Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters were rode hard and put away wet last year. So this year, they’re taking it a bit easier heading into spring training. From the AJC:
It’s easy to suggest their first-half workload is what caused Kimbrel and Venters to struggle down the stretch, when they appeared to be operating on fumes some nights … But it’s also clear that Venters and Kimbrel are learning something about pace and preparation. They realize there is a purpose to spring training, and that is solely to prepare for the season … This year Venters and Kimbrel won’t enter spring training in midseason form, by design. Both spent the offseason doing more strength and conditioning, and less throwing.
That should help. As should Fredi Gonzalez taking it a bit easier on them. One thing not mentioned in the article but which also needs to happen: the Braves have to freakin’ hit a little bit so they’re not constantly finding themselves in tie and one-run games like they did so often last season.
If Kimbrel and Venters are fresh all year, it means that the Braves will be in good shape. If run ragged again, forget it.
Following his phenomenal performance on Friday, Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter found another page on which to ink his name in the history books. He hit a pair of home runs in the first and second games of the Cardinals-Cubs doubleheader on Saturday, becoming the first player to hit six homers in a single series at Wrigley Field and the 28th MLB player to ever hit a home run in six straight games.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the 32-year-old infielder extended his two-game home run streak with a solo blast off of the Cubs’ Anthony Bass during the series opener on Thursday. He followed that up with three home runs in Friday’s staggering five-run, seven-RBI performance, then teed off another solo homer against Tyler Chatwood in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader. Even more remarkable: He didn’t start Game 2, but subbed in for Jose Martinez in the seventh and promptly hit one deep to center field in his first at-bat of the evening.
Entering Sunday’s game, Carpenter is riding a .277/.386/.593 batting line with an NL-best 30 doubles, 25 home runs and 163 OPS+. If he collects another home run during the club’s series finale, he’ll be the first with a seven-game home run streak since former outfielder Kevin Mench did it for the Rangers in 2006. Only three players — Mench (2006), Barry Bonds (2004) and Jim Thome (2002) — carried similar streaks, while the all-time record is currently held by Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly and Dale Long, at eight consecutive games with a home run.