Reliever Jordan Walden has been great so far for the Atlanta Braves this season, becoming one of the relievers the team knows it can go to in clutch situation.
ATLANTA — After season-ending elbow injuries to Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, nobody has come up bigger getting the ball to Braves closer Craig Kimbrel than Jordan Walden.
Walden entered the game Sunday in a bases loaded jam and got Juan Francisco to pop-out on his second pitch to preserve a 7-4 win over the Brewers. He needed only nine more pitches to get through a perfect eighth inning for the Braves, who were off Monday and will begin a two-game series at Kansas City today.
Since returning from the disabled list on May 29, Walden has made 10 straight scoreless appearances. He's walked only one batter and struck out 10 in 9 1/3 innings. He has said his shoulder feels better and he's showing it, consistently hitting 97 mph on the radar gun.
“He is a big piece for us,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who preferred not to use Walden for more than one inning but had to after Cory Gearrin walked two batters. “When he's healthy, he's a guy that's got the experience. He's done it, the back end of games, when he was with Anaheim, so you feel comfortable when he comes into games.”
SILENT TREATMENT FOR SCHAFER: Jordan Schafer, at age 26, is no rookie but he gets treated like one by his fun-loving Braves teammates. They gave Schafer the silent treatment in the Braves dugout Sunday after Schafer hit his third home run of the season in the fourth inning as part of his four-hit day.
“They always like to pick on me,” Schafer said, smiling. “I guess I'm an easy target.”
Schafer said he came back into the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park after his home run and waited a while. He said his teammates laughed when he walked back out and joined them in the dugout.
“Ah he's just one of those guys we love to pick on a little bit because he's a funny dude,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. “Why not?”
Gonzalez said his teammates treat him like a little brother.
“He's like the little brother that everybody picks on,” Gonzalez said. “The little guy that hangs out with older players. But he can take it. He's funny.”
J. Upton resting injured right hand
ATLANTA — Braves left fielder Justin Upton was out of the lineup for the second consecutive time Sunday afternoon because of a sore right hand.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is hoping with those two days off, followed by Monday’s off day, Upton will be OK to return today in the first game of a two-game series in Kansas City.
Gonzalez didn’t rule Upton out Sunday until Upton arrived at Miller Park and took some swings in the indoor cage to test the hand out. Gonzalez said Upton has been bothered by it for a few days.
Upton has struggled at the plate since a torrid April when he hit 12 home runs, hitting .208 (35 for 168) with three home runs and 54 strikeouts in 46 games since May 1.
With Upton out, Gonzalez used the same lineup for the second consecutive day, which was somewhat unusual for a manager who has used 60 different lineups in the first 77 games. Gonzalez insinuated after Saturday’s game and a second consecutive shutout the lineup would change, but with Upton still ailing he changed his mind.
Those 60 lineups account for injuries and rest days as well as hitters enduring cold streaks. It does not account for the pitcher. Entering Sunday, the Braves were tied for second in the NL East with the Mets for the second-most lineups used, behind the Marlins who had used 68.
Looking ahead to Kansas City, Gonzalez would normally use Evan Gattis as the designated hitter in at least one of those games. With Gattis on the disabled list with a strained oblique, Gonzalez said he didn’t know yet how he’ll play that.
“Maybe move it around for the next two games,” Gonzalez said.