MILWAUKEE — For the Atlanta Braves Courtland Sutton Color Rush Jersey , the big question as they headed from a long three-game series in Yankee Stadium to Milwaukee concerns the status of star first baseman Freddie Freeman.
All indications are Freeman will play the opener of a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers, but it will not be official until the lineup card is posted Thursday afternoon at Miller Park.
“If you ask him, he’s going to say yes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But until we get there and see how it is, we won’t know. It was probably good that we got him out of there and started on some treatment.”
Freeman exited in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the New York Yankee Stadium with an upper right arm contusion. He was injured when he was hit in the third inning by CC Sabathia, and by pulling him early to get treatment, Freeman and the Braves hope the precautionary measure means he can play Thursday.
“Luckily, it didn’t hit my hand,” Freeman said. “I’ll take the elbow and a little soreness. As long as I have the strength in my arm tomorrow, I can deal with the pain.”
Atlanta is 4-2 on its 10-game trip. The Braves swept three games in St. Louis last weekend and took a 5-3, 11-inning victory over the Yankees on Monday before losing the last two games.
“I thought we handled ourselves really well,” Snitker said. “We won a really tough game the first night, we put ourselves in a position to win today and today here we come again. The guys never quit. They know they can play with anybody and it’s a good sign.”
Milwaukee (51-35) is the first team in the National League to reach 50 wins after completing a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 3-2 win on Wednesday.
Brad Miller and Nate Orf played roles in three close wins as Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell is employing a mix-and-match approach at shortstop. He is using that strategy while remaining optimistic that shortstop Orlando Arcia will rediscover his offensive stroke at Triple-A Colorado Springs and rejoin Milwaukee for a playoff push.
Miller has gotten off to a good start with the Brewers. He extended his hitting streak to nine games Wednesday and has a hit in 10 of 12 games since joining the team, with a pair of home runs.
Orf was batting .307 with an .875 OPS when he was summoned Monday from Triple-A and recorded his first career hit with a solo home run against the Twins.
Both are immediate offensive upgrades to Arcia, who was slashing .197/.231/.482 but remained in the regular lineup because of his defensive ability.
While Miller saw extensive action at the position earlier in his career and Orf has spent most of the season there at Colorado Springs, neither player is a natural shortstop so Counsell was prepared to sacrifice defense to shore up the bottom of the order.
“When we sent Orlando down, we had multiple players on the roster who aren’t true shortstops so we’re trying to find guys who can play shortstop and who can kind of fill in at shortstop,” he said. “I don’t think we have an answer, but this is how we’re going to try it.”
A more stable solution could be coming soon. Tyler Saladino was on a roll before suffering a severe ankle sprain on May 29.
In 16 games with the Brewers, he batted .324 with three home runs and eight RBIs while playing defense well enough to make it possible for Milwaukee to send Arcia down a first time on May 25.
Saladino has been rehabbing for the last week and could rejoin the team in the next few days.
“Tyler will be back soon and will end up having some of the shortstop duties,” Counsell said. “We’ll sit down here soon and figure that out.”
The right-handed hitting Orf is likely to get the starting nod Thursday when the Brewers face Braves left-hander Max Fried.
Fried (1-2 Isaac Yiadom Color Rush Jersey , 2.55 ERA) returned to the rotation last week when Brandon McCarthy was placed on the disabled list and struck out 11 over 6 2/3 innings and earned his first victory of the season as Atlanta beat the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Fried remained with the team after his last outing but didn’t learn for sure that he’d get another start until Wednesday morning. He’s looking forward to getting his first taste of meaningful action as the two winningest teams in the National League face off for the first time this season.
Milwaukee counters with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (6-3, 3.71) who bounced back from his worst outing of the season to hold the Cincinnati Reds to a run over five innings while striking out nine his last time out.
Signed to a two-year contract over the winter, Chacin has been a stabilizing force in the Brewers’ rotation. He leads the staff with 18 starts and 97 innings his season.
Chacin has pitched well against Atlanta throughout his career, posting a 3.94 ERA in six previous starts. Due to a lack of run support in those contests, is just 1-4 lifetime against the Braves.
PHOENIX — Like pitching?
The final game of the St. Louis-Arizona series Wednesday features a couple starters who have had strong seasons but also should be considered under-the-radar All-Star candidates, at least for those who have not been paying close attention.
You could look it up.
Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin and St. Louis right-hander Miles Mikolas rank in the top 10 among NL qualifiers in ERA, WHIP, WAR and innings pitched. The only statistical difference is in strikeouts, where Corbin is tied for second and Mikolas is down the pack. Mikolas compensates by pitching to contact and getting the majority of his outs on the ground.
They are compatible in one more way — each has received below-average run support. Corbin has received the fourth-fewest, 3.65 per start. Mikolas’ support checks in under the league average.
Arizona used a three-run homer from Paul Goldschmidt to take a 4-2 victory Tuesday as the teams have split the first two games of the series. Arizona will conclude a 10-game homestand with a four-game set with San Diego beginning Thursday, when the Cardinals open a four-game series in San Francisco before finishing a nine-game trip in Chicago against the White Sox.
Mikolas, 29, has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise in the major leagues this season, signing with the Cardinals over the winter after three strong seasons for the Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese Central League. He was 3-13 with a 2.18 ERA in 62 starts in Japan after being released by Texas in November 2014.
“Obviously this season he’s been fantastic,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He should be sitting on 10 wins right now. Two of the losses he had, he had us right there. He just matched up with a pitcher we couldn’t get much going against. Miles has been very good.”
Mikolas has made 11 quality starts, tied for fourth in the league. After starting the season 6-0, he has lost three of his five decisions in June despite posting five quality starts and giving up one earned run in two of his losses.
“A guy who just attacks the strike zone,” Matheny said.
“He has very good stuff. Doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Not afraid to use his defense. He has been just an incredible surprise for us. What a great pickup for our organization and a salute to our scouts who are finding people like Miles who are out there.
“He figured something out while he was in Japan. The way he goes about his business, not just how he competes but how he prepares, you could see that being something that sticks around for awhile.”
Mikolas and Corbin are tied for second in the league in WHIP (0.99). Mikolas is sixth and Corbin ninth in ERA and innings pitched Josey Jewell Color Rush Jersey , and Mikolas is seventh and Corbin ninth in WAR.
Each has one of the five shutouts thrown in the NL this season. Washington’s Max Scherzer, Pittsburgh’s Jameson Taillon and Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz have the others.
Corbin, 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA, has made two straight quality starts, giving up only one run and in 13 innings, but did not receive a decision in either game. He had extra rest the last time through the rotation after pitching seven scoreless innings while striking out 12 in a no-decision at Pittsburgh, when he threw a season-high 102 pitches. He gave up one run in six innings against San Francisco on Friday, pitching on six days’ rest.
“He (gets) into trouble, doesn’t get rattled, and continues to pound the zone and get big outs. He’s done a very good job,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said.
Jeff Mathis, one of two healthy catchers on the Arizona roster with Alex Avila on the disabled list, will catch Corbin for the third straight start.
“I like the way Jeff gets Patrick to do certain things at certain times and shows confidence in certain pitches, and helps him execute by showing that confidence,” Lovullo said. “Jeff has such respect from anyone on this staff that when he asks for something they listen.”
Corbin has received 3.65 runs per start, tied for the third fewest in the league. He is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four career starts against St. Louis and is 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 10 starts at home this sesaon.
Mikolas, who spent previous major league seasons with San Diego and Texas, has never started against Arizona and has given one run in 4 1/3 innings in two career relief appearances, a Justin Upton homer in 2012. This will be his first appearance at Chase Field.