paul Janish's second-inning single -- and finished with four on Gee (11-9), who is 9-3 with a 2.40 ERA in his last 18 outings. There were positives as Freddie Freeman clubbed his 19t homer of the season, Evan Gattis doubled for his fourth hit since being recalled, Elliot Johnson hit his third two-bagger since joining the Braves. But in all, Atlanta went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. 2. B.J. vs. Schafer: An update With Jordan Schafer a late scratch -- on his 27th birthday, no less -- with a quad contusion after getting hit in the leg with a foul ball during a pinch-hit appearance Tuesday, Upton hit leadoff and played center field in his place. Upton went hitless for just the second time in eight games, but he did walk, steal a base and provide the Braves' only RBI on a sacrifice fly in going 0-for-2. With Upton replacing Schafer in the lineup, it seems time to revisit a debate that has raged for most of the season: who should start in center? While Schafer has proven the more dependable leadoff man with Jason Heyward out for at least the rest of the regular season, stealing seven bases in the 12 games in 12 games, he's hitting .234.265.298 in that span. Meanwhile, the much-maligned Upton, is at .343.486.414 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI since Heyward went down. While he doesn't steal in bunches like Schafer, who has stolen multiple bases in three of his last seven games, Upton is delivering more and more in that department. He has five steals since Aug. 1 after registering seven in the first four months of the season. Plus, there's this bit that Gonzalez is most certainly paying attention to: Upton is know for his streaky play at the plate with 21 homers and 40 extra-base hits after the All-Star break last season. With the postseason quickly approaching, Upton looks like he may be riding another of those waves. If that's the case, expect to see plenty of him in the lineup and Schafer return to the role-player spot he's been so effective in. 3. Loe struggles in rare start On Sept. 3, 2007, Kameron Loe made his last major league start, back when he was with the Rangers. He lasted just three innings and Loe would spend the next five seasons appearing in 222 games as a reliever -- until Wednesday. With the Braves trying to get Julio Teheran rest down the stretch as he closes in on a career-high in innings pitched they turned to Loe. Sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett on July 29, he found some success as a starter, allowing one run or less in four of his last five starts and had a 2.40 ERA. But whatever progress he made down the farm seemed to come undone in a hurry as the Mets jumped on him with a triple (Daniel Murphy), a two-run home run (Andrew Brown) and a double (Lucas Duda) in the first inning. He gave up another homer, a solo shot to Duda, in the third. After 11 hits -- the most the surrendered by any pitcher against the Mets this season -- five earned runs and 4 13 innings and no strikeouts, Loe departed. "We didn't help him either," Gonzalez said. "There was a couple of plays that led to a couple of runs but nevertheless he got behind the counts on some of the hitters, walked a couple of guys and then the big home run by Duda and the some extra-base hits." Loe now has a 8.59 ERA, 1-2 record and a staggering 39.3 percent HRFB rate. By comparison, an average rate is 9.5 percent. But ultimately Loe, and starter-turned-reliever Freddy Garcia (one hit in 2 23 innings), did what the Braves needed: eat up innings to take the burden off the bullpen regulars, who provided 16 23 innings over the last four games.
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