Braves third baseman Chris Johnson reacts after being called out at first to end the game against the Phillies on Saturday. Moments later Johnson threw his helmet in frustration, drawing the ire from first base coach Terry Pendleton. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said he apologized to first base coach Terry Pendleton Sunday morning after Pendleton confronted him in the dugout Saturday night for throwing his helmet in frustration after his groundout to end the game against the Phillies.
Johnson’s helmet bounced near the dugout bench and inadvertently hit Pendleton, who then grabbed Johnson with both hands by the front of his jersey and pushed him back.
“Hey, I’m a nut job sometimes,” said Johnson, who got thrown out by Jimmy Rollins on a close play to strand the tying run in scoring position in a 5-4 loss. “My helmet slipped out of my hand and hit someone. That’s not good. I’m in the wrong right there. I came in (Sunday), talked to TP, apologized and we’ll move on.”
Johnson is known for being one of the Braves’ most emotional players. He said Pendleton has been talking to him about controlling his emotions throughout the season.
“I’m a fiery guy too, so it’s one of those things where I’ve got to try to find a way to cool off and that was TP’s way of trying to help me out,” Johnson said. “It’s a learning process for me. TP is old school. He’s one of those guys (who’s) going to confront you as soon as it happens. It’s all good. It’s good for me to learn from that and make sure it doesn’t happen again because that’s the last thing I want is to take out some anger on something and have it hurt somebody on the team.”
Pendleton did not address the media Sunday morning, but manager Fredi Gonzalez said he spoke with both Pendleton and Johnson and that they were moving on.
“It would have been a non-issue if it wasn’t caught on TV,” Gonzalez said. “It’s two competitive guys, Game 161, and it happens, and that’s it. And I think going forward it’ll be fine. Chris Johnson is a likable, lovable guy. Really sometimes during the course of the game he gets a little adrenaline flowing and TP is about as close to him as anybody on this team, and I think it’s over with.”
Johnson was out of the Braves lineup Sunday, though Gonzalez said that was only because Johnson was nursing a sore right shoulder. Gonzalez said Johnson jammed his shoulder making a diving play Thursday night.
Johnson gave an indication that his right (throwing) shoulder was bothering him in the fifth inning Saturday night when he threw wildly to first base on a Domonic Brown ground ball for his first error since Aug. 6 against the Nationals.
“It’s been bothering him,” Gonzalez said. “He’s been trying to stay in the lineup for us, trying to win this best record in our league, but it gets to a point where sometimes you do more harm than good.”
Johnson entered Sunday’s game out of the race for the National League batting title, trailing Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer by 12 points (.333 to .321). Gonzalez said with three off days before the division series starts, Johnson will be fine to start Game 1.
KIMBREL JOINS ELITE CLUB: It was overshadowed by an epic pitcher’s duel between Kris Medlen and Cliff Lee, and Chris Johnson’s game-winning homer in the eighth inning, but Craig Kimbrel did something Friday that only 10 other pitchers have done.
The Braves’ closer recorded his majors-leading 50th save, the second Braves pitcher to reach that standard and the first National League pitcher to do it since the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne converted 55 saves and won the Cy Young Award in 2003.
“Obviously it means I’ve had a lot of opportunities this year,” Kimbrel said with typical modesty.
Pressed further, he acknowledged the significance of 50 saves, something only John Smoltz — 55 in 2002 — had achieved among Braves.
“It definitely means a lot,” said Kimbrel, who had 46 saves in 2011 and 42 in 2012 in his first two full seasons, sharing the NL lead both years. “It’s not something that comes around every year. Even if you do have a good pitching year, you might not get that many opportunities. So it’s definitely something special.”
Kimbrel converted 50 of 54 saves before Saturday and led National League relievers with a 1.23 ERA, including a 0.78 ERA in 35 home appearances. He converted a franchise-record 37 consecutive saves from May 9 through Sept. 14.
Kimbrel’s save Friday was his 139th in 154 career opportunities, a 90.3-percent conversion rate that ranked third in history behind Gagne (91.7) and Smoltz (91.1) among pitchers with at least 100 save opportunities.