Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Touch 'Em All: Braves streaking without the long ball

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The Atlanta Braves, finding new ways to create runs, have regained the lead in the NL East with their best two-week stretch of the season.

It's even more impressive since, during that period, starting pitcher Gavin Floyd had season-ending elbow surgery and power-hitting catcher Evan Gattis was lost indefinitely with a back injury.

The Braves will carry a seven-game winning streak into Friday's game against Arizona. Atlanta has won 11 of its last 14 games to move one-half game ahead of Washington.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he has seen the Braves play as well in a series but not over a stretch as long as two weeks. He is encouraged that his lineup is proving it doesn't have to rely on homers.

The Braves were held without a homer in the last two games of a sweep of the Mets this week, relying on clutch hitting to score all eight runs with two outs.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the winning streak immediately followed B.J. Upton's move to the leadoff spot. Upton has a nine-game hitting streak. Despite the streak, he's hitting only .210 but leads the team with 13 stolen bases.

HR derby debate

Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus scoffs at the idea that the home run derby could cause a slugger to go into a slump.

"It doesn't bother me if they want to do it," Ausmus said before Thursday night's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. "I find it hard to believe that one round of batting practice is going to ruin your swing for the next three months."

There's occasional concern that the event's format - with players swinging for the fences repeatedly through multiple rounds - can lead to bad habits and fatigue.

The Phillies' Bobby Abreu won the contest with 41 homers in 2005, but he hit just six home runs after the all-star break after having 18 before it.

"I'm not a fan of it," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "I guess the fans are, so if the fans are a fan of it, then I guess it's OK. Would I prefer my hitters' not participating? Yeah, I'd prefer they would not participate."

Sabathia's setback

CC Sabathia's return to the New York Yankees' rotation is being delayed because he had swelling in his injured right knee after making his second rehabilitation start.

Sabathia had an MRI on Thursday, after giving up four runs (three earned) and five hits in 32/3 innings for double-A Trenton the previous night. The lefthander has been out with a degenerative cartilage problem for nearly two months.

Associated Press
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