In the strongest sign yet that the Braves might finally be ready to bench Dan Uggla or perhaps even cut bait on the struggling second baseman, Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that they’re calling up Triple-A second baseman Tommy La Stella.
La Stella is 25 years old and not regarded as a top prospect, but he’s consistently posted excellent on-base percentages in the minors and as a low-strikeout, low-power hitter he’s basically the opposite of Uggla’s skill set.
This season La Stella has a .293 batting average and .384 on-base percentage in 47 games at Triple-A, with more walks (25) than strikeouts (14). He’s slugging just .359, but La Stella isn’t totally without power and has a .474 career slugging percentage with an average of 10 homers per 150 games.
Uggla, meanwhile, is hitting just .177 with two homers and a .511 OPS in 34 games and dating all the way back to the beginning of 2012 he’s hit .198 with 374 strikeouts in 324 games. Uggla is still owed $13 million for next season as part of a five-year, $62 million deal, but he’s well past the point of giving the Braves any reason to think there’s a turnaround coming.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.