Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves

The Braves are regressing badly

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The Braves were 12-1 after their victory over the Royals on April 16. They had just rattled off ten consecutive wins, due to an incredibly potent offense and unhittable pitching. The Braves hit three or more home runs in three of their first five games with Justin Upton hitting one just about every night. In fact, of their 29 games on the season, they have hit multiple home runs in 11 of them. Word quickly spread that the Braves were the presumptive heir to the slow-starting Nationals’ throne atop the NL East.

Problem was, it was never going to last. Justin was never going to continue his 97-homer pace. Paul Maholm, with a career 4.23 ERA, wasn’t going to go the whole season without giving up a run as he did in his first 26 innings. They weren’t going to avoid injuries all year. The struggles of Dan Uggla, Andrelton Simmons, and B.J. Upton couldn’t continue to be swept under the rug.

Since April 17, the Braves are 5-11. They’re still in first place, but tenuously so as they nurse a 2.5-game lead over the second-place Nationals. They have averaged 3.25 runs per game, scoring three or fewer runs nine times in 16 games while striking out 156 times in 590 plate appearances (26%).

The Braves have had the second-fewest opportunities with runners in scoring position (236 PA) in the National League. In those scant opportunities, they are hitting .230. Despite the team’s prodigious power, their .316 on-base percentage is only two points better than the NL average. They steal bases both infrequently and with poor efficiency, making them baseball’s fifth-worst base-stealing team according to Baseball Prospectus.

This isn’t to say the Braves are a sham, but they will sure look like one every time they enter their bust cycle shortly after the boom. They can pitch with the best of them, but their homer-reliant offense will make their hurlers a nonfactor in every drought. The good news, though, is that they play in the same division as the Marlins, Mets, and Phillies, so they’ll have plenty of opportunities to pick up cheap wins as they keep the Nationals in their crosshairs.

Jose Bautista’s appeal hearing will be held in New York on Thursday

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 17: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a two-run home run in the first inning during MLB game action against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 17, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor had his appeal hearing on Tuesday. The next order of business is Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista‘s appeal hearing. That will be held in New York on Thursday, per Sportsnet’s Barry Davis.

Bautista was suspended one game for his actions during the mayhem on May 15 in Texas between the Rangers and Blue Jays. Bautista was hit in the ribs by a Matt Bush fastball. On an ensuing double play attempt, Bautista slid hard into Odor. Odor swung at and connected with Bautista, resulting in an eight-game suspension.

Bautista will be able to play until a decision is levied following the hearing. He enters play Tuesday hitting .230/.373/.497 with 10 home runs, 34 RBI, and a league-best walks total of 37.

Angel Pagan lands on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Angel Pagan #16 of the San Francisco Giants poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Scottsdale Stadium on February 28, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Giants outfielder Angel Pagan has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, the club announced on Tuesday. He has a strained left hamstring. Outfielder Jarret Parker has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento.

Pagan strained his hamstring earlier this month and missed nearly two weeks while avoiding a trip to the DL. The club decided to play it safe this time around. Pagan aggravated the injury during Monday’s game against the Padres, exiting in the ninth inning.

Pagan is hitting .275/.338/.383 with a pair of home runs and 13 RBI on the year.

Odubel Herrera was benched for a lack of hustle last night

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 12:  Centerfielder Odubel Herrera #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies runs to third for a triple in the tenth inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on May 12, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
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Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has been described by Kevin Cooney of Calkins Media as “the straw that stirs the Phillies.” He has drawn comparisons to former Phillie Shane Victorino for his high-energy style of play that can motivate a team and give it momentum. So it was a bit shocking to hear that Herrera had been removed from Monday’s game against the Tigers for a lack of hustle.

Herrera started the game with a 14-pitch at-bat against Mike Pelfrey and wound up singling in each of his first three at-bats. In the seventh, Herrera faced lefty reliever Justin Wilson with a runner on second base and no outs. He hit a tapper back to Wilson, who looked Peter Bourjos back to second base, then lobbed to first base for the out. Wilson wasn’t quick to get the ball to first base, but Herrera was only lightly jogging so it didn’t matter. Manager Pete Mackanin removed him from the game and put David Lough in center field.

Here’s video of Herrera’s jog:

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Breen confirmed the reason for Herrera exiting the game. Herrera said after the Phillies’ 5-4 loss, “I know I did wrong,” per CSN Philly’s John Clark. Herrera said, “I was frustrated,” and added, “It won’t happen again.”

After the benching, while the game was still going on, I was also told by several of my Twitter followers who were watching the game that the CSN broadcast showed Herrera pointing to his back while speaking with the team trainer. He did not play on May 18 against the Marlins due to back discomfort, as Matt Gelb of the Inquirer reported.

Making a point to your team about hustle is understandable, particularly for a young team like the Phillies. Jumping on a player with a bad back is not the best way to make that point, however. Herrera might have been slow up the line because his back was bothering him and he might not have said anything about it because baseball culture (and masculinity in general) tells players to play through pain. He might not have wanted to argue with Mackanin about it either, since he is only in his second season as a major leaguer. Mackanin is then essentially telling his team to play through injuries and give max effort even when it might be a detriment.

I’ve argued before about how it’s actually a bad idea to run full throttle on weak pop-ups and ground outs. They’re outs 99 percent of the time. Yes, if you run hard, you might get a single or a double that one time, but it’s also a way to get injured. That’s especially true if a player already has a nagging injury like a bad back.

Work smarter, not harder.

San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus asks for fired DJ to be reinstated

SAN DIEGO - APRIL 06:  The grounds crew works on the field before the start of the game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres during Opening Night at Petco Park on April 6, 2007 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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OK, I lied. Earlier I said we had the final word on the National Anthem dustup in San Diego from over the weekend. The final word, it seemed, was the Padres apologizing, the revelation that the screwed up Anthem thing was a mistake by a DJ hired to run the music and the DJ then being fired. Oh, and then the DJ apologizing.

Now a new twist! The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus said today that they’d like to see the DJ rehired by the Padres! Their statement, in relevant part:

We also would like to publicly accept the sincere apology of DJ ARTFORM and recognize his support for the LGBT community and equality for all people. We do not wish to see him lose his job with the San Diego Padres and kindly ask the Padres to reinstate him. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

That’s quite a shift in the past few days, as all of this was came into the public eye via a Facebook post by a Gay Men’s Chorus official saying that this whole thing was part of a pattern of troublesome homophobia. Now we’ve come full circle. Or maybe around the circle a few times and back again. I don’t know. I’m dizzy.

Whatever the case: everyone’s all happy now, and that’s way better than everyone being all mad.