Jake Lamb finalizes $1 million deal with Braves

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker expects to approach key pinch-hit situations with renewed confidence this season as he looks at the Braves’ newly bolstered bench.

More depth was added on Tuesday when the Braves finalized a $1 million, one-year contract with third baseman Jake Lamb that is not guaranteed. The signing adds another veteran bat to an already deep competition for bench spots in spring training.

Lamb, a 2017 All-Star with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was with the Braves for their first full-squad workout and will compete for a bench spot. He could provide insurance for Austin Riley, who is expected to start at third base, but he was signed for his left-handed bat as a pinch-hitter.

Snitker hopes Lamb can produce off the bench the way Matt Joyce in 2019 and Eric Hinske from 2010-12 were effective with their left-handed swings.

“You get late in a game and you need a double-switch, he can be a very valuable asset much like Matt Joyce did a couple years ago,” Snitker said Tuesday. “He can be a left-handed bullet on the bench.”

Snitker hopes to find bench depth from a group that includes the 30-year-old Lamb, Pablo Sandoval, Ehire Adrianza and Jason Kipnis. General manager Alex Anthopoulos signed the veteran infielders to compete for bench spots with Johan Camargo and others in spring training.

“I think it’s really good because there’s been a lot of springs where we were looking for guys,” Snitker said. “… I think Alex has done a good job of bringing in quality guys who have had success, guys who can fill those roles like that. You talk to them and they’re all eager to do it. They’re excited about being in here.”

There are only a few roster spots open for competition. Rookie Cristian Pache will compete with Ender Inciarte for the starting job in center field. Alex Jackson and William Contreras are the top candidates to be the backup catcher behind starter Travis d'Arnaud.

Otherwise, the battles for bench spots among the veteran infielders could be the Braves’ most interesting competitions of the spring.

“It’s a good group,” Snitker said. “All the guys so far we’ve brought in are guys who have had success in the major leagues. That’s exactly what you’re looking for with guys in sort of new roles in their career. That serves them well to have had that experience and been everyday players. I think it’s a good group that we’ll evaluate and choose from.”

Snitker said the team did not intentionally search for experience with Lamb, Sandoval and others behind Riley at third base.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with the position,” Snitker said. “I just think it was the players available at the time.”

Also, outfielder Phillip Ervin was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

The left-handed hitting Lamb struggled in the abbreviated 2020 season, when he hit a combined .193 in 31 games with Arizona and Oakland. He finished better, however, hitting .267 with three homers in 13 games after signing with the A’s.

“The reports are really good,” Snitker said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we signed him was because I know analytically and talking with Alex they really liked some changes he made offensively. He looks great.”

Lamb hit 30 homers with 30 doubles and 105 RBIs in 2017 with Arizona. He hit 29 homers in 2016 but has not reached double figures in homers in any other season. He has a .239 career batting average in seven seasons.

Atlanta designated left-hander Phil Pfeifer for assignment to clear a spot for Lamb on the 40-man roster.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

atlanta braves
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
7 Comments

ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.