0

BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Beachy ready to return — but where to put him?

The Braves’ starting pitchers are throwing well right now, meaning Brandon Beachy may not be a starter when he finally returns.

The Braves’ starting pitchers are throwing well right now, meaning Brandon Beachy may not be a starter when he finally returns.

ATLANTA — Manager Fredi Gonzalez and Braves officials figured something would happen, as it usually does in these matters, to create an opening in the starting rotation or at least make the logistical decision easier before Brandon Beachy returned from the disabled list.

It hasn’t.

Beachy could come off the DL next week after a long rehab from Tommy John surgery, and the Braves’ rotation is enjoying one of its best stretches in more than a decade. Gonzalez reiterated this week the Braves didn’t know yet what they would do when Beachy returned.

Before Julio Teheran was roughed up in Monday night’s series opener against the Padres, Braves starters had allowed three earned runs in 35 innings (0.77 ERA) during the past five games, including one or no earned runs in all four games of the road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that ended Sunday.

The starters had allowed two earned runs or fewer in all nine June games before Monday to match the longest such streak for Atlanta in a dozen seasons. The last time Braves starters allowed two or fewer in 10 consecutive starts was April 2001, when it was done by Greg Maddux, John Burkett, Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood and Odalis Perez.

“Streaks start or end with good pitching,” said Gonzalez, whose Braves split with the Dodgers and were 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA in June before stumbling a bit and getting swept by the Padres.

Gonzalez then added: “Those four games in L.A., our starting pitching was really good. And our bullpen, for that matter.”

During a four-game series at San Francisco on May 9-12, the Braves got seven innings of three-run ball from Teheran to win the series opener, then saw starters Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Kris Medlen give up a combined 24 hits and 17 runs (15 earned) in 13 2/3 innings of three losses, with Medlen the only one to make it to the sixth inning.

At that time, it looked as if Beachy couldn’t get back soon enough to help the sagging rotation.

“But after that, we’ve run off some pretty good starts,” Gonzalez said. “They might not have been seven or eight innings of no-hit baseball, but good starts.”

Before Wednesday’s game, the rotation’s ERA was 3.36, third-best in the majors, and the pitching staff’s ERA was down to 3.20, second in the majors to the Cardinals’ 3.19. Mike Minor was 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in eight starts in May and June.

“We’ve all had our times where we’ve kind of veered off a little bit,” said Medlen, who has made no secret about the fact he would like to stay in the rotation once Beachy returns. “Happens every year, ups and downs. We’re in an up right now, obviously.”

Gattis reaches Braves record books — in just nine at-bats

ATLANTA — Braves fans want to see Evan Gattis in the lineup more often, but the rookie slugger has quite an impact even when he isn’t.

With his three-run blast in the ninth inning Monday night in San Diego, Gattis tied the Braves’ record with four pinch homers in a season.

Most amazingly, it took him just nine plate appearances.

“I don’t know how or why it’s working out the way it is,” Gattis said.

The catcher/outfielder also has a double, a single and a walk as a pinch hitter, driving in 11 runs. Now that is production.

“It’s like when he gets up there you expect that he’s going to do something special,” shortstop Andrelton Simmons said.

Tommy Gregg hit four pinch homers for the Braves in 1990 to establish the record Gattis tied. The major-league record for pinch homers in a season is seven.

Gattis’ blast against the Padres just brought the Braves closer in an eventual 7-6 loss. But his others, all in the eighth inning or later, had given his team a lead or tied the game.

“His swing works, so you can run him in there against anybody,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “You don’t have to find a lefty-righty combination. It’s a short swing and he’s a big, strong man.”

Gattis’ surprising success, of course, has extended beyond pinch hitting. He is hitting .263 with 14 home runs, 37 RBI and a .928 OPS in 156 at-bats.

Regular playing time ended for Gattis when Brian McCann and Jason Heyward returned from the disabled list. But he is still tied with Justin Upton for the team lead in homers and ranks second in RBI.