Braves’ replacements flounder in Game 1 loss

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With Dan Uggla off the roster and B.J. Upton on the bench, the Braves were banking on lesser names helping their cause against the Dodgers. It didn’t work in Game 1, as both left fielder Evan Gattis and second baseman Elliot Johnson had key misplays in the 6-1 loss.

Uggla and Upton are the Braves’ two highest-paid players, but the Braves are willingly going without both. It’s hard to argue against the decision considering those two hit .179 and .184, respectively, this season. Still, the Braves gave up defense in the outfield by playing Gattis, and it showed as he dove for and missed A.J. Ellis’s RBI double in the second.

Johnson, on the other hand, is in there because he’s a better defender than Uggla (and hopefully not any worse offensively). But he failed to haul in Carl Crawford’s grounder to begin the third. Adrian Gonzalez later hit a two-run homer with two outs. Johnson wasn’t charged with an error, but he’ll be the first to say he should have made the play.

On offense, Gattis did contribute a bloop single and and a couple of walks. Johnson went hitless.

Personally, I thought Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez should have handled September differently. After Upton’s horrible start to the year, he was in and out of the lineup the rest of the way. Gonzalez never benched him for long, but there was always that threat hanging over Upton’s head; anytime he put up a couple of 0-fors, he knew he’d sit for the next day or two.

With the Braves’ NL East lead in hand, Gonzalez should have gone to both Upton and Uggla and told them they’d be lineup fixtures for at least a couple of weeks, no matter what happened. Give these guys, who have been everyday players their entire careers, the chance to sink or swim. If they sunk, fine; the Braves still had the second half of September to let Gattis find his rhythm at the plate (Johnson has no rhythm).

When Upton came to the plate as a pinch-hitter against Clayton Kershaw tonight, it was his first at-bat in eight days. His last hit came all of the way back on Sept. 12. There was no reason at all to think he’d succeed.

Uggla, who returned from eye surgery on Aug. 28, did get a little flurry of playing time in the end, coming after a spell in which he started one game in nine days. He was lousy. He may well have been lousy anyway. Upton, too. But I don’t think Gonzalez put them in the best position to succeed.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.